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Acheson, Dean Gooderham  (1893 - 1971)

US lawyer and statesman who became secretary of state (1949-53) under President Harry S. Truman

Acheson was born into a wealthy patrician family in Middletown, Connecticut, and studied at Yale and at Harvard law school. After a spell with the US navy during World War I, he was selected from his class of law graduates to serve as assistant to Louis Brandeis (1856-1941), judge of the Supreme Court. He entered politics in 1933, as undersecretary of the Treasury in Roosevelt's administration, and in 1941 became an assistant secretary in the State Department. In 1945, the year in which Truman became president of the USA, he rose to the office of undersecretary of state.
In 1947 Acheson played an important role in the development of the Truman Doctrine, which pledged support to Greece and Turkey, and of the Marshall Plan, which offered economic aid to war-devastated Europe - two moves that marked a significant turning point in US foreign policy. During his first year as secretary of state to President Truman, Acheson was instrumental in the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In his dealings with the Far East, however, he met with mounting resistance from Republican members of Congress, and his staunch defence of the State Department against McCarthy's accusations of espionage and subversion led to widespread denunciation. The situation was exacerbated by the apparent exclusion of Korea from US protection in Asia and the subsequent outbreak of the Korean War. A resolution was passed in December 1950 calling for Acheson's resignation; with President Truman's support he remained in office but found himself obliged to make concessions to Congress in order to gain support for his foreign policies.
Shortly after the election of President Eisenhower in 1952, Acheson left the State Department and returned to his law practice. He retained his interest in foreign affairs, however, and served as adviser to subsequent Democratic presidents, notably John F. Kennedy. In 1969 he published a book of memoirs of his years with the State Department, Present at the Creation, which won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize in history.

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