Kermit Roosevelt Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Kermit Roosevelt, Jr.)

Kermit Roosevelt Jr.
Born(1916-02-16)February 16, 1916
Buenos Aires, Argentina
DiedJune 8, 2000(2000-06-08) (aged 84)
Alma materHarvard University
Mary Lowe Gaddis
(m. 1937)
Children4; including Mark
ParentKermit Roosevelt (father)
Espionage activity
AllegianceUnited States
Service branchOffice of Strategic Services
Central Intelligence Agency

Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt Jr. (February 16, 1916 – June 8, 2000) was an American intelligence officer who served in the Office of Strategic Services during and following World War II. A grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, Roosevelt went on to establish American Friends of the Middle East and then played a lead role in the CIA's efforts to overthrow Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Majlis-appointed prime minister of Iran, in August 1953.[1]

Early life[edit]

Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., in his grandfather's arms
President Theodore Roosevelt with his grandsons Richard Derby (right) and Kermit Roosevelt Jr. (on his lap).

Kermit Roosevelt Jr. (called "Kim," as was standard for alternating generations of Kermits in the Roosevelt family)[citation needed] was born to Kermit Roosevelt Sr., son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and Belle Wyatt Roosevelt (née Willard) in Buenos Aires in 1916. At the time, Kermit Roosevelt Sr. was an official for a shipping line and then a manager of the Buenos Aires branch of the National City Bank.[2] The Roosevelt family returned to the US, and Kim, his two brothers, Joseph Willard and Dirck, and his sister, Belle Wyatt, grew up in Oyster Bay, New York, a homestead near Sagamore Hill, the Long Island home of the Roosevelt clan.

Kim attended Groton School as a young man.[3] He graduated from Harvard University in 1937, a year ahead of his class.[2] After graduating from Harvard, Roosevelt taught history at Caltech.

Intelligence career[edit]


With the outbreak of World War II, Roosevelt joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner to the CIA. On June 4, 1943, when Kim was 27, his father, Kermit Sr., committed suicide at Fort Richardson in Alaska where he was posted.[4]: 232  Roosevelt Jr. remained with the OSS after the war and wrote and edited its history.[2]

Postwar period[edit]

Roosevelt went on to serve on the advisory board of a largely-Arab organization, the Institute of Arab American Affairs,[5] a New York City-based organization, and Roosevelt wrote an essay in 1948 about his views on American Zionism and the partition of Palestine.[6] In February 1948 Roosevelt joined more than 100 like-minded individuals to form a "Christian group" to aid the fight of the largely rabbinical American Council for Judaism to reverse the ongoing partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. The Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land (CJP) was founded on March 2, 1948, with Dean emeritus Gildersleeve serving as CJP chair, former Union Theological Seminary president Henry Sloane Coffin as vice-chair, and Roosevelt as executive director.[7]

In 1951, Roosevelt, Virginia Gildersleeve; Dorothy Thompson; and a further group of 24 American educators, theologians, and writers (including Harry Emerson Fosdick) founded the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME), a pro-Arab organization often critical of US support for Israel.[8][9] The CJP, which Roosevelt had helped form in 1948, was subsumed into the AFME in 1951,[10] and Roosevelt served for a time as the AFME executive secretary for the group of intellectuals and spokespersons.[when?][8][10] The historians Robert Moats Miller, Hugh Wilford, and others have stated that from its early years, AFME was a part of an Arabist propaganda effort within the US that was "secretly funded and to some extent managed" by the CIA,[8][9] with further funding from the oil consortium ARAMCO.[9]

Cold War and CIA[edit]

Roosevelt was recruited to the CIA's Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) in 1950 by its chief, Frank Wisner.[11] Assigned to Egypt, Roosevelt impressed his colleagues with Project FF, which encouraged the Free Officers Movement to carry out a coup d'état in 1952, and Roosevelt developed close CIA links to the new leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.[11]

The historian Hugh Wilford attempts to describe Roosevelt's motivations and views underpinning his intelligence efforts and states:

[Roosevelt Jr.] had this notion of America forming an alliance with the Arab countries as they emerged from under the sway of Britain and France. He was very concerned with backing Arab nationalists in the region. He saw that as the best way of keeping it within the American orbit, as the Cold War was gathering momentum....[8]

