Jack Ryan (character)

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Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan
Alec Baldwin portraying Jack Ryan
First appearanceThe Hunt for Red October (1984)
Created byTom Clancy
Portrayed by
Spouse(s)Caroline Muller "Cathy" Ryan
  • Olivia Barbara "Sally" Ryan,
  • John Patrick "Jack" Ryan Jr.,
  • Kathleen "Katie" Ryan,
  • Kyle Daniel Ryan
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Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan
Alec Baldwin portraying Jack Ryan
First appearanceThe Hunt for Red October (1984)
Created byTom Clancy
Portrayed by
Spouse(s)Caroline Muller "Cathy" Ryan
  • Olivia Barbara "Sally" Ryan,
  • John Patrick "Jack" Ryan Jr.,
  • Kathleen "Katie" Ryan,
  • Kyle Daniel Ryan

John Patrick "Jack" Ryan, Sr., KCVO, (Hon) is a fictional character by Tom Clancy who appears in many of his novels and their respective film adaptations. The character is born in Baltimore in 1950 and grows up there. He earns a NROTC commission in the Marines at Boston College. Medically retired following a helicopter crash, he works as an investment broker. He meets and marries Caroline "Cathy" Mueller, a medical student and later an ophthalmic surgeon, with whom he has four children. He returns to academia eventually accepting a position at the U.S. Naval Academy. Later he is recommended to the CIA, eventually spending a short period there writing a position paper as well as developing a counter-espionage mechanism. He returns to the Academy and while on a history research trip to London, he interrupts an assassination attempt on the Royal Family. After his return to the States, he eventually accepts a position with the CIA. He rises rapidly through the ranks in a variety of covert operations against the USSR, eventually becoming the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. As DDI, he begins having political battles which eventually lead to him becoming President in two separate terms where the international confrontations are now from the Pacific area.



Ryan had his background established in Patriot Games and Red Rabbit. He was born in 1950, the son of Emmet William Ryan (1922–1974), a Baltimore Police Department homicide lieutenant, and World War II veteran. The elder Ryan had served with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division at the Battle of the Bulge. His mother, Catherine Burke Ryan, (1923–1974) was a nurse. One of the books in the series mentioned that he had a sister who lived in Seattle.

After graduating from Loyola Blakefield prep school in Towson, Maryland, Ryan attended Boston College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics (with a strong minor in history) and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps (via NROTC). While waiting for the Corps to assign him, he passed the Certified Public Accountant exam.[1]

After officer training at Marine Corps Base Quantico, he went on to serve as a platoon commander. However, his military career was cut short at the age of 23 when his platoon's helicopter, a CH-46 Sea Knight, crashed during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise over the Greek island of Crete. The crash badly injured Ryan's back. U.S. Navy surgeons, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, inadequately repaired his back. This led to a lengthy recovery process (during which he nearly became addicted to pain medications) after which, complete with a permanent disability and wearing a back brace, he left the Marines. He passed his stockbroker's exam and took a position with Wall Street investment firm Merrill Lynch's Baltimore office.

(The film adaptation of The Hunt for Red October tells Ryan's story differently: Admiral Joshua Painter states that he attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and that in the "summer of his third year, he went down in a chopper accident in the Med. Bad. Pilot and crew killed. That kid spent 10 months in traction and another year learning to walk again. He did his fourth year from the hospital." The film is inconsistent with the novels, which are generally considered canonical, not least in their depiction of Ryan's first meeting with Admiral James Greer.)

His parents died in a plane crash at Chicago Midway International Airport, 19 months after his crash in Crete. He developed a fear of flying that persisted for years.

Civilian career[edit]

Ryan's story starts in Patriot Games and continues in Red Rabbit. While managing clients' portfolios, he began to invest his own money, banking on a tip he had received from an uncle about the workers' takeover of the Chicago and North Western Railway, making approximately $6 million off his $100,000 initial investment. He did so well that one of Merrill Lynch's senior vice presidents, Joe Muller, came to Baltimore to have dinner with him, with the objective of inviting him to the firm's New York City headquarters. Also present is Muller's daughter Caroline, nicknamed Cathy, then a senior medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. They immediately fall in love and get engaged. One night, while having dinner with his fiancée, Ryan throws out his back. Cathy takes him directly to Doctor Stanley Rabinowitz, professor of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, to be evaluated. Rabinowitz later operates on Ryan's back and cures his chronic pain in relatively short order (in a later novel the surgeon is credited as Sam Rosen, a doctor introduced in Without Remorse.) Ryan subsequently persuades the government to terminate his disability checks. Cathy later becomes an ophthalmic surgeon at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins.

