Harold Saunders was born December 27, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Marian Weihenmayer Saunders and Harold Manuel Saunders. He grew up in Philadelphia and attended Germantown Academy, graduating in 1948. He went to Princeton University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with high honors in English and the American Civilization Program in 1952. He earned his Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale in 1956. That year, he entered military service in a program sponsored by the CIA and was eventually assigned to be a staff assistant to the deputy director for intelligence, Bob Amory. After that, he moved to the National Security Council in the White House under President Kennedy, where he worked under the next two presidents until 1974, when he moved to the state department, where he stayed until Reagan was elected in 1981.
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Nicoll, Don, "Saunders, Harold "Hal" oral history interview" (2001). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 350.