Prior to mid-August 1960, the United States had limited diplomatic activity in the French African colonies. However, within a 48-hour time span, Alan Wood Lukens, the U.S. Consul in Brazzaville, suddenly had plenty to do when the French announced a rapid withdrawal from their African colonies.
This action suddenly promoted him de facto as the only U.S. representative to four new countries. Fortunately, the 36-year-old World War II veteran from Pennsylvania had experience at performing under pressure and was well equipped to think on his feet. Arriving in Central Africa after stints in Paris, Martinique, and Istanbul, Brazzaville was simply a new adventure for him.
With the French withdrawal from their African colonies in 1960, formerly unified colonial states were rapidly given their independence and separated into distinct countries. Lukens, then Consul of French Equatorial Africa stationed in Brazzaville, was the only U.S. representative in the area when it was announced that the four countries of Central Africa—Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and the Central African Republic—would each become officially independent within 48 hours of one another. Unfortunately for Lukens, since France tended to take the lead on Western policy in Central Africa, he didn’t have much official guidance from the U.S. government to draw from. Furthermore, policy was hard to solidify from the top down as the Eisenhower administration entered its twilight era and the election between Nixon and Kennedy loomed. At this point of transition, Lukens jumped into action. He realized that in order to get diplomatic relations off on the right foot, and as a show of goodwill, these countries needed a U.S. representative at their independence ceremony.