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Jack Ryan
First appearance The Hunt for Red October (1984)
Last appearance Red Rabbit (2002)
Created by Tom Clancy
Portrayed by Alec Baldwin,
Harrison Ford,
Ben Affleck
Gender Male
Occupation US President,
National Security Advisor,
CIA Deputy Director of Central Intelligence,
USMC Second Lieutenant
Spouse(s) Caroline "Cathy" M. Ryan (née Muller)
Children Olivia "Sally" Ryan,
Jack Ryan Jr.,
Kathleen "Katie" Ryan,
Kyle Ryan
Religion Catholic

Jack Ryan (full name John Patrick Ryan, Sr., Ph.D., CPA, KCVO) (born May 17, 1950) is a fictional character created by Tom Clancy who appears in many of his novels.




Ryan's background is established in Patriot Games and Red Rabbit. Born in 1950, he is the son of Emmet William Ryan (1922–1974), a police 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.

After graduating from Loyola High School in Towson, Maryland, Ryan attended Boston College, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Economics (with a strong minor in history) and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps (via NROTC). While waiting for the Navy to assign him somewhere, he passed the Certified Public Accountant exam.[1]

After finishing The Basic School, his military career was cut short at the age of 23 when his platoon's helicopter, a CH-46 Sea Knight, crashed during a NATO exercise over the Greek island of Crete. Ryan's back was badly injured in the crash. Navy surgeons at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda made inadequate repairs to 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 Marine Corps. He passed his stock broker's exam and took a position with the Baltimore office of the Wall Street investment firm Merrill Lynch.

(The movie adaptation of The Hunt for Red October tells Ryan's story differently: Admiral Joshua Painter states that he attended the United States Naval Academy and that in the "summer of his third year, he went down in a chopper accident. 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's Midway Airport only 19 months after his crash in Crete. He developed a fear of flying that persisted for years.

Civilian career

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 Railroad, making approximately $6 million off his $100,000 initial investment. He did so well that a senior VP of Merrill Lynch, Joe Muller, came to Baltimore to have dinner with him, with the objective of inviting him to the 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. 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 establishing a net worth of $8 million, Ryan left the firm after four years and enrolled at Georgetown University for his 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 in Annapolis, Maryland as a civilian professor of history.

First CIA work

Following a recommendation of Father Tim O'Riley, PhD, S.J., (a Georgetown University professor) to a CIA contact, Ryan is asked to work as an outside 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 gets leaked. By making sure that each copy of the document differs slightly in its wording, if any copy is leaked then it is possible to determine the identity of the informant.

Both of these accomplishments come to the attention of U.S. Admiral James Greer, the Deputy Director (Intelligence) at the CIA. The expertise of Ryan's report, plus the application, persuades Admiral Greer to offer him a permanent job in the CIA, but Ryan turns it down.

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 British 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 London park. As he joins them, members of the Ulster Liberation Army, an ultra-violent Maoist offshoot of the IRA, headed by a man named Kevin O'Donnell, attack a car containing the Prince of Wales and his family right in front of Ryan and his wife and daughter. Ryan, while wounded, intervenes 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. But since he is going to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, the threat doesn't seem serious. After being invested as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen, Ryan returns to the U.S. and the Academy. When O'Donnell and the ULA spring Miller on his way to Albany Prison (killing both police officers and civilians in the process), Ryan and his family become the target of their revenge—particularly Miller's.

CIA career

In Patriot Games, Greer comes to Ryan and asks him to return to join the CIA permanently as an analyst to help track down the terrorists. He declines initially, only to accept it later after a failed attack on himself and his family by the ULA severely injures his wife and daughter. Later, while Ryan hosts the Prince and Princess of Wales at his home in Maryland, the ULA make a second attack on the Ryans, which is foiled by Jack, the Prince, and Commander Robert Jackson, USN. Following the incident and arrest of the ULA, he 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 daring mission to assist the defection of a KGB communications-center officer who has discovered that KGB director Yuri Andropov had ordered the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. 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, "Rabbit's" defection proves to be a major coup for both American and British intelligence. 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 (Red October), the newest Typhoon class submarine, which he plans to defect with. Ryan recognizes this and works to welcome him to the United States, 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 the rising analyst for bigger and better positions, maybe even his own job when the veteran spy finally retired. Ryan is dispatched 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 eventually 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—literally at gunpoint—Golovko respects him as a worthy adversary and in later books becomes friends with Ryan, 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 is kept out of the loop on 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 eventually works with the FBI to rescue a small group of American soldiers cut off in the Colombian wilderness, which forces 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 a former professor of Cathy Ryan's.

In The Sum of All Fears, Ryan reaches his highest post at the CIA; Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. His career is placed in jeopardy when Fowler becomes President and Elizabeth Elliott becomes both National Security Advisor and Fowler's lover/manipulator. 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 movie version again departs from the printed version, by presenting a younger, unmarried Ryan and a resurrected Greer-like Marcus Cabot. These changes are typical of attempts to "reboot" a franchise.)


