Consular officers need to be prepared for whatever American citizens traveling abroad can throw at them. The consular section can often be a chaotic and stressful environment, as Foreign Service officers try to deal with an array of characters, usually with demands as outlandish as their personalities. Alexander Watson, who later became an ambassador, served at Embassy Madrid from 1964 to 1966 as a consular officer. The following account details his experiences with some of the most interesting Americans ever to walk — or sometimes stumble — into an American embassy. continue reading
Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History
Several 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.
Rafael Trujillo, El Jefe, ruled the Dominican Republic as dictator from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Trujillo gained prominence after the U.S. occupation in 1916. He joined the National Guard in 1919, trained with U.S. Marines, and earned the rank of general only nine years later. In 1930, a rebellion broke out against President Horacio Vasquez. Trujillo made a secret deal with rebel leader Rafael Estrella Urena whereby Trujillo could run for president in new elections. Estrella’s rebels were allowed to capture the capital and Trujillo, the only candidate allowed to run, claimed victory with 95% of the vote and immediately assumed dictatorial powers. His reign was marked by bloody massacres, stringent laws, and an overbearing personality cult. His rule is considered one of the bloodiest in the Americas and responsible for more than 50,000 deaths. continue reading
On May 30, 1972, Israeli security at Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) was caught by surprise when three Japanese travelers opened fire upon their arrival. Airport security was focused on possible Palestinian attacks. The Japanese Red Army members, who were trained in Lebanon by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and were casually dressed, were able to get by undetected. The terrorists carried a violin case containing a Czech Vz 58 rifle. They were also armed with grenades and plenty of ammunition. Two of the three attackers were shot and killed during the massacre, the other was wounded and captured, but not before 26 people were killed. Seventeen victims were U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico, one was from Canada, and eight were Israeli. Since 2007 Puerto Rico has commemorated the death of its 17 Christian pilgrims every May 30th on “Lod Remembrance Day”. continue reading
Established in 1980, the Una Chapman Cox Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the effectiveness and professionalism of the U.S. Foreign Service. Its founder, Una Chapman Cox, created it after a Foreign Service officer named Royal Bisbee got her out of a dilemma in Bombay in 1948. Her gratitude inspired her to do what she could to help the Foreign Service. You can learn more about the foundation here.
In the following excerpts from ADST’s oral history collection, Royal Bisbee, who was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in 2010, gives his account of his fateful encounter with Ms. Cox. Betty Atherton, a Foreign Service spouse interviewed by Mary Louise Weiss in 1987, talks about the creation of the foundation. continue reading
Emergency medical care in developing countries can be problematic, if not wholly inadequate. Even more so in the 1960s. When you’re expecting twins. In a country in the midst of a civil war. However, when Terry McNamara’s wife went into labor in the conflict-ridden Province of Katanga in the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1961, they had to tough it out at a small, understaffed and scant clinic with only a nun, and later, a doctor. With a cigar. continue reading
ADST Kathleen Turner Part 3 The actress and star of Body Heat and Who Shot Roger Rabbit?talks about her childhood as a Foreign Service kid.
ADST Kathleen Turner Part 2 The actress and star of Body Heat and Who Shot Roger Rabbit?talks about her childhood as a Foreign Service kid.
ADST Kathleen Turner Part 1 The actress and star of Body Heat and Who Shot Roger Rabbit?talks about her childhood as a Foreign Service kid.
ADST Prudence Bushnell The Ambassador to Kenya discusses the 1998 bombing of Embassy Nairobi.
Click here to read her account
The attack began the night of September 11, 2012, at a compound that is meant to protect the consulate building in Benghazi, Libya. A second assault early morning the next day targeted a nearby CIA annex in a different diplomatic compound. Four people were killed, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Ten others were injured. The attack was strongly condemned by the governments of Libya, the United States, and many other countries. The following is the transcript of Gregory Hicks’ testimony, delivered May 8, 2013 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa (R-CA), regarding the events of Sept. 11, 2012, in Libya. Hicks served as Deputy Chief of Mission and was at Embassy Tripoli on the night of the attacks. continue reading