Skip to main content

Cold Warrior

March 2023
1min read

Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles

by Peter Grose, Houghton Mifflin, 641 pages .

Allen Dulles’s life, as this fat biography makes clear, both reflected and shaped the American century we still inhabit. Born in 1893 into a family of diplomats and high government officials, Dulles and his even more famous brother, John Foster, showed up in all the right places from the start. At the end of the First World War both attended the Paris Peace Conference; later they worked for the powerful Wall Street law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell; and eventually they stood at the ramparts of the free world, from their respective positions as director of Central Intelligence and Secretary of State. Peter Grose, a former executive editor of Foreign Affairs magazine and a New York Times bureau chief, never met Alien Dulles, but he tackles his subject’s professional and personal life in cool, graceful prose that serves him well as his defense against the charm of the man.

Grose’s story of the exhilarating World War II days of the founding of the Office of Strategic Services is as good as any novel—or better. The postwar period, when the two Dulleses grow into their careers as the classic cold warriors, is, in Grose’s measured recounting, less than heartening. By the end of Alien Dulles’s life, in 1969, we can see that what the author calls “the CIA’s propensities to dabble in the politics and social frameworks of other lands” may eventually bring it all down. “Since Alien had never shown aptitude or interest in the workings of a large bureaucracy, the centrifugal forces accelerated unchecked,” he writes.

The strength of Grose’s biography lies, however, not so much in its detailing of the good and bad times of a spy network as in its careful delineation of character and context and how these strands wove the world we live in.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "July/August 1995"

Authored by: The Editors

Heart of the Land
Essays on Last Great Places

Authored by: The Editors

Russell Baker’s Book of American Humor

Authored by: The Editors

Fascinatin’ Rhythm
American Syncopation

Authored by: The Editors

The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright

Authored by: The Editors

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

Authored by: Hiller B. Zobel

Is trial by jury the essential underpinning of our system of justice or—as more and more critics charge—a relic so flawed it should perhaps even be abolished? An experienced trial judge examines the historical evidence in the case.

Authored by: Edward E. Leslie

Drawn to the story of the fearsome Confederate raider by a modern act of violence, the author finds a strange epic in the Rebel’s restless remains

Authored by: Jocelyn W. Knowles

Consigned to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Garbage Run,” they fought their own war on the home front, and they helped shape a victory as surely as their brothers and husbands did overseas

Authored by: James G. Barber

A historian of American portraits tells how he determines whether a picture is authentic—and why that authenticity matters

Authored by: Harold Holzer

A report from the field on the battle to authenticate what its owner still hopes is the earliest Lincoln photograph

Featured Articles

The world’s most prominent actress risked her career by standing up to one of Hollywood’s mega-studios, proving that behind the beauty was also a very savvy businesswoman. 

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.