In Debt of Honor, Ryan returns to government service to deal with a second war between Japan and the United States. For a brief time Ryan is the National Security Advisor, but when Vice President Ed Kealty is forced to resign after a sex scandal, President Roger Durling taps him for the job. Ryan accepts the Office of Vice President on the condition that it is only until the end of Durling's current term. He sees this as a way of ending his public life. He is barely confirmed by Congress when a Japanese airline pilot deliberately crashes his 747 onto the Capitol during a joint session of Congress, 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 political trickery by Ed Kealty, and a deadly plague initiated by the newly formed United Islamic Republic, resulting in two major military conflicts far from American shores.

In The Bear and the Dragon, it is established that Ryan has completed Durling's term as President and has campaigned for—and won—the next Presidential 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 the SVR (formerly the KGB). This turns out to be an attempt to sow confusion in the Russian government because of China's designs to annex Eastern Siberia, where geologists had recently discovered a large amount of oil and gold. These events eventually lead to the inclusion of Russia into NATO and the assistance of US forces in the Sino-Russian War. When the Chinese begin losing the war, U.S. forces begin to target their strategic assets. A SSN sinks a Chinese SSBN, which causes the Chinese Politburo to panic and to increase the readiness of their 12 land-based ICBMs. US forces do not 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 PLA's logistical support. This causes the U.S. and Russia to send a joint RAINBOW and 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, DC; and with Ryan taking a command initiative at an Aegis missile cruiser, the ICBM is intercepted by ABM's from the USS Gettysburg. With the looming defeat of the PLA 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, which causes a conservative minister to take control and arrest the perpetrators of the war in Siberia and surrender to the US and Russia.

Following this, Ryan apparently completes his term as president and refuses to run for a second elected term. Robby Jackson thus campaigns to become the first African American president, but he is assassinated on a trip to the South, which enables Ed 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, propelling Robby Jackson to the Presidency.) Before Ryan actually leaves office, he creates "The Campus," a secret counter-terrorism organization that fronts as Hendley Associates, a financial trading company. He also writes presidential pardons out to all of its members, with the assistance of his Attorney General Pat Martin.

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

Ryan Doctrine

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 United States will no longer tolerate attacks on "our territory, our possessions, or our citizens," and adds that whoever orders such an attack will be held accountable by the United States.

This statement comes soon after the Ebola attack on the United States 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 stealth bombers, on Ryan's orders. Therefore, the Ryan Doctrine apparently supersedes the executive order put in place by President Ford, which forbids the assassination of foreign heads of state. Ryan, however, believes it is a more ethical alternative than all-out 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 the People's Republic of China as a consequence of the Siberian War).


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

By publication date

Books in the order in which they were written:

Chronological order

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.

  • Clear and Present Danger (1988) - "The President" is referred to as distinct from Ronald Reagan, but events in Cardinal of the Kremlin are referred to as having concluded less than a year before the start of the novel, which takes place during an election year. Setting "Cardinal of the Kremlin" in 1991 misplaces the state of US-Soviet relations, and 1984 is before the War on Drugs warranted the attention given in "Clear and Present Danger". Ryan, as acting DDI is tasked with presenting a security briefing to the Presidential candidate, which included a copy of the 1984 election briefing. The only logical date is therefore 1988.
  • The Sum of All Fears (1991–92) – Israel partially cedes sovereignty over Jerusalem to the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, and the city becomes a UN protectorate policed by Swiss Guards. Residents of Jerusalem can choose between either Vatican, Israeli or Islamic judicial law. Denver is devastated by a terrorist nuclear explosion. The book occurs after the Persian Gulf War and before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. While it is implied that both events occur at the same time in the Ryanverse as in actual history, 1991, this conflicts with the terrorist attack on Denver, which occurs while the city is hosting the Super Bowl in the novel. The 1991 Super Bowl had already been played, meaning the terrorist attack would have occurred in early 1992, after the Soviet Union actually fell.
  • Debt of Honor (1995–96) – The U.S. and Russia destroy all of their ballistic missiles. After crippling the US economy and becoming a nuclear power, Japan invades and takes the Marianas Islands; the US and Japan fight a brief war, which the Japanese lose (they are subsequently denuclearized); an embittered Japanese pilot and proponent of the war crashes a 747 into the US Capitol Building immediately after Ryan's confirmation vote for the Vice President, killing most of the House and Senate, the President, all nine Supreme Court justices, the senior military establishment (including the JCS), and most of the Cabinet; Ryan is left in charge of a gutted government. The end of the book occurs shortly after the New Hampshire primary, which shows that the novel takes place during the 1996 election. Of interest, but not crucial to the plot of this or further books is that North and South Korea were said to be unified at some point between The Sum of All Fears and this book.
  • Executive Orders (1996) – Saddam Hussein is assassinated; Iran and Iraq merge forming the United Islamic Republic; the UIR launches a biological attack on the U.S. using the Ebola virus; the US launches the Second Persian Gulf War against the UIR and defeats them; the Ayatollah is killed in a smart-bomb attack by the US.
  • Rainbow Six (Takes place between Executive Orders and The Bear and the Dragon)(although events seem to be based around the Sydney Olympics held in 2000) RAINBOW - an elite counter-terrorist force - is created and engages terrorists across Europe. Ecoterrorists plan to create a genetically-enhanced virus based on Ebola and cancer cells, which they plan to use to wipe out much of the world's population.
  • The Bear and the Dragon (2000) – Russia is admitted to NATO; China and Russia fight a major war, in which the US intervenes on its NATO ally's side. It implies that the British Prime Minister is Tony Blair.
  • The Teeth of the Tiger (2005, based on the age of Jack Ryan Jr.) The U.S. is now engaged in a global war on terrorism, in response to the September 11th attacks which occurred in the Ryanverse as they did in the real world. It is mentioned that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq occurred in the Ryanverse continuity, and that the Jerusalem Treaty signed in The Sum of All Fears has failed as Israelis and Palestinians went back to fighting each other.


