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William E. Colby Papers

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Public Policy Papers [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Public Policy Papers. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Colby, William Egan, 1920-1996

Born on January 4, 1920 in St. Paul, Minnesota, William Egan Colby was the son of an Army officer, and he grew up on various U.S. Army posts as well as spending a three-year stint in Asia (Tientsin, China and Japan). In 1936 he entered Princeton University with the Class of 1940; while a student there, his extracurricular activities included the Triangle Club, Theatre Intime, and Whig-Clio. After graduating cum laude from Princeton with an A.B. in Political Science (International Affairs), Colby entered Columbia University to pursue a law degree. However, military service soon beckoned, and in August 1941 he enlisted in the Army.

Colby's service in World War II primed him for his future work in the Foreign Service and CIA. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service on behalf of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as an organizer and director of resistance forces in France from August 14, 1944 to September 26, 1944. Other awards garnered from the war include the Silver Star, St. Olaf's Medal (Norway), and the Croix de Guerre (France).

Colby married Barbara Heinzen on September 15, 1945; the couple had five children over the next fifteen years: Jonathan, Catherine, Paul, Carl, and Christine. In November 1945, Colby was discharged from the Army with the rank of major. He then returned to Columbia to complete his law degree, graduating in 1947. He was a member of the Columbia Law Review's Editorial Board.

Colby's first job out of law school was as an associate attorney for the New York City firm of Donovan, Leisure, Newton, & Irvine, headed by William J. Donovan, the OSS director during World War II. After about two years, Colby desired experience in government litigation, and accepted an associate position with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.

In early 1951 Colby ostensibly joined the Department of State's Foreign Service, and his first tour was as a political officer in Stockholm, Sweden where he was responsible for following and reporting on Swedish political affairs. In October 1953 he was transferred to Rome, Italy with a similar job description. This tour ended in 1958, when he came back to the United States for a few months as a desk officer in Washington, D.C. In January 1959 he was assigned to Saigon, Vietnam where he was a Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador. Four years later, in early 1963, he was named the CIA's Far East Division Chief and stationed in Washington, D.C.

Colby went back to Vietnam in March 1968 to work for the Agency for International Development as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS). He was then promoted to the rank of ambassador and served as the Deputy to Commanders United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV). In this position he was the principal U.S. advisor to the Government of Vietnam on pacification and local development matters.

In June 1971 Colby was reassigned to the Department of State in Washington, D.C. Six months later, however, he was appointed Executive Director-Comptroller of the CIA and then, in March 1973, was promoted to Deputy Director for Operations. He did not remain long in the latter position, for in early May of that year, President Nixon announced Colby's nomination as the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).

After an intense summer of confirmation hearings, Colby became the tenth Director of the CIA in September 1973. However, his tenure came at a time of great controversy for the Agency, and he spent much of 1975 enmeshed in congressional hearings. Towards the end of that year, President Ford asked for Colby's resignation, which became official in January 1976.

In 1977 Colby went back to practicing law, as an attorney and partner with the Washington, D.C. firm of Colby, Miller, and Hanes. While working there, he devoted his spare time to writing his memoirs, Honorable Men, published in 1978. In 1979 Colby joined the law firm of Reid & Priest, where he stayed through 1984. During these years he branched out into international consulting, taking on the additional position of Senior Advisor at International Business-Government Counselors Inc. in 1981. It was at this corporation that he met his future second wife, Sally Shelton, a former ambassador to countries in Latin America. They married in November 1984.

Colby used his prior experience to help start a new international consulting firm called Colby, Bailey, Werner, and Associates. However, this partnership did not last long. Robert Werner was the first to leave, and Colby followed in mid-1987 to accept a position as counsel in the firm he started out in, Donovan, Leisure, Newton, & Irvine. He continued to be heavily involved in international business, especially in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Colby remained active in the professional world up until his death. On April 27, 1996 he disappeared while canoeing on the Wicomico River near his home in Maryland, and his body was found several days later. His death was ruled an accident, and authorities presumed he had suffered a stroke or heart attack before falling into the water.

A timeline of Colby's career can be found at the end of this finding aid.