After creating a net worth of $8 million, Ryan left the firm after four years and enrolled at Georgetown University for doctorate courses in history. He does a brief stint at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, then accepts a position at the U.S. Naval Academy as a civilian professor of history.

First CIA work[edit]

Following a recommendation from Father Tim O'Riley, a Jesuit priest and Georgetown University professor, to a Central Intelligence Agency contact, Ryan is asked to work as an consultant for the Agency, although officially employed by MITRE Corporation. He agrees and spends several months at Langley, Virginia, where he writes a paper entitled "Agents and Agencies", in which he maintains that state-sponsored terrorism is an act of war. He also invents the canary trap, a method for exposing an information leak, which involves giving different versions of a sensitive document to each of a group of suspects and seeing which version is leaked. By ensuring that each copy of the document differs slightly in its wording, if any copy is leaked then it's possible to determine the informant's identity.

These accomplishments come to the attention of U.S. Navy Vice Admiral James Greer, the CIA's Deputy Director for Intelligence. The expertise of Ryan's report, plus the application, persuades Greer to offer him a permanent job in the CIA, but Ryan declines.

While Ryan is still teaching at the Naval Academy, he and his family (wife and daughter Sally) take a trip to London for research and vacationing. After spending the day sifting through Royal Navy archives doing research for a book on the British naval war in the Indian Ocean during World War II, Ryan walks to meet his family at a park. As he joins them, members of the Ulster Liberation Army (ULA), an ultra-violent Maoist offshoot of the Marxist Provisional Irish Republican Army, led by Kevin O'Donnell, attack a car containing the Prince of Wales and his family right in front of the Ryans. Ryan is wounded while intervening in the attack and foils their plan, killing one of the gunmen and capturing another.

Sean Miller, the man he captured, vows revenge on Ryan and his family (only in the movie, not the book), but since he is going to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, the threat seems unrealistic. After being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II as an honorary Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Ryan returns to the U.S. and the Naval Academy. When O'Donnell and the ULA liberate Miller on his way to prison (killing both police officers and civilians in the process), the Ryans become the target of their revenge—particularly Miller's.

CIA career[edit]

In Patriot Games, Greer comes to Ryan and asks him to rejoin the CIA permanently as an analyst to help track down the terrorists. He declines initially, only to accept it after a failed ULA attack on the Ryans severely injures his wife and daughter. Later, while Ryan hosts the Prince and Princess of Wales at his home in Maryland, the ULA conducts another attack against him, which Ryan, the Prince, and U.S Navy Commander Robert Jackson foil. Following the incident and arrests of the ULA members and Miller (whom Ryan nearly executes with his Browning Hi Power), Ryan is re-assigned to London as a member of a liaison group to the British Secret Intelligence Service.

In Red Rabbit, Ryan's assignment to London focuses on a mission to assist the defection of a KGB communications-center officer who has discovered that KGB director Yuri Andropov had ordered Pope John Paul II's attempted assassination. Although Ryan and a small team of British agents helps the "Rabbit" and his family get to the West, they fail to prevent the attack on the Pope. Nevertheless, the Pope is only wounded and his would-be assassin captured, while the British agents execute his Russian handler. "Rabbit's" defection proves to be a major coup for both the American and British intelligence communities. Ryan soon afterward suggests a non-military strategy to help hasten the USSR's collapse.

In The Hunt for Red October, Captain First Rank Marko Ramius, the Soviet Navy's top submarine commander, takes command of the Красный Октябрь (Krasny Oktyabr, or in English, Red October), the newest Typhoon class submarine, with which he plans to defect. Ryan recognizes this and works to welcome him to the U.S., eventually succeeding.

