Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History

ADST BenSeveral times a month, ADST highlights compelling moments in U.S. diplomatic history, using our substantial collection of oral histories.

Note: These oral histories contain the personal recollections and opinions of the individual(s) interviewed. The views expressed should not be considered official statements of the U.S. government or the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.

The Birthday Party Coup Attempt on Morocco’s King Hassan II

hassan2_02The Arab world’s longest-ruling monarch at the time of his death, King Hassan II survived several coup attempts during his reign. By far the strangest occurred in the middle of his forty-second birthday party. The King had provoked strong opposition, protest demonstrations, and riots in response to his centrally controlled rule. He had dissolved Parliament in 1965 and was accused of rigging elections to favor loyal parties. On July 10, 1971, King Hassan held a large party at his seaside palace in Skhirat to celebrate his birthday. About a thousand soldiers from the nearby cadet training school stormed the palace and fired on the guests. They killed Belgian Ambassador Marcel Dupret along with 91 others and injured 133, including the King’s brother. continue reading »


Korean Visa Fraud and GI Brides

korea GI brideAs long as there are vast economic disparities between countries, there will be people desperate (and unscrupulous) enough to do whatever it takes, including fraud and false marriages, to try to immigrate. Before its economic takeoff, South Korea in the 1970s and 80s was a major source of visa fraud and so-called GI brides, women who looked to escape the country by marrying a U.S. soldier stationed there. Others were “sold” by their families and others to soldiers to take them to the U.S. and were later forced into prostitution to pay off their debts when they landed on American soil. It is estimated that between 90,000 and 100,000 Korean women immigrated to the U.S. between 1950 and 1989 as GI brides. continue reading »


The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

President_Lyndon_B._Johnson_signs_-Gulf_of_Tonkin-_resolution_-_NARA_-_192484.tifAugust 2, 1964 marks the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin attack, which led to an escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The USS Maddox was patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin, situated between North Vietnam and China, collecting intelligence in international waters when it engaged three North Vietnamese naval boats. The Maddox initially believed it had been fired upon by three torpedoes, which all missed; it retaliated with over 280 3-inch and 5-inch shells, while jet fighter bombers strafed the torpedo boats. One U.S. aircraft was damaged and though one round hit the destroyer, there were no U.S. casualties. A second incident reportedly took place two days later but this appears to have involved false radar images and not actual torpedo boat attacks. As a result of these incidents, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by “communist aggression.” continue reading »


USS Vincennes Shoots Down Iran Air Flight 655

ir655 - similar iran air planeThe Iran-Iraq War created turmoil in the Persian Gulf as the combatants attacked civilian oil tankers, merchant ships, and other foreign vessels in the area. This resulted in several conflicts between Iranian and American ships. In May 1987, the Iraqi Air Force killed 37 American sailors on board USS Stark, an American Navy frigate. Another frigate, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, sustained severe damage after striking an Iran sea mine in 1988. The United States responded with Operation Praying Mantis, in which the U.S. sunk an Iranian frigate. The U.S. Navy subsequently offered protection to all friendly neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf, sending several guided missile cruisers throughout the area.

On July 3, 1988, one such cruiser, the USS Vincennes, shot down an Iran Air civilian passenger plane, Iran Air Flight 655. IR655 was flying from Bandar Abbas to Dubai on a half-hour trip across the Persian Gulf. While pursuing Iranian gunboats through the Strait of Hormuz, in Iranian territorial waters, the operators misinterpreted the plane’s signals as those of an F-14A Tomcat preparing to attack. IR655 failed to respond to multiple radio challenges, although it had previously been transmitting the correct civilian “squawk” code. USS Vincennes exploded the airliner with two surface-to-air missiles, killing all 290 people on board. continue reading »


The Vietnamese Boat People

boatAfter the United States withdrew from South Vietnam in 1975, communist North Vietnam quickly took over and established the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The leaders of the new government then began to exact revenge against those who had been their enemies and who had sided with the U.S. to fight the North. As a result, an estimated two million Vietnamese risked their lives in crowded boats and fled across the South China Sea to countries throughout the region. These refugees, known as “boat people,” forced the United States, Australia and others to scramble to find them a home. The countries neighboring Vietnam struggled to find a balance in receiving refugees – and also refusing entry to people from China deemed to be economic migrants — and passing them onto larger nations to become permanent residents. The U.S. ended up receiving well over a million refugees, who started new lives in communities across the country. The crisis has received renewed attention in the wake of the ongoing flood of migrants from Central America, many of them children. continue reading »


