Langer, William L. (William Leonard), 1896-1977

Alternative names
Birth 1896-03-16
Death 1977-12-26

Biographical notes:

William L. Langer was born in Boston in March 1896. His early education concentrated on foreign languages, but he studied history, in which he ultimately obtained his MA and Ph. D. from Harvard. He joined the faculty there in 1927, obtaining a reputation in the field of diplomatic history. In a leave status from Harvard, he served as Deputy Chief, then Chief, of the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, and was appointed an assistant to the Secretary of State in 1946. In 1943, Secretary of State Cordell Hull invited Langer to write a study of American wartime relations with the French Government. Alfred A. Knopf commercially published the work as OUR VICHY GAMBLE in 1947. It was based upon classified State, War Department, and OSS files and interviews with French and American personnel. The book stirred great controversy at the time of its publication, challenging the popular presumption that key government personnel were at least sympathetic to, if not supportive of, the Nazi attempt to unify Europe under the Nazi banner. In his preface he states, "I am happy indeed to say that my conclusions serve in general to vindicate the policy pursued by this government." Langer continued in a leave status through 1952, helping to organize the Office of National Estimates of the newly-created Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Langer remained active in the professional historical community until his death in 1977.

From the description of William L. Langer papers, 1939-1945. (US Army, Mil Hist Institute). WorldCat record id: 53139181

Langer earned his Harvard AB in 1915, his AM in 1920, and his PhD in 1923.

From the description of Germany's relations with Russia from 1890 to 1902 / William L. Langer. [1919-1920] (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 228512257

From the description of The preparation of a bibliography on the Seven Years War : History 25, 1920-1921. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 77075441

From the description of Notes in History 38, 1921. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 77075425

From the description of Notes in History 7, 1920-1921. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 77075424

From the description of Notes in Government 6, 1919-1920. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 77075399

From the description of Notes in History 41, 1921. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 77075426

Langer graduated from Harvard in 1915 and taught history at Harvard.

From the description of Papers of William Leonard Langer, 1912-1991 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 76973300


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  • History--Societies, etc
  • World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives, American
  • World War, 1939-1945--Diplomatic history
  • Operation Torch
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Refugees
  • Engineers


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  • United States (as recorded)
  • Europe (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)