Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dead at 100

Henry Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut

Henry Kissinger, the German-born American diplomat, academic and presidential adviser who served as secretary of State for two presidents and left his stamp on U.S. foreign policy for decades, died Wednesday at the age of 100.

A statement released by Kissinger Associates said Kissinger died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut.

Kissinger was both revered and controversial, praised by supporters as a brilliant strategist and condemned by critics as a master manipulator.

He pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, began a rapprochement with China and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam.


Henry Kissinger seen in a suit

Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of State, holds the Bavarian Order of Maximilian during celebrations marking his 100th birthday on June 20, 2023, in Bavaria. (Daniel Vogl/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Some of his policies remain controversial, and journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in 2002, "The dark side of Henry Kissinger is very, very dark."

Even his appearance seemed at odds with his social life. Portly, bespectacled and heavily accented, Kissinger was far from the idea of a Hollywood Adonis. Yet at various points before his second marriage, according to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, Kissinger dated actresses Jill St. John, Shirley MacLaine, Marlo Thomas, Candice Bergen and Liv Ullman.

"Power," he once famously said, "is the ultimate aphrodisiac."


He was also a man used to perennially being in charge. 

"There cannot be a crisis next week," he was quoted as saying in The New York Times in 1969. "My schedule is already full."

He maintained his global influence well after leaving public life, evidenced most recently by his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in July. The Chinese leader greeted the former American diplomat who had celebrated his 100th birthday less than two months prior with deep respect.

Henry Kissinger speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Nov. 22, 2019. (Jason Lee-Pool/Getty Images)

"The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-U.S. relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger," Xi said at the time.

Kissinger played a leading role in the normalization of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

By 1980, he told Time magazine, "The longer I am out of office, the more infallible I appear to myself."

Kissinger is survived by his wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1974, and two children, David and Elizabeth, from his first marriage.


He was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, May 27, 1923, and, even as a child, was known for his intellect.

"Henry Kissinger grew up with that mix of ego and insecurity that comes from being the smartest kid in the class," his biographer, Walter Isaacson, wrote.

"From really knowing that you're more awesomely intelligent than anybody else but also being the guy who'd gotten beaten up because he was Jewish."

Former Sec. of State Henry Kissinger speaks on a phone

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in former President Ford's hotel suite during the GOP convention in Detroit in July 1980. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Kissinger, his younger brother, Walter, and his parents fled the Nazis and arrived in New York in 1938 by way of London when Henry was 15.

After attending the City College of New York, he served in the U.S. military, becoming a U.S. citizen, then enrolling at Harvard, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees and a Ph.D.

Kissinger then joined the Harvard faculty, where he became an expert in the field of international relations and an adviser to government agencies under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.


In 1969, he was appointed national security adviser to Nixon.

As head of the National Security Council, Kissinger wielded unusual power for the office and had a significant hand in devising and executing U.S. foreign policy, largely circumventing then-Secretary of State William P. Rogers.

A staunch proponent of realpolitik, Kissinger pushed for Nixon to employ a pragmatic strategy toward engagement with the Soviet Union and China.

Henry Kissinger seen with former President Donald Trump at the Oval Office

President Donald Trump meets with Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state, in the Oval Office of the White House, May 10, 2017. (Molly Riley/Pool via Bloomberg)

More controversial, though, was his involvement in the Vietnam conflict, including the bombing of Cambodia and Laos. 

In 1973, Kissinger began secret talks with North and South Vietnam, negotiating the Paris Peace Accords to end direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and an end to the war.

Although the cease-fire was not lasting, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that year, jointly with his North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho. Kissinger said he accepted the prize "with humility," though the Vietnamese revolutionary declined to accept since the agreement failed to yield a lasting peace.

In his book, "The Trial of Henry Kissinger," late author Christopher Hitchens also charged Kissinger supported the September 1973 coup to oust Chilean Marxist President Salvador Allende, paving the way for the totalitarian regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

On Sept. 22, 1973, Nixon appointed Kissinger secretary of state, a role he maintained under Ford after Nixon resigned in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu meets with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger May 13, 2008, in Jerusalem. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

When Ford failed to win re-election in 1976, Kissinger left politics to return to academia at Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

He also founded his international consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and served as a director on a number of boards for corporations and nonprofit organizations.

Kissinger also wrote several books on public policy and three memoirs.

In one, 1982's "Years of Upheaval," he described what he presumably considered his own role. 

"Statesman create; ordinary leaders consume," he said. "The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator."

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