The Author’s Message

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” ― Rudyard Kipling FOREIGN SERVICES MESSAGES embraces Rudyard Kipling’s words through a series of stories, articles, and anecdotes centered around the author’s working life that paralleled two related phenomenon, which have shaped American life from then until now. The Pioneering Age…

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…

The Lebanese Civil War in Beirut | The Invisible Green Line

November 1977 I woke up early at the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel. Last night’s tense taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was a fractured nightmare. After the drama of the first checkpoint (where I suddenly feared for my life) the second checkpoint had waved us through. Needless to say I was relieved to arrive…

Beirut Arrival | A Matter of Security

Mid-November 1977 The Olympic Airlines flight landed at Beirut International Airport at close to ten p.m. The quiet on the tarmac soon gave way to chaos. <Feature photo by theimageworks.com Inside the terminal, passport control screamed of verbal abuses initiated by immigration officials who acted more like military. Weary passengers used physical gestures to support…

American Embassy Nicosia | Long Day, Short Visit

November 1977 After I showed my black passport to the MSG behind the public access control booth the guard offered a “Welcome to the American Embassy Nicosia” and directed me upstairs. CRO Simmons met me at the elevator. After a short meet and greet he said, “This is for you,” and handed me a message….

Nicosia, Cyprus | A Nation Divided by a Green Line

November 1977—Arrival at Larnaca The Olympic Airways flight from Athens landed in Larnaca, on the coast of Cyprus before lunch. On the last leg of my Mediterranean trip, I experienced no unusual events on the short plane ride other than an Ouzo induced headache. There were no jolly diplomatic couriers with fantastic espionage stories to…

American Embassy Athens | The Cat Eats the Tuna Fish

November 1977 CRO Dave Hastings gazed at me as we sat in the cafeteria in the American embassy. I paused to gather my words before continuing. What I was about to say could have huge repercussions. If a diplomatic courier was involuntarily smuggling contraband initiated by a member of the Foreign Service staff here at…

Athens Arrival | The Rubberneckers

November 1977—Athens, Greece Athens International Airport skirted the seacoast ahead of a Greek coastal town named Glyfada. My contact CRO Hastings at the American Embassy Athens had offered to put me up at a hotel in the scenic seaside town about twenty kilometers (twelve miles) from the mission. Since I was only staying a short…

The Tainted Diplomatic Pouch

November 1977—Somewhere Over the Adriatic Sea As the morning Thai Inter flight from Rome to Athens sailed over the calm Adriatic Sea I suddenly found myself caught up in a maelstrom of conspiracy at thirty-some thousand feet. Diplomatic Courier Victor Rothman, sitting next to me, had just confessed that he had firsthand knowledge that a…

Confessions of a Diplomatic Courier

November 1977—Somewhere Over the Adriatic Sea The Egyptian Khamsin (sand storm) and the ghosts of the past remained at the American Embassy Cairo. I was headed to Athens on Thai International Airlines via Rome. Al, my cohort at Am Consul Karachi, had recommended it. Why not a straight flight to Athens? That’s what I asked the Egyptian…

American Embassy Cairo | The Shepheard’s Hotel Bar

Early November 1977 It was Thursday, the day before my departure to Athens. CRO Holman called early and put the kibosh on my visit to the pyramids in Giza. He requested that I return to the residence of Cleopatra (the call sign for a gorgeous USAID worker named Miss Lewis). A driver and an Egyptian…

American Embassy Cairo | “Takin’ Care of Business”

Early November 1977 Wednesday at lunch CRO Holman rose and shook my hand at the embassy café. “Big improvement in the radio test,” He said. “We added four personnel from Maadi who weren’t able to reach the embassy previously. Zamalek personnel were loud and clear. Our crypto tech Bill lives over there.” “Zamalek?” It’s an…

American Embassy Cairo | Aftermath of the Khamsin

Early November 1977 After I got off the windswept Chancery roof I wrapped my face in linen à la T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and raced across the street to the guesthouse. To get to the upper floor I had to enter an ancient cage-like elevator, the type that I didn’t know still existed. I shut the…

