The Author’s Message

“What did you do in the war, Daddy?” This best described my kids less than subtle message. To this day my daughter believed the CIA had employed me. When my son said, “Dad, you ought to start up a website about your past adventures,” it gave me pause. Did I really want to unearth my…

The CIA Girl Without a Name

[Part Two] American Consulate General Karachi | February 1978 I stood in the middle of the fourth floor hallway at the American Consulate General Karachi with mouth agape. I had stopped the new girl in the hallway and hadn’t even bothered to introduce myself to her. She said that she worked, “Upstairs.” During our brief…

The Pharaoh’s Curse Reaches Out | American Consulate General Karachi

February 1978 [Part One] After an arduous two weeks in Cairo trudging over one sand hill after another (not literally) I packed up and returned to Karachi. The majority of my time at the “sand pile” had been waiting on a radio repeater that was intended to extend the radio network coverage from Am Embassy…

Am Embassy Cairo | TUMS (Not a Remedy for a Stomach Ailment)

Late January 1978 Secretary of State Cyrus Vance spent less than twenty-four hours and a handshake with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Cairo. I would spend three weeks at post… <feature image of microwave radiation effects on US Embassy Moscow by abovetopsecret.com Before Regional Security Officer Childress left to join his family in Rockville, Maryland on…

The Cyrus Vance Cairo Detail | Radio Interference of the Third Kind

January 1977 At the Cairo International Airport ARRIVALS hall I looked out for the embassy driver dressed in dark trousers, blue cotton long-sleeve shirt with perspiration patches in the armpits, and a well-worn black tie (the drivers all seemed to wear the same uniform). <feature photo by ghettyimages.com When the American Embassy Regional Security Officer Childress…

Rome Fiumicino International Airport | Security Lapse

January 1978 I sipped coffee in a departure lounge café at Fiumicino airport. The New Year had afforded me about two weeks at Am Consul Karachi to get my shit together. My partner Al (a fellow tech out of the Office of Communications in D.C.) and I had figured out each other’s strengths and weaknesses….

Flashback: US Army | The Road to Donnersberg and Beyond

January 1970 I finished the Microwave Radio AN/FCC-18 Multiplexer Operations & Maintenance course at U.S. Army STRATCOM headquarters in Mannheim, Germany in mid-January. My classmates and I were immediately given temporary travel orders to proceed to our various assignments at STRATCOM microwave radio stations across Germany. I received a railroad ticket that would take me…

Flashback: US Army | The Night Train to Heidelberg (Part two)

January 1960 Looking back, I have to believe the high alcohol content German pilsner beer at the Nairobi Bar might have saved the three PFC’s that frigid night in Heidelberg… PFC Wertz, who had imbibed more than PFC Duggan and me, had become more coherent after falling on his wallet on an icy strasse (German street)….

Flashback: US Army | The Night Train to Heidelberg

January 1970 I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany after a major snowstorm. Several of us soldiers were being ferried from Frankfurt Am-Main Airport to a processing center downtown. I had learned to negotiate slippery sidewalks the hard way (I had fallen on my butt twice outside the airport). <feature photo by pinterest.com I learned that I…

Flashback: US Army, Ft Monmouth NJ | Freedom & Foreboding

Oceanport, New Jersey 1969 The importance of FREEDOM cannot be overstressed. My first true understanding of it occurred when I climbed out of the rear of a deuce-and-a-half truck wearing my US Army dress uniform at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. I stood alone with my duffle bag in tow as plumes of smoke puffed out of the…

Flashback US Army | Basic Training Blues II

June 1969 I had heard that it always rained in Seattle. Standing in formation inside the back gate at Fort Lewis, Washington at close to three o’clock in the morning it began to drizzle. Since most of us raw Southern California recruits didn’t bring a raincoat or jacket the rain and lower temperature got uncomfortable…

Flashback US Army | Basic Training Blues

June 1969 “You’re in the Army Now!” was beginning to register with me as the olive drab bus took us from the L.A. induction center out to Los Angeles International Airport where we flew a commercial airliner to Seattle. <feature photo by aahabershaw.com It was the first time I had ever flown on a jet…

Portrait of a Foreign Service Secretary | Welcome Aboard!