In The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Ryan is reassigned to Langley. He becomes Greer's assistant with the official title of Special Assistant to the Deputy Director for Intelligence. Greer is grooming him for bigger and better positions, maybe even his own job when the veteran spy finally retires. Ryan is sent to Moscow as part of the American strategic nuclear weapons reduction negotiation team. There he meets Sergey Golovko, a rising star in the KGB hierarchy, and becomes entangled in a complex web related to both the race to develop "Star Wars" space-based defensive technology and engineer another defection, this time compromising the KGB director to save the CIA's highest informant in the USSR, Agent CARDINAL, better known as Colonel Misha Filitov. Although they initially meet as adversaries—at one time literally at gunpoint—Golovko respects him as a worthy adversary and in later books befriends him, whom he calls "Ivan Emmetovich," giving him a Russian-style patronymic based on his father's name, Emmet.

In Clear and Present Danger, Ryan is promoted to acting DDI when Greer is hospitalized with cancer. Despite this, he isn't made aware of a highly covert and illegal CIA operation approved by corrupt National Security Advisor Admiral Cutter. This operation targets Colombian drug lords using military assets, in what is usually considered a law enforcement area. Ryan works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to rescue a small group of American soldiers cut off in the Colombia, forcing him to miss Greer's funeral. Around this time Ryan also runs afoul of Elizabeth Elliott, international affairs advisor to then presidential candidate Governor of Ohio J. Robert Fowler, and one of Cathy Ryan's former professors.

In The Sum of All Fears, Ryan reaches his highest post at the CIA; Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. His career is jeopardized when Fowler becomes President and Elizabeth Elliott, Fowler's lover/manipulator, becomes National Security Advisor. They not only deny Ryan any credit for an innovative Middle East peace plan, but also panic when terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb in Denver during the Super Bowl and nearly plunge the world into a Soviet-American nuclear war. Ryan defuses the nuclear crisis by commandeering the Washington-Moscow hot line and convincing the Soviet premier (through his friend Golovko) that the crisis is a setup. He then refuses to confirm Fowler's order to launch a nuclear missile at Qom (thus preventing the attack), where the Iranian Ayatollah lived. The crisis effectively ends Fowler's administration and, on this note, Ryan retires from the CIA. (The film version again departs from the printed version, by presenting a younger, unmarried Ryan, an intelligent mistress-free Fowler, a Greer-like Cabot, and the nuclear bomb is detonated in Baltimore, not Denver.)

First Ryan Administration[edit]

In Debt of Honor, Ryan returns to government service as the National Security Advisor, restoring honor to the job that Cutter and Elliot disgraced. It has been two and a half years since Fowler resigned and his Vice-President Roger Durling is now well into his own term. Jack and the administration must deal with a second war between the U.S. and Japan, as well as an attack on America's economic infrastructure. After a clean sweep of Japan's forces in the South Pacific, Vice President Ed Kealty is forced to resign after a sex scandal, President Durling taps him for the job. Ryan accepts the job on the condition that he'll only serve until the end of Durling's term. He sees this as a way of ending his public life. But only minutes after Congress confirms Ryan, a Japanese airline pilot deliberately crashes a 747 into the U.S. Capitol building during Congress' joint session, killing most of the people inside, decapitating the U.S. government and elevating Ryan to the Presidency.

The reluctant yet determined Ryan Administration emerges in Executive Orders as Ryan slowly rebuilds the government. He is faced with Kealty's political trickery, China's growing military antagonizing of Taiwan, and a deadly plague initiated by the newly formed United Islamic Republic, resulting in two major military conflicts far from American shores (but one will not take place until the next Ryan novel).

In The Bear and the Dragon, it's established that Ryan has completed Durling's term as President and has campaigned for—and won—the next election. He retains most of his emergency Cabinet and has Robby Jackson as Vice President.

