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William Bundy

William Putnam "Bill" Bundy (September 24, 1917 – October 6, 2000) was an attorney and intelligence expert, an analyst with the CIA. He was notable as a foreign affairs advisor to both presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He had key roles in planning the Vietnam War, serving as deputy to Paul Nitze under Kennedy and as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs under Johnson.

After leaving government service in 1969, Bundy served as a historian of foreign affairs, teaching at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at Princeton University, from 1972 to his death. His book A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon Presidency (1998) is considered his most important work.


  • Early years 1
  • Career 2
  • Marriage and family 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Early years

Born in 1917 and raised in McGeorge Bundy who was two years younger.

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, Bundy entered Harvard Law School. During World War II, he left to join the Army Signal Corps. During this time he worked at Bletchley Park in Britain as part of the top secret ULTRA intelligence 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.[3] (Note: Bundy's father, Harvey Hollister Bundy, Sr., became chairman of the board at Carnegie 1953-1958, not long after Hiss served as president there 1946-1949.

In the early 1950s, Bundy was recruited for the Central Intelligence Agency, serving as an analyst and as 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.[4] During the Kennedy years, he was deputy to Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze and worked also for the Secretary of the Navy. During much of the LBJ era, he was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

He continued to serve as an advisor on Vietnam following the election of President Richard M. Nixon, but resigned from government in 1969. Bundy moved to academia, teaching at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1972 he moved to Princeton University, where he served as a professor for the rest of his life. He edited the influential journal, Foreign Affairs, of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1972 to 1984, also serving as a member of the Council. He declined an offer by the Council's chairman, David Rockefeller, to be the Council's president.

His brother, McGeorge Bundy (1919–1996), also attended Yale and was a member of Skull and Bones. After being involved in intelligence and the Council on Foreign Relations, he served from 1961 to 1966 as the National Security Advisor to both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

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, and was an advisor to three presidents. In 1989 he acknowledged the complexity of the presidents' decisionmaking, saying, "In a nutshell, my present feeling is that it was a tragedy waiting to happen, but one made much worse by countless errors along the way, in many of which I had a part."[3]

Bundy was Honorary American Secretary General of the Bilderberg Meetings from 1975 to 1980. [5][6]

Bundy's most noted work is A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon Presidency (1998). His papers are held by the Seeley G. Mudd Library at Princeton University.

Marriage and family

Bill Bundy married Mary Acheson, the daughter of Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson. Bill and Mary had three children, Michael, Christopher, and Carol.


  1. ^ Kenneth W Hechler (5 January 1953). "Memorandum on the Potsdam Conference to David D Lloyd". 
  2. ^ Daniel J. Kevles (March 1990). "The Politics of Atomic Reality". Reviews in American History 18 (1). 
  3. ^ a b 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. 
  4. ^ William P. Bundy. A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon presidency. pp. xiv. 
  5. ^ The International Who's Who, 1984–85. International Publications Service.  
  6. ^ "Former Steering Committee Members". Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  • "William Bundy". The Times. October 10, 2000. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  • Martin, Douglas (October 7, 2000). "William P. Bundy, 83, Dies; Advised 3 Presidents on American Policy in Vietnam". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  • "William Bundy". Telegraph. October 9, 2000. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 

Further reading

  • 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

  • William P. Bundy Papers at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University
  • William P. Bundy in 1981 discussing his experiences with the Vietnam war, and Lyndon Johnson's strategies. WGBH Open Vault.
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
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