The views of the CIA Arabists were not in isolation since Wilford notes that the "Eisenhower administration [including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, was] initially quite sympathetic towards... Roosevelt's Arabist agenda" and willing to oppose Middle Eastern regimes seen "as backing the Soviet Union rather than the U.S." Ultimately, the emergence of American public support for Israel and the administration's evolving framework to respond to its principal Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, would lead to failure of the Arabist agenda of Roosevelt and his colleagues.[8] In discussing Roosevelt's role, Wilford describes him as being among "the most important intelligence officers of their generation in the Middle East."[8]

Roosevelt played a highly-critical role in Operation Ajax as the ground operational planner, especially in getting the Shah to issue the firmans, or decrees, dismissing Mossadegh.[12] He established networks of Anglophiles and sympathizers in Iran, who were willing to take part in various aspects of the coup.[2] The tactics aided in dividing and dissolving Mossadegh's political power base within the National Front, the Tudeh, and the clerics. However, the first attempt at the coup failed, likely because Mossadegh had learned of his impending overthrow. Although the CIA sent Roosevelt a telegram to flee Iran immediately, he began work on the second coup and circulated a false account that Mossadegh attempted to seize the throne and bribed Iranian agents. The coup was a success and hence was adapted for use in other Third World countries during the Cold War. Eisenhower secretly awarded Roosevelt the National Security Medal in 1954 for his work.[13] In 2014, the National Security Archive released telegrams and accounts of the CIA operation, many of which are revealing as to the part he played in the operation.[14]

Roosevelt, 26 years after the Mossadeq coup, wrote a book about how he and the CIA had carried out the operation, Countercoup. According to him, he had slipped across the border under his CIA cover as "James Lochridge" on July 19, 1953.[15]

Roosevelt submitted his Countercoup manuscript to the CIA for pre-publication approval. The agency proposed various alterations, and in the perspective of a CIA reviewer, "Roosevelt has reflected quite faithfully the changes that we suggested to him. This has become, therefore, essentially a work of fiction." The conclusion allowed the release of the book; a catalog of the actual changes made during the review is available.[16]

A former senior adviser to the Obama administration and Council on Foreign Relations Iran expert, Ray Takeyh,[17] wrote in 2014 that "Contrary to Roosevelt's account [in Countercoup], the documentary record reveals that the Eisenhower administration was hardly in control and was in fact surprised by the way events played out."[18] William Blum wrote that Roosevelt had provided no evidence for his claim that a communist takeover in Iran was imminent but rather "mere assertions of the thesis which are stated over and over."[19] Abbas Milani wrote, "Roosevelt's memoir inflated his own and, in turn, America's centrality to the coup. He tells the story with the relish of a John le Carré knock-off.... Eisenhower, for one, considered reports like this to be the stuff of 'dime novels.'"[20]

After Iran, Roosevelt became assistant deputy director of the Directorate of Plans.[21]

Dulles asked Roosevelt to lead the CIA-sponsored 1954 coup in Guatemala, which deposed the government of Jacobo Árbenz. Roosevelt refused: "AJAX had succeeded, he believed, chiefly because the CIA's aims were shared by large numbers of Iranians, and it was obvious that the same condition did not obtain among Guatemalans." Noting that Árbenz's resignation had been forced largely by rumors "that a full-scale U.S. invasion was imminent," Roosevelt later remarked, "We had our will in Guatemala, [but] it wasn't really accomplished by clandestine means."[22]

Roosevelt left the CIA in 1958[23] to work for American oil and defense firms. He often visited former operatives and the Shah in Iran.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Roosevelt married Mary Lowe "Polly" Gaddis in 1937, and they had four children: Kermit III (father of Kermit IV, who also goes by Kermit III), Jonathan, Mark, and Anne.[2]


Roosevelt died in 2000 at a retirement community in Cockeysville, Maryland. He was survived by his wife, children, a brother, and seven grandchildren.[24]


