Heroes of U.S. Diplomacy: In the Diplomatic Trenches – Department Heroes During World War I

Heroes of U.S. Diplomacy: In the Diplomatic Trenches – Department Heroes During World War I


[MUSIC] [MUSIC] AMBASSADOR PHILIP T. REEKER:
So, good afternoon. Welcome to the State
Department, ladies and gentlemen, ambassadors
– Ambassador Smith, Ambassador Noyes,
Mrs. Valls, Ambassador Gutiérrez. My name is Philip Reeker. I’m the Acting Assistant
Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian
Affairs, and I’m delighted to welcome you all to
this Heroes of U.S. Diplomacy Initiative, I
believe the second event in a really terrific
series, and I do want to thank Ambassador Dan Smith
and Ambassador Noyes from our Foreign Service
Institute for having the honor of introducing
today’s program. And also, our panelists –
thank you – who are going to provide some very
interesting insights on the role of U.S.
diplomats in World War I. I am an amateur historian,
like a few colleagues in the Foreign Service, a
history major in college, and particularly these
days of anniversaries and commemorations, I think
it’s so important for our contemporary diplomacy to
look back at where we’ve come, certainly over the
last century, or in the case of World War I,
a little more than a century, getting ready
to commemorate the 101st anniversary of that. In that context, special
thanks goes to the Una Chapman Cox Foundation
for its really generous support of the Heroes of
U.S. Diplomacy Initiative, and we do have Ambassador
Lino Gutiérrez from the Cox Foundation
joining us today. Lino, it’s great to
have you back in the State Department. Really good to see you. And I’m pleased to welcome
the Deputy Chief of Mission from the
Embassy of Belgium here in Washington, Mr.
Christophe Payot. Thank you for joining us. Belgium obviously has a
crucial historical role in terms of World War I, and
is a close partner and ally. In September of this year,
the Department kicked off this Heroes of U.S.
Diplomacy Initiative with the strong support
of Secretary Pompeo. And it recognizes heroes
from our past and from our present who advanced U.S. policy goals and the
mission of the Department of State, while all
displaying sound judgment, intellectual vigor, and
moral or physical courage, and overcoming
great challenges. And when we think of great
diplomatic challenges, one that springs to mind of
anyone with an historic perspective is World War
I, the Great War, the “War to End All Wars.” Some
of us perhaps know a little more recently about being
literally in the trenches, but that certainly
comes to mind when we think about World War I. And when the Guns of
August first loaded and fired in 1914, the United
States of America was not considered by many as
one of the world’s great powers. But by the time the war
had ended in 1918, America had assumed a major role
on the global stage, not only militarily, but
in promoting peace. Despite America’s official
neutrality in the early years of the war,
President Woodrow Wilson approved a major build-up
of U.S. military. Since, as one editor of
the time wrote, “The best things about a large army
and a strong navy is that they make it so much
easier to say just what we want to say
in our diplomatic correspondence.” And our
diplomatic correspondence took on a much more
important role during the war. The Department of State
fulfilled its obligation to safeguard American
citizens in war-torn countries, and State
Department officials helped the American Red
Cross, utilizing figures like a young Ernest
Hemingway, before he had writtenA Farewell to
Arms, to get medicine, as well as fully equipped and
staffed hospitals into belligerent states, in
order to help the wounded. Numerous private relief
organizations utilize State Department channels
to transfer money to those rendered impoverished
by the fighting. The warring European
powers also turned to Washington for help
protecting their interests worldwide, which required
Department officers to take on enormous new
tasks, such as protecting property, securing
sensitive documents, and looking after
prisoners of war. And just like us, they
served as control officers. During the Paris Peace
Conference to end the war, President Woodrow Wilson
spent six months in France. Talk about the
ultimate POTUS visit. [LAUGHTER] And I understand the President then went on to travel
throughout Europe. And, as a side note, I
recently paid a visit to the Republic of San
Marino, one of our smaller friends and countries in
Europe, and they told me then that I was the first
official from Washington – not just an ambassador
or a consul general from Florence – but the first
official from Washington to visit since President
Woodrow Wilson. [LAUGHTER] So I’ve checked
my box on history. Now, our panel of
historians today will highlight some of these
extraordinary stories. And you can read much more
