John Foster Dulles

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John Foster Dulles
Senator John Foster Dulles (R-NY).jpg
52nd United States Secretary of State
In office
January 26, 1953 – April 22, 1959
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byDean Acheson
Succeeded byChristian Herter
United States Senator
from New York
In office
July 7, 1949 – November 8, 1949
Appointed byThomas E. Dewey
Preceded byRobert F. Wagner
Succeeded byHerbert H. Lehman
Personal details
Born( 1888 -02-25)February 25, 1888
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedMay 24, 1959(1959-05-24) (aged 71)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Janet Pomeroy Avery
m. 1912)
Children3 (Avery, John, Lillias)
EducationPrinceton University (BA)
George Washington University (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army

John Foster Dulles (/ˈdʌlɪs/; February 25, 1888 – May 24, 1959) was an American diplomat. A Republican, he served as United States Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959. He was a significant figure in the early Cold War era, advocating an aggressive stance against communism throughout the world.

Born in Washington, D.C., Dulles joined the New York City law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell after graduating from George Washington University Law School. His grandfather, John W. Foster, and his uncle, Robert Lansing, both served as United States Secretary of State, while his brother, Allen Dulles, served as the Director of Central Intelligence from 1953 to 1961. John Foster Dulles served on the War Industries Board during World War I and he was a U.S. legal counsel at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. He became a member of the League of Free Nations Association, which supported American membership in the League of Nations. Dulles also helped design the Dawes Plan, which sought to stabilize Europe by reducing German war reparations.

Dulles served as the chief foreign policy adviser to Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican presidential nominee in 1944 and 1948. He also helped draft the preamble to the United Nations Charter and served as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. In 1949, Dewey appointed Dulles to fill the Senate vacancy caused by the resignation of Sen. Robert F. Wagner. He served for four months but left office after being defeated in a special election by Herbert H. Lehman.

After Eisenhower won the 1952 presidential election, he chose Dulles as Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Dulles concentrated on building and strengthening Cold War alliances, most prominently the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He was the architect of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, an anti-Communist defensive alliance between the United States and several nations in and near Southeast Asia. He also helped instigate the 1953 Iranian coup d'état and the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état. He favored a strategy of massive retaliation in response to Soviet aggression. He advocated support of the French in their war against the Viet Minh in Indochina but rejected the Geneva Accords that France and the communists agreed to, and instead supported South Vietnam after the Geneva Conference in 1954. Suffering from colon cancer, Dulles resigned from office in 1959 and died later that year.

Early life[edit]

Born in Washington, D.C., he was one of five children and the eldest son born to Presbyterian minister Allen Macy Dulles and his wife, Edith (née Foster). His paternal grandfather, John Welsh Dulles, had been a Presbyterian missionary in India. His maternal grandfather, John W. Foster, doted on Dulles and his brother Allen, who would later become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The brothers attended public schools in Watertown, New York.

Dulles attended Princeton University and graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1908.[1] At Princeton, Dulles competed on the American Whig-Cliosophic Society debate team.[2] He then attended the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

Marriage and family[edit]

Both his grandfather, Foster, and his uncle, Robert Lansing, the husband of Eleanor Foster, had held the position of Secretary of State. His younger brother, Allen Welsh Dulles, served as Director of Central Intelligence under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his younger sister Eleanor Lansing Dulles was noted for her work in the successful reconstruction of the economy of post-war Europe during her twenty years with the State Department.

On June 26, 1912, Dulles married Janet Pomeroy Avery (1891–1969), granddaughter of Theodore M. Pomeroy, a former United States Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives.[3] They had two sons and a daughter. Their older son John W. F. Dulles (1913–2008) was a professor of history and specialist in Brazil at the University of Texas at Austin.[4] Their daughter Lillias Dulles Hinshaw (1914–1987) became a Presbyterian minister. Their son Avery Dulles (1918–2008) converted to Roman Catholicism, entered the Jesuit order, and became the first American theologian to be appointed a Cardinal.


