William Putnam Bundy (September 24, 1917 - October 6, 2000)

Read his obituary

"Gentle Knife: William Bundy dissects the Nixon years, politely"
By Walter Isaacson,Time Magazine, May 25, 1998

"Everyone in the state department is trying to knife me in the back, except for Bill Bundy," Henry Kissinger grumbled after becoming Nixon's National Security Adviser. "He is still enough of a gentleman to knife me in the chest."

Raised in Boston, Massachusetts, William Bundy came from a family long involved in politics. He was one of the chief architects of the Vietnam War and coauthor of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. He served with his younger brother McGeorge Bundy as foreign policy advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (1961-69). He was married to Mary Acheson, the daughter of Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

While his brother, McGeorge, started in academia, William went to work with the CIA. At the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Army Signal Corps and was eventually posted to Bletchley Park where he commanded the contingent of American codebreakers cracking German ciphers. After the war, he attended Harvard law school and then joined the young intelligence service.

He became the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, and thus played an important role in the Vietnam War. He was a strong proponent for participating in Vietnam early in his tenure. He supported escalating the American involvement and the bombing of North Vietnam. He later came to strongly regret the decision, one of the first administration members to do so. He spent much of the rest of his career trying to understand how he and so many others had made such a terrible mistake. He was somewhat to the left of his brother politically, and was a spirited opponent of Joseph McCarthy. He was also considered one of the administration's more dovish members on Vietnam.

He left politics on 1969 to teach at MIT, he also became editor of Foreign Affairs. In 1972 he moved to Princeton University where he remained for the rest of his life. His most noted work is Tangled Web which explores the foreign policy of the Nixon administration. After leaving government, Bundy became a harsh critic of Nixon and Kissinger's handling of the Vietnam War.

The Bundy brothers are the subject of a biography by Kai Bird, titled The Color of Truth.

According to Harvey Bundy, John Kerry's roommate at Harvard, it was uncle William who finally convinced Kerry in 1966 to volunteer for service in Vietnam. According to Harvey, his uncle said: "We need you guys to serve. We need people of your caliber to serve if we're going to do this thing."

Senator Joseph McCarthy attacked Bundy in 1953 for having contributed $400 to the legal defense fund for Alger Hiss.

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