Ellsworth Bunker

Global Troubleshooter, Vietnam Hawk

By Howard B. Schaffer

400 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 26 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1512-7
    Published: March 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6222-3
    Published: July 2004
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7754-3
    Published: July 2004

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Awards & distinctions

Recipient of the 2004 Douglas Dillon Special Citation for Distinguished *Writing on American Diplomacy

In this first biography of Ellsworth Bunker (1894-1984), Howard Schaffer traces the life of one of postwar America's foremost diplomats from his formative years as a successful businessman and lobbyist through a long career in international affairs.

Named ambassador to Argentina by Harry Truman in 1951, Bunker went on to serve six more presidents as ambassador to Italy, India, Nepal, and Vietnam and on special negotiating missions. A widely recognized "hawk," Bunker helped shape U.S. policy in Vietnam during his six-year Saigon posting. Using letters Bunker wrote to his wife as well as recently declassified messages he exchanged with Henry Kissinger, Schaffer examines how Bunker promoted the war effort and how he regarded his mission. After leaving Saigon on his seventy-ninth birthday, Bunker next became a key figure in the treaty negotiations, spanning three presidencies, that radically changed the operation and defense of the Panama Canal.

Highlighting Bunker's views on the craft of diplomacy, Schaffer paints a complex picture of a man who devoted three decades to international affairs and sheds new light on post-World War II American diplomacy.

This book is part of the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series, co-sponsored by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in Arlington, Virginia, and Diplomatic & Consular Officers, Retired, Inc., of Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Howard B. Schaffer is director of studies at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. A retired U.S. Foreign Service officer and former ambassador to Bangladesh, Schaffer twice served as a deputy assistant secretary of state. He is author of Chester Bowles: New Dealer in the Cold War.
For more information about Howard B. Schaffer, visit the Author Page.


"Combines solid research and a nuanced understanding of diplomatic history. . . . Shaffer's treatment of Bunker is balanced and fair and sheds historical light on the dark corners of mid-level American diplomacy in the latter half of the twentieth century."--Journal of Cold War Studies

"Bunker becomes an essential study for scholars of the U.S. experience in Vietnam, as well as of the events that swirled around it."--Choice

"In Schaffer's sympathetic but balanced biography, [Bunker] emerges with his reputation intact as one of the finest US diplomats of his generation."--International Historical Review

"Readers will find the book provides a detailed survey of an exemplary life that also illuminates important developments in post-World War II diplomacy. Well-written, with extensive notes, bibliography and index, and illustrated with significant family and official photographs, Ellsworth Bunker brings fresh insights into U.S. history."--Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus

"I count myself fortunate to have worked with Ellsworth Bunker, not only on our efforts to bring an end to the Vietnam War but also on our Panama Canal negotiations and the Mideast Shuttles. He was one of our country's great diplomats and carried out the heavy responsibilities entrusted to him with gentleness, discipline, and selfless skill. Schaffer's insightful and carefully researched biography of this quintessentially American figure fills an important gap in our understanding."--Henry Kissinger

"Schaffer's first-rate relation of Ellsworth Bunker's life in and contribution to American diplomacy will fascinate all those with an interest in this country's premier diplomat of the twentieth century. Bunker was, most unusually, a breathtakingly effective global troubleshooter in the Yemen, Dominican Republic and New Guinea (West Irian) crises; a key negotiator of the Panama Canal Treaties; a successful Ambassador to Argentina, Italy and India; and, perhaps most importantly, a quiet, gentle but convinced "hawk" for almost six years as Ambassador at Saigon. Schaffer tells the story lucidly and with grace and objectivity--not an easy job with a man this big."--The Honorable Thomas R. Pickering, Career Ambassador, United States Foreign Service