Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History

Those Little Bastards at the State Department


Ah, the power of bureaucrats! It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re talking about the upper echelons of the State Department or the lowly ranks of the DMV, some people just never learned to share. Theodore Achilles, who later became ambassador to Peru, served in Washington as Chief of the British Commonwealth Division in the State Department from 1941 to 1945.  Here he relates Secretary of State Byrnes’ view of the very Department he oversaw.  He was interviewed by Richard D. McKinzie in 1972.

 

 

ACHILLES:  In September of that year [1945] I was assigned to London and also detailed as Secretary of our delegation to the first Council of Foreign Ministers which met in London immediately after V-J Day to try to negotiate peace treaties with Italy and Germany and the eastern European countries.

Secretary of State [James F.]  Byrnes, who had just become Secretary of State, was chairman of our delegation. John Foster Dulles went and represented Senator [Arthur H.] Vandenberg, who was then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Jimmy [James C.] Dunn was the second-ranking member of the State Department. Chip [Charles E.] Bohlen was there as interpreter and also adviser on Soviet affairs. Jimmy Byrnes was quite new to the process; he had been in Congress, in the Senate, and a Supreme Court Justice.

At the end of the first day’s meeting, as usual, I typed up a telegram to the State Department reporting what happened that day. I took it to Jimmy Dunn who initialed it, and took it to Secretary Byrnes for signature. Secretary Byrnes looked at it and said, “What’s this?”

I said, “This is the usual telegram to the State Department reporting what happened.”

Byrnes said, “God Almighty, I might tell the President sometime what happened, but I’m never going to tell those little bastards at the State Department anything about it.”

 

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