Martin Walker

They Got It All Wrong

For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush


HarperCollins 646pp £25 order from our bookshop

In January 1946, having closed down the Office of Strategic Services, America’s wartime intelligence arm, President Harry Truman threw a jolly lunch party at the White House for its successor. The new National Intelligence Authority comprised the secretaries of state, war and the Navy, with Admiral Sidney Souers as the new Director of Central Intelligence. Truman gave each of his guests a black cloak and a black hat, and then solemnly presented them with a wooden dagger.

Then the President advanced upon Admiral Souers and, like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, produced a large fake black moustache and stuck it on the new spymaster’s upper lip. ‘The new Director of Centralised Snooping,’ Truman announced.

Thus disguised, Souers did not last long. He was swiftly replaced by the Air Force General Hoyt Vandenburg, a man nicknamed ‘Sparkplug’ but of such good looks that Marilyn Monroe once named him as one of her top three choices with whom to be marooned

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