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Allen Welsh Dulles

Son of a Presbyterian minister and grandson of a secretary of state, Allen Dulles was born on April 7, 1893, in Watertown, New York, and grew up in household that valued public service and where world affairs were a common topic of discussion. He graduated from Princeton, and in 1916 entered the diplomatic service. In 1926 he earned a law degree from George Washington University and took a job at the New York firm where his brother, John Foster Dulles, was a partner. During the 1930s Allen Dulles gained much experience in Germany, which made his selection in 1942 as station chief in Berne, Switzerland, for the newly formed Office of Strategic Services a logical one. Dulles supplied his government with much sensitive information about Nazi Germany. In 1945, he played a central role in negotiations leading to the unconditional capitulation of German troops in Italy.

After the war in Europe, Dulles served for six months as the OSS Berlin station chief. In 1947, Congress created the Central Intelligence Agency. Dulles was closely involved with its development, and in 1951 he was named deputy director. Under President Eisenhower, Dulles became CIA director. As the nation's top spy during the height of the Cold War, Dulles gave equal emphasis to the clandestine collection of information and covert activities. The CIA was instrumental in the overthrow of the governments of Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954). Dulles saw this kind of activity as an essential part of the struggle against communism, even if it did not always comply with the law. The president agreed. The development of the U-2 spy plane after 1955 greatly enhanced the CIA's ability to monitor Soviet activity. The reputation of the agency and its director declined, however, with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. The new president, John F. Kennedy, held Dulles responsible, and accepted his resignation the following September. Dulles always believed the operation could have succeeded had the president authorized sufficient military support.

Dulles died of influenza, complicated by pneumonia, in Washington, D.C., on January 29, 1969, at age 75.

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