John Prados is an author and analyst of national security based in Washington, DC. He is the author of about thirty books and many articles on topics of current importance, presidential studies, international security; and diplomatic, intelligence, or military history. His current book is The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness (The New Press). Previous to that was Storm Over Leyte: The Philippine Invasion and the Destruction of the Japanese Navy (PenguinRandomHouse). One recent Vietnam history is in an ebook, A Streetcar Named Pleiku: Vietnam 1965, A Turning Point (Nowandthenreader.com). His work on Dien Bien Phu has been expanded, revised, and appears in the e-book Operation Vulture: America’s Dien Bien Phu. In paperback are The US Special Forces: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press), The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power (University of Texas Press). Classic paperback editions include Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun (PenguinRandomHouse); and Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975 (University of Kansas Press), winner of the Henry Adams Prize in American History. Other longforms include “Rethinking National Security” (Nowandthenreader.com). Other works include Normandy Crucible: The Decisive Battle That Shaped World War II in Europe (PenguinRandomHouse), In Country: Remembering Vietnam (Rowman & Littlefield), and How the Cold War Ended: Debating and Doing History (Potomac/University of Nebraska). In addition Prados is author of titles on national security, the American presidency, and other subjects including Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and World War II. He is also a noted designer of boardgames on military strategy, intelligence, and diplomacy.
Pathbreaking at the time were Prados’s history of the National Security Council Keepers of the Keys; and The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence and Soviet Strategic Forces (a key resource for understanding Soviet military power).
The works Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness, Vietnam: Unwinnable War, Keepers of the Keys and Combined Fleet Decoded were each nominated by their publishers for the Pulitzer Prize. Awarded works in addition to Unwinnable War include Combined Fleet Decoded, which won the book award of the New York Military Affairs Symposium and was a “notable naval book of the year” for the U.S. Naval Institute; The Soviet Estimate which received the book prize of the Consortium for the Study of Intelligence; and Valley of Decision, also a “notable naval book of the year” for the U.S. Naval Institute. He has chapters in thirty-two other books, and entries in five reference works. More are forthcoming.
One focus of Prados’s work has been the Central Intelligence Agency, on which he has written books and many papers. In addition to Ghosts of Langley these include Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA (Ivan Dee Publisher); along with William Colby and the CIA: The Secret Wars of a Controversial Spymaster (University of Kansas Press); Hoodwinked: The Documents That Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War (New Press); America Responds to Terrorism (written and edited); The Soviet Estimate, and Presidents’ Secret Wars, which is in its third edition.
Prados’s works on Vietnam include The Hidden History of the Vietnam War, a volume examining the lack of “perfect strategies” for the United States in that conflict (Rowman & Littlefield); The Blood Road (John Wiley’s Sons), a book reframing the war through the lens of the Ho Chi Minh Trail (John Wiley & Sons); Valley of Decision (with Ray W. Stubbe), a detailed history of the siege of Khe Sanh (Houghton Mifflin, U.S. Naval Institute); Inside the Pentagon Papers (University of Kansas Press), a study of this controversial Department of Defense war review; Operation Vulture, mentioned earlier; and In Country, also previously mentioned, an anthology of combat writing from the Vietnam war.
Works on presidential power and national security include The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the Presidents (written and edited book and CD collection); Keepers of the Keys: A History of the National Security Council from Truman to Bush; and Pentagon Games.
An older work combining intelligence and military history is Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of U.S. Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II.
Safe for Democracy and Vietnam: Unwinnable War have appeared in French translation.
Prados has served as historical consultant to RGoldfilms, originators of the Oscar-nominated history documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America (2009); to Act 4 Entertainment on The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father (2011), a feature-length documentary on the life of William E. Colby by his son Carl; and to WGBH Television for their production of The American Experience: Spy in the Sky (2003).
He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in Political Science (International Relations) and focuses on presidential power, international relations, intelligence and military affairs. He is a senior fellow and project director with the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Prados heads the Archive’s documentation projects for Vietnam and for the CIA, is co-director of the Iraq project, and assists with the Archive’s Afghanistan project.
His papers have appeared in the journals Intelligence and National Security, Journal of American History, Diplomatic History, Political Science Quarterly, and the Journal of East-West Studies. Prados is an award-winning designer of board strategy games for many publishers. He is a contributing editor to MHQ and author of dozens of feature articles. His pieces have appeared widely, including in Vanity Fair, The Washington Post Outlook, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, American Legion Magazine, The VVA Veteran, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Naval History, The American Prospect, Scientific American, Against the Odds, Strategy & Tactics and elsewhere. Internet articles have appeared at NeimanWatchdog.com, FP.org, Foreign Policy in Focus, SHAFR.org, History News Network, Tompaine.com, TNR.com, American Prospect Online, and elsewhere. His book reviews have appeared widely, and he also consults with publishers on manuscripts.
Prados became interested in military and security issues at a young age, and in spies, and published boardgames before starting to write books. He continues to be active in the game industry and is the designer of dozens of boardgames, many of them prize-winning titles on military strategy, diplomacy, or intelligence. He innovated the acclaimed title Third Reich, which, among other accolades, was used by Chilean author Roberto Bolanos as the foundation for his novel The Third Reich. That game and several others of Prados’s designs have been best-sellers for the companies which published them. A new edition of Third Reich will appear from Lock ‘N Load Publishers, currently anticipated for 2018. Commentaries on the games appear in the website section by that name. Prados continues to write for the game media as well.