- Acheson, Dean Gooderham
- (1893-1971)Born to a privileged family in Middletown, Connecticut, Dean Acheson attended Groton, Yale, and Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1918. He served briefly in the navy in 1918, and after working as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, he joined a Washington law firm in 1921 and practiced until 1941.A conservative Democrat, Acheson joined Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration in 1933 as undersecretary of the treasury but resigned quietly that same year in disagreement over monetary policy. With the onset of war in Europe, he became a fervent interventionist and pushed for measures supporting Great Britain and provided an important legal brief in support of the Destroyers-for-Bases Agreement in 1940. Named assistant secretary of state for economic affairs in 1941, he played a significant role at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, which established the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.Acheson was undersecretary of state from 1945 to 1947, and in 1949 President Harry S. Truman appointed him secretary of state. He served until 1953, helping shape U.S. policies in the early Cold War, including the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. He was one of the leading architects of the political, economic, and military structures to contain the Soviet Union—a Cold War strategy codified in National Security Council Report 68 in 1950. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the decision to build the hydrogen bomb, the U.S. military response to North Korean aggression, the substantial defense build-up, and the incorporation of West Germany and Japan into the Western Alliance all reflected his influence. Despite his anticommunist policies and convictions, Acheson was subjected to merciless criticism by the right wing of the Republican Party, especially Senator Joseph McCarthy, particularly over failures in Asia—the “loss of China” and the Korean War—but also for refusing to turn his back on Alger Hiss. He dismissed such criticism as the work of “primitives.” His tailored suits, neat moustache, and fastidious attention to appearance led to him being accused of pomposity and snobbery. He did, however, retain the support of President Truman.Acheson returned to his law practice in 1953 but remained involved in foreign policy issues and vigorously defended the strategy of containment he had helped implement. When Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson sought his advice, he consistently supported a tough line until 1968, when he abruptly urged U.S. disengagement from the Vietnam War. His aptly titled memoir, Present at the Creation, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.