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An Affair to Remember and a Job to Forget: Falling for a Communist during the Height of McCarthyism

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. […]

A Russo-American Diplomat: Back in the USSR

Vladimir Toumanoff, a Foreign Service officer for 25 years, had the extraordinary experience of returning as an American diplomat to the country which his parents had fled. The Toumanoffs were members of the Russian nobility who fought in the White army against the Bolsheviks. They left Russia in 1919 and eventually emigrated to the U.S. […]

The “Lavender Scare”: Homosexuals at the State Department

In the 1950s and 60s, security within the U.S. government, including the State Department, was on high alert for internal risks, particularly Communists and what were considered to be sexual deviants—homosexuals and promiscuous individuals. Investigating homosexuality became a core function of the Department’s Office of Security, which ferreted out more people for homosexuality than for […]

Normalizing Ties with Franco: “I don’t have to like the son of a bitch, do I?”

For many people, Spain in the 1930s and 40s was a country of despair, where the dreams of democracy and freedom were brutally crushed during the Spanish Civil War. Its leader, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, had proclaimed Spain’s neutrality during World War II, yet still provided war materiel and assistance to the Axis Powers. Franco then […]

“Vive Le Québec Libre!” — When Canada’s Separatist Movement Turned Violent

Scotland, Catalonia, Northern Ireland, Quebec –Western regions with distinct histories and linguistic identities, which have at times also experienced violent episodes of nationalism. For Quebec, the month of October in 1970 was its darkest hour, as the Front de Liberation du Québec (FLQ), a separatist paramilitary group formed in 1963 advocating the creation of an […]

“The State Department has always been a whipping boy”

Charles “Chip” Bohlen (August 30, 1904 – January 1, 1974) served in the Foreign Service from 1929 to 1969 and succeeded George Kennan as Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1953–1957). He later served as Ambassador to the Philippines (1957–1959), and to France (1962–1968) and was one of the nonpartisan foreign policy advisors known as “The […]

Dean Acheson – Architect of the Cold War

Dean Gooderham Acheson served as Secretary of State under President Truman from 1949-1953. Noting his enormous influence, historian Randall Woods described Acheson as “a primary architect” of the Cold War. A lifelong Democrat, he began his career in public service as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. He was appointed Under Secretary […]