By Max Holland
As a wealthy American businessman and former ambassador, William Pawley was a key actor in PBSUCCESS, the CIA covert operation that brought down the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala in 1954.
The anti-Arbenz rebels, led by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, could not have defeated the Guatemalan army on their own. The key to a successful coup was getting the army to act on their behalf, and in this regard, control of the air was vital. Pawley, owing to his knowledge of Latin America and experience in aviation, played a central role in ensuring that the rebels enjoyed air superiority during their move against the president. At a more abstract level, Pawley exemplified the role non-governmental actors played in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. The “state-private network,” as it has been dubbed, remains a rich vein for scholarly investigation.
This article originally appeared in Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Fall 2005), and may be purchased from MIT Press by clicking here.