Can someone please explain why Allen Dulles, former CIA director, was forced to resign? I'm reading one of his books but haven't found any meaningful information on this.

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Allen Dulles was forced to resign by John F. Kennedy because of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. Dulles' resignation came in November 1961 following two reports which placed a substantial portion of the blame on the CIA, of which Dulles was director.


Although the invasion took place in April 1961, Kennedy did not ask for Dulles' resignation until after two inquiries effectively 'confirmed' what he already believed.

Kennedy asked General Maxwell Taylor to look into the Bay of Pigs disaster. On this, Jack B. Pfeiffer states:

At the conclusion of the testimony of the witnesses, it was clear that [Admiral Arleigh] Burke and Dulles, the latter a particularly strong figure in the Eisenhower administration, were headed for the elephants' burial ground—thanks to Robert Kennedy's denigration of them and their Agencies and, in no small part in the case of Dulles to his abysmal performance as a witness.

This report was completed on June 13th and led to

a period of mistrust of both CIA and the JCS by the new President; and he turned to his inner circle for guidance which previously would have been sought from the Agency or the Department of Defense.

The CIA internal report took longer and was submitted six months after the events in question. It found that the CIA was largely responsible for the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Also forced out was Richard M. Bissell Jr., CIA Deputy Director for Plans.

A six-month secret review by Lyman Kirkpatrick, the Agency’s inspector general, blamed the Bay of Pigs failure largely on the CIA and confirmed Kennedy’s conviction that both Dulles and Bissell would have to resign. “Under a parliamentary system of government it is I who would be leaving office,” Kennedy told Dulles. “But under our system it is you who must go.”

Source: Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life

Among the criticisms of the CIA, the Kirkpatrick report noted:

  • poor 'planning, organization, staffing and management'
  • 'multiple' security leaks
  • the false asumption that the invasion would trigger a popular uprising against Castro
  • failure to realistically assess the chances of success

Interestingly, the inquiry was actually ordered by Dulles himself three days after the Cuban brigade were overcome by Castro's forces. According to Kirkpatrick, Dulles also ordered that the inquiry be restricted to the performance of the CIA and should not deal with decisions taken by 'higher authority'. A detailed account of the circumstances of the report and of its contents can be found on this CIA page.

Kennedy would also have had in mind Dulles' assurances on the success of the plan to overthrow Castro. For example, referring to the successful CIA-backed coup in Guatemala in 1954, Dulles had told the President,

“Mr. President, I know you’re doubtful about this. But I stood at this very desk and said to President Eisenhower about a similar operation in Guatemala, ‘I believe it will work.’ And I say to you now, Mr. President, that the prospects for this plan are even better than our prospects were in Guatemala.”

Quoted in Dallek and also in Manuel E. Falcon, Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Dulles 'resignation' was accepted on November 29. Kennedy had inherited Dulles from President Eisenhower, who had appointed him in 1953, and had kept him on despite the 'embarrassment' of the 1960 U-2 incident. Although Dulles 'left quietly',

Dulles and Bissell blamed the canceled air strikes for the defeat

Source: Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life

Certainly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff also bore some of the blame, and Kennedy himself said that only J. William Fulbright, Head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could be considered blameless (more on this here).

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