Biography for Cyrus Vance
Cyrus Roberts Vance obtained a number of important posts over the course of his long government career. He served as secretary of the army in President John F. Kennedy's administration and oversaw the beginning of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He later served as secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter. Vance was born on March 27, 1917 in Clarksburg, West Virginia. He graduated from Yale in 1939 and after earning his law degree from there in 1942, joined the navy. He served in the Pacific during World War II and in 1947, began to practice law in New York City. A Democrat, Vance began his long government career in the late 1950s. From 1957 until 1960, he was a special counsel for Senate investigating committees and then, briefly, general counsel for the Department of Defense. In 1962, he became secretary of the army. From 1964 until 1967, during the height of the American military buildup in South Vietnam, he was deputy secretary of defense. Vance supported American involvement in Vietnam until 1968. Then the military situation in South Vietnam and the domestic turmoil the war was causing in America convinced him to advise President Lyndon B. Johnson to stop the aerial bombing of North Vietnam and to initiate efforts to obtain a negotiated settlement of the war. During the last year of the Johnson administration, Vance served as a negotiator at the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam. He also participated in the diplomatic efforts that led to the end of the war between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus. Vance returned to the private practice of law from 1969 until President Jimmy Carter appointed him secretary of state in 1976. As secretary of state from 1977 until 1980, Vance championed the need for détente with the Soviet Union. He also led efforts to obtain nuclear arms reductions, improve relations with China, and ease tensions in the Middle East by promoting negotiations between Israel and its hostile Arab neighbors. Deeply concerned over the collapse of American relations with Iran after the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the seizure of American embassy personnel by militant Islamic fundamentalists in November 1979, Vance counseled patience and nonviolence. Without informing Vance, President Carter authorized a military mission to rescue the hostages. Military helicopters crashed in an Iranian desert, and the mission failed. Vance felt compelled to resign, the first American secretary of state to do so since William Jennings Bryan in 1915. President Carter accepted his resignation on April 28, 1980. Vance then worked as an active consultant on foreign policy and arms control issues. In 1985, he was named vice chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, and during 1991-1993, he served as United Nations representative to the International Conference on Former Yugoslavia. Vance's efforts toward peace in the Baltics were credited as instrumental to the Dayton peace agreement signed in 1995. He died on January 12, 2002 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.