An American Diplomat in Vichy France
Shortly after Nazi Germany invaded France in May 1940, the French government surrendered and signed the Second Armistice. Under its terms, the north of France was occupied and directly administered by the Nazis, while the south remained nominally independent under a government seated in Vichy, but which was still under suzerainty of the Nazis; it was led by the 84-year-old Marshal Henri Phillipe Petain, the World War I hero turned collaborator. The American embassy moved from Paris to Vichy and had to conduct its increasingly important work under dangerous circumstances.
Douglas MacArthur II, nephew of the famed general, was assigned to the American embassy in Paris prior to the invasion, and moved to Vichy with the rest of the embassy. continue reading
After D-Day — Life in Paris After Liberation
The Allied invasion of France under the Supreme Command of General Dwight Eisenhower began on D-Day, June 6th ,1944. As the Allies advanced through France, they had to administer liberated areas and plan for the post-war political future. Douglas MacArthur II had been stationed in the Paris embassy prior to the war. Because of his experience, he was recruited to be the political advisor to Eisenhower in the coming invasion.
In these excerpts he talks about being in Paris right after liberation on August 25, 1944, working with the myriad groups and political parties that were vying for influence, his suspicion about the French Communists as well as the difficulty of working with General Charles de Gaulle. continue reading
Combating Blatant Racism during an Evacuation from Liberia
The process of evacuating a country is filled with unexpected challenges. Many of these are logistical, while others include safety concerns that arise as a result of the unstable conditions. In this excerpt from a November 1995 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy, Ambassador James Bishop, Jr. discusses a different type of challenge: a social issue wherein racism and domestic politics complicated the evacuation plans. continue reading
A Secret Betrayal — Kurdish Refugees in Iran
Between 1961 and 1975, the relationship between the Kurds and the Iraqi government was especially tumultuous. In 1961, the First Kurdish-Iraqi War, an attempt to create an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq led by Mustafa Barzani, began and soon escalated into a full-fledged war. It ended in a stalemate in 1970 with some 100,000 people dead or wounded. The Shah of Iran had supported Barzani and asked the U.S. to help, which it did. A Second Kurdish-Iraqi War soon followed, after the 1970 peace plan for Kurdish autonomy was not implemented. continue reading
Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise” Speech
In the late 1970’s, in the wake of the Iranian Revolution and the ongoing hostage crisis, a massive oil shortage swept across the nation. For the first time in decades, lines formed at convenience stores and gas stations as people desperately tried to fill their cars with gas. In the midst of what called a “crisis of confidence,” President Carter addressed the nation July 15, 1979 in what later became known as the “malaise” speech. continue reading
As If Getting a Venereal Disease Weren’t Bad Enough…
Chas Freeman had an extraordinary career in the Foreign Service. He accomplished the unparalleled feat of becoming nearly bilingual in less than two years of training and served as one of President Nixon’s interpreters on his historic trip to China.
He then helped open the Liaison Office in Beijing in the 1970s, where he had a range of responsibilities, including helping the Marine Security Guards posted there. In this excerpt he describes how one MSG got into a rather prickly situation. continue reading
The Truth Behind “Midnight Express”
It was one of the travel nightmares of the 1970s, along with being hijacked to Cuba or being stuck behind the Iron Curtain – being thrown into a Turkish prison and left to rot. The 1978 movie “Midnight Express,” based on a book by Billy Hayes, and adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Stone, shows Hayes’ arrest for trafficking in hashish, his beatings and the squalid prison conditions. Though originally sentenced to a relatively mild four years, just two months before his release date, a superior court overturned the decision and sentenced him to 30 years. Other prisoners try to escape (which gives the book and movie their name), while Hayes remains, going slowly insane until his girlfriend visits him and urges him to escape as well. After an attempt to bribe the guard fails, he attacks the guard, who is accidentally killed. Hayes is then able to flee prison. According to Robert Dillon, who was deputy chief of mission at the embassy, the real story was a bit less lurid. continue reading
Guests of the Gestapo
Nazi Germany launched the Spring Offensive against France, Belgium, and the Netherlands in May 1940. Within six weeks it had achieved complete military dominance. The French government agreed to sign the Second Armistice agreement, whereby France was divided into two parts: the North was occupied by the Germans, while Vichy France was nominally independent.
During this time, the American Embassy moved to Vichy and American consulates continued operations. Following the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, Germany decided to occupy the South as well. American diplomatic personnel in Vichy France were arrested and held in Baden-Baden, Germany until they were exchanged for German personnel. continue reading
Being Gay in the Foreign Service
Public perception of gay rights, including the right to marry and to serve in the military, has undergone a sea change in the last few years, so much so that President Obama nominated five openly gay ambassadors. However, it was not that long ago when simply being gay meant automatic suspicion as a security risk and often harassment or worse. In these excerpts, Russell Sveda talks about persecution from the Diplomatic Security (DS) bureau, the ensuing bureaucratic battles, and his subsequent 14-year grievance case, the longest in State Department history. He also discusses the fear he and others had when they started the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) in 1992 and the support he received from other FSOs. continue reading
The 1958 U.S. Marine Invasion of Lebanon – It was no day at the beach
1958 — Lebanon was yet again at the forefront of foreign policy concerns. Gamal Abdel Nasser, one of the most prominent politicians of the postwar world, was powerful not only in Egypt, but also in much of the Arab World. Known for his Arab nationalism and sharp criticism of Western power, his influence reached many throughout the Middle East. In the wake of the 1956 Suez Crisis, the Christian leader of Lebanon, President Chamille Chamoun, was sharply criticized by Nasser and Lebanese Muslims for maintaining diplomatic ties with the involved Western powers. Tensions escalated with the creation of the United Arab Republic, a union between Egypt and Syria and led by Nasser, as Chamoun refused to join despite pressure from Lebanese Muslims. Mindful of the recent overthrow of the pro-Western king of Iraq and threatened by civil war, Chamoun asked for help. President Eisenhower authorized Operation Blue Bat on July 15, 1958. U.S. troops landed on the beaches of Beirut and remained in the city until October. continue reading