at www.history.state.gov, especially under the
heading “World War I and the Department.” America’s
experience during the Great War fundamentally
altered our nation’s diplomatic machinery. Changes in technology, in
industry, and the balance of power rendered the
United States less insulated from
world trends. In fact, as a result of
World War I, an imperative to create a unified
professional Foreign Service coalesced, and in
May, 1924, the Rogers Act was signed into law. The Act remains the
foundation of the modern Department of State. It gave the U.S. Foreign Service a salary structure
that opened up its ranks beyond those who
were personally wealthy. It appointed all
Department diplomatic and consular officials to
general employment classes, rather than
a specific overseas position, which, believe
it or not, at that time required new congressional
authorization every time any officer moved
to a new posting. Imagine trying to get your
travel orders for that. [LAUGHTER] It created the Board
of Examiners and allowed Foreign Service
officers to get promoted to ambassadorial and other
senior-level positions. It provided the
first allowances for representation expenses,
family transportation – even if by ship, and
I think under the FAM you can still take
your horse to post. [LAUGHTER] Also, residency costs
and funds to procure office spaces and
diplomatic residences overseas, many of which,
of course, were acquired in that post-World War I
period, and continue to be some of our masterpieces
in terms of residences for our ambassadors and
deputy chiefs of mission. It offered the first
retirement and disability benefits. And it established the
training and education program known today as the
Foreign Service Institute. So these are origins I
think many of us actually in the Foreign Service –
some for far too long, in my case – didn’t even
realize have their origins back to the changes
that happened because of World War I. Indeed, it led to a great
many changes in the world, in America, and
in our profession. So I’m delighted you’ll
have the opportunity to learn about those
heroes of U.S. diplomacy more today. I apologize, and
I’m actually very disappointed, that I can’t
stay around to hear this. But I will be turning
to the website. I’ve got a long airplane
flight tonight. It gives me a good excuse
to buy the Wi-Fi on United. But I’m really pleased to
introduce the moderator of this panel discussion, a
good friend, colleague, mentor – the Director of
today’s Foreign Service Institute, Ambassador
Daniel Smith. As many know, Ambassador
Smith was the U.S. Ambassador to Greece from
2010 to 2013, when he and I had a very regular
connectivity, since I worked in a country to
the north of Greece. And prior to taking on his
current role at FSI, Dan was the Assistant
Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. I think we’re all in for
a very intelligent and well-researched panel
discussion today. I welcome you again to
the State Department. And thank you very much
for your attention. Thank you, Dan. AMBASSADOR DANIEL B. SMITH: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I want to thank Ambassador
Reeker for that wonderful introduction. He’s stolen all
of my thunder now. It really is fitting,
though, that, I think, we have the person who is
responsible for conducting and guiding our European
affairs at the State Department today introduce
today’s topic, which will focus largely on the
role that our diplomatic predecessors played over
100 years ago in Europe, in dealing with the impact
of the Great War, not only on American citizens,
but also on Europeans
who were there. And it’s wonderful that
the Embassy of Belgium is here. I appreciate
that very much. I think many of us, when
we think about those relief efforts think about
Belgium because of the relief effort that was
guided by then private citizen Herbert Hoover. But it was only part of
the story really, and we’re going to get
into more depth about everything that our
predecessors did in response to that great
conflict and the enormous challenges they felt. As Ambassador Reeker
indicated, this Heroes of Diplomacy Initiative
started with a recognition of one of our contemporary
heroes who’s in the audience today, Lizzie
Slater, who’s going to be angry at me for
recognizing her yet again, but who is a great example
of contemporary heroes, of people who really go above
and beyond in advancing our nation’s interests
abroad and carrying out the work of this
great Department. But really, we have a
unique opportunity with the Heroes of Diplomacy
also to shed light on aspects of our history
that are not as well known. And really, today’s panel
I think will, I hope, excite some enormous
interests on the part of our colleagues in some of
that untold stories from our past, of people who
really did go above and beyond in extraordinary
circumstances to help their fellow citizens