American Embassy Cairo | The Many Shades of Beige

Early November 1977 Bill the crypto tech was a breath of fresh air within Am Embassy Cairo’s clouded atmosphere. He took me to lunch at the very small embassy café that out of necessity featured outdoor seating. I had “The Special,” some kind of kebabs with a salad and hummus. It wasn’t bad. <feature photo…

Cairo Arrival | Shadows of the Past

Cairo International Airport | Early November 1977 The Pakistani Airlines flight made its final approach to the runway. I was in an aisle seat that didn’t afford a good glimpse of the pyramids. How ironic that my first trip from RCO Karachi would be Am Embassy Cairo, where my predecessor Charles A. had gotten on…

FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE

American Consulate General | Early November 1977 When RCO Roberson called me into his office at Am Consul Karachi Tuesday morning, I had a sinking feeling. Joe, the telephone lead tech had worked for Roberson in Jakarta. He told me that when “Bob” called you into his office it usually wasn’t to pat you on…

The Journal: CIA Deception or Hoax?

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 After spending the day cleaning up the radio shop at the Con Gen I dragged into my Clifton apartment with the JOURNAL on my mind. The odor of Basheer’s baked chicken with potatoes and vegetables was a welcome alternative to the dank, rancid radio shop floor. <feature…

Weekend Warriors | Buried Treasure

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 The two weekend warriors arrived at the Con Gen a little after eight a.m. on Friday, the first day of Am Consul Karachi’s weekend. The MSG Corporal escorted us up to the RCO office. With no one around the RCO tech offices loomed eerily quiet. Al fired…

Security Violation | Get Smart

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 The next morning I was eager to tackle the RCO radio shop. Al and I planned to change into old jeans and T-shirts. Al opened the cypher lock on the door into the tech offices without looking. He turned left to the radio section. The telephone and…

Foreign Service Ambiguities | Change of Plans

American Consulate General | Late October 1977 Al was very punctual when it came time to leave to work from the Clifton apartment building. At 0745 hours he had his Toyota Corolla warmed up in the driveway and the guard had opened the gate. Directly in front of us sitting on the lawn in a…

The Six Million Dollar Man Bites the Dust in Karachi

American Consulate General | Late October 1977 Al’s Thai girlfriend Sue made Thai food for dinner that evening after work at the Clifton Apartments. Sue, quiet and pleasant, called the noodle dish Pad Thai. After I commented how delicious the noodles were she immediately asked me if I was single or married. Al laughed it…

American Consulate General Karachi | The RCO

Late October 1977 When General Zia al-Huq had recently deposed Ali Bhutto’s liberal government during a military coup d’état he declared that Pakistan would return to traditional conservative Sunni Muslim values. The transfer of power did not hinder the operations of Am Consul Karachi’s Regional Communications Office. Because the RCO’s mission was to support the other…

The Consulate General | Chili Beans in Karachi

The American Consulate General | Late October 1977 I worked at the consulate of the highest rank, the American Consulate General in the largest city of Pakistan, the port city of Karachi. Consulate Generals normally served large cities in terms of bilateral relations with the United States (commerce, travel, etc.). <featured photo by pinterest.com My…

The American Consulate General Karachi | Inshallah

Late October 1977 Prior to leaving SECSTATE in Washington D.C. to Pakistan, I had attended a mandatory “in-country” security briefing, and an anti-terrorism symposium. The experts had stressed that Foreign Service Officers abroad should always change daily routes—never repeat. They instructed how to recognize when you’re being followed and what actions to take <feature photo…

Karachi, Pakistan | Echoes of the British Empire

Late October 1977 At half past midnight, the Pakistani Airlines flight rumbled to a halt out on the warm tarmac, inherited from forty-two degrees Centigrade of an overbearing sun. The passengers, mostly Pakistanis, ignored the cabin crew’s instructions to remain seated. Overhead compartment doors plopped down like camels’ saddlebags full of brass asps. <feature photo…

Leaving on a Jet Plane

October 1977 After a year in Northern Virginia learning the basics of my job as a radio technician/diplomat for the Office of Communications/Programs & Engineering (OC/PE) I was ready to move on.  I had checked off the 60% part of my mentor Norm Bates’ “60/40 Hypothesis:” Completed technical schools Supported SY (State Department Security) Protective Details…

