Military Wiki
Kermit Roosevelt Jr.
Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt Jr.
Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt Jr.
Born (1916-02-16)February 16, 1916
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died June 8, 2000(2000-06-08) (aged 84)
Cockeysville, Maryland
Alma mater Harvard University
Spouse(s) Mary Lowe Gaddis
Children 4, including Mark Roosevelt
Parents Belle Wyatt Roosevelt (née Willard),
Kermit Roosevelt Sr.

Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt Jr. (February 16, 1916 – June 8, 2000), a grandson of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, was a Harvard-educated career intelligence officer who served in the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), during and following the second world war, went on to found Arabist organizations such as the American Friends of the Middle East, and then to play a critical role in the CIA's operation to return Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the former Shah of Iran, to power in August 1953. He was asked to lead the CIA-sponsored 1954 coup in Guatemala but refused, arguing that the government of Jacobo Árbenz had the support of the Guatemalan people.[1]

Early life and training

President Theodore Roosevelt with his grandsons Richard Derby (right) and Kermit Roosevelt Jr. (on his lap).

Kermit Roosevelt Jr.—called "Kim" as was standard for the alternating generations of Kermits in the Roosevelt family[2]—was born to Kermit Roosevelt Sr. and Belle Wyatt Roosevelt (née Willard) in Buenos Aires in 1916, where Roosevelt Sr. was an official for a shipping line,[2] and then a manager of the Buenos Aires branch of the National City Bank.[citation needed] The Roosevelt family returned to the U.S.,[when?][citation needed] and Kim, his two brothers, Joseph Willard and Dirck, and his sister, Belle Wyatt,[citation needed] grew up in Oyster Bay, N.Y., a homestead near to Sagamore Hill, the Long Island home of the Theodore Roosevelt clan.[2]

Kim attended Groton School as a young man.[citation needed] He graduated from Harvard University in 1937, a year ahead of his class,[2] and married Mary Lowe Gaddis shortly thereafter.[when?][2]


Early career

At the time of Roosevelt Jr.'s death, Mrs. Roosevelt recounted in a NYT interview that after graduating from Harvard, her husband had "tried to teach history to the techy boys at Caltech."[2] With the outbreak of the second world war, Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt Jr. then joined the military, serving with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the principal agency that was a forerunner to the CIA. He did not discuss his wartime service with his wife; his son, in the same interview, suggested that Kim had been "involved in planning the invasion of Italy."[2] In June 4, 1943, when Kim was 27, his father, Kermit Sr., a man who drank heavily,[citation needed] died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at Fort Richardson in Alaska where the senior Roosevelt was posted.[3]:232 Roosevelt Jr. remained with the OSS after the war, writing and editing its history to date.[2]

After the war, Roosevelt went on to serve on the advisory board of the largely Arab organization, The Institute of Arab American Affairs (IAAA, 1944-1950),[4] a New York City-based organization—alongside Dean emeritus of Barnard College, Virginia Gildersleeve,[5] Prof. Walter T. Stace of Princeton, Rev. John H. Lathrop, Prof. Albert H. Lyber of Illinois, Benjamin H. Freedman, and others[6]—publishing in 1948, first in essay form in The Middle East Journal, later as an IAAA pamphlet reprint, his views on American Zionism and his arguments regarding the partition of Palestine.[7] In February 1948 Roosevelt joined other like-minded individuals—more than 100 individuals—to form a "Christian group" to aid the fight of the largely rabbinical American Council for Judaism to reverse the ongoing partition of Palestine into exclusive, separate Jewish and Arab states; the Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land (CJP) was founded on March 2, 1948, with Dean emeritus Gildersleeve serving as CJP chair, former Union Theological Seminary president Henry Sloane Coffin as vice-chair, and Roosevelt as executive director.[5]

