Tells the story of the CIA from the end of World War II to Vietnam through the careers of four extraordinary men whose fall from favor had enormous consequences for Cold War policy
Thomas has drawn on his original research in CIA archives and interviews with scores of old agency hands to evoke the urgency and uncertainty, as well as the giddiness, of the shadow wars of the 1950s and early 1960s when the country, with reason, felt itself in danger from Soviet-led Communist aggression. Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Tracy Barnes, and Desmond FitzGerald embodied the confidence, daring, and arrogance of the WASP elite that dominated the CIA at its founding. Thomas brings these men to life as they move boldly, and a bit innocently, into the corrosive life of secrets. He portrays the improbable scene of Bissell, of Groton and Yale, hiring the Mafia to eliminate Fidel Castro, and the terrible drama of Frank Wisner, the first chief of covert operations, slowly succumbing to suicidal mania. He follows Barnes and FitzGerald as they run covert operations from Berlin to Burma.These men, said one of their wives, "went to war every day." They felt that it was their duty - and their calling - to avoid a global conflagration. In a larger sense, they succeeded, but the personal cost was high. The Very Best Men is social history, a spy yarn, and a tragedy. It is the story of American hubris, of the corruption of good intentions, of four brave and flawed men who dared too greatly.