• Home

forign policy


The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Foreign Affairs Oral History Project


Interviewed by: Hank Zivetz

Initial interview date: June 6, 1989

Copyright 1998 ADST



Entry into Foreign Service 1948

Vienna 1948-1949

Life in divided Austria

Political situation

Hamburg 1949-1954

Visa and political officer

Khorramshahr, Iran 1960-1962

Principal officer

Shatt – al – Arab Problems

View of Shah

Arms to Iran

NATO 1968-1971

Reaction to 1069 invasion of Czechoslovakia

Helsinki Declaration

Cairo 1974-1976


Kissinger shuttle diplomacy

Acting as Charge

Ambassador to Kuwait 1976-1979

U.S. objectives



Kuwait and Arab world

Director Sinai Support Mission 1980-1982


Israeli withdrawal

Technical monitoring

Problems of on-site Egyptian deployment

Manila 1971-1974

Political counselor

Ferdinand Marcos

Political situation

Martial law


American policy

Cairo 1974-1976



Importance of embassy

Kuwait’s military purchases and ambassador


[Note: This interview was not edited by Ambassador Maestrone.]

Q: Mr. Ambassador, just to begin, how and why did you become involved with the

Foreign Service? How did you get into the diplomatic career?

MAESTRONE: Well, that’s a rather interesting and somewhat amusing story, in that I

was a military government officer in Würzburg, Germany right at the end of the war, and

I stayed on for another year. This occurred just after the end of the war. There was an

announcement that Foreign Service exams would be given again. They had been

suspended during the war, and they would be given throughout the world in various

places where the military people could take them. One of the testing spots was going to

be Oberammergau, Germany. I had been trying to get some leave from my commanding

officer, and he said, “No, we have too much to do.” Along came the circular saying you

will get five days’ temporary duty in Oberammergau if you want to take the Foreign

Service exam.

So I said, “This is a splendid idea. I’ll get five days temporary duty in Oberammergau and

I’ll take whatever this Foreign Service exam is.” So I proceeded ahead in driving down in

my Adler convertible with my chauffeur to stay in the post hotel in Garmisch-

Partenkirchen, which is nearby Oberammergau and took the Foreign Service exam and I



Q: Then how long after that did you enter the Service?

MAESTRONE: It was sometime after that. I came in ’48, actually. In fact, I think my

appointment was dated February 12, Lincoln’s birthday, 1948.

Q: Well, you’ve had a long and very varied career, and we can’t cover all of your

experiences. But insight into some might be of great value to future researchers. For

example, in your first posting in Vienna in 1948-49, you were present when the

occupation ended and the Austrian peace treaty was concluded. Could you reminisce a

bit about U.S.-Soviet relations in Vienna and the general political atmosphere from an

American Embassy perspective?

MAESTRONE: The relations between the United States and the Soviet Union in Vienna

were cool but correct, in that we were already entering, more or less, the period of the

Cold War, although people, perhaps, didn’t really appreciate that this was occurring. We

were, for example, at the legation. This was an American legation at the time. We had not

exchanged ambassadors with Austria, because Austria had been a small country. It’s only

after the war that every small country had to have its relations elevated to the level of


We were, for example, not permitted to travel freely through the Soviet occupied zone of

Austria. We had to obtain a gray card from the Soviet authorities, which had to be applied

for and generally, at least a week ahead of time, if you wanted, say, to drive down to the

American zone in Salzburg, for example. Sometimes it was given to you fairly readily,

and other times, it was a delay that might cause you to cancel your plans. The members of

the legation were recommended not to venture into the Soviet zone unless they were

doing this, of course, on official business.

So relations were rather tense, but not overly so, at the time. One was suspicious of the

Soviet intentions even at that time, in that particular area.

Q: It has been said that first the American occupation government, then later the

American diplomats, dealt with former Nazis, Austrian Nazis, because they seemed to be

able to pull the reins of government together a little easier than those who didn’t have

experiences. What was your view, at that point, in terms of the Austrians with whom you

had to work?

MAESTRONE: Well, in the first place Austria was not an occupied country in the same

sense as Germany. It was considered a liberated country, at least by the Western Allies. I

assume the Soviets subscribed to that as well, although they carried out their occupation

as they felt that they needed to, in the same way that they did in Germany.

The political situation there was pretty much dominated by socialists, so that there was

very little role for any former Austrian Nazis. I don’t recall that being a problem in

Austria. Of course, we did not have the kind of control that we had in Germany and


where we, for example, could legislate law number eight, which set standards for the

employment of German Nazis, particularly in government positions, etc. You have to

remember that under the circumstances in Austria, there was an Austrian government

actually functioning. Germany was quite different. It was divided into separate zones.

There was no central authority.

Q: Now, also in Hamburg you experienced the end of military government and the

establishment of the high commission in Germany. How would you gauge American

attitudes at the time toward a future for Germany, and also for relations with the Soviet


MAESTRONE: Before I answer that, I would like to make just one comment about one

of the previous questions that you asked. Namely, I was not in Vienna when the State

Treaty was signed and the so-called occupation of the Allied powers, including the Soviet

Union, ended. I was in Salzburg on a later assignment as consul there.

Now to get to your question about Germany, the attitude of the Americans, on the whole,

was one of a certain skepticism as to Soviet policies as they seemed to be developing. Our

interest seemed, mainly, to put Germany back on its feet, not necessarily as a major

industrial, and certainly not military, power, but to enable the Germans to rebuild their

economy sufficiently to take care of themselves. We were pouring a good deal of money

and supplies in there to help maintain the German economy and, particularly, to feed the

Germans in the initial stages. So we wanted them to take over the responsibility of taking

care of themselves.

Q: Was that the essence of the work being done at the consulate in Hamburg? With whom

were you dealing on the German side out of the consulate and on what issues?

MAESTRONE: I had several assignments during my four and a half years in Hamburg.

Initially, I was a visa officer under the displaced persons program. I actually helped set up

a visa office in a refugee camp, former German barracks, outside of Hamburg.

