The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler

“A superb and harrowing history of a dual life in a dark era of official oppression…constantly surprising…one of the most rewarding books of popular history I have ever read.”

Charles Kaiser in The Guardian

"Peter Shinkle has found in the diary and letters of Robert ‘Bobby’ Cutler, President Eisenhower’s national security advisor, an extraordinary story of an able public servant, a man who held the nation’s most sensitive secrets, who also happened to be gay – at a time when such a thing was supposed to be impossible. Therein lies a gripping, moving tale.”

Evan Thomas, author of Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World

The Cold War, The Lavender Scare, and the Untold Story of Eisenhower’s First National Security Advisor.

President Eisenhower’s National Security Advisor Robert “Bobby” Cutler — working alongside Ike and also the Dulles brothers at the CIA and State Department — shaped US Cold War strategy in far more consequential ways than previously understood. A lifelong Republican, Cutler also served three Democratic presidents. A charming raconteur, he was a tight-lipped loyalist who worked behind the scenes to get things done.

Cutler was in love with a man half his age, naval intelligence officer and NSC staffer Skip Koons. Cutler poured his emotions into a six-volume diary and dozens of letters that have been hidden from history. Steve Benedict, who was White House security officer, Cutlers’ friend and Koons’ friend and former lover, preserved Cutler’s papers. All three men served Eisenhower at a time when anyone suspected of “sexual perversion”, i.e. homosexuality, was banned from federal employment and vulnerable to security sweeps by the FBI.

This gripping account reveals in fascinating detail Cutler’s intimate thoughts and feelings about US efforts to confront Soviet expansion and aggression while having to contend with the reality that tens of millions of people would die in a first nuclear strike, and that a full nuclear exchange would likely lead to human extinction. And Shinkle recounts with sensitivity the daily challenges and personal dramas of a small but representative group or patriotic gay men who were forced to hide essential aspects of who they were in order to serve a president they admired and a country they loved.


“A honeyed, scintillating and ultimately sad tale of gay love at the highest reaches of the Eisenhower White House" — Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City"

Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City

“Ike’s Mystery Man is a historical treasure unearthed. It gracefully reveals how Ike’s ‘unseen arm’ [Cutler] shaped and guided many of the President’s most important foreign policies. It also unveils the intimate unknown painful story of a gay man’s secret love within the homophobic councils of government."

Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

“This astonishing American story transcends politics. It is about how power was wielded in Washington during the 1950s, but also about the eternal conflict between public life and private emotion."

Stephen Kinzer, author of The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

About the Author

Peter Shinkle worked for 19 years as a reporter before bringing an investigative journalist’s eye to writing about American history. His forthcoming Uniting America, How FDR and Henry Stimson Brought Democrats and Republicans Together to Win World War II paints a detailed picture of how the Democratic president, Franklin Roosevelt, and the former Republican secretary of state, Henry Stimson, built a bipartisan alliance to defend American democracy from its fascist enemies, Japan and Nazi Germany.

Peter Shinkle

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