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Posted on Mar 26, 2008 in Carlo D'Este, Stuff We Like

Practicing History: The William E. Colby Military Writers’ Symposium

By Carlo D'Este

The Colby is not only unique but is the only program of its kind in existence at an American university. It has enabled Norwich University students the opportunity to meet some of the most prominent military writers and historians of our time and gain a better understanding of the world through their eyes.

Ambassador William E. Colby Biography?

William E. Colby, 1920 – 1996

The son of a career Army officer, Bill Colby was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and had a long and distinguished career of public service.  He received an A.B. degree cum laude from Princeton University in 1940, where he was elected Phi Beta Kappa, and an L.L.B. in 1947 from Columbia University Law School.


A highly decorated veteran of World War II, Colby parachuted into France and Norway to work with the French and Norwegian resistance forces for the Office of Strategic Services.  His wartime service earned him the Silver and Bronze Stars, the French Croix de Guerre, Norway’s St. Olaf’s Medal, and a Mention in Dispatches in Britain.

After the war, Colby began a distinguished post-war career with the successor organization of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  From 1951 to 1962, Colby served with the American Embassies in Stockholm, Rome and Saigon.  He was Ambassador and Deputy to the Commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam from 1968 to 1971.

After holding various other high-level positions in the Central Intelligence Agency, he became its Director from 1973 to 1976.  After leaving the CIA, Mr. Colby was a consultant and lecturer on international and domestic political matters to various corporations and governments and practiced International and American Law in Washington, D.C.  In recognition of his many years of outstanding public service, he was awarded the National Service Medal, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, and the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award.

Ambassador Colby authored two important books: Lost Victory:  A Firsthand Account of America’s Involvement in Vietnam and Honorable Men—My Life in the CIA.  He was a long-time friend of Norwich University, which awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service in 1992.

Past Authors/Participants

Symposium participants in recent years include such notables as W.E.B. Griffin, Cole Kingseed, Thomas E. Ricks, Rick Atkinson, Lewis Sorley, Dave R. Palmer, Nigel Hamilton, Joseph L. Galloway, Bryan Mark Rigg, Sean Naylor, Frederick J. Chiaventone, Ed Ruggero, James Bradley, Bing West, Patrick K. O’Donnell, Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, Robert L. Bateman, Maj. Gen. Sid Shachnow, Williamson Murray, Douglas MacGregor, H.R. McMaster, Adm. Stansfield Turner, Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, Mark Bowden, Harold Coyle, Philip Caputo, Winston Groom, Ralph Peters, Dale Brown, Frank Sesno, the late Russell F. Weigley, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.), General Al Gray USMC (Ret.), John Katzenbach, Geoffrey Perret, Marvin Kalb, and a number of other distinguished authors.


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