CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

1950s

Guatemala (1954)

Operation PBSUCCESS

A - C

Alexander, Robert J. "The Guatemalan Revolution and Communism." Foreign Policy Bulletin 33 (1 Apr. 1954): 5-7. [Petersen]

Aybar de Soto, Jose M. Dependency and Intervention: The Case of Guatemala in 1954. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1978. [Petersen]

Barrett, David M. "Congress, the CIA, and Guatemala, 1954." Studies in Intelligence 10 (Winter-Spring 2001): 23-31.

The author shows that, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, Congress did play a "role in bringing about CIA's involvement in ridding Guatemala of the Arbenz government." Congressional oversight of CIA through the 1960s "was limited and informal in comparison to the current oversight system.... But limited oversight was not 'no oversight.'"

Bissell, Richard M., Jr., with Jonathan E. Lewis and Frances T. Pudlo. Reflections of a Cold Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996. JK468I6B55

Shryock, WIR 15.6, sees Bissell's memoirs as "thoughtful, candid, provocative, and ultimately puzzling." However, at times, the author "conveys his thoughts in a stiff, disorganized, and even excessively lawyerly manner." Falcoff, National Interest, Winter 1996-1997, finds the book "informative and stimulating," despite "its unexciting prose and a tendency to flatten what must have been far more dramatic events."

For Immerman, Choice 34.2, this work is disappointing but "nevertheless has value. It provides a succinct history of some of America's most dramatic Cold War initiatives and insight into the mindsets of their architects." Chambers concludes that "[t]here are no major disclosures. However, Bissell's personal recollections do add a new and useful viewpoint to the history of these operations." Click for a full review by Chambers.

"Methodological problems" with Bissell's memoirs are raised by Westerfield, Studies (Winter 1998-1999). Noting the clear acknowledgement that the "actual writing was done by [Bissell's] two collaborators," Westerfield also is concerned that "the posthumous additions (not clearly delineated ) obscure throughout what words were ever personally approved by Bissell and what ones were not."

Bowen, Gordon L. "U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Radical Change: Covert Operations in Guatemala, 1950-1954." Latin America Perspectives 10 (Winter 1983): 88-102. [Petersen]

Castillo Armas, Carlos. "How Guatemala Got Rid of the Communists." American Mercury 80 (Jan. 1955): 137-142.

Cullather, Nicholas. Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala, 1952-1954. Washington, DC: History Staff, Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1994. [Available at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB4/cia-guatemala5_b.html] Also published as: Nick Cullather, Secret History: The CIA's Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).

Clark comment: This is the declassified and redacted version of the history written by the author while a member of the CIA's history staff. It was released in 1997, along with other CIA documents on the Guatemalan operation.

Grandin, The Nation, 22 May 2000, views the work as "a fascinating play-by-play account of the CIA's most well-known secret operation.... Limited by its exclusive reliance on CIA documents, Secret History contributes little to the debate as to whether President Eisenhower acted primarily to defend the economic interests of the United Fruit Company ... or to stem the growing influence of Communists in the Guatemalan government."

On the other hand, Ching, Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 42.1 (Spring 2000), sees the author "downplay[ing] the role of the United Fruit Company," and supporting the view that "[a]nticommunism drove U.S. policy." Additionally, Cullather views the overthrow of Arbenz as the result of "an internal military coup," rather than a reflection of the effects of PBSUCCESS. Overall, the reviewer is positive about Cullather's work, referring to "a short, crisp, fact-based narrative" and "lucid and intriguing conclusions."

Gambone, Journal of Military History, 64.1 (Jan. 2000), highly recommends this work, calling it "a lucid account of the perceptions and subsequent actions of a host of players." Nevertheless, the author "offers little in the way of new insights into the fundamental motives and concerns of the Intelligence community." Weis, Choice, Feb. 2000, sees this as "a well-written and cogent narrative." In addition, Cullather "is excellent at placing the story in its larger Cold War context and in discussing the myriad workings of bureaucratic politics, both inter- and intra-agency."

For Montesclaros, H-War, H-Net Reviews [http://www.h-net.org], Jul. 2008, this book "is concise, detailed, and eminently readable, although some may find the redacted portions a minor distraction.... Perhaps Cullather's greatest contribution to the existing literature is his portrayal of all aspects of the operation from the perspective of the frontline CIA case officers who worked the details.... [The author] notes that psychological operations were particularly effective in Guatemala and contributed largely to the operation's success. Thus, covert paramilitary operations ... was just one element of power employed in the strategy for PBSUCCESS."

See also, Anna Kasten Nelson, "History with Holes: The CIA Reveals Its Past," Diplomatic History 22, no.3: 503-508.

 

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