and to carry out the foreign policy of
the United States. We’ve tapped today the
enormous experience and talent and insight of the
Office of the Historian here at the State
Department, now part of the Foreign Service
Institute, I’m proud to say. And three of our panelists
are currently with the Office of the Historian,
and one is a recent alumni of the office, and they
will shed light on some of the unique aspects
of the conflict and what happened. We’ve given the title
of today’s presentation “In the Diplomatic
Trenches: Department Heroes Alleviate Suffering during
World War I: 1914-1917.” I think it’s important
in setting the stage for today’s discussion to
remember the challenge that we faced in
1914 as a country. We had never before had,
as we did have in 1914, tens of thousands of
Americans trapped in a war zone. We’d never before had
to evacuate them from that conditions and
those conditions. We’d never faced a
situation in which we had to provide, as a neutral
power, as a sort of scale of assistance and support
on both sides of the fighting, not only to
combatants and those who had been taken prisoner
of war, but also to civilians, who were
trapped and suffering as a result of the war. We took those neutral
obligations seriously. We carried them out,
I think, with great distinction. And it can honestly be
said we saved if not tens of thousands, perhaps
millions of lives in that effort. This was due to the men
and women who carried out our foreign policy, both
either as employees or as family members, as
we will see in this discussion today. But more importantly –
not more importantly, but important from our
perspective, the lessons learned from this era
had an important bearing on the future of the
Department of State and the structure of the
Department of State we have today, and we’ll get
into that in the course of this discussion. Our first panelist,
Dr. Seth Rotramel, will focus on U.S.
government efforts to help American
citizens trapped in Europe escape the
conflict, as well as our diplomatic activities
that were undertaken in Germany, including how
Department officials facilitated the delicate
process of deploying volunteer American
National Red Cross medical hospital units in
belligerent countries. DR. SETH ROTRAMEL: Thank
you, Ambassador Smith. It is an honor to be here. Thank you everyone for
giving up their lunch break to be here. For me, this is absolutely
fascinating to combine a few loves of mine, which
is the history of Germany, also the history of U.S. foreign relations, and also
some diplomatic history. Before you, this is the
individual that I have studied for a while,
Ambassador James Gerard. This is actually his
campaign poster. I’ll flash back in a
second, but he was running for U.S. Senate while he was
Ambassador in Berlin in the first two months of
the outbreak of the First World War, while
everything was chaos in the Embassy in Berlin. So he had the gumption
and the political courage perhaps to seek higher
office, while also as maintaining – trying
to maintain control over a crisis. James Gerard, he
came from New York. He was a state
Supreme Court judge. He was very involved
in Democratic Party politics up there. Finally, in 1913, a
democrat actually won the White House after
a long, long spell. He was a big part
of that success. He was a major donor to
the Wilson campaign. It had been his dream for
a while to go live in Europe, enjoy some time
and instead of just traveling through the
courts of Europe actually become part of the
diplomatic scene. His father-in-law, his
wife’s father, was one of the richest people in
the country at the time. It’s Marcus Daly, the
founder of the state of Montana, the copper king. So he had some
political backing, some monetary backing. Also, his father-in-law
was the main supporter of William Jennings Bryan’s
two presidential campaigns. So his new boss, the
Secretary of State – well, he had a unique
relationship with his new boss. Their families went
back quite a ways. You can discern
this in some of the correspondence. It’s not necessarily
someone talking to their boss with full deference. But anyway, I digress. [LAUGHTER] So, he finds out – he
is on a trip to Europe, sailing on the luxury
liner, the GermanImperator, to go take a
vacation in Europe, when he finds out through cable
that he has been nominated to be the Ambassador
to the German Empire. He is overjoyed. He learns a few lines of
German so that in a few months he can offer
up his credentials to the Kaiser himself. So he takes his family
over to Germany. This is at a time when
peace was reigning, even though there was a large
arms build-up in and what we see now as an inevitable
race towards war. But at the time, it
seemed pretty sudden. He showed up and he found
out that the Embassy, that the Department of State
did not own any property in Berlin, and his
predecessor, where he had the – the Ambassador was