Ryan has to deal with the attempted assassination of Golovko, head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (formerly the KGB). This turns out to be an attempt to sow confusion in the Russian government because of China's designs to annex(invade) Eastern Siberia, where geologists had recently discovered a large amount of oil and gold. These events lead to the inclusion of Russia into NATO and the assistance of U.S. forces in the Sino-Russian conflict. When the Chinese begin losing the war, U.S. forces target their strategic assets. A U.S. submarine sinks a Chinese ballistic missile submarine, causing China's Politburo to panic and increase the readiness of their 12 land-based ICBMs. U.S. forces don't have the ability to destroy the silos, as they could only use deep penetrating bombs, which had all been used to destroy Chinese bridges to disrupt the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) logistical support. This causes the U.S. and Russia to send a joint RAINBOW-Spetsnaz team to destroy the silos. They destroy 11 of the 12 ICBMs but one of them manages to launch. The warhead heads towards Washington, D.C.; and with Ryan taking a command initiative at an Aegis missile cruiser, the ICBM is intercepted by ABMs from the USS Gettysburg. With the PLA's looming defeat in Siberia, which they were about to learn about via live UAV broadcasts from the CIA through the Internet, student demonstrators in Beijing raid the Politburo, causing a conservative minister to take control and arrest the war's perpetrators and surrender to the U.S. and Russia.

Ryan Doctrine[edit]

At the end of Executive Orders, Ryan, in the tradition of Presidents Monroe, Truman, Carter and Reagan, issues a foreign policy doctrine which largely defines his administration's international perspective. The Ryan Doctrine states that the U.S. will no longer tolerate attacks on "our territory, our possessions, or our citizens," and will hold whoever orders such attacks accountable.

This statement comes soon after the Ebola attack on the U.S. ordered by Mahmoud Haji Daryaei, the dictator of the new United Islamic Republic. Ryan announces the new doctrine on the same day that Daryaei is killed by two F-117s, on Ryan's orders. Therefore, the Ryan Doctrine supersedes the executive order put in place by President Ford, which forbids the assassination of foreign heads of state.[citation needed] Ryan, however, believes it's a more ethical alternative than total war, since it punishes the person responsible for the attack instead of the people he rules.

Within the books, the Ryan Doctrine is not officially invoked after Daryaei's death (although Ryan threatens to use it on the Chinese leadership in The Bear and the Dragon, should anything happen to American citizens living in China as a consequence of the Siberian War).

The Campus[edit]

Following this, Ryan apparently completes his term and refuses to run for a second elected term. Robby Jackson thus campaigns to become the first African American President, but is assassinated on a trip to the South, which enables Kealty to become the next President. (It is also possible from what Jack Ryan Jr. says in Teeth of the Tiger that Jack Sr. resigned, feeling he has done what he needed to as President, and encouraged Robby Jackson to run for the Presidency.) Before Ryan leaves office, he creates "The Campus," a covert counter-terrorism organization that fronts as Hendley Associates, a financial trading firm. He also writes one hundred presidential pardons for its members, with Attorney General Pat Martin's assistance.

Second Ryan Administration[edit]

In his retirement, Ryan is living easy with a net worth of over $80 million. He is working on two versions of his memoirs, one for immediate release, and another detailing his CIA career, to be published posthumously.

However, in Dead or Alive, he becomes increasingly frustrated with the direction in which President Kealty is taking the country, although he is initially publicly silent. Ultimately, he announces that he will come out of retirement to run for a second full term as President as a Republican candidate.

Ryan campaigns against Kealty in Locked On, facing off against him in various televised debates. Despite the efforts of Kealty, various members of his administration and Pavel Laska, Kealty's kingmaker and a devout enemy of Ryan who sought to bring Ryan's administration down by connecting him to a then-fugitive John Clark, Ryan narrowly wins the election, overcoming Kealty's efforts to harm him. The President-elect now prepares to undo the damage the Kealty administration has done.

Ryan initially finds his return to the presidency easy and without struggle following his re-election, but things quickly start to take a turn for the worse. Angered by a contraction in economic growth, the majority of the People's Republic of China Politburo Standing Committee members turn against their pro-capitalist president Wei Zhen Lin. Wei attempts to commit suicide when a coup is undertaken by other committee members. It is only when Chairman Su Ke Qiang orders PLA tanks to defend Wei, that he agrees to the expansionist policies in exchange for Su stopping the coup. The expansionist policies - which include the annexation of Taiwan and the expansion of China's territory into the South China Sea - are finally revealed to the world after several months. The Ryan administration is vehemently against the new policies, and President Ryan himself decides to take action by supporting Taiwan, along with India, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, which would also be affected by an expansion of China's territory.

