William Bundy

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For the English footballer, see Bill Bundy.

William Putnam "Bill" Bundy (September 24, 1917 – October 6, 2000) was a member of the CIA and foreign affairs advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He had a key role in planning the Vietnam War. After leaving government service he became a historian.

Early years[edit]

Raised in Boston, Massachusetts he came from a family long involved in politics. His father, Harvey Hollister Bundy, was a diplomat who helped implement the Marshall Plan. Bill was raised in a highly accomplished, highly intellectual family. After attending the Groton School and Yale University (where he was one of the first presidents of the Yale Political Union) and a member of Skull and Bones, he entered Harvard Law School but left to join the Army Signal Corps during World War II. During this time he worked at Bletchley Park in Britain as part of the top secret ULTRA operation to break Nazi codes.

After finishing law school in 1947, Bundy joined the Washington-based law firm of Covington and Burling. While there, he contributed to Alger Hiss's defense fund in the Hiss-Chambers Case. In 1953, Senator Joseph McCarthy cited his $400 contribution. Bundy explained that Donald Hiss, Alger's brother, worked with him at Covington & Burling. Allen Dulles and Vice President Richard M. Nixon defended him, and the matter dropped.[1]

Positions held[edit]

During the 1950s he worked as an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was chief of staff for the Office of National Estimates. In 1960, Bundy took a leave of absence from the CIA to serve as staff director for Eisenhower's Commission on National Goals.[2] During the Kennedy years he was deputy to Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze and worked for the Secretary of the Navy. During much of the LBJ era he was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs. After resigning from the executive branch in 1969 he taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1972 he moved to Princeton University where he remained for the rest of his life. He edited the influential journal of the Council on Foreign Relations (of which he was a member) — Foreign Affairs — from 1972 to 1984, after declining the offer of the Council's chairman, David Rockefeller, to be the Council's president.

His brother, McGeorge Bundy (1919–1996), also an integral part of the both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, also attended Yale and was a member of Skull and Bones. Bill was married to Mary Acheson, the daughter of Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson. Bill and Mary had three children, Michael, Christopher, and Carol.

Bill Bundy was somewhat to the left of his brother politically, and was a spirited opponent of Joseph McCarthy. He was also considered one of the administration's more dovish members on Vietnam.

Bundy's most noted work is A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon Presidency (1998).

Bundy was Honorary American Secretary General of the Bilderberg Meetings from 1975 to 1980.[3][4]

Bundy's papers are held by the Seeley G. Mudd Library at Princeton University.


  1. ^ Martin, Douglas (2000-10-07). "William P. Bundy, 83, Dies; Advised 3 Presidents on American Policy in Vietnam". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  2. ^ William P. Bundy. A tangled web: the making of foreign policy in the Nixon presidency. pp. xiv. 
  3. ^ The International Who's Who, 1984–85. International Publications Service. ISBN 0-905118-97-9. 
  4. ^ "Former Steering Committee Members". BilderbergMeetings.org. Retrieved August 25, 2011. 

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.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Roger Hilsman
Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs / Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
March 16, 1964 – May 4, 1969
Succeeded by
Marshall Green