Roosevelt was the recipient of the National Security Medal which was awarded by Dwight D. Eisenhower to him in a secret ceremony on March 26, 1956 for his services in Egypt and Iran.[25]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • "Propaganda Techniques of the English Civil Wars – and the Propaganda Psychosis of Today." Pacific Historical Review, vol. 12, no. 4 (Dec. 1943), pp. 369–379. doi:10.2307/3634062.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany (June 20, 2017). "64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details of Iranian Coup". Foreign Policy.
  2. ^ a b c d e Molotsky, Irvin (June 11, 2000). "Kermit Roosevelt, Leader of C.I.A. Coup in Iran, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  3. ^ Kelly, Mark Ribbing and Jacques (June 10, 2000). "Kermit Roosevelt, 84, TR's grandson". Retrieved August 14, 2021.
  4. ^ Edward Renehan, 1998, The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195127195, 0195127196, see [1] accessed June 16, 2015.
  5. ^ Hani J. Bawardi, 2014, "The Institute of Arab American Affairs: Arab Americans and the New World Order," in The Making of Arab Americans: From Syrian Nationalism to U.S. Citizenship, pp. 239–295, Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0292757484, see [2], accessed June 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Kermit Roosevelt [Jr.], 1948, The Partition of Palestine, The Middle East Journal, 2 (January 1948), pp. 1–16. Reprinted with same author, 1948, Partition of Palestine: A Lesson in Pressure Politics, New York: Institute of Arab American Affairs, Pamphlet No. 7, February 1948, 14 pp. plus front and back material, see [3], accessed June 18, 2015.
  7. ^ Thomas A. Kolsky, 1992, Jews Against Zionism:The American Council for Judaism, 1942–1948, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, pp. 181–182, see [4], accessed June 18, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Kira Zalan, 2014, "How the CIA Shaped the Modern Middle East [Hugh Wilford interview]," U.S. News & World Report (online), January 16, 2014, see [5], accessed June 17, 2015. [Subtitle: "History Professor Hugh Wilford chronicles the agency's involvement in the region."]
  9. ^ a b c Robert Moats Miller, 1985, Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet, p. 192, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195035127, 0195365232, see [6], accessed June 17, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Paul Charles Merkley, 2001, Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel, Vol. 16 of McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion, Montreal, pp. 6–8, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press, ISBN 0773521887, see [7], accessed June 17, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. p. 98. ISBN 1566635748. OCLC 64591926.
  12. ^ As extensively documented in Daniel Kovalik's The Plot to Attack Iran. Skyhorse. New York. 2018.
  13. ^ Kinkead, Gwen (Dec 16, 2010). "Kermit Roosevelt." Harvard Magazine.
  14. ^ "CIA Confirms Role in 1953 Iran Coup".
  15. ^ Roosevelt, Kermit (1979). Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran. McGraw-Hill. pp. 139, 21. ISBN 978-0070535909.
  16. ^ Malcolm Byrne, Ed. (2014). Iran 1953: The Strange Odyssey of Kermit Roosevelt's Countercoup. [National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 468, edited with introductory comment by M. Byrne.] The National Security Archive (May 12, 2014), see [8], accessed June 17, 2015. They are declassified CIA documents relating to the agency's proposed edits to Roosevelt's Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979).
  17. ^ Mark Ländler, 2009, "U.S. Is Seeking a Range of Sanctions Against Iran," The New York Times (online), September 27, 2009, see [9], accessed June 17, 2015.
  18. ^ Ray Takeyh, 2014, "Comment: What Really Happened in Iran: The CIA, the Ouster of Mosaddeq, and the Restoration of the Shah," Foreign Affairs, July/August 2014 (June 16, 2014), see [10], accessed June 18, 2015.
  19. ^ William Blum, 2003, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, 2nd edn., p. 66, London: Zed Books Radical International Publishing, ISBN 1-84277-369-0, see [11], accessed June 17, 2015.
  20. ^ Milani, Abbas (December 8, 2009). "The Great Satan Myth". The New Republic. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  21. ^ Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. p. 107. ISBN 1566635748. OCLC 64591926.
  22. ^ Wilford, Hugh (2013). America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Basic Books. p. 224. ISBN 978-0465019656.
  23. ^ "Kermit Roosevelt Obituary". The Telegraph. June 21, 2000.
  24. ^ Mark Ribbing & Jacques Kelly, 2000, "Obituary: Kermit Roosevelt, 84, TR's grandson." The Baltimore Sun, June 10, 2000, Local, p. 4B, see [12], Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  25. ^ Bruce Riedel (2019). Beirut 1958: How America's Wars in the Middle East Began. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. p. 18. ISBN 9780815737353. JSTOR 10.7864/j.ctvbj7g2w.

External links[edit]