POT SHARDS: Fragments of a Life Lived in CIA, the White House, and the Two Koreas

Donald P. Gregg
Vellum, 2014
344 Pages, 44 photos
ISBN 978-0-9904471-0-8 Paperback
ISBN 978-0-9904471-1-5 Hardcover
Price: $26.00 paperback Paperback
$38.00 hardcover Hardcover

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About the Author

Donald P. Gregg has been an intelligence officer in peace and war, national security advisor to Vice President Bush, ambas- sador to Korea, graduate-level teacher at Georgetown University, and president and CEO of a successful nonprofit organ- ization, The Korea society in New York. Over the years he has written articles for TIME and Newsweek and has produced numerous op-eds in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.

About the book

Donald P. Gregg spent thirty-one years as an operations officer in CIA and ten years in the White House under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush. Pot Shards is his memoir.

It tells of a philosophy major who graduated from college in 1951 and immediately joined CIA when told, “You’ll jump out of airplanes and save the world!” With raucous humor, he describes his parachute training and arctic survival course in Idaho. His book is a window into the Cold War–era CIA, both its failings (twenty years in a Chinese jail for a close friend) 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 four years dealing with the Vietnam War illustrate clearly the difficulties of speaking truth to power with sharp-edged encounters with Robert McNamara, Curtis LeMay, and various generals. Gregg worked effectively against torture when encountered in both Vietnam and Korea.

In the White House, Gregg was impressed by Vice President Bush’s value as “the rudder on Reagan’s sailboat,” unseen but imperative. He recounts his travels with Bush to sixty-five countries with both humor and discernment–– Thatcher at the top, Mugabe at the bottom.

Gregg served both as CIA station chief in Seoul, 1973–75, and as U.S. ambassador to Korea, 1989–93. He later made more than fifty trips to Seoul as chairman of The Korea Society. Now, as chairman of the Pacific Century Institute, the former diplomat, once feared and disliked by North Korea, has visited that secretive nation six times, as recently as February 2014. Gregg always stresses dialogue over demonization in dealing with the North Koreans.

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“Don Gregg is that authentic and admirable thing: a great American.  He spent most of his life serving his country: in the CIA, at the White House and as a US ambassador. He has stories to tell, many of them gripping, and they are beautifully and movingly recollected here in this memoir of a splendid life.”

—Christopher Buckley

“A personal witness to decades of largely hidden intelligence and diplomatic history, Donald Gregg recounts his unlikely and amazing career as a CIA officer, national security advisor, and US diplomat.  His adventures and insider knowledge of US relations with East Asian nations over many decades make for a lively narrative, entertaining for the general reader and useful for serious scholars alike.  Through it all, Ambassador Gregg expresses a natural warmth and concern for humanity that makes his story a truly personal journey.”

—Nicholas Dujmovic, Ph.D., CIA Staff Historian, Center for the Study of Intelligence