pretty small lodgings, not something that
he was used to. So what he did was, at his
own personal expense, rent a palace right across the
street from the Foreign Ministry, in the very
seat of government. This was a huge operation,
costing perhaps in today’s funds something like
three or four million dollars a year. So he had that renovated. He spent the rest of 1913,
early 1914, going to a lot of these diplomatic balls. Berlin was the diplomatic
capital of the world at the time, because
of all those German principalities and
kingdoms, all sent their own ambassadors to
Berlin to go talk with the Kaiser. So, he got to see
that first-hand. He went to Kiel-Wik, which
is up there in the north on the Baltic Sea, and
this was a tradition for the Kaiser to go up
there and race his special yacht. So, the day before, he was
actually having dinner on the Kaiser’s private
yacht, on the day before Franz Ferdinand was
assassinated in Sarajevo. So, the rest of Kiel-Wik
– some of the events were cancelled. The rest weren’t. This was seen as something
relatively inconsequential at the time. There had been a lot of
problems in the Balkans – quote, “another mess in
the Balkans.” No one had the idea
that this would actually turn into something. So, he got back to
Berlin after a nice little sojourn, and
everything collapsed. First the banking of the
international banking system collapsed. Stock markets collapsed. Also, international
communications in continental Europe
also collapsed. So he was suddenly
faced with a crisis. And what the main crisis
for him was how to get Americans, who were
caught in the summer, so traveling from Central
Europe – how to get them home, since the way that
people – often very, very wealthy people – traveled
was to have lines of credit in the form of a
piece of a paper that says, “My bank
knows that I’m rich. I can pay for this.” And
at that point, all the German banks said, “I
don’t care anymore because I can’t get that money.”
So, suddenly, you had a lot of people who
were very not used to being destitute.
They were destitute. And they came to
the U.S. Embassy. They also came to all
the Consulates, U.S. Consulates, all over
Central Europe, demanding a way home. What the United States
government did in very short order, within two
or three days of the declaration of war in
Europe, was to send theU.S.S. Tennessee– it was called
the gold ship. It sent at that time $200
– almost $300 million in gold, in gold bullion. Half of that was money
from private banks. They were trying to corner
the shortage of gold and [INAUDIBLE] in London. The rest was from the
Department of State. There were several –
some Treasury Department officers there as well,
and the plan there was to try to disperse this gold
as loans to private U.S. citizens who could not
find their way back. In very short order,
he turned the U.S. Embassy into a factory of
making temporary passports. Again, this was a time before
a passport was required. He found – all ad hoc.
It was absolutely amazing. It doesn’t seem, from
my perspective, when I studied his pre-war years,
that he just turned – he turned into a
hero of diplomacy. He estimated at the time
there was probably about 10,000 American citizens
that are trapped in Europe. Turns out there were
about 80,000 at least in Central Europe itself. He was able to organize
trains to, I think, mostly to Rotterdam, and then
they would take a ship to England for the
transatlantic voyage home. This lasted for
about two months. He was able to do that
in fairly short order. And he was also able to
help the American Red Cross send out
Americans to hospitals. Two landed in the German
Empire at the time. And actually there was a
third that was in Munich. And he organized those
doctors, who would be about 10 miles behind
the German front lines, and take care of
the German wounded. He stayed until the
breakdown of diplomatic relations, which was
in February of 1917. It was a crazy story
about how he was able to leave at the time. The German government
imprisoned him at home, tried to force him to sign
a document that would allow for all German
ships that were in U.S. ports to have a
safe passage home. He refused to sign. It was a stalemate
for about a week. The Department of State
had no idea where he was. They got very,
very worried. They started to, well,
send out a lot of cables. [LAUGHTER] Anyway,
he finally got home. I mean, just the
desperation was remarkable. James Gerard was quite a
fascinating character. He knew he would actually
finally get home. He hired a private
train car – I’m sorry, a private train. It was about six
or seven cars. He took as many Americans
back with him as he could. And he had commissioned a
bag full of gold cigarette cases, so if he needed
to convince someone at a border crossing that they
should let him pass, he had something to offer
them in terms of his appreciation.
