Rudgers, David F. 1941-

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Rudgers, David F. 1941-


Born February 12, 1941, in Washington, DC; son of Anthony J. (a civil servant) and Frances (a civil servant and homemaker) Rudgers; married Kathleen Dunlap (died December 2, 1978); married Bette Pascoe (a teacher), September 29, 1979; children: Kyle, Eric. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: University of Maryland, B.A. (with honors), 1963; George Washington University, M.A. 1966, Ph.D., 1972. Politics: "Iconoclast and cranky old New Dealer." Religion: "Presbyterian (of sorts)."


Home—Arlington, VA.


National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, archivist, 1968-76; Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, DC, editor and analyst, 1976-98; retired, 1998. Military service: U.S. Army Reserve, 1963-69.


Chi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha.


Henry Adams Prize, Society for History in Government, 2000, for Creating the Secret State: The Origins of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1943-1947.


Creating the Secret State: The Origins of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1943-1947, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2000.

Contributor to Journal of Contemporary History.


With a Ph.D. in history, and after twenty-two years as a senior intelligence analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), David F. Rudgers was in a unique position to write the history of that organization. Its beginnings had been chronicled before, but not to Rudgers's satisfaction; he began the project shortly before his retirement in 1998, and two years later published Creating the Secret State: The Origins of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1943-1947.

Whereas previous books, including Thomas Troy's Donovan and the CIA, depict the CIA as the brainchild of General William "Wild Bill" Donovan, who headed the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, Rudgers shows that the agency "developed institutionally among U.S. government policymakers in response to a perceived need." Timothy Naftali's review of the book for the Wall Street Journal summarized: "As World War II came to a close, it was unclear whether peacetime intelligence would be the preserve of the State Department and the military services, or an independent agency. Donovan enlisted the media and Hollywood to push his view that the brave and colorful OSS was the model to follow. But the actual decision was very much a Washington matter, and Donovan had few powerful friends there after Franklin Roosevelt's death." According to Rudgers, it was less Donovan's swashbuckling flair that inspired the agency than the fear within Washington of a "nuclear Pearl Harbor"—a sneak attack with a weapon of mass destruction. With Stalin's aggressive actions toward Turkey in 1946 and the Soviets' establishment of the Berlin Blockade in 1948, the USSR quickly came to be perceived as the prime threat to U.S. national security and as the rationale for an agency that would do far more than gather information. As fear of communist aggression burgeoned into the Cold War, the agency had no trouble garnering funding for a far greater range of secret activities, including covert operations here and abroad.

Rudgers takes a detailed look not only at the people and events surrounding the adoption of the National Security Act in 1947, but also at the Central Intelligence Act of 1949. He collected information from already published sources as well as from more recently declassified records housed at the National Archives and the Truman presidential library. Rudgers's vast research allows him to highlight many players whose roles have been obscure until now—among them James Forrestal, Dean Acheson, Clark Clifford, Walter Bedell Smith, J. Edgar Hoover, and Frank Wisner.

Reviewers were impressed with Rudgers's research and the new light it cast on the beginnings of the CIA. Reviewing for the New York Post, Stanley Mieses called Creating the Secret State "more of an iconoclastic take on ‘The Company’ than previous CIA hagiographies, with greater scholarship than anti-CIA conspiracy theorists usually rely on." J.D. Doenecke, who reviewed the work for Choice, while comparing Rudgers's prose style to "a clearly written government draft rather than an engrossing narrative," nonetheless called the book "the most thorough account so far of [the CIA's] origins." Athan Theoharis, writing in History, described the volume as "a model of historical research on intelligence policy as well as on World War II and Cold War domestic and bureaucratic politics."

Rudgers once told CA: "I write because I like to. As a callow youth I learned that I had no talent where athletics, music, or the visual arts were concerned, but I enjoyed researching and writing, so I entered the world of scholarship and never came out. Not only do I like to acquire and present knowledge, I'm good at it. The need to support a family led to a career in the federal civil service rather than academe but, happily, I had (or made) many opportunities to write, and what I wrote was often appreciated. Even though I've never taught, my CIA colleagues called me ‘the doctor’ (even though other analysts also had Ph.D.s). While a bureaucrat, I wrote as a hobby; when I retired, I decided to try my hand as a freelance author. My writing process is simple; something gives me an idea and I pursue it in the record to see what is available, what has been written about it, and how well. My interests are eclectic within the parameters of history, international relations, and public affairs and I am always looking for ‘targets of opportunity.’ While, like any sensible author, I would always enjoy making money from what I write, I never lose sight of quality; I derive ‘psychic income’ from finding and presenting knowledge, and, of course, I always enjoy seeing my name in print. To aspiring writers, I would advise: ‘Do it!’ Keep trying, keep looking for ideas, and never let the naysayers get to you. Writing is always fun, and getting into print anywhere makes it even more fun."



Choice, December, 2000, J.D. Doenecke, review of Creating the Secret State: The Origins of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1943-1947.

History, summer, 2000, Athan Theoharis, review of Creating the Secret State, p. 150.

New York Post, December 10, 2000, Stanley Mieses, review of Creating the Secret State, p. 47.

Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2000, Timothy Naftali, review of Creating the Secret State.