The Send Off | Haitian War Story

In October of 1977, the “OC Bandits” (inspired by the movie “Smokey and the Bandits”) gave me a send off regarding my impending assignment at Am Consul Karachi, Pakistan. The radio group chose the pizza restaurant near Springfield, Virginia to allow our boss Norm Bates to call his wife when his gout flared up. I could…

Asmara Redux | Senza Fine

The Antebellum Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone With The Wind,” and the subsequent movie captured the soul of the American South before the “Antebellum,” the onslaught of the Civil War in the 1862. The Confederate Army sacrificed thousands of lives before the Union, under President Abraham Lincoln eventually swept the Old South away. Asmara, Ethiopia experienced a…

Massawa, Ethiopia | Down the Escarpment and Into the Kasbah (Part Two)

My excursion from Kagnew Station Asmara, Ethiopia down the mountain on the escarpment road had endured harrowing hairpin turns, misguided camels, and passenger Eric hurling fresh oranges at anything that moved, including baboons. However, negotiating the winding road was harmless compared to my initiation into Massawa’s strange inner sanctum… For the past few hours we sat at…

Massawa, Ethiopia | Down the Escarpment & Into the Kasbah (Part One)

All personnel assigned to Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia yearned for the adventure down the escarpment road to the port of Massawa on the Red Sea. However, the road was often closed to military personnel due to “Shifta” bandit or Eritrean Liberation Front separatist activity in the area. In the spring of 1971, the Kagnew brass had…

Once Upon a Time in Ethiopia (Part Two)

In 1971 Kagnew Station Asmara, Ethiopia thrived despite its location thousands of miles distant from other military posts overseas. Kagnew depended solely on the welcome of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie who had ruled the country for forty-some years against much opposition both within the Ethiopia government and outside powers. Consequently, the military kept a low…

Once Upon a Time in Ethiopia (Part One)

In 1971, if I were to have written a fictional account of Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia it might have begun… “Once upon a time on an island above the clouds in a land far, far away…” After seven months into my assignment at the U.S. Army installation at Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia the rest of…

Three Black Kings | The Greatest, The Conquering Lion, and The Genius

During the 1960’s and ‘70’s decades three famous black men helped me make difficult life decisions. Getting help from a trio of black men may sound odd coming from a middle class Caucasian guy. I grew up in a white family transplanted from Missouri to Southern California via short detours to Detroit and San Antonio….

Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia | One Hell of a Remote Place

“I do not believe we have a more remote station of our armed forces than Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia.”  —U.S. Army General William Westmoreland <featured photo Kagnew Station by asalives.org August 1970 I had no idea what to expect. Before I left the 447th Battalion to Frankfurt Am Main Airport on reassignment my C.O….

1970 Flashback | Donnersberg, Germany | A Perilous Journey Down the Mountain

Company B, 447th Signal Battalion, Germany  <feature photo by usarmygermany.com The Company B, 447th Signal Battalion barracks lie hidden away at North Point, Kriegsfeld, just outside Kircheimbolanden, a quaint village in the Rhine Valley southwest of Frankfurt. It took a fifteen-kilometer winding drive in the back of a deuce-and-a-half (2 ½-ton) truck to reach my…

Planes, Trains and P.O.V.s (Privately Owned Vehicles)

“Big Ol Jet Airliner” Two more weeks and I’d be aboard a “Big Ol Jet Airliner” (Steve Miller Band) headed to Am Consul Karachi, Pakistan via a stopover in London. My first assignment in the Foreign Service. I walked into the lobby of The U.S. State Department. Probably my last visit for a couple of…

Middle East War Story Interrupted

Old Chinese saying: “As long as you’re planning a journey, you own the journey. The minute you embark on that journey, the journey owns you.” I unofficially embarked on my journey to Am Consul Karachi at the State Department cafeteria at 2:00 p.m. on a Friday, three weeks prior to my departure. My boss Norm…

The Aspen Detail | Home Leave in L.A.

In late September 1977, with my assignment to Karachi, Pakistan looming in the near future, the department approved a week of home leave to return to Southern California. When I arrived back at the radio shop in Springfield Norm Bates had handed me my official travel orders for my assignment at the Am Consul Karachi,…