Subsequently, I became chief of the visa section in Hamburg in the office in town.

Following that I was in the economic section, where I wrote some of the first reports after

the war about beet sugar production in Germany, about the fishing industry in Germany.

Then, my last two years, I was a political officer and occupied the position of deputy land

observer for Hamburg. That system that had been set up under military government was

that there would be land commissioners in the various provinces in Germany. Obviously,

American commissioners were in the American zone, British commissioners were in the

British zone. Hamburg happened to be in the British zone, so that they had a British land

commissioner. But the role for the other Allies, the United States and France, not the

Soviet Union, was to have land observers. In other words, we were there to observe how

the–one, the land commissioner carried out his occupation functions, and two, to keep an

eye on what the Germans were doing.


Q: In Hamburg did you have any contacts with the Soviet Union?

MAESTRONE: None whatever.

Q: None whatever. Moving along, as a sidebar to the recent Iran-Iraq war, I know that

you were consul and principal officer in Khorramshahr in 1960-62, when the oil terminal

was constructed on Kharg Island. Was there any indication at that time that this remote

area would become the focus of a bloody war?

MAESTRONE: Well, when I was in Khorramshahr, we had two crises that occurred

between Iran and Iraq. Both of them were over the question of how the boundary line that

was set along the Shatt-al-Arab River. The Shatt-al-Arab is formed, as you know, by the

confluence of the Tigris and the Euphrates and then flows past Basra in Iraq, and past

Khorramshahr and Abadan in Iran into the Persian Gulf. These crises concerned the

question of the boundary line as I have mentioned–namely, that in 1913 a boundary

commission accepted the boundary between Iran and Iraq at that point at the low water

mark of the Shatt-al-Arab on the Iranian side.

Q: Boundary commission made up of whom?

MAESTRONE: The boundary commission was made up of the Ottoman Turks, who

were then in control of the other side of the Shatt-al-Arab, what is now Iraq. The Russians

and the British, and I think the Iranian government was also represented there, but in

those days the Russians and the British pretty much ran Iraq.

Q: Iran, you mean.

MAESTRONE: I’m sorry, Iran, and the British were particularly influential in southern


Q: Did this dispute result in violence?

MAESTRONE: What actually happened was the Iranians were shipping so much oil from

Abadan and also from other ports to the major international oil companies. I think the

seven sisters, so called, were almost all involved in the Iranian consortium. It was

operating the Iranian oil production at that time. The Iranians felt that this would be a

good time to establish their claim that the dividing line between Iran and Iraq should run

along the median line or the middle of the Shatt-al-Arab River, which is the normal way

boundary lines are set when bodies of water, or particularly rivers, divide two countries or


Therefore, the particular thing that bothered them was that every ship coming up into

Abadan and Khorramshahr had to have an Iraqi pilot, since the waters were Iraqi territory.

They felt that this was very demeaning for ships to come up to the great country of Iran

with an Iraqi pilot leading them into Abadan and Khorramshahr, which were their major

ports in those days. Therefore, they decided that they would no longer accept any ship


which had an Iraqi pilot aboard. They thought that the Western countries would want

their oil so badly that they would send their ships up anyway and the Iraqis wouldn’t dare

challenge the Western powers. Well, in fact, the Iraqis moved artillery down along the

banks of the Shatt-al-Arab and said that any ship coming up without an Iraqi pilot would

be shelled. So captains of oil tankers were not about to run their ships up the Shatt-al-

Arab under that sort of a threat. So nobody came up the river.

The Iranians expected the Western powers to exert pressure on Iraq to force them to make

this change. The Western powers had no intention of doing that, and eventually, after

about a month, when all their tanks became filled, and they were starting to cut back on

the refining of oil in Abadan because they had no place to put it, the Iranians finally

desisted and gave up their…

Q: Who was the ruler of Iran at this time?


Q: The Shah, the Pahlavi, not the father.


Q: What was the American official government attitude in this controversy between Iraq

and Iran at that time?

MAESTRONE: Well, our attitude was one of being completely neutral in this. This was a

local affair in which we were not interfering.

Q: Did the British exert any influence?

MAESTRONE: No, they took the very same position. All of them took the same position.

As far as I was concerned, I talked to the people who were responsible for this down in

Abadan and pointed out to them that their case was hopeless if they expected the Western

powers to come to their assistance. But they refused to accept my advice, and finally, had

to give in. This not only happened once, but it happened twice. The next year, at the

urging of the new Abadan port director, who was, incidentally, a very cultured, well-

educated man. He had been educated in Switzerland and Belgium, spoke fluent French,

excellent English. At his urging, the Shah, I guess, authorized their undertaking the same

effort again, which resulted in the same failure, and my good friend, the port director,

ended up in jail in Tehran.

Q: Was this before the United States began to arm and support Iran as one of our

bulwarks in that part of the world?

MAESTRONE: Yes, this was, in one sense, this was before we began making major arms

shipments to Iran. Although we were supplying them with military equipment and we did


maintain military advisory groups, MAG groups, there. We had a small one in

Khorramshahr, at the Navy base there. A couple of naval officers were there helping with

training and handling some of the technical aspects of the equipment, the way they were

being supplied. We had a MAG group up in Ahvaz, which was the capital of Khuzestan,

the major province of my consular district, from which most of the oil came. They were

helping train the Iranian Army. But the training was more basic at that point.

Later on, as the Iranian Army improved its general capabilities, the decision was made in

the time of President Nixon and Henry Kissinger that the Shah would become our

bulwark in the Middle East. They supplied him with all sorts of very sophisticated arms,

and it was a different situation to that extent.

Q: One more observation on Iran before we move to another part of the world. Could you

at that time assess the attitude of the Iranian people toward the Shah, and perhaps, to

project what ultimately happened in Iran?

