Pot Shards: Fragments of a Life Lived in CIA, the White House, and the Two Koreas
Don Gregg spent thirty-one years as an operations officer in CIA and ten years in the White House under Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Pot Shards is his memoir. It tells of a philosophy graduate in 1951 who immediately joined the CIA when told, “You’ll jump out of airplanes and save the world!” His book is a window into the Cold War–era CIA, both its failings and unheralded successes, including Gregg’s role in saving the life of Kim Dae-jung, a Korean political dissident who later, as president, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Gregg colorfully describes his tours in Japan, Burma, Vietnam, and South Korea. His experiences in Vietnam illustrate the difficulties of speaking truth to power, including sharp-edged encounters with Robert McNamara and Curtis LeMay, among others. Gregg admired Vice President Bush’s value as “the rudder on Reagan’s sailboat,” unseen but indispensable. He recounts his travels with Bush to sixty-five countries with both humor and discernment ––Thatcher at the top, Mugabe at the bottom. While at the White House, Gregg taught a graduate-level course at Georgetown University titled “Force and Diplomacy.” He now teaches a course on CIA at Williams College and urges his students to “think like intelligence officers,” no matter what career they pursue.
Once feared and disliked by the North Koreans, Gregg made his sixth trip to Pyongyang in February 2014, stressing dialogue over demonization.