[LAUGHTER] He was a very
smart guy. He was able to get out
through France and sail home, and after that he
tried very desperately to become the next President
of the United States, but unfortunately
his experience as an ambassador ruined
his chances. I can speak about that in
a little bit. [LAUGHTER] I’ll stop there. AMBASSADOR SMITH:
Seth, that’s terrific. I’m going to go on to all
of our panelists before I come back to ask some
specific questions of each of them. But I did want to say one
thing that Seth had left out in this that he
mentioned to me before was: One of the edicts
of the German government after war broke out was
that every conversation had to be in German. So all of our Embassy
employees and others had to speak in German. I’ve decided as head of
FSI this is a great way to create language
incentives, and we should talk about this
in the future. But this happened both
in Germany and France, by the way. All of our telephone
conversations, all of the conversations had to be in
German or French with the outbreak of the war. It’s something we don’t
think about much. Our next panelist, Dr.
Lindsay Krasnoff, as I said, is a former
historian with the Office of the Historian, and is
currently working as a consultant and global
sports specialist. She’ll give you odds on
the Nats later. [LAUGHTER] She will share the
history of the extraordinary actions of
an African American consul in France, who represented
America with great distinction during the
war, as well as some of the enormous challenges
that our historic colleagues faced,
including having three ambassadors in country at
the same time, something our colleagues in Belgium
have to face all the time. Dr. Krasnoff will also
recount the extraordinary humanitarian activities of
the wives of Department personnel, which included
organizing hospitals, child welfare initiatives,
and civilian relief efforts. Dr. Krasnoff. DR. LINDSAY KRASNOFF:
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. I’m really thrilled and
honored to be here. Thank you to everyone
who helped to make today possible. And also, thank you to my
former colleagues in the Office of the Historian, as well as at U.S. Embassy France, without whom this project, or
at least the France component, would never have really
gotten off the ground. It’s always a pleasure to
come back and speak at the Department and help to
explore insights on how history still plays out
today and also informs our world today. And it was also a real
delight to revisit some of the material that I worked
on for several years, building into various
different centennial anniversary efforts. Today’s stories are
close to my heart. Once upon a time, they
captivated my imagination and tweaked my curiosity,
but also reinforced the fact that our counterparts
100 years ago were, in so many ways, just like us. And I think that’s one
of the really powerful parts of the entire
story of U.S. diplomats operating kind of on
the fly during the war years, particularly
the neutral years. They drove cars.
They went to the cinema. They worked tirelessly. They fell ill from their
overwork in the crux of the first
weeks of the war. They found humor in even
the darkest of hours. They also wrote home,
asking who won the big rivalry football game
that they missed. So I think they come
across as very relatable, in a way that we’re
usually not used to characters from 100 years
ago appearing to us today. Rereading “Views from the
Embassy,” which is the French component of it, I
fell in love again with the story – with the
characters and how the U.S. diplomatic community in France,
particularly in 1914, when it was literally
all hands on deck, navigated
unchartered territory, innovating, creating
solutions, demonstrating the need for flexibility
and resilience at each and every turn, usually
multiple times within an hour. This was made all the
more so because it was an unusual time at post,
the summer of 1914. Then U.S. Ambassador to France, Myron T. Herrick, was preparing to present
his letter of recall. When war broke out, he was
literally about to deliver his letter of recall. Instead, he held off. His successor was still
back in the United States, William G. Sharp. His wife was too
ill to travel. But necessity forced
creativity on all sides, and for the first several
months of World War I, we had not one, not
two, but soon three U.S. Ambassadors to France in
France, even though only one was accredited. And they navigated a lot
of interesting territory and also helped to make
the work of the diplomatic community in and around
post Paris as effective as possible. It was a small staff in
the summer of 1914 – an ambassador, three
secretaries, a few clerks, a military attaché and
his assistant, and that was pretty much it. But that quickly swelled
in numbers as family members – wives,
daughters, sons, cousins – were pressed into service. U.S. citizens volunteered,
and we have really great quotes from some of those
volunteers, not knowing whether they were all
the sudden an attaché or the doorman. And together, they helped
to navigate tricky waters, without much of any
instruction from Washington because the
cross-Atlantic cables were initially interrupted. There was severe
limitations on transportation in and
around Paris, as well as other parts of France, by
government decree, so they had to become creative in
