Korean War veteran Allen Dulles Jr. is remembered as 'a true American'
By SEAN P. THOMAS | The Santa Fe New Mexican | Published: November 28, 2020
SANTA FE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Marine veteran Allen Macy Dulles Jr. will be remembered by many for his service during the Korean War that earned him a Silver Star and Purple Heart.
But close family and others who knew him well said they also will recall Dulles' infectious smile, kind heart, bravery and intellect.
Dulles died Tuesday at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center after contracting COVID-19. He was 90.
Alexandra Buresch said her uncle was a kind man who held onto his military accoutrements, despite a debilitating head injury from his combat service that derailed what many believed would be a bright future for an extraordinarily intelligent young man.
Dulles was born in 1930 in New York City, the son of Clover Todd and Allen Welsh Dulles, who gained fame as the first civilian director of the CIA.
As a child, Allen Macy Dulles Jr. attended Phillips Exeter Academy, a boarding school in New Hampshire, where he showed an interest in ancient Greek history and political science. He later enrolled at Princeton University, where he would spend three years before attending Oxford University. He graduated from Princeton summa cum laude in 1951.
He went on to join the U.S. Marine Corps and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1952.
But his service in the Korean War was cut short after just two weeks on the front lines.
Dulles, then 22, was struck by shrapnel from a mortar shell that penetrated his helmet. The injury damaged his short-term memory and left him with keyhole vision and a loss of hearing in his left ear. It also whittled away his executive functions.
Dulles was awarded the Silver Star for valor in combat and the Purple Heart.
"His act of bravery was unparalleled," said A. Robert Abboud, who served with Dulles in Korea. The two also were members of competing debate teams in college.
Abboud described Dulles as "a true American, a down-to-earth, brilliant young man" who had an unwavering commitment to serving his country.
"He had earned the respect and admiration of everyone in that company, I can say that unequivocally," Abboud said. "You talk about someone who is a patriot and just committed to his service and his duty — his whole family, what they have contributed to this country is immeasurable."
Dulles' father served as director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961, under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. His uncle, John Foster Dulles, also had a stalwart career in politics, first as a New York senator in 1949 before joining the Eisenhower administration in 1953 as secretary of state.
Abboud commended Allen Macy Dulles Jr.'s family for "the way they have stood by and taken care of him. I think that is an example we can all strive for."
Dulles' older sister, Joan Buresch Talley, eventually brought him to her home to Santa Fe from a hospital in Switzerland, where he was recovering.
Alexandra Buresch said it was a sad realization for her mother to discover the bright brother she had known suffered an injury that lead to a permanent disability.
"He really understood the ramifications of that," Buresch said of Dulles.
Still, she said, he would often bring up random facts on history. The family would keep an encyclopedia around the house so they could keep up with him.
"I remember moments when he brought up history, just aspects of history, some king or something," Buresch said. "I was just completely left speechless. I had no way of answering him."
She recalled an incident from her time in boarding school when a teacher, who had also taught her uncle, remarked on Dulles' intellect as a child. The teacher told her, "Nobody holds a candle to your uncle."
By the time he entered college at 16, Buresch said, Dulles already had learned most of the romance languages.
Jean Jarvis, a family friend who once served as Dulles' caregiver, described him as a "lovable and intelligent gentleman." The pair would often meet into his later years to complete the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.
"He carried his bravery throughout the rest of his life," Jarvis said. "Despite his injuries, he carried his life with honor. He was a remarkable and intelligent man."
Listen to an oral history interview with Allen Dulles Jr., from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
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