August 10, 1941 - November 30, 1945 Active military service, U.S. Army, discharged as a major February 1947 - October 1949 Associate Attorney for Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine in New York City October 1949 - November 1950 Associate Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. March 1951 - September 1953 Political officer in Stockholm, Sweden for the Department of State, responsible for following and reporting on Swedish political affairs October 1953 - September 1958 Political officer in Rome, Italy, followed and reported on Italian political affairs October 1958 - January 1959 Political officer in Washington D.C. January 1959 - February 2, 1963 Political officer and 1st Secretary in Saigon, Vietnam, as Special Assistant to the Ambassador February 3, 1963 - February 28, 1968 Far East Division Chief of CIA in Washington D.C., executive manager and administrator March 1, 1968 - February 8, 1969 Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) for Agency for International Development in Saigon, Vietnam November 1968 - June 1971 Deputy to Commanders United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV) for CORDS (rank of ambassador) in Saigon, Vietnam June 30, 1971 Reassigned to Department of State January 10, 1972 Appointed Executive Director-Comptroller of the CIA March 3, 1973 Appointed Deputy Director for Operations of the CIA September 1973 Director of Central Intelligence 1977 - 1979 Attorney and Partner, Colby, Miller, and Hanes in Washington, D.C. 1979 - 1984 Attorney and Partner, Reid & Priest in Washington, D.C. 1981 Senior Advisor for International Business-Government Counselors Inc. in Washington D.C. 1985 - 1987 International Consultant and Partner, Colby, Bailey, Werner and Associates in Washington, D.C. August 1, 1987 - 1996 Counsel at Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine in Washington, D.C.

The William E. Colby Papers reflect primarily Colby's post-CIA career as a consultant in international relations. However, there is a small amount of materials from his tenure at the CIA, including the texts of his testimony before Congress. Also of interest is material relating to the forty-year reunion of OSS officers who had served in France and Norway (including a thesis manuscript on the group's activities during the war). No classified materials are found within this collection, and materials in Colby's possession relating to Vietnam were donated to the Vietnam Collection at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

The William E. Colby Papers were donated to Princeton University by Colby's wife, Sally Shelton-Colby, in 1997 (ML#1997-5).

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

This collection was processed by Anastasia Karel in Summer 2002. Finding aid written by Anastasia Karel in Summer 2002.

A small amount of duplicate and unwanted material was separated from the collection during processing in 2002 and returned to the donor as per the deed of gift.

Publisher
Public Policy Papers
Finding Aid Author
Anastasia Karel
Finding Aid Date
2002
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

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Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents

Series 1, Correspondence, 1943-1996, arranged alphabetically, contains a great deal of thank-you notes and other routine letters that he mailed out to each of his international contacts when appropriate. Very little correspondence exists from Colby's early career, although there are a few personal letters that can be found in the Colby family folder. This folder includes V-Mail that Colby's father, Colonel Elbridge Colby, sent to his wife while he was stationed in Europe during World War II. The majority of the correspondence is post-1976. As a public figure, politicians and other important figures often contacted Colby. Letters from noteworthy individuals include: Stephen Ambrose, Les Aspin, William Bundy, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, William Casey, William Donovan, Gerald Ford, Robert Gates, John Glenn, Lyndon Johnson, Ted Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, George McGovern, Dan Rather, Carl Sagan, and Stansfield Turner.

Arrangement

[arranged alphabetically]

Physical Description

7 boxes

Ab-Ash, 1977-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Asp-Av, 1986-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ba-Bl, 1982-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Bo-Bu, 1976-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Bird, Robert and Bird, Willis, 1987-1988. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ca-Cha, 1978-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Che-Coh, 1976-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Coh-Cos, 1972-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Cou-Cu, 1978-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

CIA publication board letters, 1977-1993. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Colby family, 1943-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

D-De, 1980-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

De-Dy, 1950-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

E, 1981-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Fa-Fre, 1973-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Fri-Fu, 1981-1993. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ga-Go, 1981-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Go-Gw, 1976-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ha-Har, 1978-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Har-Hil, 1973-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Hil-Hon, 1978-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Hon-Hy, 1978-1993. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Heimark, Bruce (includes thesis on OSS), 1989-1995. 4 folders.
Physical Description

4 folders

I, 1978-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

J, 1968-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ka-Ken, 1978-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ken-Kim, 1973-1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Kin-Kor, 1976-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Kor-Ky, 1977-1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

La-Lev, 1976-1993. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Lev-Lip, 1976-1993. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Lo-Ly, 1985-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

M-McE, 1977-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

McF-Mi, 1976-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Min-My, 1975-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

N, 1978-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

O, 1978-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pa-Pen, 1976-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pen-Pro, 1973-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pu-Q, 1984-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ra-Ro, 1972-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ros-Ry, 1976-1990. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Sa-Ser, 1976-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Sew-Smi, 1977-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Smi-Ste, 1978-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ste-Swe, 1978-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Stone, Jeremy, 1989-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Ta-Thu, 1972-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Thun, Eric, 1989. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Thur-Tsu, 1981-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

U-V, 1978-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Wa-Wat, 1976-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Wea-Wil, 1977-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Win-Wy, 1979-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Y-Z, 1969-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous, 1976-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous–hate mail, 1978-1986. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous–letters in support of Colby as DCI, 1975 January-August. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous–Record of Correspondence notebooks, 1978-1983. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Series 2, Congressional Testimony and Speeches, 1970-1996, is divided into Congressional testimony, and speeches, both arranged chronologically. The speeches are a combination of texts of speeches given by Colby and programs or newspaper clippings that give information about these speeches and other public appearances.