Early career[edit]

Upon graduating from law school and passing the bar examination, Dulles joined the New York City law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, where he specialized in international law. After the start of World War I, Dulles tried to join the United States Army but was rejected because of poor eyesight. Instead, Dulles received an Army commission as Major on the War Industries Board. Dulles later returned to Sullivan & Cromwell and became a partner with an international practice.

In 1915, Dulles's uncle, Robert Lansing, the then-Secretary of State, recruited him to travel to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, ostensibly on Sullivan & Cromwell company business, but in reality to sound out Latin American heads of state on aiding the US war effort against Germany[citation needed]. Dulles advised Washington to support Costa Rica's dictator, Federico Tinoco, on the grounds that he was anti-German, and also encouraged Nicaragua's dictator, Emiliano Chamorro, to issue a proclamation suspending diplomatic relations with Germany. In Panama, Dulles offered waiver of the tax imposed by the United States on the annual Canal fee, in exchange for a Panamanian declaration of war on Germany.


In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Dulles as legal counsel to the United States delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference where he served under his uncle, Secretary of State Robert Lansing. Dulles made an early impression as a junior diplomat. While some recollections indicate he clearly and forcefully argued against imposing crushing reparations on Germany, other recollections indicate he ensured Germany's reparation payments would extend for decades as perceived leverage militating against future German borne hostilities.[citation needed] Afterwards, he served as a member of the War Reparations Committee at Wilson's request. He was also an early member, along with future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, of the League of Free Nations Association, founded in 1918 and after 1923 known as the Foreign Policy Association, which supported American membership in the League of Nations.

As a partner in Sullivan & Cromwell, Dulles expanded upon his late grandfather Foster's expertise, specializing in international finance. He played a major role in designing the Dawes Plan, which reduced German reparations payments and temporarily resolved the reparations issue by having American firms lend money to German states and private companies. Under that compromise, the money was invested and the profits sent as reparations to Britain and France, which used the funds to repay their own war loans from the U.S. In the 1920s Dulles was involved in setting up a billion dollars' worth of these loans.

Dulles, a deeply religious man, attended numerous international conferences of churchmen during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1924, he was the defense counsel in the church trial of Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, who had been charged with heresy by opponents in his denomination (the event which sparked the continuing Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy in the international Christian Churches over the literal interpretation of Scripture versus the newly developed "Historical-Critical" method including recent scientific and archeological discoveries). The case settled when Fosdick, a liberal Baptist, resigned his pulpit in the Presbyterian Church congregation, which he had never joined. John Foster Celebrated his Victory after WW1.


Caricature of John Foster Dulles on a 1938 visit to Shanghai

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Dulles's previous practice brokering and documenting international loans ended. After 1931 Germany stopped making some of its scheduled payments. In 1934 Germany unilaterally stopped payments on private debts of the sort that Dulles was handling. In 1935, with the Nazis in power, Sullivan & Cromwell's junior partners forced Dulles to cut all business ties with Germany. Dulles was then prominent in the religious peace movement and an isolationist, but the junior partners were led by his brother Allen, so he reluctantly acceded to their wishes.[5][6]


Dulles was a prominent Republican and a close associate of Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York, who became the Republican presidential nominee in the elections of 1944 and 1948. During the 1944 and 1948 campaigns Dulles served as Dewey's chief foreign policy adviser. In 1944, Dulles took an active role in establishing the Republican plank calling for the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine.[7]

In 1945, Dulles participated in the San Francisco Conference as an adviser to Arthur H. Vandenberg and helped draft the preamble to the United Nations Charter. He attended the United Nations General Assembly as a United States delegate in 1946, 1947 and 1950.

Dulles strongly opposed the United States’ atomic attacks on Japan. In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, he drafted a public statement that called for international control of nuclear energy under United Nations auspices. Dulles wrote:[8]

If we, as a professedly Christian nation, feel morally free to use atomic energy in that way, men elsewhere will accept that verdict. Atomic weapons will be looked upon as a normal part of the arsenal of war and the stage will be set for the sudden and final destruction of mankind.