January 1978 | Am Consul Karachi—Stuck in an elevator (continued) After claiming she had accidentally sat on LBJ’s ten-gallon hat as an eight-year old youth BJ waited for the smile to melt off my face. Then she continued her autobiography while I fought to keep the elevator walls from inching closer … <Feature photo of…

Portrait of a Foreign Service Secretary | The Early Days

January 1978 | Am Consul Karachi (stuck in an elevator) My cohort Al had said to me on day one: “Watch out for BJ. She’s paddled around the world in a boat with one oar for the past thirty years.” When I got stuck in the Am Consul Karachi elevator with her I cursed myself…

Portrait of a Foreign Service Secretary | The End of a Career

January 1977 | Karachi, Pakistan The Saudi Air flight from Riyadh touched down at Karachi International Airport at close to eleven p.m. The Pakistani embassy driver smiled and took my luggage. It was too bad that I hadn’t stayed here long enough to meet more Pakistani people, but I enjoyed traveling. From what I had…

President Carter/Secretary Vance Joint Protective Detail | The Wrap Up

January 1978 | At the American Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia From my point of view as a radio tech the Carter/Vance S.Y. protective detail was all about the arrival and the departure. What happened in the hours in between were the harmonic byproducts of the constant chatter coming out of the base station’s speaker mixed…

President Carter/Secretary Vance Joint Detail | The Arrival

January 1978 | Riyadh, Saudi Arabia The second wake up call rousted me out of bed at 6:30 a.m. (instead of six a.m.). Thanks to our late engagement at the gold souk last night I would miss the breakfast buffet at the Hilton Hotel. But today was the big day–President Carter and Secretary Vance would arrive on…

1977 in Retrospect | An Incredible Year

January 1978 I began the New Year in the air. Ironically, the Thai International flight from Bangkok terminated at Karachi, Pakistan my home base where our Regional Communications Office resided in the American Consulate General. After a two-hour layover at the airport I changed planes to Saudi Arabian Airlines. I was surprised to see foreign…

A New Year’s Gaze Ahead | One Fearful Yellow Eye

Bangkok, Thailand New Year’s Day | January 1, 1978 On New Year’s Day, it wasn’t my intention to sit around and worry about what was going to happen in the future. I would play a small role in the upcoming Middle East Peace Initiative in three days time when U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance…

A Not So Merry Christmas | Bangkok, Thailand

Arrival: December 24, 1977 The Boeing 727 Nepal Airlines flight from Kathmandu had played like an accordion through the frigid Himalayas before the heavy aircraft plopped on the runway at Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport. The stewardess opened the hatch. It was late morning in Bangkok, but the heat didn’t care, nor had it paid attention…

A Christmas Memory | The Magi’s Coins

<feature photo of O. Henry by online-literature.com Excerpt from The Gift of the Magi, a short story by O. Henry: ONE DOLLAR AND EIGHTY-SEVEN CENTS. That was all. She [Della] had put it aside, one cent and then another and then another, in her careful buying of meat and other food. Della counted it three…

American Embassy Kathmandu | Mystery of the Himalayas

<Feature photo Kathmandu by hinducosmos.com Late December 1977 My flight to Kathmandu, after brief stopovers in Athens and New Delhi, was uneventful until a spectacular view of the Himalayas grew visible outside my window seat. Over the intercom, the captain praised the famed mountain range along with the weather. He said December normally began the…

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Arrives | The Middle East Peace Initiative Begins

December 1977 The Author: Perhaps Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat didn’t get the memo when former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had stated: “You can’t make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria.” Unbeknownst to the world Sadat had decided to bypass the influence of the Russians, Americans,…

The Jerusalem Advance Detail | An Overindulgent Sgt. Pepper

December 1977–Preparation for the US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Visit to Israel | The Middle East Peace Initiative Our driver Ben sped along the downtown avenue in the center of Tel Aviv on his way to Jerusalem. S.Y. Agent Halliday, not in a talkative mood this morning, sipped on his coffee. <feature photo by…

Middle East Peace Initiative | The Jerusalem Advance Team

December 1977 When I left RCO Karachi the repair bench was clear of radios. My cohort Al was happy. After returning from Riyadh next week Al hadn’t planned to go anywhere during the holidays other than attend a Christmas Thai dinner at the Thai Consulate General. I gave my servant Basheer a couple of hundred…

