After attempting to convince Washington that a civil war in China was imminent and that the Communists would be the likely victors, John S. Service and a group of other U.S. diplomats traveled to Yenan in July 1944 to meet with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Nicknamed the Dixie Mission, the U.S. Army Observation Group spent several months there learning about the Communists, who were involved in a bitter struggle with Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang (KMT). Ultimately, Washington’s view towards China did not change and, if anything, became more anti-Communist. 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.
Oftentimes the greatest foreign policy struggles are not with the host government but rather with the government bureaucracy back home. Such was the case with China in the 1940′s in a fight that would define geopolitics for a generation and would ultimately ruin the careers of those diplomats who were on the losing side. continue reading
One of the great dilemmas in foreign policy is when and whether to negotiate with one’s enemies. Will a dialogue ease tensions and possibly pave the way to peace? Or is it a cynical ploy to gain time to prepare for a military offensive? These were the issues facing U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew and many key players in Washington in 1941, who were on decidedly different sides as the year drew to a close. As Grew awaited his return to America along with other staff members of Embassy Tokyo, he drafted a report to the State Department criticizing it for its decision not to negotiate with Japanese Prime Minister (and relative moderate) Konoye in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. In these excerpts, Robert A. Fearey, private secretary to Ambassador Grew, describes Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s sharp reaction to Grew’s report, the pros and cons of negotiating with Japan in 1941, as well as the decision to charge Konoye as a war criminal, which eventually drove him to commit suicide. continue reading
Despite getting extremely close to agreeing to negotiations to avert hostilities, the U.S. and Japan failed to make peace and Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7th, 1941. In these excerpts from his memoirs, Robert A. Fearey, at the time private secretary to Ambassador to Japan Joseph C. Grew, describes the surprisingly pleasant conditions of daily life in Embassy Tokyo after war was declared, even during the Doolittle Raid, including setting up golf tournaments on embassy grounds, drinking up the Ambassador’s wine collection, and how they smuggled out Ambassador Grew’s final report on Japan. Their lengthy voyage home, by way of Rio, brought them in contact with other Americans who had a far different experience, having been tortured or nearly starved to death before their release. continue reading
The attack by the Imperial Japanese Army against the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into World War II. While many are familiar with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, less is known about the attempts by Japan and the U.S. to avert war.
Tensions were running between Japan and the United States long December 7th. Japan was fighting what was almost a decade-long war against the Chinese in Manchuria. After the bombing of the USS Panay on the Yangtze River in December 1937 (which Japan had claimed was an accident), the U.S. and their allies began sending assistance to China. The Japanese continued their aggression with the occupation of French Indochina, and the U.S. began taking preventative measures. In 1941 the United States ceased oil shipments to Japan. The U.S. and Japan began negotiations to end sanctions and make peace, but their efforts were unsuccessful. continue reading
December 7, 1941 will forever be one of the most memorable dates in American history. The attack on Pearl Harbor, a preemptive assault to prevent the U.S Pacific Fleet from entering the War in the Pacific, began at exactly 7:48 a.m. Over 350 Japanese fighter planes destroyed 188 U.S aircraft, 4 naval battleships, and killed 2,402 Americans, as well as wounding 1,282 others. At this point WWII had been going on for nearly two years, and the United States had been maintaining its isolationist policy to avoid becoming involved in another world war. The following day, December 8th, the United States declared war on Japan.
Niles W. Bond was a consular officer in Yokohama, Japan from 1940-1942 and was there during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bond and the other American diplomats were then confined to the U.S. embassy by the Kempeitai or Military Police Corps, a secret police similar to the German Gestapo. continue reading
The Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union has experienced several conflicts that have been provoked by ethnic hatred and land disputes. One country, Georgia, finds itself in two different conflicts: one with Abkhazia, the other with South Ossetia. The Georgia-Abkhazia conflict stems from ethnic hatred: in a twist from what often happens in such situations, the minority, with the help of the Russians, brutally ethnically cleansed the Georgian majority. This long-simmering conflict has recently been in the news as the region is a mere 40 miles from the Russian city of Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Georgia-South Ossetia conflict has been far less extreme, but still has been a source of tension with Russia, which has supported the South Ossetians. South Ossetia flared up again in August 2008, when Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reclaim the territory; Georgia claimed it was responding to attacks on its peacekeepers and villages in South Ossetia. Despite years of negotiations, both conflicts remain unresolved. continue reading
On November 28, 1964 — Thanksgiving Day — several hundred students from the Congo and elsewhere set fire to the newly christened John F. Kennedy Library, completely burning it to the ground. The Congo had been in a state of chaos after being granted independence from Belgium in 1960. After the Soviets intervened on behalf of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the United States began supporting Joseph Kasa-Vubu and began airlift efforts to aid refugees and Belgian forces. These efforts in turn enraged Lumumba supporters across the African continent.
The mob then stormed the U.S. Embassy. During the frenzy of the protests, one American citizen and one Swedish citizen were shot. U.S. Marines eventually managed to subdue protesters outside of the embassy. continue reading
In 1953, the Department of State removed John F. Melby from the Foreign Service because of his affair with acclaimed American author and political activist Lillian Hellman, who was suspected of being a Communist Party member. Hellman was famous for her 1934 Broadway play, The Children’s Hour, which dealt with lesbianism, and The Little Foxes. As a screenwriter at Goldwyn Studios she earned the incredible sum of $2500 a week and like many others she supported the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. She described herself as a “casual member” of the Communist Party but said she attended meetings from 1938-40.
Here’s a handy calendar of events linked to Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History. Remember, this is not a complete list of all Moments, only those tied to a specific date.