1955 was a slow year for espionage activity. But because so much of what happened that year centers on Japan, it was also an extremely important year. Before I list the timeline, here’s a little backstory on the year’s events and their impact.
As we’ve seen in the case of Italy, the CIA was good at using American money to buy the political outcomes it desired. It was also good at using cold cash to buy the services of foreign politicians. The first place it bought the future leader of a world power was Japan.
In 1957, with the CIA’s help, Nobusuke Mishi, a former American war criminal, became the prime minister of Japan. Kishi won his first postwar Diet (Japanese Parliament) seat in 1953. He gained American support and solidified his access to power in 1955.
Kishi became the leader of the rising conservative movement in Japan. Within a year of his election to the Diet, he controlled the largest faction among Japan’s elected representatives. Once in office, he built the ruling party that led Japan for nearly half a century.
Spying Year by Year: 1955
1955: President Eisenhower creates the Special Group — 3 designated representatives of the White House, State Department, and Department of Defense. He charges them with reviewing the secret operations of the CIA, but they have no ability to approve covert action in advance. The CIA director, Allen Dulles, believed the group had no need to know about covert action. They were in no position to judge him or the agency.
Dulles felt that “no policy approval was required” for his decisions. The director, his deputies, and the station chiefs abroad remained free to set their own policies, plot their own operations, and judge the results for themselves, in secret. Dulles advised the White House as he saw fit.
May 14, 1955: The Warsaw Pact is signed.
July 18, 1955: The leaders of the USSR, the United States, England, and France convene in Geneva to start the Big Four Conference.
August 1955: John Foster Dulles meets with Nobusuke Kishi and tells him that he can expect the support of the American government so long as Japan’s conservatives unify to help the United States fight communism. One of the stronger relationships the CIA ever cultivates with a foreign leader is born.
November 1955: Kishi unifies Japan’s conservatives under the banner of the Liberal Democratic Party. As the party’s leader, he allows the CIA to recruit and run his political followers on a seat-by-seat basis in the Japanese parliament. He pledges to work with the CIA in reshaping a new security treaty between the United States and Japan. Kishi’s case officer, Clyde McAvoy, is able to report on (and influence) the emerging foreign policy of postwar Japan.
December 28, 1955: President Eisenhower changes the CIA’s marching orders. He recognizes that covert action isn’t going to undermine the Kremlin, so he revises the “rules” written at the beginning of the Cold War. The new order, NSC 5412/2, remains in effect for 15 years. The new goals are to “create and exploit troublesome problems for International Communism,” to “counter any threat of a party or individuals directly or indirectly responsive to Communist control,” and to “strengthen the orientation to the United States of the people of the free world.”
For more Cold War Spying Year By Year go to: