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Chester Bowles, “Notes on the Cuban Crisis,” May, 1961.
Chester Bowles Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Elizabeth Campbell ’09, Chester Bowles: Intellectual or Politician?

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This diary entry illustrates Chester Bowles’s conscious writing style and close personal relationship with President Kennedy. Its text provides an empathetic look at the failed Bay of Pigs invasion implemented by a young Kennedy administration, in early 1961. Bowles’s apparent sympathy for the president is perhaps deceptive; Bowles, who served as Under Secretary of State in 1961, vehemently opposed the Bay of Pigs invasion, thinking it an ill-fated plan foisted upon Kennedy by an overeager CIA.

Bowles’s prescient resistance to the Bay of Pigs debacle was perhaps stated too loudly. Such opposition, coupled with philosophical and administrative disagreements with then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk, led to Bowles’s reassignment as a Special Representative to the President. The reassignment was technically a promotion, but was largely recognized as an effort to shove a seemingly-meddlesome Bowles out of the Administration’s policymaking mechanisms.