The Dulles brothers grew up in one of America’s most extraordinary families. Here Allen Dulles is standing at left while John Foster Dulles stands at right, with his father and mother beside him. The boys’ grandfather John Watson Foster, seated at center, was secretary of state in the 1890s. Their uncle Robert Lansing, standing with his dog, held the same post during World War I. Their talented sister Eleanor sits at left foreground.
John Foster Dulles became managing partner of the Wall Street law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, a unique repository of global power. He is seated at center right. The firm’s audacious co-founder, William Nelson Cromwell, is at center left.
Allen Dulles was a successful spymaster based in Switzerland during both world wars.
John Foster Dulles denounced the “containment” policy that Secretary of State Dean Acheson followed after World War II. He urged policies to promote the “liberation” of Communist countries.
In 1953 John Foster Dulles (left) became secretary of state, and Allen Dulles became director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was the only time in history that siblings controlled the overt and covert sides of American foreign policy.
As secretary of state, Dulles worked intimately with President Dwight Eisenhower. Both supported covert action and “regime change” operations.
Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran (left) was the first “monster” the Dulles brothers set out to destroy. His most prominent American supporter was Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas.
After deposing Mossadegh, the Dulles brothers set out against President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. He was strip-searched as he departed to exile after being deposed in 1954.
European diplomats reluctantly concluded in the mid-1950s that there was no way the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh could be kept from power in Vietnam. The Dulles brothers refused to agree. They embarked on a campaign against him that led to a long and costly war.
President Sukarno of Indonesia admired American icons from the Founding Fathers to Marilyn Monroe. His neutralist policies, however, led the Dulles brothers to launch a clandestine war against him.
Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Congo was the next Dulles target. He was captured and executed after less than a year in office.
The last Dulles nemesis, the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, met Vice President Richard Nixon when he visited New York soon after seizing power.
Allen Dulles was an enthusiastic adulterer and had a difficult relationship with his wife, Clover. Their son, Allen, was severely wounded in Korea.
John Foster Dulles was stern, self-righteous, and devoted to his wife, Janet. She accompanied him on many foreign trips, as on this visit to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
John Foster Dulles did not live to see his reputation decline. When he died in 1959, the nation was grief-stricken.
Fate was less kind to Allen Dulles. The first covert operation he recommended to President John F. Kennedy was an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro by landing an exile army at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba. It failed disastrously. Kennedy fired him soon afterward.
Diego Rivera’s vivid mural Glorious Victory depicts the American-sponsored coup in Guatemala. The Dulles brothers are at the center, Foster being thanked by his Guatemalan lackey while Allen stands beside him, his satchel full of cash. Eisenhower’s face decorates a bomb. Allen was delighted with the way Glorious Victory portrayed him and proudly handed out small-format copies.