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Allen Dulles papers released by CIA to Princeton are now online

The Central Intelligence Agency has released to Princeton University some 7,800 documents covering the career of Allen W. Dulles, the agency’s longest-serving director, which now can be viewed online at

Dulles (1893-1969), a Princeton alumnus who headed the CIA from 1953 to 1961, was renowned for his role in shaping U.S. intelligence operations during the Cold War. Last March, the CIA released to Princeton a collection of letters, memoranda, reports and other papers — some still redacted — that the agency had removed from Dulles’ papers after his death and before their transfer to the University in 1974.

“These materials, long estranged from the Allen Dulles Papers, help round out the documentary legacy of Dulles and his pivotal role in American intelligence history. The material related to his espionage work during World War II is especially illuminating,” said Daniel Linke, curator of Public Policy Papers at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, which houses the Dulles Papers. The CIA retains many documents related to Dulles’ time as head of that agency, but Linke noted that those released “provide insight into not only Dulles, but the classification process and, in my opinion, its shortcomings. Scholars reviewing some of this material will scratch their heads and wonder why the agency thought it necessary to restrict some of these documents for decades.”

The Allen W. Dulles Digital Files released to Princeton contain scanned images of professional correspondence, reports, lectures and administrative papers covering Dulles’ tenure with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) — a U.S. intelligence agency created during World War II and forerunner of the CIA — as well as his career with the CIA and his retirement. The CIA culled these documents from Dulles’ home office, and the agency maintains the originals.

The collection includes correspondence and narrative statements documenting Dulles’ activities during World War II, especially relating to the work of individuals involved in the war effort in Europe. The files also include more than 1,000 war telegrams from the OSS office to Washington, D.C. Documents from the 1950s and 1960s deal almost exclusively with the Cold War, mostly focusing on intelligence and the Soviet Union along with some covering Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the Communist threat in the United States. Items relating to Dulles’ time with the CIA have been heavily redacted, obscuring the names of correspondents as well as individuals and events mentioned in reports and letters.

These digital files complement the Allen W. Dulles Papers maintained by Mudd Library. More information on that collection can be found at <>.

Dulles earned a bachelor’s degree in 1914 and a master’s degree in 1916 from Princeton, both in politics, and received an honorary doctorate in 1957. He was a veteran of the OSS and served as chief of its Bern, Switzerland, office. His successes there led to Dulles being named chairman of an intelligence review committee in 1948 that faulted the organization of the then-fledgling CIA. In 1950, he was named the CIA’s deputy director of plans, the agency’s covert operations arm, and in 1951, he became the CIA’s deputy director. After the November 1952 election, President Eisenhower appointed Dulles as CIA director.

His brother, John Foster Dulles (a 1908 Princeton graduate), served as Eisenhower’s secretary of state, and the two men worked closely during their joint service. The CIA under Dulles’ leadership established the dual policy of collecting intelligence through a wide variety of means, as well as taking direct action against perceived threats.

Dulles’ notable achievements in intelligence gathering included the development of the U-2 spy plane program, the recruitment of Soviet Lieutenant General Pyotr Popov as a U.S. spy, and the tapping of a sensitive East Berlin phone junction by tunneling under the Berlin Wall. The CIA’s direct actions during Dulles’ tenure included notable successes and failures. CIA operatives orchestrated the overthrow of the government of Iran in 1953 and Jacob Arbenz’s regime in Guatemala in 1954. However, efforts to oust Fidel Castro from Cuba following his rise to power consisted of a series of failures culminating in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. Dulles retired shortly thereafter.

In retirement, Dulles wrote books (including two autobiographical works) about his career in intelligence and appeared on numerous television programs to discuss foreign policy. He was called to public service once again in 1963, when he was named to the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy. His connection to the CIA and its activities in Cuba would fuel later speculation about possible U.S. government complicity in Kennedy’s assassination.

Further information on the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library can be obtained at <>.

2 responses to “Allen Dulles papers released by CIA to Princeton are now online”

  1. Dear Mudd MSS Library,

    I have found it impossible to access the online documents relating to Allen Dulles, recently declassified by the CIA. I would be most grateful if you would give me some guidance on this.

    Yours sincerely,

    Susan Williams, Dr

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