A total of five presidents are explicitly shown in the series (although Red Rabbit takes place during the Reagan Administration, Reagan does not make an appearance as a character):

  • The unnamed man referred to only as "the President," first introduced in The Hunt for Red October; he remains in office through The Cardinal of the Kremlin, and Clear and Present Danger. At the end of the last novel, he runs for reelection and is defeated.
  • J. Robert Fowler, former governor of Ohio, who defeats the incumbent at the end of Clear and Present Danger and is in office during The Sum of All Fears. After his failure to handle the Denver crisis nearly results in nuclear war, he resigns from office at the end of the novel.
  • Roger Durling, Fowler's vice-president, former governor of California and a Vietnam veteran with service in the 82nd Airborne Division. Durling replaces Fowler when the latter resigns, and is the President in Debt of Honor, completing Durling's term as President. At the end of the novel, he is killed along with most of the government when a Japanese jetliner is crashed into the Capitol Building.
  • John Patrick Ryan is confirmed as Durling's new vice-president at the end of Debt of Honor, and is sworn in as President when Durling is murdered on the same day. His claim to the presidency is contested by Durling's former VP Edward Kealty, but the courts eventually rule in Ryan's favor. He remains in office in Executive Orders, Rainbow Six (though he never appears) and The Bear and the Dragon.
  • Robert Jefferson "Robby" Jackson succeeded Ryan as President of the United States after Ryan retired (as described in The Teeth of the Tiger), with Ryan believing he could leave the country in Robby's capable hands. After serving out the remainder of Ryan's term, Robby campaigned for his own re-election. While travelling in Mississippi, however, Jackson was shot and subsequently assassinated by a 67-year-old man who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan; Duane Farmer. Farmer was taken alive and swiftly executed for his crimes.
  • President Edward Kealty[2]: Durling's former vice-president, replaced by Jack Ryan after a sex scandal. During Executive Orders, he tries to steal the presidency from Ryan by claiming that he never actually resigned, but those allegations are tossed out by U.S. courts. After Ryan leaves office and Jackson is assassinated, Kealty is elected President in his own right, a position he holds in The Teeth of the Tiger though he is never seen.[3].

It should be noted that in later books there are nevertheless multiple references to both the Reagan Presidency and the George H.W. Bush Presidency as if they had happened.

In films

Four movies have been produced based on Clancy novels featuring Jack Ryan, starring three different actors as Ryan:

Character Film
The Hunt for Red October
Patriot Games
Clear and Present Danger
The Sum of All Fears
Jack Ryan Alec Baldwin Harrison Ford Ben Affleck
James Greer James Earl Jones  
Caroline Ryan Gates McFadden Anne Archer Bridget Moynahan
Sally Ryan Louise Borras Thora Birch  
John Clark   Willem Dafoe Liev Schreiber
William Cabot   Morgan Freeman

In the novels, Patriot Games occurs before The Hunt for Red October, though the order was reversed in the film versions.

The Sum of All Fears is not part of the Baldwin/Ford series, but rather an intended reboot of the franchise, and therefore departs significantly from the chronology of the novels. It takes place in 2002 whereas the novel takes place in 1991/1992.

On March 18, 2008, Variety reported that Sam Raimi and Paramount Pictures were in negotiations to have Raimi direct the (second) franchise reboot, with intentions of having him spearheading multiple sequels. At the time, Tom Clancy was writing a new novel. Paramount had not decided to use this new story, or create an original story for the Jack Ryan reboot.[citation needed]

It was reported in October 2009, by the official website and, that Chris Pine was in talks to play Jack Ryan in a new reboot of the franchise.[4][5]

Video games

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


  1. ^ Jack Ryan and Family
  2. ^ Clancy, Tom. "2. Joining Up" (in en-en) (Paperback (MMP)). The Teeth of the Tiger (1st ed.). London, UK: Penguin. pp. p59. ISBN 9780141004921. 
  3. ^ Clancy, Tom. "2. Joining Up" (in en-en) (Paperback (MMP)). The Teeth of the Tiger (1st ed.). London, UK: Penguin. pp. pp70–71. ISBN 9780141004921. 
  4. ^
  5. ^

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