figuring out how they got around town and were able
to carry out their duties. They also had their duties
multiply exponentially. If, at the end of
July, 1914, U.S. diplomats in France were
responsible for caretaking for citizens of one
country, the United States, within two months,
they were responsible, in Paris at least, for
caretaking for citizens and interests of eight
countries: the United States, France, Germany,
Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Japan, Britain, Guatemala,
and Nicaragua, I think, if I’ve got them all down. Mostly because the
government of France relocated to Bordeaux in
early September, 1914. And the very close
relationships between Ambassador Herrick and
the French Premiere Poincaré helped to build
a lot of trust between the two and subsequently
why the U.S. circle was able to fill
the void in the way that they did. The experiences
of the U.S. diplomatic community and
their members in France, especially during 1914,
demonstrated the need for a robust professionalized
Foreign Service. And by the time we emerge
from the cycle of war in the first part of the 20th
century, by the post-1945 period, the Foreign
Service, as it’s constituted, looks very
similar to the functions and roles that were
pioneered in 1914 in France. Their stories also
illustrate how the close personal ties, again, can
help to foment that close working relationship. And it wasn’t just
Ambassador Herrick and Poincaré. It was the close
relationship between the French Ambassador to
the United States, J.J. Jusserand, and Ambassador
Herrick, and also the close relationships
between Consul Hunt in Saint-Étienne, and one
of the French generals, Gallieni, which raises
some really interesting questions, especially when
you get to the idea of three ambassadors on the
ground and just why the government of France
petitioned Woodrow Wilson to keep Ambassador Herrick
on until the end of hostilities. So, when thinking about
how to best unpack a little bit of the stories
from the France circle, I thought about nominating
three figures, as kind of my heroes of diplomacy or
heroines of diplomacy, as it were. The first is Carolyn
Herrick, the 50-year-old wife of U.S. Ambassador Herrick, who alongside
her husband, helped to bring some
ordered chaos to the craziness that quickly
descended on post with the war’s outbreak. She helped him to
devise lodging and food arrangements for the
thousands of American citizens stranded,
penniless, in France during those first weeks. It wasn’t just American
citizens who had been vacationing in France or
Switzerland, but also those from parts of
Central Europe, from Italy, and elsewhere. And French banks had
refused for several weeks to convert currency. They were concerned about
being able to pay for goods. And we have examples of
Ambassador Herrick helping to organize local American
businessmen in France to figure out this financial
solution so that they could feed, clothe,
and house people in the meantime. His wife, Kitty, was
instrumental in all of those conversations. She was a guiding light
to that power couple. And she also stood
out on her own. She quickly became known
as the American angel among Parisians for her
role in founding and really steering the
American Ambulance Hospital’s Women’s
Committee. The American Ambulance
Hospital was a private hospital,
a U.S.-influenced institution, but quickly
accepted by the government of France as a military
hospital, even though it acted independently. And both of the Herricks
acknowledged early on that the work of this American
Ambulance Hospital did far more to promote closeness
of French-American relations than perhaps
any other act in those first weeks of war. So Kitty was very
instrumental in that – fundraising, helping
to smooth over ruffled feathers, easing some of
the tensions that would crop up amongst many strong
personalities involved. She worked tirelessly
side-by-side with her husband. They both fell ill – Kitty
so much so that she never fully recovered. Ambassador Herrick
attributes her 1918 death to having its origins
in her illness in the fall of 1914. And so, we see kind of a
trace of a line there. My second nominee for
Heroes of Diplomacy is Mildred Barnes Bliss. She was – I call her
“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” the then
34-year-old wife of the Embassy’s first Secretary,
Robert Woods Bliss, who was also instrumental in
advocating for a more professionalized
Foreign Service. Mildred was also the
heiress of a patent medicine fortune. So she had her own
fortune, and a very large one, which came in handy
during her wartime work. She was also step-sister
to her husband, which is a really interesting fact. Their parents did not get
married until they were mostly already adults,
but a fun fact for you. Go read the story. But Mildred used her vast
personal fortune to fund her wartime work. And yes, she did do
many of the traditional socialite activities,
such as fundraise, donate her own money, volunteer
to nurse in some of the hospitals. But she also went
far and beyond that. She was very proactive and
not only did she establish several charities and
funds, particularly for war orphans and widows. She also was very
physically active. She would ride out to the
battle fronts to assess the situation to see what
