Against the backgrounds of World War II, the Cold War, the construction of Pax Americana, the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination, and Vietnam, Bird shows us McCloy’s astonishing rise from self-described “chore boy” to “chairman of the Establishment.”
His powerful circle shaped the postwar globe. But McCloy stood out among them as a towering figure of achievement: as a Wall Street lawyer who earned the confidence of captains of industry and presidents; as Henry Stimson’s right-hand man at the War Department; as president of the World Bank and chairman of the Chase financial empire; and as presidential adviser.
Bird captures every facet of this self-made man. We see McCloy’s commercial acumen as the most in-demand lawyer of Wall Street; his dictatorial will as high commissioner of occupied Germany; and his stoic loyalty as adviser to Presidents FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Ford, and Reagan.
Bird brilliantly explores how McCloy came to epitomize the American Establishment and the values of a generation that led the United States through bitter war and unparalleled prosperity.
Kai Bird is the co-author with Martin J. Sherwin of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005), which also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography. His other books include The Chairman: John J. McCloy, the Making of the American Establishment (1992) and The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy & William Bundy, Brothers in Arms (1998). Bird’s many honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation. A contributing editor of The Nation, he lives in Kathmandu, Nepal, with his wife and son.