Dulles never lost his anxiety about the destructive power of nuclear weapons, but his views on international control and on employing the threat of atomic attack changed in the face of the Berlin blockade, the Soviet detonation of an A-bomb, and the advent of the Korean War. These convinced him that the communist bloc was pursuing expansionist policies.[9]

Governor Dewey appointed Dulles to the United States Senate to replace Democratic incumbent Robert F. Wagner, who had resigned due to ill health. Dulles served from July 7 to November 8, 1949. He lost the 1949 special election to finish the term to Democratic nominee Herbert H. Lehman.

In the late 1940s, as a general conceptual framework for contending with world communism, Dulles developed the policy known as rollback to serve as the Republican Party's alternative to the Democrats' containment model. It proposed taking the offensive to push Communism back rather than defensively containing it within its areas of control and influence.[10]


In 1950, Dulles published War or Peace, a critical analysis of the American policy of containment, which at the time the foreign policy elite in Washington favored, particularly in the Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman, whose foreign policy Dulles criticized. Dulles instead advocated a policy of "liberation".

U.S. Secretary of State[edit]

Dulles with U.S. President Eisenhower in 1956

When Dwight D. Eisenhower became U.S. President in January 1953, Dulles was appointed and confirmed as his Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Dulles still carried out the "containment" policy of neutralizing the Taiwan Strait during the Korean War, which had been established by President Truman in the Treaty of Peace with Japan of 1951. Dulles also supervised the completion of the Japanese Peace Treaty, in which full independence was restored to Japan under United States terms.[11]

As Secretary of State, Dulles concentrated on building up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and forming other alliances (a phenomenon described as his "Pactomania") as part of his strategy of controlling Soviet expansion by threatening massive retaliation in the event of a war. In the 1950s, he worked alongside people in Vietnam, and others, to reduce French influence in Vietnam as well as asking the United States to attempt to cooperate with the French in the aid of strengthening Diem's Army. Over time Dulles concluded that it was time to "ease France out of Vietnam".[12] In 1950 he also helped initiate the ANZUS Treaty for mutual protection with Australia and New Zealand.

Dulles strongly opposed communism, believing it was "Godless terrorism".[13] One of his first major policy shifts towards a more aggressive position against communism occurred in March 1953, when Dulles supported Eisenhower's decision to direct the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), then headed by his brother Allen Dulles, to draft plans to overthrow the Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran.[14] This led directly to the coup d'état via Operation Ajax in support of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who became the Shah of Iran.

In 1954 during at the height of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Dulles hoped that American forces could attempt to help the beleaguered French army. Operation Vulture was planned; an aerial assault on the opposing communist Viet Minh siege positions. Eisenhower made American participation reliant on British support, but Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden was opposed and Vulture was reluctantly cancelled.[15][16] With Dien Bien Phu's fall to the communists, Dulles fell out with Eden. At the 1954 Geneva Conference which concerned the breakup of French Indochina he forbade any contact with the Chinese delegation, refusing to shake hands with Zhou Enlai, the lead Chinese negotiator. He subsequently left leaving the US to avoid direct association with the negotiations.[17]

Later during 1954 Dulles became the architect of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). The treaty, signed by representatives of Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States, provided for collective action against aggression.

The same year Dulles participated in the instigation of a military coup by the Guatemalan army through the CIA, claiming that the democratically-elected President Jacobo Árbenz's government and the Guatemalan Revolution were veering toward communism. Dulles had previously represented the United Fruit Company as a lawyer, while his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, was on the company's board of directors.[18] Thomas Dudley Cabot, former CEO of United Fruit, held positions of director of International Security Affairs in the State Department. John Moore Cabot, a brother of Thomas Dudley Cabot, was secretary of Inter-American Affairs during much of the coup planning in 1953 and 1954.[19]

Dulles was named Time's Man of the Year for 1954.[20]

Dulles was one of the pioneers of massive retaliation and brinkmanship. In an article written for Life magazine, Dulles defined his policy of brinkmanship: "The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art."[21] Dulles' hard line alienated many leaders of nonaligned countries when on June 9, 1955, he argued in a speech that "neutrality has increasingly become obsolete and, except under very exceptional circumstances, it is an immoral and shortsighted conception."[22] Throughout the 1950s Dulles was in frequent conflict with those non-aligned statesmen he deemed excessively sympathetic to Communism, including India's V.K. Krishna Menon.