MAESTRONE: I was, perhaps, not in as good a position as others in Iran, those in Tehran

and other consulates, because my consular district had a population which was about 75%

Arab. The Iranians who were there were pretty much the managers, supervisors, etc., of

the operations, particularly the oil operations that took place there, or business people, all

of whom were very supportive of the Shah. But even the Arab population, the Arab-

Iranians, if you can call them that, were all very loyal to the Shah. There were some who

were unhappy when he dropped Soroya and got his new queen, Farah Diba. For quite

some time there were stories of some of the bazaaris having pictures of the Shah and

Soroya still hanging in the backs of their shops, whereas, they should have been hanging

up a picture of Farah Diba, which was passed around, of course. But many of those

shopkeepers tended to be Iranians and particularly Bakhtiaris, from which tribe Soroya

originally came.

Q: Okay, let’s move ahead a little bit to NATO. In 1968 you were deputy assistant

secretary general in NATO and chairman of the NATO political committee. It was in this

period in the summer of 1968 when the Soviets and some of the Warsaw Pact Allies

invaded Czechoslovakia. Can you tell us, as an insider, some of the reactions of NATO?

MAESTRONE: Yes, they were rather interesting. The initial reaction within NATO came

from the Supreme Allied Commander General Lemnitzer, who from his headquarters in

Kasto, asked the Secretary General to give him an assessment of what all this various

movement meant in Eastern Europe. This was going on before the Warsaw Pact invasion

of Czechoslovakia. The NATO countries in our discussions in the political committee,

which I was chairing at that time, and where I had the responsibility to prepare an

assessment, which was then sent by the Secretary General to General Lemnitzer. The

attitude of the members of NATO was very cooperative. Everybody provided all the

intelligence, all the material that they had, all of their best analyses, etc., and put them

into the hopper, so to speak, at the political committee.


In discussions at the level in the council about the various steps that we might take,

particularly moving into various stages of alert for the NATO powers, there was not that

much unanimity. Some countries were particularly very cautious, and very doubtful about

taking any steps that might possibly give the wrong sign to the Soviets. The Canadians

were especially notable for their very cautious approach to this. The Danes, too, were

pretty much like that. There was a good deal of caution displayed, generally, in the

council, but, on the whole, the major powers, Britain, France, and the United States, did,

and also with support from Italy and some of the other Mediterranean countries. The

General, the Supreme Allied Commander, was given authority to take the steps he

thought were necessary in terms of raising the level of alert. Otherwise, no real military

action, particularly movement of troops, etc., took place, or was authorized, shall I say.

I’m not sure whether they took place or not, but they certainly weren’t authorized by the

NATO council.

Q: You suggest, then, that even before the Soviets moved on Czechoslovakia, there was

intelligence at NATO that there was that possibility?

MAESTRONE: Oh, yes, in my final assessment, we did not rule out the–matter of fact,

we specifically said we did not rule out the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets.

Q: Now, once the invasion took place, was there an escalation of the readiness position

of NATO? Was there a change in the posture of NATO?

MAESTRONE: Well, by that time, we had come to the conclusion, and we could tell

from the actions that were taken by the Warsaw Pact, that this did not represent a threat to

NATO as such. Our concern had been that there might be a spillover, and this was the

spillover which would have involved some of the NATO countries bordering

Czechoslovakia, particularly Germany. Therefore, there would have possibly been some

incident that could have exaggerated the situation. In fact, there wasn’t–we could tell

from the way the Warsaw Pact troops were being moved, and the actions that were being

taken, that this did not represent a threat to NATO, as such. Therefore, there was really no

call for any further military action, other than the stage of alert that we had gone to. The

NATO powers all began protesting the Warsaw Pact action and making statements

condemning it. That was about the extent of it at that point.

Subsequently, when the NATO council met in November, a couple of months later, the

Council of Foreign Ministries had a very interesting and detailed discussion of this

situation. It came up with a communiqué, which was very strong in its opposition to this

so-called Brezhnev Doctrine. Particularly, it made the point in a very clear matter,

without actually using the name of Yugoslavia, that any action that might be taken against

Yugoslavia, which you remember had veered away from the Soviet bloc, would have very

severe consequences, or grave consequences, as it was put. This was a very clear signal

that the Soviets–the NATO powers would not condone that kind of an action.


Q: Yet, in your tenure in Brussels, there was an obvious shift in attitude toward the Soviet

Union, in preparation for the Helsinki meeting, and I understand that you were involved

in the political advisor study that led to the Helsinki Declaration. What was NATO’s

input to Helsinki, and what were the attitudes of the NATO Americans, those Americans

in NATO and others, about an accommodation with the Soviets?

MAESTRONE: The NATO input into what came out of the Helsinki conference, namely

the Helsinki Declaration, was a major contribution. To answer your question, the input

from NATO which resulted in the Helsinki Declaration was a major one. In fact, at a

certain point, there were indications from a number of NATO countries, particularly the

smaller countries, Denmark, Belgium, Canada, and others, that NATO should be more

responsive to these calls which the Soviet Union was making for a European security

conference. These calls had been going on for quite a number of years back into the ’50s,

but they seemed to elicit, at least, a greater interest among certain NATO members, who

wanted to have NATO consider going to a European security conference.

I was particularly concerned by this development and spoke to the Secretary General

Manlio Brosio and suggested that this might be a good time to conduct a study which

would look at the advantages and disadvantages to NATO of participating in a European

security conference. He agreed, and he put this proposition to the council, and it was

approved by the NATO council. The political committee then undertook an extensive

study, which lasted for a couple of years, at least, in which–I should say lasted longer

than a couple of years–but in which I participated for a couple of years before I was

transferred. So that a lot of the basic work for the Helsinki conference was done in the

NATO political committee.

Q: Now this study–that’s very interesting–this study involved itself in issues in areas

beyond the military context. Did it go into human rights and other things that came out of

the Helsinki?

MAESTRONE: Yes, it initially started with a discussion of confidence-building

measures, which is a subject of a continuing conference that came up with the Stockholm

Declaration, or–I forget what it was called–a few years back which is continuing now in

Vienna, and also discussed the various political impacts that this kind of a conference

could result in. As I recall, it was the Italians who brought into the discussion the question

of human rights and the freedom of information, etc., and that was added to our


So the three baskets which came out of the Geneva preparatory meetings for the Helsinki

Conference originated in the NATO discussions and were included in the political

committee’s report.

