Moments Posted in A Moment in U.S. Diplomatic History

This is an archive of Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History posted in the A Moment in U.S. Diplomatic History category.

Sheila Platt: A Diplomatic Life Bridging Both Sides of China’s Divide

Few Americans have met personally with the leadership of both Mao Zedong’s China and Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan. Sheila Platt, and her husband Nicholas Platt, are among that select group.  Sheila Platt dropped out of Radcliffe in 1957 to join her Foreign Service husband in a storied diplomatic career that led him to ambassadorships in Zambia, […]



Whistle-Blowing on American Corruption in Russia

USAID unearthed a major corruption scandal in Russia in the late 1990s involving Harvard University’s Institute for International Development.  Dr. Janet Ballantyne, USAID’s mission director, blew the whistle. In her oral history, Ballantyne discusses the consternation this caused with U.S. Embassy leadership, and the repercussions of her reporting on relationships with key Russian officials. Throughout […]



Helping Rebuild Rwanda After the 1994 Genocide

Rebuilding Rwanda after the genocide was no easy task.  USAID tasked George Lewis to head up that agency’s efforts to help a nation heal after one of the most horrific episodes in recent history.  He faced extreme ethnic animosity, a destroyed country, and an “epic event in the history of human movement,” the return of […]



Removing Corpses from the U.S. Embassy: Behind the Scenes of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia  

After the fall of  Somalia’s dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, a civil war broke out between warlords.  In the ensuing conflict, an estimated 350,000 Somalis died because of famine, disease, and war-time casualties. With the death toll mounting, President George H.W. Bush sent a U.S.-led humanitarian force to Somalia.  It was among the earliest […]



Human Moments With George and Barbara Bush on the Eve of the 1991 Gulf War

Joseph C. Wilson IV oversaw the closing of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq in 1991, just before U.S. and allied forces launched Operation Desert Storm.  Wilson defied a directive from the State Department’s Operations Center to evacuate the American Embassy under cover of darkness, insisting that the U.S. departure be coordinated with the embassies of […]



Tracking the Politics of Burma (Myanmar) After the Flawed 1990 Elections

While democratic elections were held in Burma (Myanmar) by the military-led government in 1990, the elected parliament was never allowed to meet. Even before the elections were held, Aung San Suu Kyi (the daughter of one of the founders of Burma and leader of the National League of Democracy) was detained and subsequently put under […]



The State Department’s Air Wing and Counternarcotics Programs in South America

In the early 1990s, at the height of the “War on Drugs,” David Lyon took a break from consular work and accepted an assignment as the Director of the Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (INM/T—now INL for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement). Over the course of his three years with INM/T, Lyon […]



Travelling with First Lady Hillary Clinton to Romania: “She was Quite Incredible.”

As First Lady, Hillary Clinton traveled extensively to Central and Eastern Europe in order to foster ties with foreign governments and NGOs. She often selected a group of USAID staff to accompany her on these trips so they could give her advice about the different groups operating in the region. Barbara Turner accompanied the First […]



The “Blood Telegram” That Angered Henry Kissinger: Violence in East Pakistan/Bangladesh

Shortly after joining USAID in 1969, Desaix “Terry” Meyers found himself witnessing both the aftermath of a major natural disaster, and the devastating levels of sectarian violence that followed in East Pakistan in the early 1970s. After a cyclone hit Pakistan in the fall of 1970, killing over 500,000 people, a famine ensued. This particular […]



James Baldwin: The Expatriate Who Fought for His Country

James Baldwin is counted among the greatest and most influential of American authors. He died in 1987 at the age of 65, but his novels and commentary on race, sexuality, class, bigotry, and social activism continue to influence and inform discussions on these issues today. Baldwin moved to France in 1948 at the age of […]