McGeorge Bundy

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McGeorge Bundy
McGeorge Bundy.jpg
McGeorge Bundy during a 1967 meeting in the Oval Office
6th United States National Security Advisor
In office
January 20, 1961 – February 28, 1966
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Gordon Gray
Succeeded by Walt Rostow
Personal details
Born (1919-03-30)March 30, 1919
Boston, Massachusetts
Died September 16, 1996(1996-09-16) (aged 77)
Boston, Massachusetts
Resting place Mount Auburn Cemetery
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Spouse(s) Mary B. Lothrop
Children Stephen M., Andrew L., William L., James A.
Alma mater Yale University
Profession Foreign and defense policy advisor

McGeorge "Mac" Bundy (March 30, 1919 – September 16, 1996) was United States National Security Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 through 1966, and president of the Ford Foundation from 1966 through 1979. He is known primarily for his role in escalating the involvement of the United States in Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

Early life and education[edit]

Raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Bundy came from a wealthy family long involved in Republican[1] politics. His mother, Katherine Lawrence (Putnam), was the daughter of two Boston Brahmin families listed in the Social Register. His father, Harvey Hollister Bundy, was from Grand Rapids, Michigan and was a diplomat who helped implement the Marshall Plan.

Bundy attended the elite Dexter School in Brookline, Massachusetts and then the Groton School, where he placed first in his class and ran the student newspaper and debating society. He was then admitted to Yale University, one year behind his brother William. At Yale, where he majored in mathematics, he served as secretary of the Yale Political Union and then chairman of its Liberal Party. He was on the staff of the Yale Literary Magazine and also wrote a column for the Yale Daily News. Like his father, he was inducted into the Skull and Bones secret society, where he was nicknamed "Odin". He remained in contact with his fellow Bonesmen for decades afterward.[2] He graduated Yale in the class of 1940.

Military service[edit]

During World War II Bundy served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer.[3]


From 1945 to 1947,[4] Bundy co-authored recently retired United States Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson's third-person autobiography, On Active Service in Peace and War, which was published in 1947.

In 1949, Bundy took a position at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York to study Marshall Plan aid to Europe. The study group included such luminaries as Dwight Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, Richard M. Bissell, Jr. and George Kennan. The group's deliberations were sensitive and secret, dealing as they did with the classified fact that there was a covert side to the Marshall Plan, where the CIA used certain funds to aid anti-communist groups in France and Italy.[5]

Bundy was one of President Kennedy's "wise men" and also served as a tenured professor of government at Harvard University, despite having only a bachelor's degree and never having taken any classes in government. In 1953, Bundy was appointed dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard at the age of thirty-four, the youngest in the school's history. An effective and popular administrator, Bundy spearheaded modernizing policy changes aimed to revamp Harvard into a class-blind, merit-based university with a reputation for stellar academics.[6]

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1954.[7] He moved into public life in 1961, becoming National Security Advisor in the Kennedy administration. He played a crucial role in all of the major foreign policy and defense decisions of the Kennedy and part of the Johnson administration. These included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War. From 1964 he was Chairman of the 303 Committee, responsible for coordinating government covert operations.[8]

Bundy was a strong proponent of the Vietnam War during his tenure. He supported escalating the American involvement and the bombing of North Vietnam.

He left government in 1966 to take over as president of the Ford Foundation, a position he held until 1979.

He was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson, one of 20 to receive the medal "in the last 24 hours of [Johnson's] presidency in January 1969".[9]

He was included on the "master list" of President Richard Nixon's "Enemies List".

From 1979 to 1989, he was a professor of history at New York University. He was scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Corporation from 1990 to 1996.


Bundy's death in 1996 was the result of a heart attack.[10]


Gordon Goldstein's 2008 book Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam was reported to be, in late September 2009, the "must-read-book" amongst President Barack Obama's war advisers, as they contemplated the alternative courses ahead in Afghanistan. Richard C. Holbrooke, who had reviewed the book in late November, 2008, was in 2009 a member of the team of Presidential advisers.[1][11]

In the 2000 film Thirteen Days, McGeorge Bundy is portrayed by Frank Wood. In the 2002 HBO film Path to War, Bundy is portrayed by Cliff DeYoung. He was also played by James Olson in the 1974, made for TV film, The Missiles of October. In the 2013 TV film Killing Kennedy, Bundy was portrayed by Ray Nedzel.


  1. ^ a b 'The Doves Were Right' Review by Richard C. Holbrooke of Goldstein, Gordon M., Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam, The New York Times Book Review, Nov. 28, 2008 (Nov. 30, 2008 on p. BR12 of NY ed.). Retrieved 7/7/09.
  2. ^ Goldstein, Gordon M. (2008). Lessons in disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the path to war in Vietnam. Henry Holt. 
  3. ^ "McGeorge Bundy; Advisor to Two Presidents in 1960s". Los Angeles Times. 17 September 1996. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "When Bundy Says, 'The President Wants--'" (paid archive), The New York Times, December 2, 1962. Partial quote: "After V-J Day, Bundy spent a year and a half working on the Stimson book, ...." Retrieved July 7, 2009.
  5. ^ Covert CIA side to the Marshall Plan – see Bird, Kai (1998). The Color of Truth: McGeorge and William Bundy, Brothers in Arms: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 106. ISBN 0-684-80970-2. 
  6. ^ Kabaservice, Geoffrey (2004). The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment. New York: Henry Holt & Co. pp. 136–140. ISBN 0-8050-6762-0. 
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Miller, James E. (2001). Foreign Relations, 1964–1968 Volume XII. United States Government Printing Office. 
  9. ^ Sanger, David E., "War Figures Honored With Medal of Freedom" (limited no-charge access), The New York Times, December 15, 2004.
  10. ^ Goldstein, Gordon (2008). Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam. New York: Times Books. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8050-7971-5. 
  11. ^ Rich, Frank (September 26, 2009), Op-ed: Obama at the Precipice, The New York Times, retrieved September 27, 2009 

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bird, Kai. The Color of Truth: McGeorge and William Bundy, Brothers in Arms: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998. ISBN 0-684-80970-2.
  • Bundy, McGeorge. Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years. New York: Vintage Books, 1988. ISBN 0-394-52278-8.
  • Bundy, McGeorge. "The Issue Before the Court: Who Gets Ahead in America?", The Atlantic Monthly 240, no. 5 (November 1977), pp. 41–54.
  • Gardner, Lloyd. "Harry Hopkins with Hand Grenades? McGeorge Bundy in the Kennedy and Johnson Years", in Behind the Throne: Servants of Power to Imperial Presidents, 1898–1968, ed. Thomas J. McCormick and Walter LaFeber. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993. pp. 204–229. ISBN 0-299-13740-6.
  • Goldstein, Gordon M., Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2008. pp. 300. ISBN 0-8050-9087-8.
  • Halberstam, David. "The Very Expensive Education of McGeorge Bundy". Harper's Magazine 239, no. 1430 (July 1969), pp. 21–41.
  • Kabaservice, Geoffrey. "The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment." New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2004. pp. 136–140. ISBN 0-8050-6762-0.
  • Nünlist, Christian. Kennedys rechte Hand: McGeorge Bundys Einfluss als Nationaler Sicherheitsberater auf die amerikanische Aussenpolitik, 1961–63. Zurich: Center for Security Studies, 1999. ISBN 3-905641-61-5.
  • Preston, Andrew. The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-674-02198-3.
  • Stimson, Henry and McGeorge Bundy. On Active Service in Peace and War. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1947.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Gordon Gray
United States National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Walt Rostow