In 1951, Roosevelt, Virginia Gildersleeve, Dorothy Thompson, and a further group of 24 American educators, theologians, and writers (including Harry Emerson Fosdick) founded the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME), a pro-Arabist organization often critical of U.S. support for Israel.[8][9] The CJP that Roosevelt had helped form in 1948 was subsumed into AFME in 1951,[10] and Roosevelt served as AFME executive secretary for this group of intellectuals and spokespersons, for a time.[when?][8][10] Historians Robert Moats Miller, Hugh Wilford, and others have stated that from its early years, AFME was a part of an Arabist propaganda effort within the U.S. "secretly funded and to some extent managed" by the CIA,[8][9] with further funding from the oil consortium, ARAMCO.[9]

Career in intelligence

Intelligence duties before Operation Ajax

By the early 1950s, Kermit Roosevelt Jr. was a senior officer in the CIA's Middle Eastern division.[when?][citation needed]

Role in Operation Ajax

Kermit Roosevelt played a highly critical role in Operation Ajax as the ground operational planner, especially in getting the Shah to issue the 'firman', or decrees, dismissing Mossadegh. He established networks of anglophiles and Shah sympathizers in Iran that were willing to take part in various aspects of the coup.[11] These tactics aided in dividing and dissolving Mossadegh’s political power base within the National Front, the Tudeh, and the Clerics. However, the first attempt at the coup failed, likely because Mossadegh had learned of the impending overthrow. Despite the CIA sending Roosevelt a telegram to flee Iran immediately, he began work on the second coup. He circulated a false account that Mossadegh attempted to seize the throne and bribed Iranian agents. The coup was a success and hence was adapted for use in other third world countries during the Cold War. Eisenhower secretly awarded Roosevelt the National Security Medal in 1954 for his work.[12] In 2014, the National Security Archive released telegrams and accounts of the CIA operation, many of which are revealing to the part he played in the operation.[13]

As described by Roosevelt

Twenty-six years after the Mossadeq coup, Kermit Roosevelt took the unusual step of writing a book about how he and the CIA carried out the operation. He called his book Countercoup to press home the idea that the CIA coup was staged only to prevent a takeover of power by the Iranian Communist Party (Tudeh) closely backed by the Soviet Union,[citation needed] and to imply that the exile of the Shah constituted the initial coup, and that he was merely restoring the rightful leader to power.[citation needed] According to Roosevelt, he slipped across the border under his CIA cover as "James Lockridge" on June 19, 1953, was put up in Tehran in a place rented by British intelligence, and as Mr. Lockridge, became a regular at the Turkish Embassy where he played tennis and golf, allegedly scoring a hole in one during a game with the Turkish Ambassador; no one suspected that Mr. Lockridge was the grandson of the 26th US President, though at times he came close to blowing his cover.[14][page needed]

Historian Hugh Wilford attempts to describe Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt Jr.'s motivations and views underpinning his intelligence efforts, stating that:

"[Roosevelt Jr.] had this notion of America forming an alliance with the Arab countries as they emerged from under the sway of Britain and France. He was very concerned with backing Arab nationalists in the region. He saw that as the best way of keeping it within the American orbit, as the Cold War was gathering momentum …".[8]

Critique of historical presentations

Roosevelt submitted his Countercoup manuscript to the CIA for pre-publication approval, the agency proposed various alterations, and in the perspective of a CIA reviewer: "Roosevelt has reflected quite faithfully the changes that we suggested to him. This has become, therefore, essentially a work of fiction," a conclusion that allowed release of the book; a catalog of the actual changes made during the review is available.[15]

