Lansdale, Edward G.

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Lansdale, Edward G. (1908–1987), U.S. intelligence officer and general.Born in Detroit, Michigan, Lansdale attended UCLA and then became an advertising executive. He served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II, but achieved fame during the Cold War as one of the most celebrated U.S. intelligence officers. While he was never an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he often worked on behalf of the CIA using the cover of an Air Force officer.

Technically a mid‐level operative, Lansdale became legendary for identifying and funding effective non‐communist alternative leaders, becoming known in the 1950s as “our man in Asia.” In the Philippines, he played a controversial but important role in helping President Ramon Magsaysay gain power and defeat communist insurgents. Later, in Vietnam, he engineered psychological warfare operations in North Vietnam in 1954–55 and channeled U.S. support to the newly created Republic of South Vietnam and its president, Ngo Dinh Diem. Under President John F. Kennedy, Lansdale was put in charge of Operation Mongoose, which involved a series of attempts to eliminate Fidel Castro and disrupt the economy of communist Cuba.

Seen by many during the Cold War as “America's Number One Spy Master,” Lansdale was famously reviled in The Quiet American (1955) an attack on U.S. foreign policy by British novelist Graham Greene (despite the fact that both Lansdale and Greene denied the connection). But the 1958 Hollywood film version reversed Greene's judgment by portraying the Lansdale‐type character as a true hero. By the 1960s, Lansdale's public persona had overshadowed the real actions, and he had become a legend of American success in the Cold War.
[See also Cuba, U.S. Military Involvement in; Philippines, U.S. Military Involvement in; Vietnam War.]

Bibliography

Edward G. Lansdale , In the Midst of Wars: An American's Mission ot Southeast Asia, 1972;
Cecil B. Currey , Edward Lansdale, The Unquiet American, 1988.

Jonathan Nashel