William G. Hyland was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1929. He was educated at the Washington University in St. Louis, graduating with a B.A. in History. After college, he spent 1950-53 in the 2nd Armored Division of the United States Army; during this time, he was stationed in West Germany. He did graduate work at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, receiving an M.A. in History in 1954.
After graduating, Hyland joined the Central Intelligence Agency. He was initially assigned to the CIA's Berlin desk, and in this capacity frequently briefed Director of Central Intelligence Allen Welsh Dulles. He was later assigned to the Soviet desk, where he gained a reputation as a skilled Kremlinologist. In 1960, he wrote a memorandum in which he predicted that Nikita Khrushchev would come up with a pretext to avoid an upcoming Paris summit with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Shortly before the summit, the Soviets shot down a U-2 spy plane and Khrushchev used this as a pretext for walking out of the summit. Hyland was still a CIA agent when his first book, The Fall of Khrushchev, was published in 1968.
In 1969, Hyland was appointed as a member of the United States National Security Council. During his time as an NSC member, he accompanied United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon to a summit in Moscow.
In 1973, President Nixon named Hyland as Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and Hyland held this office from January 21, 1974 until November 24, 1975.
Following the election of President Jimmy Carter, in 1977 Hyland left government service. He worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
From 1983 to 1992, Hyland was the editor of Foreign Affairs magazine. He wrote a half-dozen books, on both the topics of international affairs and, after retirement, popular American music. During the presidency of George H. W. Bush, he was a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. With the ending of the Cold War, Hyland advocated a period of American disengagement with world affairs.
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