Former senior adviser to the Obama administration and Council on Foreign Relations Iran expert, Ray Takeyh,[16] writing in 2014, states that "Contrary to Roosevelt's account [in Countercoup], the documentary record reveals that the Eisenhower administration was hardly in control and was in fact surprised by the way events played out."[17] Darioush Bayandor, a former United Nations official and Iranian diplomat (under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), has presented U.S. Department of State archival material and the CIA internal account of the coup events, noting that they contradict Roosevelt's narrative.[vague] [18][page needed] Author William Blum criticized Roosevelt for providing no evidence when he "argu[ed] that Mossadegh had to be removed to prevent a communist takeover" of Iran.[19] Per Blum, Roosevelt posed Mossadegh was a danger due to his seizure of the oil industry, other Socialist reforms, and his cooperation with the Tudeh Party; Blum argued, on the other hand, that Mossadegh's role was much more nuanced.[19] Blum states that this view was shared by many in the intelligence community, that Roger Goiran, the head of CIA station in Iran, resigned rather than participate in the coup, and that intelligence outsiders, including some in the Truman administration, felt that Mossadegh should have been kept in power to prevent a Communist takeover.[19] Abbas Milani, Stanford's director of Iranian Studies and co-director of the Hoover Institution's Iran Democracy Project, writing in The New Republic, expressed his opinion that "Roosevelt's memoir inflated his own and, in turn, America's centrality to the coup. He tells the story with the relish of a John le Carré knock-off. … Eisenhower, for one, [Milani asserts] considered reports like this to be the stuff of 'dime novels.'"[20]

Frederic P. Hitz, the Weinberg Goldman Sachs Professor of International Relations at Princeton University, has noted that Countercoup reveals "how covert actions were authorized in those days, without oversight. It was just a group of people sitting around in an office …".[2] Historian Hugh Wilford describes three key players involved in middle east matters at the time of the founding of the CIA in 1947: "The cousins ... Kermit and Archie Roosevelt, both grandsons of Theodore Roosevelt ... [and] the third member of this … triangle … Miles Copeland … from Alabama—a very smart, dynamic young man. [The Roosevelts] … took him under their wing, and between them they led the American intelligence efforts in the Middle East."[8] He goes on to elaborate the views of these three that underpinned their intelligence efforts, stating that:

"[I]t was definitely about keeping the Middle East out of Soviet hands [and] about Western access to oil. I think there was also an element of idealism. These were very young guys in their 20s and 30s, and they had almost a romantic view of the good that America could do in the region."[8]

The views of the CIA Arabists were not in isolation; Wilford notes that the "Eisenhower administration [including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, was] initially quite sympathetic towards … Roosevelt's Arabist agenda" and willing to oppose Middle Eastern regimes seen "as backing the Soviet Union rather than the U.S."; ultimately, the emergence of American public support for Israel and the administration's evolving framework to respond to its principle Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, would lead to failure of the Arabist agenda of Roosevelt and his colleagues.[8] In discussing Roosevelt's role, Wilford describes him as being among "the most important intelligence officers of their generation in the Middle East."[8]

Intelligence duties after Ajax

Foster Dulles asked Roosevelt to lead the CIA-sponsored 1954 coup in Guatemala, which deposed the government of Jacobo Árbenz. Roosevelt refused: "AJAX had succeeded, he believed, chiefly because the CIA's aims were shared by large numbers of Iranians, and it was obvious that the same condition did not obtain among Guatemalans." Noting that Árbenz's resignation was forced in large measure by rumors "that a full-scale U.S. invasion was imminent," Roosevelt later remarked: "We had our will in Guatemala, [but] it wasn't really accomplished by clandestine means."[1]

Later career

General legacy

John Waller, an intelligence colleague of Roosevelt Jr. at the CIA, made special note of Churchill's approval of Roosevelt's effort in Operation Ajax, and described Roosevelt thus: "Kim was in that Churchillian mode of a 19th-century warrior… [and] was a man of the times and a good man to have around during the cold war."[2]

Personal life

Kim Roosevelt married Mary Lowe "Polly" Gaddis shortly after his early graduation from Harvard, in 1937, and they had three sons, the eldest Kermit (Kermit Roosevelt, born April 7, 1938), the second Jonathan (1940-2013), and the third Mark (born 1955), and a daughter, Anne (born 1952).[2][citation needed] Roosevelt Jr.'s last days were spent at a retirement community in Cockeysville, Maryland.[2] He was survived by his wife, his children (his daughter now Anne Mason), a brother, Joseph Willard Roosevelt, and seven grandchildren, including Kermit Roosevelt III, a law professor.[2][21]