From the Middle East to Karachi | The Deep Blue Goodbye

Late November 1977 After completing my first Middle East trip I headed back to my home base of Karachi, Pakistan on the Thai International flight. It had only been about two weeks, but it seemed like two months. As the flight ascended to its thirty-some thousand feet cruising altitude, it forsook the stark blue of…

Political Wars and the Middle East Peace Initiative

Late November 1977 Late in the afternoon Am Embassy Amman Communications & Records Officer Paul Messenger handed me a heads-up confidential message from my boss in Karachi, RCO Roberson. Basically, it stated that my partner-in-crime in Karachi, Al, and myself would be supporting the Secretary of State Cyrus Vance detail during the Middle East peace…

American Embassy Amman | Chasing Third Order Harmonics

Mid-November 1977 I would never get used to the constant chatter of the HW-28 Teletype machines in the Communications & Records Units on the top floors of American embassies. How the CRU personnel managed to live with the persistent interference of thousands of mechanical parts endlessly clanging in their ears I would never understand. Interference…

American Embassy Amman | Déjà Vu and Other Anomalies

Mid-November 1977 I stopped at the bottom of the footsteps leading up to the entrance into the American Embassy Amman chancery. I couldn’t get over the familiarity. It was déjà vu—like I had been here before. This was odd given that I had visited less than ten embassies to date. <feature photo by pinterest.com Once…

Amman, Jordan | Visiting King Hussein of Jordan

Mid-November 1977 The Royal Jordanian Airlines flight had touched down at Amman International Airport with as little fuss as possible. No hand-clapping nor a mad rush to vacate the aircraft. I passed through passport control without holding my breath. <feature photo Amman, Jordan by atlas tours.net Although it wasn’t a modern air terminal my baggage…

Technological Miracles or Science Fiction?

Mid-November 1977 I had grabbed a copy of the International Herald Tribune as I boarded the short ALIA (Royal Jordanian Airlines) flight to Amman. The simple pleasure of reading a newspaper at thirty-some thousand plus feet up can not be overstated. >feature photo Arthur C. Clarke by apilgriminnamia.com I sipped on a cup of coffee…

The Middle East | Trick or Treat?

Author Note: With the Halloween holiday coming up tomorrow the author recalls how travel in the Middle East was sometimes a matter of “Trick or Treat” when passing through immigration or upon entering a foreign country.  What follows are a few brief vignettes of the author’s experiences (or misadventures) as a young Foreign Service recruit…

Beirut, Lebanon | As Raw as Steak Tartare

November 1977 I finished the secure voice radio installation at the ambassador’s residence at Mount Lebanon. George, the post security officer and purveyor of odd jobs at the American Embassy Beirut, had shown me a great view of the city below before we packed up and went to lunch. <Feature photo by oldbeirut.com My experiences…

Beirut, Lebanon | A View Through a Narrow Lens

November 1977 We arrived at the U.S. ambassador’s part time residence atop Mount Lebanon around ten a.m. unscathed. George had borrowed Ryan’s Saab sedan. He said it was less obtrusive that an embassy vehicle. I didn’t ask him what he thought about the ambassador cruising around in a black Lincoln Continental. I did ask George if…

American Embassy Beirut | A Night on the Town

November 1977 Communications & Records Officer Ryan B. cruised the deserted streets of Beirut at close to midnight. I thought I was pushing the envelope of Norm Bates’ 60/40 Hypothesis, which stated that 60% of our Foreign Service job was technical and 40% involved… Well, other stuff. Ryan had slipped an eight-track tape into the…

American Embassy Beirut | From Then Until Now

November 1977 George, the duty officer, had booked me into a small hotel less than two hundred yards down the street from the American embassy. Like its neighbors, the hotel had sustained damage during the civil war clashes last year. But nothing could compare to the ravaged Holiday Inn at the other end. The American…

American Embassy Beirut | Welcome to Heartbreak City

November 1977–Beirut, Lebanon I was surprised to learn that the Intercontinental Hotel was near the American Embassy in Beirut. I kept my mouth shut while the marines negotiated the streets in the Chevy Suburban. <Rescue worker aids wounded woman during Lebanese civil war in 1976 (apimages.com) When we arrived I was even more surprised that…