Broken Bones, Broken Dreams, Broken Homeland: The First Intifada, 1987

LA PREMIERE INTIFADAH - THE FIRST INTIFADAIn December, 1987, the deaths of four Palestinian refugees plunged the nation of Israel into four years of strikes, boycotts, beatings, shootings, and gassings as Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem rebelled against their Israeli occupiers.  When Palestinian fighters attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails, killing military personnel and destroying the nation’s infrastructure, Israeli soldiers responded with a devastating campaign of retribution and repression. At one point, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin infamously ordered his soldiers to use “force, might, and beatings” in order to subdue the Palestinian rebels, earning him a reputation as the “bone-breaker.” After thousands of deaths, the Intifada ended at the Madrid Conference of 1991, but tensions festered and erupted in a second Intifada nine years later and violence continues to this day. continue reading »


The Paris Peace Conference — 1946

paris4At the Paris Peace Conference, which lasted from July to October 1946, negotiators from the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France, and other Allied powers agreed upon the provisions of the Paris Peace Treaties, signed in February 1947 with Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Finland. These agreements included monetary reparations, territorial adjustments, and political commitments intended to promote democracy and peace. Jacques J. Reinstein, interviewed by Thomas Dunnigan beginning in February 2001, served as an economic advisor and negotiator in the State Department throughout the postwar peace negotiations. After developing American proposals for the peace treaties in London, Reinstein represented the United States in reparations discussions in Paris both prior to and during the Paris Peace Conference and discusses the difficulties he had dealing with the Soviets, the shock experts felt over the Potsdam Agreement and the role of Madeleine Albright’s father.   continue reading »


India and Pakistan on the Brink: The 1998 Nuclear Tests

india-pakistan - indian nuke (1)In May 1998, India conducted its first nuclear bomb tests since 1974 at the Indian Army Pokhran Test Range. Known as Pokhran-II, the tests involved five detonations and were followed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declaring India a full nuclear state. India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had come to power in the 1998 elections with a platform promising to be “openly nuclear” and challenge Pakistan’s control of parts of Kashmir. After the Indian detonations, American diplomats attempted to dissuade Pakistan, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, from following suit. Fifteen days after India’s tests, Pakistan conducted six underground nuclear tests at the Chaghi and Kharan test site.

The nuclear tests were swiftly met with international condemnation. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning the tests and renewed efforts to pressure the two countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). By law, the United States was required to impose immediate economic sanctions on both countries. U.S. intelligence was also sharply criticized for failing to detect the preparations for the test. Several other nations reacted with their own sanctions and condemnation.

continue reading »


Kashmir and the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War

1965 war_flag_finalIn the summer of 1965, India and Pakistan returned to the battlefields of Kashmir in a renewed attempt to establish their respective claims over the disputed, fertile region. On August 5th, more than 25,000 Pakistani soldiers, disguised as Kashmiris, infiltrated the area, mingling with their Muslim coreligionists and encouraging insurgency. Indian forces responded violently, launching Kashmir into a bloody, but ultimately indecisive, summer of invasions, tanks and aerial bombardment. The United States and Soviet Union eventually facilitated a ceasefire which restored pre-war boundaries, and the conflict ended on September 22. To this day, Kashmir remains a disputed territory, and its populace continues to pursue a uniquely Kashmiri identity, independent from Indian or Pakistani influences. continue reading »


The Overthrow of President Obote and Evacuation from Uganda

Obote ugandaAfter a disputed election brought Milton Obote (at right) to power in Uganda in 1980, one of his opponents, Yoweri Museveni, led an armed resistance against the government. The subsequent Ugandan “Bush War” between Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA) and the government’s Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) lasted from 1981 to 1986. In 1983, ethnic tensions began to fracture the UNLA. President Obote, an ethnic Lango, was accused of favoritism at the expense of the Acholi, who mostly comprised the officer corps. After confronting Obote with these and other complaints, General Tito Okello staged a coup d’état with the help of a group of Acholi. Okello ousted Obote and installed himself as president on July 27, 1985. Okello was later ousted himself by Museveni and the NRA six months later. continue reading »



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