Welles, Benjamin 1916-2002

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WELLES, Benjamin 1916-2002

PERSONAL: Born 1916, in Japan; died January 3, 2002, in Washington, DC; U.S. citizen; married Cynthia Monteith (deceased); children: Serena Moss, Merida Holman. Education: Harvard University, graduated, 1938.

CAREER: Journalist. New York Times, New York, NY, news clerk, then reporter and journalist, 1938-72; Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, journalist-in-residence; principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, 1981-83. Military service: U.S. Army, 1942-46, served with Office of Strategic Services; awarded Bronze Star.

MEMBER: Metropolitan Club (Washington, DC).


Spain: The Gentle Anarchy, Praeger (New York, NY), 1996.

Sumner Welles: FDR's Global Strategist: A Biography, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Benjamin Welles was born into a wealthy and influential family. His father, Sumner Welles, was a major foreign-policy advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the time of Welles's birth, his father was serving as third secretary of the U.S. embassy in Japan.

Welles did not follow his father into a diplomatic career, but chose journalism after graduating from Harvard University in 1938. He began his career as a news clerk at the New York Times, and worked his way up to become a reporter.

In 1942 Welles joined the U.S. Army and served in North Africa and the Middle East with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. By the end of the war, he was a major. He was a member of the U.S. forces that liberated Paris on August 25, 1944, and earned a Bronze Star.

Welles returned to work for the New York Times in 1946 and worked as a foreign correspondent for the next seventeen years, traveling to China, London, and Madrid, as well as Hungary and Algeria. According to another correspondent, Paul Hofmann, Welles loved the excitement, danger, and cloak-and-dagger atmosphere of some of his assignments. Hofmann told Celestine Bohlen in the New York Times, "He loved having secret rendezvous with disguised army officers. He just lapped it up."

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Welles was in Spain, and often wrote about the power of Spanish dictator Franco. He went to Washington, D.C. in 1963 to cover national security, and remained there until his retirement in 1972.

After retiring from the New York Times, Welles worked as a journalist-in-residence at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. From 1981 to 1983, he served as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. In January of 2002, he died of cancer in Washington, D.C.

Welles's book, Sumner Welles: FDR's Global Strategist: A Biography, surveys his father's influential life and career. Drawing on the senior Welles's voluminous collection of papers, interviews with people who knew his father, archives, and other sources, Welles presents a detailed and intimate look at his father. Sumner Welles's illustrious career came to an end in 1943 when he was implicated in a sexual scandal and President Roosevelt asked him to step down. In the New York Times, Gaddis Smith praised the book as "a candid, sympathetic portrait of a great and tragic figure." In Presidential Studies Quarterly, William C. Spragens noted "The diplomat's son has done a remarkable job of seeking to present a balanced picture of his father's service." Helen Delpar wrote in Latin American Research Review that the book presents "a detailed and sympathetic portrait," and that this volume "should stand as the definitive biography [of Sumner Welles] for a long time."



Latin American Research Review, summer, 2000, Helen Delpar, review of Sumner Welles: FDR's Global Strategist: A Biography, p. 155.

Library Journal, December, 1997, Robert F. Nardini, review of Sumner Welles, p. 116.

National Interest, summer, 1998, Mark Falcoff, review of Sumner Welles, p. 100.

New York Times, January 25, 1998, Gaddis Smith, review of Sumner Welles, p. 13.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, March, 2002, William C. Spragens, review of Sumner Welles, p. 213.

Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1997, review of Sumner Welles, p. 57.



New York Times, January 4, 2002, Celestine Bohlen, p. A22.

Washington Post, January 3, 2002, p. B6.*