Smith, Walter Bedell, 1895-1961

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1895-10-05
Death 1961-08-09
English

Biographical notes:

Director, Central Intelligence Agency.

From the description of Typed letter signed : Washington, D.C., to John Steinbeck, 1952 Feb. 6. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 775807446

From the description of Typed letter signed : Washington, D.C., to Bernard Baruch, 1951 Mar. 22. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 775806212

Walter Bedell Smith (1895-1961), soldier and diplomat, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of William Long Smith and Ida Frances Bedell, both buyers for the Pettis Dry Goods Company. While still a student at Manual Training High School, Smith decided to enter military service, and in 1910 he enlisted as a private in the Indiana National Guard. He first went on active duty during the 1913 flood in Indianapolis and in 1916 served with the Mexican border expedition. He enrolled briefly at Butler University but had to withdraw because of his father''s illness. After working as a mechanic, he was ordered back to active duty during World War I. On July 1, 1917, he married Mary Eleanor (Norrie) Cline; they had no children. In November 1917, Smith completed the officers'' training camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Officers'' Reserve Corps. He was assigned to the Thirty-ninth Infantry, Fourth Division, at Camp Greene, N.C., and on Apr. 20, 1918, sailed with the division to France. He fought with the French at ChÏteau-Thierry and in the third Battle of the Marne. After being wounded by shrapnel, Smith returned to the United States. Although he was promoted to first lieutenant (as a reserve officer on temporary active duty) in September 1918 and received a commission as first lieutenant in the Regular Army in July 1920, advancement in rank came slowly between the world wars. He was made captain in September 1929 and had to wait nearly ten years before becoming a major. Smith''s assignments during the interwar period equipped him with organizing, administrative, and planning skills crucial to managing modern warfare. He served first in Washington, D.C., with the Bureau of Military Intelligence. From there he went to staff assignments in various posts. In April 1925 he became assistant to the chief coordinator of the Bureau of the Budget and later was deputy chief coordinator and vice-chairman of the Federal Liquidation Board. He was assigned to the Forty-fifth Infantry at Fort William McKinley, in the Philippines from 1929 to 1931. Smith graduated from the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, then completed the advanced course in 1932, and remained as an instructor in weapons until August 1933. In 1935 he graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kans. After teaching at the Infantry School for a year, he attended the Army War College in Washington, D.C., graduating in June 1937. After graduation he again taught at the Infantry School. While at the Infantry School, Smith captured the attention of Omar N. Bradley and George C. Marshall. Both men put Smith''s name on their lists of future leaders. In October 1939, General Marshall called Smith to Washington to aid him in building up the army. Promotions now came rapidly. Smith became a lieutenant colonel in April 1941, a colonel in August 1941, a brigadier general in February 1942, a major general in December 1942, and a lieutenant general in January 1943. Marshall made Smith assistant secretary and then, in September 1941, secretary of the General Staff. In this job Smith coordinated the work of staff agencies. The Joint Chiefs of Staff--comprising the military heads of the army, air force, and navy, and a personal representative of the president--was established early in 1942. This group, with the British military leaders, formed the Combined Chiefs of Staff, which formulated the grand strategy of the war. In February 1942 Smith was named secretary of the Joint Chiefs and United States secretary to the Combined Chiefs, posts in which he played a key role in establishing the smooth functioning of the two groups. In September 1942, Smith joined General Dwight D. Eisenhower as his chief of staff. He served in London while Eisenhower gathered the forces for the cross-Channel invasion and then followed the general during Allied assaults on North Africa in November 1942, on Sicily in July 1943, on Italy in September 1943, and on France in June 1944. After the surrender of Germany in May 1945, Smith remained with Eisenhower until that December. During this period Smith established his reputation as one of the finest chiefs of staff in history. He often represented Eisenhower at conferences involving the Allied high command. Some of his important contributions involved his role as a diplomat--he handled the surrender negotiations of Italy, and he helped Eisenhower in the complex negotiations with France. Although Smith returned from Europe in January 1946 as chief of the Operations and Planning Division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Harry S. Truman appointed him ambassador to Russia (1946-1949) two months later. Smith was a negotiator during the crucial period when relations between the two countries deteriorated into the cold war. He believed that Russia had always been imperialist and that Soviet Russia would continue its expansionist efforts. But he felt that the Soviets wanted to avoid war and that the Communist world was not an impregnable monolith. He argued that the break between Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and Premier Josef Stalin of Russia was real and that the United States should support Tito and encourage similar defections. In March 1949, Smith became commander of the First Army, with headquarters at Governors Island, N.Y. In 1951 he received the fourth star of a full general. In the wake of charges of inept intelligence contributing to the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, President Truman named him director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In this position Smith exercised the toughness and administrative skill for which he was noted. He discharged many employees and made structural changes that moved the intelligence community toward greater coordination and centralization. He eliminated outside controls from the covert operations section and merged it with the CIA''s covert intelligence-gathering section. He also established a support arm to provide personnel, logistics, and training. When Eisenhower became president, he moved Smith from the CIA to the State Department as undersecretary. Smith saw himself as "the policy chief of staff" for Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. In May 1954 he was the United States representative to the Geneva Far Eastern Conference, called to discuss the possible reunification of Korea and a settlement of the war in Indochina. He resigned as undersecretary in October 1954 to become vice-chairman of American Machine and Foundry Company, a position he held until his death in Washington, D.C.

From the description of Smith, Walter Bedell, 1895-1961 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10679499

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, October 5, 1895, Walter Bedell Smith graduated from various military schools before graduating from Army War College in 1937. He was an army officer from 1910-1945, becoming major general in 1945 and later, general. He served with General Staff Corps in 1940 and was secretary for the U.S. Combined Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1941 and 1942. He was Chief of Staff for the Allied Force Headquarters in North Africa between 1942 and 1944. Between 1946 and 1949, he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R. He was director of the Central Intelligence Agency between 1950 and 1953, then becoming Undersecretary of State until 1954. He was also a member of the boards of several corporations. Smith died on August 9, 1961, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

From the description of Walter Bedell Smith papers, 1949-1950 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702166252

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, October 5, 1895, Walter Bedell Smith graduated from various military schools before graduating from Army War College in 1937. He was an army officer from 1910 to 1945, becoming major general in 1945 and later, general. He served with General Staff Corps in 1940 and was secretary for the U.S. Combined Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1941 and 1942. He was Chief of Staff for the Allied Force Headquarters in North Africa between 1942 and 1944. Between 1946 and 1949, he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R. He was then director of the Central Intelligence Agency between 1950 and 1953, then becoming Undersecretary of State until 1954. He was also a member of the boards of several corporations. Smith died on August 9, 1961, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

From the guide to the Walter Bedell Smith papers, 1949-1950, (Manuscripts and Archives)

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Subjects:

  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • World War, 1939-1945--Sources

Occupations:

  • Diplomats

Places:

  • Europe (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Italy (as recorded)
  • Africa, North (as recorded)
  • Western Front (as recorded)