Q: Was the American position at that time favorable to proceeding with this conference?


MAESTRONE: Interesting enough, in the initial discussions, the United States, Britain,

West Germany were all opposed to going to any European Security Conference, and took

a fairly hard line in this connection. Although they participated very actively in the

studies and made–particularly the United States and Britain made excellent contributions

to the study.

An interesting development that took place, subsequently, was that, in the days of

President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State, there came the desire to

make some foreign policy progress in our relationships with the Soviet Union,

particularly, I think, in connection with the reelection of President Nixon for domestic

political purposes. In any event, this was one of the driving forces and, suddenly, the U.S.

position changed from being opposed to attending the European Security Conference to

being very much in favor of it and pushing for the conclusion of the study and for a

movement toward a kind of understanding or rapprochement with the Soviet Union which

resulted in the Helsinki Declaration.

Q: The irony is that Nixon wasn’t around to take the bows or the brickbats. Because if I

remember correctly, the reaction in the United States for its participation or acceptance

of this was not all positive.

MAESTRONE: I gather it wasn’t. By that time, I was in Manila, in the Philippines, and

did not receive as much information about the reactions in the United States and in the

other countries about this declaration.

Q: Okay, now maybe we can move closer to your tour as ambassador to Kuwait, but,

first, a word about Henry Kissinger and his peace shuttle, and the negotiations for the

second Sinai disengagement during your tour as DCM in Cairo. How might you

characterize the sentiments of your embassy colleagues toward the events of the war and

the efforts to work out an accommodation?

MAESTRONE: I arrived in Cairo a number of months after the war. It was just about a

year after the October ’73 War I was there, late September 1974. The embassy was then a

very small embassy. It was very active in resuming relationships with the Egyptian

government, which had been suspended since 1967, and only resumed early–I think, it

was in February or March of 1974 that the embassy was reestablished in Cairo. We had

had an interests section operating there before. The members of the embassy were all very

interested in this new political development.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your involvement with the Kissinger mission?

MAESTRONE: Well, we had at least ten visits by Henry Kissinger while I was there in

Cairo because of the shuttle activities. These came fairly frequently and completely

occupied the attention of the embassy, I mean, for all practical purposes–yes, it was still a

small embassy in those days, not the great monster that it is today. We had to devote all

our attention to supporting the Kissinger circus that came in. As with all visits by


Secretaries of State–and I have participated in these in my earlier days when I was in the

executive secretariat under John Foster Dulles. All of the secretaries of states’ visits are

circuses. I mean, they come in and there’s a great upset of everything the embassy is doing

and all attention is focused on them. But they were all aimed at achieving a peaceful

development of the relationships between Egypt and Israel, and they were well worth the

effort that’s put into them.

Q: You know, it’s been said, because of modern communications and transportation, that

many major issues are taken out of the hands of the people at an embassy, and the ball is

run by someone, like a Kissinger, out of Washington. Was there much input from you and

your colleagues in Cairo during these initiatives?

MAESTRONE: There was considerable input, particularly from our ambassador,

Hermann Eilts, who was very closely consulted by Henry Kissinger on many of the steps

he took with respect to Egypt. In fact, Ambassador Eilts was called away on consultation

by Henry Kissinger, not only to Washington, but often to other places where Kissinger

happened to be, particularly if it was not too far from the area. I think once he went to

Pakistan or something like that to consult on these matters, so that there was very close

consultation between the head of the embassy and the Secretary of State on these issues.

As a result of Hermann Eilts being absent a good deal of the time, I was chargé d’affaires

during some interesting developments there as well.

Q: Could you elaborate on some of these?

MAESTRONE: None of them were what you would call major developments. I

remember there was one issue in which the Egyptians were going to bring up a matter in

the United Nations about this whole relationship between Egypt and Israel, which would

have upset the Israelis and disturbed the course of these negotiations. I remember this

occurred in the summertime. Hermann Eilts was away on consultation. The Foreign

Minister Fahmy was up on the beach in Alexandria. He had a little beach kind of hut or

cottage there, to which he used to repair during the summer. I remember I had to drive up

there and negotiate with him while he was sitting in his bathing trunks on the beach there

to convince him to drop this U.N. effort that they were planning to undertake.

Q: Successfully, I assume?


Q: How was the swimming?

MAESTRONE: He did the swimming. I never h

forign policy


The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Foreign Affairs Oral History Project

Foreign Service Spouse Series


Interviewed by: Jewell Fenzi

Interview date: November 12, 2010

Copyright 2011 ADST



Work in Washington, DC 1950

Marriage to Foreign Service Officer Talcott Seelye

Mosbach, Germany 1950-1952

FSO Husband, Kreis Officer

US Military Government in Germany

Birth of child


Nazi loot

Amman, Jordan 1952-1955

FSO Husband; Political Officer


Living environment

Social environment



Beirut, Lebanon: FSI 1955-1956

FSO Husband’s Arabic language study


Kuwait 1956-1960

FSO Husband; Consul

Birth of son

Oil companies

VIP visitors

Visit by Amir

Social do’s and dont’s


City planning



Chevy Chase, Maryland 1960-1964

FSO Husband; Assigned to Department of State

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 1965-1968

FSO Husband; Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission

Golf course

Women’s restrictions



Religious police

King Feisal

Royal wedding in Taif

Bomb in the garden

American women’s club

Entertaining Saudi wives

VIP visitors

Home leave in the US 1968

Washington, DC 1968-1972

FSO Husband assigned to Department of State

Tunis, Tunisia; 1972-1975

Wife of US Ambassador to Tunisia


Designing the Embassy Residence


American Women’s Club

Adoption of Tunisian children

Kissingers visit

Rockefellers visit


Washington, DC 1975

Ambassador husband sent to Beirut, Lebanon

Husbands duties in Beirut, evacuation


Washington, DC 1975-1977

Damascus, Syria 1978-1981

Wife of US Ambassador to Syria





Living in Damascus

Internal Syrian fighting

Anti-US demonstrations

Escape planning

Secretary and Mrs. Vance visit

Senator Byrd and Mrs. Byrd visit

Assyrian ruins

Dealing with Children’s education

Jeddah American School

US Boarding schools

Preference for American schooling

General comments

Husband’s family background

Children’s activities


Q: This won’t go very long, it’s just to get a photo of you. Well, we’ve had quite an

adventure getting out here today and here we are, what with one thing and another. I like

to do things chronologically. I always like to know where you went to school, where you

met your husband, if he knew you were coming into the Foreign Service when you

married him, so if you’d like to start there.