In 1958, Dulles authorized the Secretary of the Air Force to state publicly that the United States was prepared to use nuclear weapons in a conflict with China over the islands of Quemoy and Matsu.[23]

In November 1956, Dulles strongly opposed the Anglo-French invasion of the Suez Canal zone in response to the Suez Crisis. During the most crucial days he was hospitalized after surgery and did not participate in Washington's decision-making. However, by 1958 Dulles had become an outspoken opponent of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and prevented him from receiving arms from the United States. This policy allowed the Soviet Union to gain influence in Egypt, as it forced Nasser to turn to the Soviets for weapons.[24]

Dulles served as the Chairman and Co-founder of the Commission on a Just and Durable Peace of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (later the National Council of Churches), the Chairman of the Board for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1935 to 1952. Dulles was also a founding member of Foreign Policy Association and Council of Foreign Relations.

Death and legacy[edit]

Dulles developed colon cancer, for which he was first operated on in November 1956 when it had caused a bowel perforation.[25] He experienced abdominal pain at the end of 1958 and was hospitalized with a diagnosis of diverticulitis. In January 1959, Dulles returned to work, but with more pain and declining health underwent abdominal surgery in February at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when the cancer's recurrence became evident. After recuperating in Florida, Dulles returned to Washington for work and radiation therapy. With further declining health and evidence of bone metastasis, he resigned from office on April 15, 1959.[25]

Dulles died at Walter Reed on May 24, 1959, at the age of 71.[26] Funeral services were held in Washington National Cathedral on May 27, 1959, and Dulles was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.[27]

Dulles was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom and the Sylvanus Thayer Award in 1959. A central West Berlin road was named John-Foster-Dulles-Allee in 1959 with a ceremony attended by Christian Herter, Dulles' successor as Secretary of State.

The Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia and John Foster Dulles High, Middle, and Elementary Schools in Sugar Land, Texas (including the street (Dulles Avenue) where the school campuses are located), were named in his honor, as is John Foster Dulles Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a school in Chicago, Illinois.[28] New York named the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown, New York in his honor. In 1960 the U.S. Post Office Department issued a commemorative stamp honoring Dulles. At Princeton University, Dulles' alma mater, a section of Firestone Library is dedicated to Dulles, named the John Foster Dulles Library of Diplomatic History, which houses, among many American diplomatic documents and books, the personal documents of John Foster Dulles. The library was built in 1962.[29]

Entertainer Carol Burnett rose to prominence in the 1950s singing a novelty song, "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles".[30] When asked about the song on Meet the Press, Dulles responded with good humor: "I never discuss matters of the heart in public."[31]

