Konrad Kellen, 93; Rand researcher studied Vietnam War and urged withdrawal of troops

Times Staff Writer

Konrad Kellen, a political scientist and research analyst at the Rand Corp. who studied the Vietnam War and later devised anti-terrorist strategies for the federal government, died Sunday of age-related causes at his Pacific Palisades home, his family said. He was 93.

Brian Jenkins, an international terrorism expert and colleague, said Kellen often took a contrarian or independent view among the intellectuals engaged in research and debate at the Santa Monica-based think tank.

“At the height of the Vietnam War, he studied the effects of the bombing on the motivation and morale of enemy forces,” Jenkins said of the U.S. air assault against the North Vietnamese. “Conventional wisdom was that the bombing campaign was destroying morale. And he pointed out in his research that obviously bombing isn’t great for morale, but they had developed various mechanisms to deal with this problem. And while, yes, it was impacting their morale, their determination and these mechanisms they had created to deal with it, would enable them to keep fighting despite the impact of the bombing....


“He was attempting to understand the mind-set of our adversaries, whether it was the Soviet Union during the Cold War or the Viet Cong or the terrorists we confront today.”

In 1969, Kellen and five other Rand researchers, including Daniel Ellsberg, wrote an open letter to the U.S. government recommending the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam within a year. The letter was distributed to the New York Times and Washington Post against the wishes of the Rand Corp., which provided research for the federal government.

Two years later, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, Washington Post and members of Congress, hoping that the release of the secret history of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia would precipitate the end of the war. The last American troops left Vietnam in 1973 and the South Vietnamese government fell in 1975.

Born Konrad Katzenellenbogen in Berlin in 1913, he fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and immigrated to New York. He later joined his mother, who was an art collector, and sisters in Los Angeles, where many German expatriates had settled. He worked for a time as a secretary to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Thomas Mann.

During World War II he served in the U.S. Army, assigned to its intelligence unit. Immediately after the war he remained in Germany as a political intelligence officer for the U.S. Office of Military Government.

He later worked at Radio Free Europe in New York, where he met his wife, Patricia, and at the Hudson Institute, another policy research group, before joining Rand in the mid-1960s.

“He had an extraordinarily rich and broad life experience,” Jenkins said of Kellen. “He turned that experience into tremendous insight into human behavior.”

In addition to research papers and newspaper commentaries, Kellen wrote many books, including “Khrushchev,” a 1961 biography of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev; “The Coming Age of Woman Power,” a 1972 study of male-female relationships, and a 2003 autobiography published in Germany.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by son David Kellen, daughters Jennifer Kellen and Elizabeth Kellen, and a sister, Estella Mysels.

Services will be private.