SEELYE: Well, I came to Washington after college and worked for CIA, and there on S

Street was a little officer’s club and they needed hostesses, you had to interview for the

job, and I didn’t know anyone in town at all, so I thought this would be a nice way to

meet people.

Q: Was this during the war?

SEELYE: 1950. And so there at the officer’s club, I met my husband and six months later

we were married. He happened to live on the same street that I lived on, and he had tried

to reach me at the CIA, but they wouldn’t give my phone number out, so he lost contact

for a month or two, until he saw me walking down the street to the drugstore on

Connecticut Avenue, and he caught up with me. He was due to go overseas to be a Kreis

Resident Officer in Germany just before Germany became independent. The program

was taking the place of the American military, who had been ruling three states in

Germany. The British had the top, northern states;( the French had the southern and we

had the middle states) We were married in March and went right away to Germany.

There were 27 officers and their wives. We ended up in a village called Mosbach, not

very far from Heidelberg. I had gotten pregnant there and had the baby in the American


hospital in Heidelberg which was a big mistake because the Germans really wanted me to

have the baby in Mosbach. We were the only Americans living there, you see. Each one

of the officers lived in these little counties; they were the only Americans in these

counties. We were there to educate the Germans in preparation for independence. So

anyway I had the baby in the American hospital, which was a big mistake because it was

my only difficult labor, my only difficult birth. In this American military hospital they

never paid any attention to me. So, the baby is born there. We lived in a great big

industrialist’s house on the hill, overlooking this village, and we did a lot of entertaining.

It was part of the job. We had a lot of cultural activities to introduce the people in the

village to things like Mendelssohn, or Tchaikovsky, which they’d never been allowed to

hear, and certain literature they hadn’t been allowed to read during the Nazi regime. So,

that was our first assignment and it was a really unique assignment, just living there, by

ourselves, with no one but Germans. I had a lot of German friends and I’d be invited to

coffee klatches. The coffee was always made out of bark, the bark of wood, and I’d come

home feeling quite sick because it was pretty awful. I’m not a coffee drinker anyway—in

spite of that we got to know Germans very well. We made a lot of long-term friends


Q: Go ahead because it’s recording here, and I’ll play with it.

SEELYE: And the interesting thing is this was an enormous house with a big bomb

shelter and a wine cellar with eight bedrooms in it. Before we left, we found in the

basement, behind the wine stocks, huge oil paintings, museum type oil paintings, that

obviously this industrialist had stolen, so we turned them over to the American

authorities. (So that was our only assignment in Europe , this two year assignment in

Germany). But it was a really unique one. And every one of the young officers says that

this was the most unique experience they ever had in the Foreign Service. Germany

became independent two years later. So, then, a lot of those officers fell in love with

Germany, or wanted to serve in Europe, but my husband never did, he wanted to

specialize in the Middle East, so after that we were always in the Middle East, and he

became a very good Arabist. Our next assignment was Jordan in 1952-1954. Amman was

a very tiny little village. It was built on seven hills. Upon arrival we were moved into the

only hotel in town before we could find our house. It was just a pretty dreadful

experience because I had never lived in the Arab world, and it was pretty backward .Our

baby had to sleep in the bathtub of our room. Every time I took her outside I would rush

right back in, because you couldn’t see anything except Bedouin tents up above the hill,

and bedouin everywhere, with their black outfits and their big knives on their belts. That

was pretty scary for a girl from Norwich, Connecticut.

But once we found a house to live in, I realized that life was going to be pretty normal

there. See, the embassy was a small embassy, it was a relatively new embassy; we had

only five officers and their wives. Talcott was the junior officer. We made a lot of Arab

friends which was our duty and always our great pleasure (We did so enjoy making local

friends wherever we were). Our job was not to associate with Americans, necessarily, or

other diplomats. We concentrated a lot on local people. My husband was in the process of

learning a little bit of Arabic there. He had been born and brought up in Beirut, as the son


of professors at American University, so he had had some exposure to Arabic, and some

exposure to the Arab world. I had had none, so this transition was difficult. I didn’t know

where we were going to live; how could I live in this place, and how could I bring my

little baby up here? As soon as we moved into that house, on one of those seven hills, I

discovered that was where many Americans, Europeans, and sophisticated Arabs lived.

That was the beginning of a nice tour, and again, since the embassy was so small, there

was no women’s club, so I played a lot of tennis, and went to Jerusalem often. Jerusalem

lies on a plateau opposite Jordan with the Dead Sea in between. So, I would go over to

Jerusalem quite often, and I loved it. Jordan was a land-locked country at that point, and I

felt it, because I had been born and brought up near the ocean. Although of course it’s not

landlocked; there’s a tiny little exposure to the sea in the Gulf of Aqaba. But in those

days there were no roads to such places. Now it’s a tourist place, Aqaba. So Jordan does

have some access to the sea, small as it is.

Let me see what else. In Amman, I had a second child, who we named Ammanda, which

actually means, “In Amman” in Turkish. And we left the two “m’s” in her name, so

people were kind of curious about how we were spelling her name. She was born in an

Italian missionary hospital, but it was perfectly adequate, and we were well taken care of

by the nuns.