Roosevelt Jr.'s published works

Presented by date, all single author unless otherwise noted:

  • "Propaganda Techniques of the English Civil Wars – and the Propaganda Psychosis of Today," 1943, Pacific Historical Review Vol. 12, no. 4 (December 1943, University of California Press):369–379.
  • "The Partition of Palestine," 1948, The Middle East Journal, 2 (January 1948), pp. 1–16. Reprinted, Kermit Roosevelt [Jr.], 1948, Partition of Palestine: A Lesson in Pressure Politics, New York, N.Y.:Institute of Arab American Affairs, Pamphlet No. 7, February 1948, 14 pp. plus front and back material, see [16], accessed 18 June 2015.
  • Arabs, Oil, and History: The Story of the Middle East, 1949 (reprint, Kennikat Press, 1969), ISBN 0804605327.[full citation needed]
  • Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, 1979, New York, N.Y.:McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0070535906.

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wilford, Hugh (2013). America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465019656. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Irvin Molotsky, 2000, "Obituary: Kermit Roosevelt, Leader of CIA Coup in Iran, Dies at 84," The New York Times, June 10, 2000, see [1], accessed 17 June 2015.
  3. Edward Renehan, 1998, The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War, Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195127195 and 0195127196, see [2] accessed 16 June 2015.
  4. Hani J. Bawardi, 2014, "The Institute of Arab American Affairs: Arab Americans and the New World Order," in The Making of Arab Americans: From Syrian Nationalism to U.S. Citizenship, pp. 239-295, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0292757484, see [3], accessed 18 June 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Thomas A. Kolsky, 1992, Jews Against Zionism:The American Council for Judaism, 1942-1948, Philadelphia, PA:Temple University Press, pp. 181–2, see [4], accessed 18 June 2015.
  6. See back materials of the pamphlet, Kermit Roosevelt [Jr.], 1948, Partition of Palestine: A Lesson in Pressure Politics, op. cit.
  7. Kermit Roosevelt [Jr.], 1948, The Partition of Palestine, The Middle East Journal, 2 (January 1948), pp. 1-16. Reprinted with same author, 1948, Partition of Palestine: A Lesson in Pressure Politics, New York, N.Y.:Institute of Arab American Affairs, Pamphlet No. 7, February 1948, 14 pp. plus front and back material, see [5], accessed 18 June 2015.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Kira Zalan, 2014, "How the CIA Shaped the Modern Middle East [Hugh Wilford interview]," U.S. News & World Report (online), January 16, 2014, see [6], accessed 17 June 2015. [Subtitle: "History Professor Hugh Wilford chronicles the agency's involvement in the region."]
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Robert Moats Miller, 1985, Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet, p. 192, Oxford, U.K.:Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195035127 and ISBN 0195365232, see [7], accessed 17 June 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Paul Charles Merkley, 2001, Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel, Vol. 16 of McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion, Montreal, pp. 6-8, Canada:McGill-Queen's University Press, ISBN 0773521887, see [8], accessed 17 June 2015.
  14. By his own description in Countercoup, when making mistakes playing tennis he would instinctively reference himself, crying out, "Oh Roosevelt!" He therefore concocted an explanation to allay suspicions of his friends: that as a loyal member of the Republican Party in the U.S., every Republican scorned and hated Franklin D. Roosevelt, so much so that he took to using FDR's name as a curse. See Kermit Roosevelt Jr., 1979, Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran, New York, N.Y.:McGraw Hill, p. TBD, see [9], accessed 17 June 2015.[page needed]
  15. Malcolm Byrne, Ed., 2014, Iran 1953: The Strange Odyssey of Kermit Roosevelt's Countercoup [National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 468, edited with introductory comment by M. Byrne], The National Security Archive (online), May 12, 2014, see [10], accessed 17 June 2015. These are declassified CIA documents that relate to the agency's proposed edits to Roosevelt's Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran (New York, N.Y.:McGraw-Hill, 1979).
  16. Mark Ländler, 2009, "U.S. Is Seeking a Range of Sanctions Against Iran," The New York Times (online), September 27, 2009, see [11], accessed 17 June 2015.
  17. Ray Takeyh, 2014, "Comment: What Really Happened in Iran: The CIA, the Ouster of Mosaddeq, and the Restoration of the Shah," Foreign Affairs, July/August 2014 (June 16, 2014), see [12], accessed 18 June 2015.
  18. Darioush Bayandor, 2010, Iran and the CIA: The Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited, p. TBD, Basingstoke, U.K.:Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-230-57927-9 and ISBN 0-230-57927-2, see [13], accessed 17 June 2015.[page needed]
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 William Blum, 2003, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, 2nd edn., p. 66, London, U.K.:Zed Books Radical International Publishing, ISBN 1-84277-369-0, see [14], accessed 17 June 2015.
  20. Milani, Abbas (December 8, 2009). "The Great Satan Myth". The New Republic. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  21. Mark Ribbing & Jacques Kelly, 2000, "Obituary: Kermit Roosevelt, 84, TR's grandson." The Baltimore Sun, June 10, 2000, Local, pg. 4B, see [15], accessed 17 June 2015.