This quote is sometimes attributed to Dulles: "The United States of America does not have friends; it has interests." The words were spoken by President Charles de Gaulle of France. This misquotation can be attributed to Dulles' visit to Mexico in 1958, during which anti-American protesters carried signs reading "The U.S. has no friends, only interests."[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Dulles, Arlington National Cemetery Website, accessed Oct 11, 2009
  2. ^ "Freshman Debate". Daily Princetonian. May 19, 1905. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  3. ^ Pomeroy, Bill. "Honorable Theodore Medad POMEROY". American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  4. ^ "90-year-old Still Active at University" Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, The Daily Texan
  5. ^ Peter Grose, Gentleman Spy, The Life of Allen Dulles (1994), pp 91–3, 119–22
  6. ^ Ronald W. Pruessen, John Foster Dulles: The Road to Power (1982), pp. 115, 123
  7. ^ Isaac Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel: U.S.-Israeli Relations, 1953–1960 (University Press of Florida, 1993), ISBN 0-8130-1205-8, pp 53–55
  8. ^ John Lewis Gaddis (1999). Cold War Statesmen Confront the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy Since 1945. Oxford University Press. p. 65. ISBN 9780198294689.
  9. ^ Neal Rosendorf, "John Foster Dulles' Nuclear Schizophrenia," in John Lewis Gaddis et al., Cold War Statesmen Confront the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy since 1945 (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 64–69
  10. ^ Detlef Junker, Philipp Gassert, and Wilfried Mausbach, eds., The United States and Germany in the Era of the Cold War, 1945–1968: A Handbook, Vol. 1: 1945–1968 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp.?
  11. ^ Immerman, Richard H. John Foster Dulles Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy (Biographies in American Foreign Policy). New York: SR Books, 1998. p, 37
  12. ^ Immerman, Richard H. (1999). John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources. p. 98. ISBN 9780842026017.
  13. ^ Gary B. Nash, et al., The American People, Concise Edition Creating a Nation and a Society, Combined Volume (6th Edition). New York: Longman, 2007, p 829
  14. ^ The C.I.A. in Iran
  15. ^ Kowert, Paul (2002), Groupthink or deadlock: when do leaders learn from their advisors? (illustrated ed.), SUNY Press, pp. 67–68, ISBN 978-0-7914-5249-3
  16. ^ Tucker, Spencer (1999), Vietnam (illustrated ed.), Routledge, p. 76, ISBN 978-1-85728-922-0
  17. ^ Logevall, Fredrik (2012). Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam. random House. pp. 555–58. ISBN 978-0-679-64519-1.
  18. ^ Cohen, Rich (2012). The Fish that Ate the Whale. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. p. 186.
  19. ^ Dube, Arindrajit, Kaplan, Ethan, and Suresh Naidu (2011), Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126 (3) pp. 1375--1409, Coups, Corporations, and Classified Information
  20. ^ Man of the Year – Jan. 3, 1955 – Page 1
  21. ^ Stephen E. Ambrose (2010). Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938, Ninth Revised Edition. Penguin. p. 109. ISBN 9781101501290.
  22. ^ Ian Shapiro (2009). Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror. Princeton University Press. pp. 145–. ISBN 978-1400827565.
  23. ^ Rhodes, Richard (1995). Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (First ed.). New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 569–70. ISBN 0-684-80400-X. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  24. ^ Cole Christian Kingseed (1995). Eisenhower and the Suez Crisis of 1956. LSU Press. p. 117. ISBN 9780807140857.
  25. ^ a b Lerner BH (November 20, 2006). When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2006. p. 81ff. ISBN 978-0-8018-8462-7.
  26. ^ UPI< Year in Review,
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 29, 2009. Retrieved December 18, 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Dulles Library of Diplomatic History". Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  30. ^ Adir, Karin (1988). The Great Clowns of American Television. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 51–2. ISBN 9780786413034.
  31. ^ Boyle, Katherine."Carol Burnett awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center" Washington Post, October 21, 2013
  32. ^ "Dulles in Rio". New York Times. August 10, 1958.

Further reading[edit]

  • "John Foster Dulles." Dictionary of American Biography (1980) online
  • Hoopes, Townsend. "God and John Foster Dulles." Foreign Policy 13 (1973): 154-177. online
  • Hoopes Townsend, Devil and John Foster Dulles (1973) ISBN 0-316-37235-8. a scholarly biography
  • Immerman, Richard H. John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy (1998) ISBN 0-8420-2601-0
  • Kinzer, Stephen. The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War (2013), Times Books, ISBN 0-805-09497-0
  • Marks, Frederick. Power and Peace: The Diplomacy of John Foster Dulles (1995) ISBN 0-275-95232-0
  • Pruessen, Ronald W. John Foster Dulles: The Road to Power (1982), The Free Press ISBN 0-02-925460-4
  • Stang, Alan. The actor; the true story of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, 1953–1959 Western Islands (1968) OCLC 434600

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Robert F. Wagner
U.S. senator (Class 3) from New York
July 7, 1949 – November 8, 1949
Served alongside: Irving Ives
Succeeded by
Herbert H. Lehman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Thomas J. Curran
Republican nominee for
U.S. Senator from New York (Class 3)

Succeeded by
Joe R. Hanley
Political offices
Preceded by
Dean Acheson
United States Secretary of State
January 26, 1953 – April 22, 1959
Succeeded by
Christian Herter
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Konrad Adenauer
Time Person of the Year
Succeeded by
Harlow Curtice
Preceded by
Ernest Lawrence
Recipient of the Sylvanus Thayer Award
Succeeded by
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.