Jordan was a short assignment of about two years, and then from there, we – oh, then my

husband decided he definitely wanted to be an Arabist. Our next assignment was Beirut

where we had a big language school. The British had their language school up in the

mountains. We had ours in Beirut. So he did a year, having already had some Arabic

study there on his own in Amman. Beirut was quite like heaven after coming from

Amman. Beirut is a gorgeous place and we had a delightful year there. Of course,

eventually, years later my husband went back to Beirut in the 1980’s, when our

ambassador and economic counselor were assassinated. At the time, my husband was

Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and he was in the Congo on a trip when he

was called back by the department to go to Beirut to get the American ex-pats safely out

of Beirut. There was a huge American community there. I didn’t go with him that time.

Even though we only had had one year there the rest of our lives I was always going up

to Beirut. It was like going to New York from here. You just had to go. And, as soon as

you stepped off the plane from Jeddah or Kuwait or wherever, you felt like a woman

again. It was just wonderful. There was the sea and there wasn’t anything you couldn’t

buy there plus great restaurants and friendly people and cultural activities.

After that assignment where Talcott was learning Arabic we were assigned to Kuwait

where we spent nearly five years — First off, it was the Vice Consul position ( the post

was a consulate, not a consulate general, and also very unique because they only reported

to the department. Kuwait was at that time a British Protectorate with no other foreign

representatives except the British who had control of all the states in the Gulf. It was a

big oil producing country.) (The oil company was run by BP and Gulf Oil with a large

American presence there because of oil . Hence the U.S. Consulate. Eventually Talcott

was promoted to Consul so we moved into the consulate ,a building on the sea which

contained both office and Consul’s residence. Our third child, our only son was born in a


tiny hospital in the middle of the desert , a hospital associated with the oil company

between Kuwait City where I lived and the oil company. But, I had two good midwives,

an English midwife and an Indian midwife and a perfectly easy delivery. That was my

third child, named for his father, a rather stuffy-sounding name which our son always


We had a long tour in Kuwait during which we had a lot of VIP visitors because it was at

that point, the richest country in the world, per capita. So, it was a wonderful time ,

simple as the tiny Sheikhdom was, because we got to know the people. We spent a lot of

time calling on the Kuwaitis. I have some memories of unusual things that happened

there, like the wife of one of the sheiks whose husband had just died, and she had

inherited billions of dollars. So she called me to visit saying come and have coffee or tea

with me—I need advice on how I should invest two billion dollar. “I’m sorry Sheikha,

but this is not the business we’re in,” I said, and at that point, we weren’t really allowed

to recommend or get involved in such matters. I went home to tell Talcott what she

wanted of me, and I guess he must have discreetly suggested an American bank….It was

protocol for the Ruler of Kuwait to have an annual dinner, one month, at the British

residence, the following month at the Consulate. It was always a nerve-racking

experience because he was a very glum-looking man. He’d sit for an hour before dinner

with the women, and then we would all go into the dining room. In those days, it may

still be a habit, bedouin people don’t talk when they eat. So the dinner would proceed.

The ruler would sit next to me, and we wouldn’t say a word. I was instructed by my

husband, “Don’t forget, you don’t talk! We were always taught to make conversation—

its hard not to. After dinner the Ruler would join the men in the other part of the living

room. What a relief for me! Going to his palace for dinner was quite an experience too.

Now Kuwait is a skyscraper city but back then it was a mud village behind a wall built to

fend off the invading Saudi tribes. So we would go to his little palace for supper, and the

long table would have an oil-cloth sheet on it. Actually, I figured out it would be some

kind of shower curtain, and we were supposed to eat with our hands; there were no

utensils. That was quite a challenge. I would watch the man next to me. So you’d take the

rice, roll it into little balls, and pop it into your mouth, and sometimes it would explode

on the way in. I never knew whether or not to be glad or sad not to have been offered the

sheep’s eyeball.

Q: I bet that would happen with couscous.

SEELYE: Well, it’s exactly the same, but then we had gravy on top of it, on top of bread.

The gravy would run down your arm, I don’t even know if there were napkins. It was

quite an experience. I would call on other sheikhas.

For instance I had to call on the ruler’s brother’s new wife. The highest ranking British

women and I went to call on this sheikha for tea in the afternoon, and she greeted us in an

evening dress—very formal ball dress with a bib of diamonds and emerald which covered

her chest. Actually, the dress was very décolletage, the jewels enormous with earrings so

heavy she had to keep taking them off, and putting them back on. She was covered with


thousands of dollars, and the poor thing ( we had to laugh quietly) because she was

dressed like this at four in the afternoon. But she was a charming woman anyway.

And the other thing that I mentioned, Kuwait was a village, but as we were leaving, they

were planning to make it into a great city. I’m told that now it is a big city, but it’s not an

attractive city. I’ve never been back. All of those little states in the Gulf profited from the

mistakes that Kuwait made in rebuilding. One of the sheikhs in charge of developing the

city said to me- they all spoke English very well by the way – “Tell me, what kinds of

trees should we plant on the new boulevards?” So, I went to see the plans of the new city.

This was going to be the main street, and” we ordered all of these trees from France,” and

I said, “That’s so disappointing. This is the main boulevard? It ought to be a boulevard of

palm trees?” By then we’d been there nearly five years so were finally transferred, never

seeing how the new city grew, but yes those palm trees were planted.

After something like twelve years of being abroad, we finally went home to the U.S. with

three children who’d never really lived in Washington. I had only worked for the CIA for

six months, so I certainly didn’t know anything about the suburbs. So, I went back home

with the three children, and we settled in Chevy Chase. Thank goodness I had a lot of

neighbors. I was always asking the neighbors where to get milk, how to do this, and how

to do that, etc. It was like a foreign country to me because we had been abroad so many

years. We figured it all out, and enjoyed it, but never as much as we enjoyed living

overseas……After a four years in the States we were assigned to Saudi Arabia, an

important post– compound was huge; most of the embassy lived on the compound, but

the embassy personnel was expanding so some had to live off the compound. The

compound had tennis courts– it even had a golf course which was written up in Time

magazine, a story about the famous golf courses of the world. It had greens that were

made of tar. I don’t know how golfers ever came home with clean shoes. It was an

interesting post, a challenging post because women couldn’t drive, but my husband had a

driver, and unlike today, a wife could use her husband’s driver. It’s against the rules now

Q: In the State Department? Not in Saudi Arabia?

