Richard E. Schroeder

The Foundation of the CIA

Harry Truman, the Missouri Gang and the Origins of the Cold War

University of Missouri Press 2017

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in National SecurityNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network January 25, 2018 Christine Lamberson

The CIA is a well-known agency to say the least. It is a key part of the United States’ national security apparatus and has...

The CIA is a well-known agency to say the least. It is a key part of the United States’ national security apparatus and has been for the past 70 years. The CIA’s reputation is mixed though. From 1970s scandals to intelligence failures to its inherent secrecy, the agency can sometimes attract hostility and suspicion even from Americans. In his new book, The Foundation of the CIA: Harry Truman, The Missouri Gang and the Origins of the Cold War (University of Missouri Press, 2017), Richard E. Schroeder argues the agency filled an important hole in American national security in its creation, and does key intelligence work that must be considered in evaluating it.

The Foundation of the CIA examines the creation and early years of the agency. Schroeder makes a strong argument that a centralized, permeant national intelligence agency was quite necessary for the United States. In each conflict before WWII, the United States set up systems for collecting intelligence and learned important techniques, but then lost these skills between conflicts. This loss could leave the United States vulnerable to threats when new conflicts emerged. Though the OSS, which served these needs during WWII, was terminated at the end of the war, the CIA was established shortly thereafter to meet these needs in a more permanent way. There were numerous challenges during the early years in the creation of the agency and for its first directors. Schroeder traces these foundations in his book.

In this episode, Schroeder discusses his new book. He explains the need for the CIA and the important early years. Schroeder also introduces listeners to the Truman and the Missouri Gang to explain some of the important figures in these early years. Finally, Schroeder discusses the connection between this book and his own career in the CIA. His motivation to write this book stemmed from his career in the CIA and his time teaching students about national security.


Christine Lamberson is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University. Her research and teaching focuses on 20th century U.S. political and cultural history. She’s currently working on a book manuscript about the role of violence in shaping U.S. political culture in the 1960s and 1970s. She can be reached at [email protected].

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