Arrangement

[arranged chronologically]

Physical Description

2 boxes

Congressional testimony, 1970-1992 May. 3 folders.
Physical Description

3 folders

Speeches, 1974-1979. 4 folders.
Physical Description

4 folders

Speeches, 1979-1996. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Scope and Contents

Series 3, Writings, 1935-1995, is arranged into three groups: articles written by Colby, articles about Colby, and interviews with Colby, each arranged chronologically. The second group includes a folder with articles written in French, Italian, Japanese, and Norwegian, among other languages. In the collection of articles written by Colby, the published form of the article is often accompanied by one or more rough drafts.

Arrangement

[arranged chronologically]

Physical Description

2 boxes

Articles by Colby, circa 1976-1990s. 5 folders.
Physical Description

5 folders

Articles by Colby–"Food Stamps for International Neighbors" (includes statistics and notes), 1975-1978. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Articles by Colby–"Intelligence in the 1980s" (multiple revisions and correspondence), 1980-1981. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Articles about Colby, 1935. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Articles about Colby–in foreign periodicals, 1945. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Articles about Colby–World War II, 1945-1947. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Interviews with Colby, 1974-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Series 4, Subject Files, 1944-1996, contains an alphabetical run of folders organized by specific subject. Professional organizations to which Colby belonged, such as the Committee for National Security (CNS), and information collected by Colby on subjects like the Office for Strategic Services (OSS) are well documented in this series. There is a significant amount of material from Identix, a corporation that included Colby on its board of directors. Also included throughout the series is a sampling of hand-written notes that Colby took at conferences or meetings.

Arrangement

[arranged alphabetically]

Physical Description

5 boxes

Air America, 1987-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

American Committee on U.S.–Soviet Relations, 1988-1990. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

BASIC (British American Security Information Council), 1989-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Bulgaria, 1991-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Cambodia, 1990-1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Cambodia Study Group, 1990. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Campaign for New Priorities; Center for Defense Information, 1991-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Center for War, Peace, and the News Media; China (1 item), 1989-1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

CIA and intelligence, 1975-1976. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

CIA and intelligence, 1977-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Coalition for Democratic Values, 1991-1992. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Colby–CIA, 1973-1977. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
  1. View digital content
Colby–family (Carl, Christine, Elbridge, Jonathan, Paul, Sally Shelton), 1968-1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Colby–personal, 1945-1987. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Colby–post-CIA work, 1978-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Colby–miscellaneous, 1972-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Committee for National Security, 1988-1989. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Committee for National Security, 1990-1995. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Committee on Common Security, 1989. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Comprehensive Test Ban Coalition, 1990-1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Financial statements, 1981-1996. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

France; Germany; Hong Kong, 1981-1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Identix, 1986-1996. 4 folders.
Physical Description

4 folders

India, 1983. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Iran; Iraq, 1985-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Italy; Jamaica; Japan, 1985-1993. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Korea, 1984-1988. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Laos; LAWS (Lawyers Alliance for World Security), 1984-1994. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), 1988-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

OSS (Office of Strategic Services) (contents in alphabetical order by military unit), 1944-1945. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

OSS, 1945. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

OSS, 1988-1995. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Peru; Philippines, 1985-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Russia, 1991. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Search for Common Ground; Singapore (1 item), 1989-1990. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

SOPAG (Special Operations Policy Advisory Group), 1980-1993. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), 1976-1978. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Sweden; Taiwan, 1986-1992. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Thailand, 1986-1987. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Turkey, 1986-1987. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"U.S. Foreign Policy for the 1970s: Shaping a Durable Peace," by Richard Nixon, 1973. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Vietnam, 1989-1993. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Series 5, Photographs and Oversize Materials, circa 1940s-circa 1990s, is arranged in approximate chronological order, with many of the photographs unlabeled or undated, and includes portraits of Colby as well as casual snapshots taken by others. There are also several black and white photographs of Colby as an officer during World War II.

Arrangement

[arranged chronologically]

Physical Description

3 boxes

Photographs, 1940s-1970s. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

Photographs, 1980s-1990s. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

Photographs, 1990s. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

Japanese promotional poster; Russian diagram, circa 1978. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Print, Suggest