SEELYE: I was allowed to use my husband’s driver, but today in Saudi Arabia or in any

other country, a Foreign Service officer’s wife would not be allowed to use her husband’s

driver, a State Department rule

Q: But can they drive now?

SEELYE: No, women cannot drive yet in Saudi Arabia

Q: So, what are they supposed to do?

SEELYE: Well, when we found out there was not even a bus into town– the embassy

compound was way outside of town, my husband installed a bus service for the women.

But I was lucky and didn’t have to take that. I was able to use Talcott’s driver when he

was in the office. I love exploring, I just love exploring these places. I love camels. One


of the joys of living in Jordan was I would open up the gate, and there would be a vendor

on his camel, I loved it. I loved it. There were plenty of camels in Saudi Arabia,

obviously. We had an interesting personnel problem there, so challenging that the State

Department gave it as a problem to their deputy chiefs of mission who were going out to

new posts. What would you do with a problem like this? The problem was that we had a

CIA station chief whose wife was letting her house be used for assignations with the

British ambassador and his Swiss mistress.. And it was just awful; terrible, terrible,

terrible. We wanted to have them recalled but we had a brand new ambassador arrive

who had never been an ambassador before. The CIA agent was very senior. This

particular ambassador felt he couldn’t get rid of this CIA man and his really belligerent

wife. So they stayed and caused nothing but problems, and naturally I had to handle most

of it as the wife of the DCM, and it was very, very unpleasant. Morale was low anyway

because women couldn’t drive, and it was very hot, no place to go, and adding to this

quite a few maladjusted females all serving at Embassy Jeddah.

Q: What did you study in school? Did you feel qualified to take on a situation like that?

SEELYE: Yes. I took on the situation with the wife, you mean? Yes, I felt qualified to

handle the situation but the ambassador and wife wouldn’t back us because they were

afraid. When we left, they learned more and more about this couple and eventually the

couple was recalled. But I had to live through it. We recommended over and over again

to the ambassador and his wife that the couple had to leave; morale was low enough

without this additional problem.

As I said, I like to explore these cities. I feel as if I got my PhD in Arab studies , thanks to

the State Department, as I spent a good slice of my life in the Arab world. So nothing

came as a surprise– I spent a lot of time exploring the back alleys of Jeddah. One time, I

was out, unfortunately at noontime, I knew I should have been in and not on the street

because it was prayer time. I was out on the street and couldn’t get back to the car in time

when along came a religious policeman who had a baton, and he hit me across the leg

with it. I was properly dressed, with long sleeves, and the dress came below my knee –

properly dressed in those days. Now you have to be fully covered. But he hit me. I

decided that I knew the rules, yet I still broke that rule, so I recommended to my husband

not to make a complaint to the foreign ministry, because I had been wrong.

Q: So, he didn’t? Why?

SEELYE: Why make a problem when it was I who was wrong– and he didn’t cause my

later knee problem. And of course, there were no hospitals there, by the way. Now there

are great big American hospitals in the kingdom. I’m glad we served there because it was

already enormously rich, and it wasn’t the country it is today. In a way, it was a better

country. They had this king, King Faisal, who was a very enlightened man and had spent

a lot of time in the United States as a young man, preparing Saudi Arabia for entering the

U.N. So, he knew quite a bit about America. I had met him a couple of times by chance.


One time there was a big, royal wedding up in the mountains in Taif. All of the various

embassy wives were invited to attend. I was invited because our ambassador’s wife was

away and to bring along four or five other Americans, and my mother-in-law happened to

be visiting at the time so I took her along with the other wives. When we arrived in Taif

by plane we were put up in a guest house. That evening the reception took place in a huge

garden with hundreds of female guests. The king was the only male in attendance

at this wedding of one of his daughters. He was sitting on a little stage up at the far end

along with his wife, Queen Iffat, and he spotted me and said to all, “Make way for the

women of the American embassy.” Well, no one moved.

Q: The waters did not part.

SEELYE: So he got off the stage, came down, the crowd finally parted to let him

through, and reaching me he didn’t shake my hand, because men don’t, but he told me to

please follow him up to the front. It was a real treat to be led up to the front by no other

than the king! At that point my mother-in-law’s whose Turkish was absolutely perfect

(she was a great linguist) must have known about this awful earthquake that had just

taken place in Turkey. Queen Iffat had spent her life in Turkey, although she was a

member of the royal family, the Saudi royal family, she was brought up in Turkey. So,

the Queen came down from her seat, and sat on the stairs with my mother-in-law and

they cried and cried and cried together about the earthquake in Turkey. It was quite an

experience to be treated that way by royalty, no less. And if our ambassador’s wife had

been there the King wouldn’t have sent for us and my mother-in-law would not have

been invited.. I happened to have met him several times just by chance, so it was quite an

unusual experience.

We did have a bomb set off in our compound during the ’67 war. We had a wonderful

Palestinian gardener in our compound. Trees don’t grow there naturally. With the help of

this gardener we had quite a nice garden. Unfortunately, he was forced to put a bomb in

with a fern he planted. He did it in a way so no one was hurt, but he was hauled off to

jail, and we never heard from him again. He was probably killed, and tortured to death

leaving behind a family.

Then we had a lot of entertaining. We had an American women’s club there, and I was

very active with that. I also did a lot of entertaining with senior Saudi officials’ wives.

Often, they were just one generation from the tent. One day, two of them were driven up

to my house and started parking right in front of the house. The car was driven right up to

the front door between two hedges. This was a big Mercedes, and when I opened the

door, there they were! The car was scratched because it wasn’t a driveway; it was a

walkway. As the male help couldn’t be anywhere in the room I had to serve them, and I

served them angel food cake. They discovered by taking their forks, that if you hit angel

food cake it bounces back up. So they hit it and hit it. (Laughter) They were having fun!

