From left to right: CIA Director Allen Dulles with CIA Counter-insurgency expert Colonel Edward Lansdale, U.S Air Force Chief of Staff General Nathan F. Twining, and CIA Deputy Director Lieutenant General Charles P. Cabell at the Pentagon in 1955

Allen Welsh Dulles was an American lawyer who became the first civilian Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), and its longest-serving director to date. His career was marked by significant contributions to the field of intelligence during the early Cold War period.

Born in Watertown, New York, on April 7, 1893, Dulles was the younger brother of John Foster Dulles, who served as the Secretary of State during the Eisenhower administration. After graduating from Princeton University, Dulles joined the State Department’s Foreign Service in 1916. He later became a lawyer and joined his brother at the Wall Street law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell.

Allen Dulles

The Spy Who Captured an Army

When the United States entered World War II, Dulles was recruited by William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the first independent U.S. intelligence agency. The OSS was established on June 13, 1942, to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines for all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The agency was responsible for gathering information about the enemy, aiding resistance groups, and sabotaging enemy assets.

The OSS made significant contributions to the Allied victory, providing timely assessment of the Allied bombing campaign in Europe, studying operations in countries where Allied forces were fighting, and developing preparations for the occupation of Germany. The OSS was dissolved shortly after the end of the war, but its tasks were resumed and carried over by its successors.

After joining the OSS, Dulles requested assignment to Switzerland, based on his prior experiences there. He arrived in Switzerland in November 1942, where he made little effort to disguise his role in Bern. Swiss newspapers identified him as a personal representative of President Roosevelt, with “special duties”. Dulles preferred this high profile as it encouraged potential agents to flock to him.

As the Swiss Director of the OSS, Dulles focused on gathering intelligence about German strategies and operations. He established extensive connections with German emigrants, resistance members, and anti-Nazi intelligence officers. Gero von Schulze-Gaevernitz, a German emigrant, assisted him in these intelligence-gathering activities. Dulles also obtained crucial information from Fritz Kolbe, a German diplomat, whom he regarded as the most effective spy of the war. Kolbe provided secret documents about active German spies and plans for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

Messerschmitt Me 262A at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Dulles also utilized information from the Maier-Messner Group for the critical Operation Crossbow, an Anglo-American initiative aimed at disrupting the German long-range reprisal weapons program, known as V-weapons. The Maier-Messner Group was an Austrian resistance group formed by Franz Josef Messner, a successful general director and chairman of Semperit, a major tire manufacturer, and Heinrich Maier, a young and outgoing Catholic priest. Maier was later executed by the Nazis and has the dubious distinction of being the last victim of Hitler’s regime in Vienna.

From 1943 onward, Dulles received significant information from the Maier-Messner Group about V-1, V-2 rockets, Tiger tanks, Messerschmitt Bf 109, Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, and other aircraft and their associated factories. The group gathered information through various contacts with scientists and the military. This information aided Allied bombers in targeting decisive armament factories.

Despite Washington prohibiting Dulles from making solid commitments to the plotters of the July 20, 1944, attempt to assassinate Hitler, the conspirators still provided him with reports on developments in Germany. These included vague but accurate warnings of plans for Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 missiles. which were the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missiles. The V-1 and V-2 were launched against Britain from 1944 to 1945 and used against continental European targets as well. Dulles received crucial information and plans about Peenemünde, the V-1, and the V-2.  This information was received while the Allies were already conducting Operation Crossbow,

The V-2 (Vengeance Weapon 2, also known as the A-4) ballistic missile.

Dulles participated in Operation Sunrise, covert negotiations in March 1945 to arrange a local surrender of German forces in northern Italy and Austria. The operation led to the unconditional surrender of German Wehrmacht forces in Northern Italy and Western Austria on May 2, 1945. The operation was a cooperative effort of American and Swiss intelligence services. It was facilitated by a series of secret negotiations arranged through a number of intermediaries and facilitated by Swiss Army Intelligence. These negotiations were held in March 1945 in Switzerland between representatives of the western Allies and German officials. This significant achievement earned him the moniker “The Spy Who Captured an Army”.

The details of these covert negotiations first came to light in 1947 through a series of articles published in the Saturday Evening Post. These discussions were pivotal in shaping the concluding phases of World War II.

SS General Karl Wolff’s Proxy of Surrender for northern Italy, 2 May 1945

Dulles’s strategic negotiations and intelligence operations played a crucial role in ending the war. His actions saved many lives and demonstrated the power of effective intelligence work. After the war in Europe, Dulles served for six months as the OSS Berlin station chief and later as station chief in Bern. The Office of Strategic Services was disbanded in October 1945.

Post-War Contributions

After World War II, Allen Dulles continued his service in the intelligence community and was appointed as the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) on February 26, 1953, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The CIA was established on September 18, 1947, when President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 into law. As the first civilian DCI and the longest-serving director to date, Dulles played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. intelligence operations during the early Cold War period.

Under his leadership, the CIA saw significant growth and was involved in several major operations. Two of the most notable operations were the Iranian coup d’état in 1953 and the Guatemalan coup d’état in 1954. These operations marked a pivotal period in the history of the CIA and had far-reaching impacts. They were a part of the broader Cold War strategy, with the aim of curbing the spread of communism. These operations were undertaken on behalf of U.S. foreign policy at the time and were conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.

CIA ID card of Allen Dulles. CIA photo.

Dulles also played a key role in the development of the Lockheed U-2 spy plane program. The U-2, affectionately known as the “Dragon Lady”, is a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft that entered service in the 1950s. This single-engine aircraft, operated by both the United States Air Force (USAF) and the CIA, was a significant advancement in surveillance technology during that time. It is still in service today.

The U-2s that are currently in service have significantly enhanced capabilities compared to the original models. They can carry almost triple the payload, travel twice the distance, and remain airborne for three times longer. Despite these advancements, the U.S. Air Force has plans to retire the U-2 fleet in the fiscal year 2026. Until that time, officials are diligently working to maintain the operational status of these iconic high-altitude surveillance planes. They are also testing technologies that could potentially be incorporated into future aircraft.

A Lockheed U-2 in flight

Dulles was also involved in the recruitment of Soviet military intelligence officer Colonel Pyotr Semyonovich Popov as a double agent. Popov. holds the distinction of being the first GRU officer to offer his services to the CIA after World War II. Between 1953 and 1958, he provided the United States government with copious amounts of information concerning Soviet military capabilities and espionage operations. Popov was codenamed ATTIC for most of his time as a double agent for the CIA.

Dulles served as the DCI until his resignation on November 29, 1961. His resignation came after the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961, a failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime. Despite this setback, Dulles’ tenure as DCI was marked by significant achievements in intelligence gathering and operations. After his resignation, Dulles continued to contribute to public service. He served on the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Dulles passed away on January 29, 1969.

Throughout his career, Dulles demonstrated a profound commitment to his country. His contributions to U.S. intelligence during a critical period in history have left a lasting impact. His legacy continues to influence the field of intelligence today.


Central Intelligence Agency

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Eugene Nielsen

Eugene Nielsen provides intelligence and security consulting services. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California. His byline has appeared in numerous national and international journals and magazines.

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