On Roosevelt Jr. in general

  • Zvi Ganin, 1977, "The Limits of American Jewish Political Power: America's Retreat from Partition, November 1947-March 1948," Jewish Social Studies Vol. 39, No. 1/2, American Bicentennial: II (Winter - Spring, 1977), pp. 1–36, esp. 11f. Reprinted in Jeffrey Gurock, Ed., 2014, American Zionism: Missions and Politics: American Jewish History, op. cit., pp. 425f.
  • Jeffrey Gurock, Ed., 2014, American Zionism: Missions and Politics: American Jewish History, esp. pp. 409, 425f, 431, Abingdon-on-Thames, U.K..:Routledge, ISBN 1136675566, see [17], accessed 18 June 2015.
  • Hani J. Bawardi, 2014, "The Institute of Arab American Affairs: Arab Americans and the New World Order," in The Making of Arab Americans: From Syrian Nationalism to U.S. Citizenship, pp. 35, 276f, 286, and 239-295, passim, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0292757484, see [18], accessed 18 June 2015.

On Arabist questions, from Roosevelt's organizations

  • IAAA, 1945, Papers on Palestine: A Collection of Statements, Articles and Letters Dealing with the Palestine Problem, New York, N.Y.:The Institute of Arab American Affairs, see [19], accessed 18 June 2015. [Described by as "A collection of statements and article opposing US endorsement of a national home for the Jews in Palestine."]
  • Michael Doran, 2013, "Book Review: 'America's Great Game,' by Hugh Wilford," Wall Street Journal (online), December 11, 2013, see [20], accessed 30 June 2015. [Short, positive review of Wilford book, with subtitle: "In 1951, the CIA created a front group to promote an anti-Zionist view of the Middle East and weaken American support for Israel."]

On Roosevelt Jr.'s role in Operation Ajax

The following are some articles and book chapters relevant to the role of Roosevelt Jr. in Operation Ajax, in order of date of publication:

  • Ryszard Kapuściński, 1982, Shah of Shahs, Vinage, ISBN 0679738010.[page needed]
  • Harold Jackson, 2000, "Obituary: Kermit 'Kim' Roosevelt, US president's grandson who masterminded CIA coup to restore the Shah of Iran," The Guardian (online), June 12, 2000, see [21], accessed 17 June 2015.
  • Karl Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac, 2008, Kingmakers: the Invention of the Modern Middle East, W.W. Norton, ISBN 9780393061994.[page needed]
  • Ervand Abrahamian, 2013, The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations, The New Press, ISBN 9781595588265.[page needed]

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).