Q: Did they finally eat it?


SEELYE: Yes, they did. (Laughter) By the end the poor cake was pretty flat, but they

finally ate it. Isn’t that funny? Things like that amused me.

Q: Of course.

SEELYE: They finally left, and went up to the ambassador’s residence to call on her. She

called and asked where they were. They were having too much fun with my angel food

cake. And another time, we had an awful lot of VIPs, a lot of visitors from America,

including all seven of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members and their wives.

The ambassador and his wife were both away at the time.

Q: Was there enough room in the residence to take care of them?

SEELYE: No. Actually, the Saudis were in the business of changing their capital up to

Riyadh, so the King spent most of his time in Riyadh. So, the Foreign Affairs Committee

landed there. I was also flown up in one of those cargo planes, the C-131s, an enormous

cargo plane that carry tanks; it was an amazing experience. It was totally empty, just me

and the two pilots. When you asked for the ladies’ room, you sort of had to hug the side

of the wall. Behind some curtain was a little toilet room and that was it in the way of

modern conveniences in this work-horse of a plane.. So, that was how I got up there. I

took the ladies to visit Queen Iffat while Talcott was dealing with the senators and the

king. And that was pleasant because the women were very nice; they were lovely people.

It went off quite well. Not all Congressional Delegation visits, as you might know, do,


Q: Try having Ted Kennedy!

SEELYE: I’ve heard. So, that went very well. As I said here, Saudi Arabia was an

experience, that’s all there was to it. And then next, we went home for a couple of years,

and then we went to Tunisia, which was Talcott’s first ambassadorial assignment. Tunisia

is absolutely gorgeous. It’s the land of the lotus eaters.

Q: When were you there?

SEELYE: We were in Tunisia from 1972 to 1975; it is the land of the lotus eater, and you

just don’t ever want to leave. The lotus eater, Odysseus, never wanted to go back to

Penelope, and I never wanted to leave Tunisia. It was beautiful. We had an aid mission

there. I was living in Carthage, and I absolutely loved Carthage. We eventually moved

from Carthage to the most gorgeous new residence that Uncle Sam has, and that’s why I

spent a lot of time with the foreign buildings operation of the department when I was here

before leaving making sure the design was correct. The design was a little bit off and they

listened to me, thank goodness. I would come over here to the Foreign Service Institute

before going out there; I saw the designs, and I knew that there were big errors in what

could have been a perfectly gorgeous place.

Q: Was it traffic patterns?


SEELYE: I got my way. Well, they had designed a great big marble atrium, and as you

walked in the door there was a little hall and beyond that was a huge atrium overlooking

the sea. The sea was right below us, and it was magnificent. They were going to close off

the atrium so it wasn’t going to be usable. I said this has to be used. It can’t just be closed

off by glass everywhere. You have to be able to walk into it. So I was able to fix that.

Then the dining room was going to be on the first floor down some very narrow little

stairs. It was very unattractive but I spotted an unused empty space over in a corner near

the narrow stairs in the plan. So, we widened the staircase and had this beautiful staircase

that went down and attracted people to go down there for dinner. Otherwise, who wants

to go down narrow, steep stairs especially in high heels? So we added a big landing with

a lovely Tunisian window, and then you went down another little flight of stairs to a

beautiful dining room. That was quite the experience to help design that residence, a

design which has been copied for other new residences.

Q: At least they listened to you.

SEELYE: Yes. You know, they did everything they could. The architects took me to

dinner here, they took me to lunch trying to convince me to give up my fight but I did not

give in.

Back to Tunisia, we were very, very well greeted there because most American

ambassadors were French-speaking, but he was an Arabist, and the press knew that.

Talcott gave a little talk at the airport, both in French an

forign policy

Requirement: –

I expect you to choose your own theme or country of focus, find at least two and no more than three interviews, and provide an
analysis/comparison/description in written form
. You will write the report in the style of a State Department reporting cable (TEMPLATE BELOW) of two to three pages in length (single spaced), which will count as 25 percent of your course grade. I will provide you a sample format of a State Department reporting cable, which you can use as a template. Your oral presentation, which will also count for 25 percent of your course grade, will simply be a 6–8-minute oral presentation of the written report.


Template for Mock State Department Telegram please follow this template exactly



Date/DTG: April 21, 2022



E.O.: 13526

TAGS: PINS, PREL, PTER, SOCI, SCUL, ECON, ID ((You can select suitable TAGs and TERMS for your cable by looking at the TAGS and TERMS handbook (
), which is available online by searching TAGS and TERMs handbook or by following the aforementioned link. Try to find at least two subject tags and a geographic (country) tag to use for your cable. Tags are generally four characters. Political tags begin with P, Economic tags with E, and Consular tags with C, for example. PREL means political relations.

Reference: 22 STATE 4395

Subject: Sample Format – State Department Reporting Telegram

1. (U) Summary. The summary paragraph provides an option for busy senior officials at the State Department and other agencies to get the most important points from your cable without taking the time to read the entire document. If the cable is related to their specific work portfolio or interests, they will read on. The summary in a State Department cable is often less a summary than it is a collection of the main points from throughout your cable. One way to organize the summary is to have one sentence in the summary that captures the main point from every one or two paragraphs in your cable. Generally, you’ll want to keep the summary to no more than five to six short sentences. End Summary.

2. (U) Think of most paragraphs of your cable as the body of the report. The body of the report should be matter of fact and should not include your personal views or comments, unless they are clearly indicated as such, as I have demonstrated in paragraph 8 below. Following the body of the report, which often relays the important points from an official meeting, a reporting officer will close with a paragraph that includes their comments or analysis. Think of the body as telling exactly what transpired and the comment or analysis as the reporting officer’s effort to explain what it means or why it’s important.

3. (U)

4. (U)

5. (U)

6. (U)

7. (U)


Signature: Kennedy, Jackie

Drafted By: Smith, Jane

Cleared By: Doe, John

Approved By: Smith, Tom

Released By: Smith, Jane

Info: Department of Defense, Routine