After cyber-attacks by China weaken the United States' resolve, the independent intelligence agency known as The Campus helps track the attacks to a building in China. President Ryan orders the destruction of the building after making contact with President Wei and warning him that the cyber-attacks are considered an act of war on China's part. Wei, during the confrontation with Ryan, responds by providing details about Chairman Su's location. Ryan takes the information as a request from Wei to have the United States assassinate Su - who has been controlling Wei since saving him from the attempted coup. A team from The Campus, with support from the Russian FSB, and working with a local rebel force in China, stage an attack on Su while he is traveling in a motorcade. Su is assassinated by a U.S. sniper, but the event is made to look like Su's own men turned on him.

President Wei accepts that the expansionist movement has failed and the United States has won its second war with China, and decides to take his own life after realizing the Politburo will move against him without Su's protection. Wei botches the suicide by accidentally shooting himself in the cheek, but ends up choking to death on his own blood. Wei and Su's deaths mark the end of the war in the South China Sea, and Ryan emerges the clear victor in the conflict.

Ryan will be featured prominently in Command Authority (to appear in December 2013).[2]


The first published book to feature Jack Ryan was The Hunt for Red October.

Jack Ryan Series[edit]

John Clark Series[edit]

Jack Ryan Jr Series[edit]

Chronological order[edit]

In the order in which they occur in the storyline (and when they occur):

Starting with the following novel, the series becomes distinctly different from real history as noted below.


Following the above chronology the list of Presidents would be as follows:

41: Unnamed POTUS ? 1981 - 1989:

(Hunt, Clear and Present Danger): Could be Ronald Reagan's successor (Reagan is referenced by name as a past president; the unnamed POTUS's background doesn't match either Ronald Reagan's or George H.W. Bush's biography). The film version of Clear and Present Danger gives him the surname Bennett.

42: J. Robert Folwer 1989 - 1991:

Served less than one full term. (Sum)

43: Roger Durling 1991 - 1999:

Succeeded as Fowler's Vice President, won two terms (1992 and 1996) with Ed Kealty as his running mate. In order for Durling to be President throughout the decade (From the end of Sum to Debt) he must have served less than two years of Fowler's term in order to be eligible for re-election twice under the terms of the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, meaning that he must have become President after Jan. 20, 1991.

44: Jack Ryan 1999 - 2002/3:

Succeeded as Durling's Vice President, won a term of his own (2000) (Executive Orders; Bear). Timing of three to four-years in office before his resignation is also consistent with the terms of the 22nd Amendment in light of Ryan's second administration (To qualify for election in 2008, Ryan must also have served less than two full years of Durling's second administration; that places the events in Debt of Honor later than Jan 20, 1999).

45: Robbie Jackson 2002/3 - 2004

(The Teeth of the Tiger and Dead or Alive)

46: Unanmed VPOTUS who briefly succeeded Jackson. 2004 - 2005

47: Ed Kealty 2005 - 2009:

(Dead or Alive)

48: Jack Ryan 2009 - 2013:

(Threat Vector) Can be elected to only one more term under the terms of the 22nd Amendment. Numbering his Presidencies #44 and #48 is consistent with the Cleveland precedent.

49: ? 2013 -


Four films based on Clancy novels featuring Jack Ryan have been produced. Ryan is portrayed by Alec Baldwin in the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), and Ben Affleck in the 2002 film The Sum of All Fears. A fifth film entitled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was released on January 17, 2014 with Chris Pine in the role of Ryan.

In the novels, Patriot Games occurs before The Hunt for Red October, though the order was reversed in the film versions. Additionally, The Sum of All Fears is not part of Baldwin/Ford series, but rather an intended reboot of the franchise which departs significantly from the chronology of the novels. It takes place in 2002 whereas the novel takes place in 1991/1992. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a second reboot of the franchise and departs from all previous films.

Video games[edit]

Many video games based on the series have been made, some based on the novels, some on the films, some on the spin-offs.

The 1987 video game is based on the book
The 1990 video game is based on the film
The 2002 video game is based on the film

In addition there is the Rainbow Six video game universe, see Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jack Ryan and Family
  2. ^ Penguin Books: Command Authority. Accessed 2013-08-27