kinds of medical supplies, training and aids, and
volunteers were needed. She would visit
sanatoriums; she would visit refugee centers,
again, trying to assess what was needed and how to
best allocate resources, personnel, and donations. And this was very
atypical for women of her class at that time. But she’s certainly one
of the more remarkable characters I’ve come
across, and her very lengthy war service was
highly decorated by the French government at
the end of the war. My third nominee is the
rugby-loving Consul at Saint-Étienne, William H. Hunt, who is the only
black American diplomatic figure serving in Europe
when war broke out in 1914. The nature, I think, of
living and operating in a smaller city than Paris
meant that Hunt was much more deeply embedded
in the local community than his counterparts
in Paris were. Part of that was also that
he used what we now think of as sports diplomacy to
outreach to and integrate with the local community
in Saint-Étienne. Hunt arrived around
1907-1908 in Saint-Étienne and quickly found his way
to the local rugby club. He also quickly became its
president, and through sport, he became a local
pillar of the community outside of his
consular duties. This is interesting
because he was métissage, mixed-race, and not as
warmly welcomed in other communities where he
had previously served. I found no indication
that he encountered difficulties because
of his background and heritage when in France,
but once the war broke out, his ties to that
community, his deep ties, really came through. Of course, he carried
through his consular functions and caretaking
for American businesses and citizens in his
consular district. But also he quickly
took on similar responsibilities for the
French people in his district, especially
those who are part of the rugby club. Many of his players had
marched off to war in the summer of 1914, and Hunt
was instrumental in helping to track down
their whereabouts as the war wore on, particularly
if they were captured and prisoners of war or if
they were injured and in hospitals somewhere. So he was very much a
go-between in helping to provide intelligence and
information on loved ones. He also took it upon
himself to organize fundraisers for the war
widows and orphans, not just of his rugby club
members, but of the local community. And he did these through
day-long sports festivals. So he’s really kind of
this early example of people-to-people cultural
exchanges through sports diplomacy, and he carried
that theme through after the war, really building
the rugby club, which is still there, by the way. It’s the Professional
Racing Club Saint-Étienne. I think they were
recently demoted to the second division. But they’re still around. And he built this club as
a core foundation of the community, post-war, as
a way to help heal and bring people together. When he was finally
dispatched elsewhere in 1927, there were rounds
and rounds of fond farewell parties and
commemorations in his honor, acknowledging not
just his work in the community as the U.S.
consular official but how he had
become such an ingrained part of them
through his wartime work. I’m going to stop there
and you can certainly ask me questions to – AMBASSADOR
SMITH: Terrific. DR. KRASNOFF: – bring out
some of that material. AMBASSADOR SMITH: Thank
you very much, Lindsay. We’re next going to hear
from Dr. Charles Hawley, turning to another part of
the scene in World War I, who will elaborate on the
unprecedented efforts and difficulties, challenges
our colleagues faced in representing the United
States in the Russian Empire, including the
challenge of looking after prisoners of war, who
were spread across the vast expanse of the
Russian Empire. DR. CHARLES HAWLEY: Thank
you, Ambassador Smith, and good afternoon. I would like to say I,
too, am honored, as Seth and Lindsay are, to
be here with you and appreciate the fact that
you’re giving up your lunchtime to listen
to what I think are fascinating histories. I’m almost tempted to cede
my time so that I can hear more of their histories,
but that’s “almost,” because I think what
the U.S. Mission did in Imperial Russia
is a history worth hearing too, and I’ll only
be able to give you a very brief account of it. At the outbreak of the
war, the U.S. Mission in Imperial Russia
had the same duties as those in Germany,
Austria-Hungary, France, and the United Kingdom. Those were primarily
assisting American citizens with evacuation
and other help, and the other was serving as a
protecting power, because the United States had
agreed to sort of take over the responsibilities
for both Germany and Austria-Hungary in Russia
at the outbreak of the war, sort of take on – the
United States was neutral, but they would look after
the interests of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and
that included looking out for and ensuring the
welfare and proper treatment of those
countries’ citizens in Russia, which included
prisoners of war. The first duty, looking
after American citizens, was relatively easy in
Russia, as opposed to some of the other countries. There were few American
citizens to begin with in Russia, relative to, say,
Berlin or London or Paris. And most of them could
actually get out if they wanted to pretty
easily through Sweden. There was an easy
escape route that way. It was the second duty
that became an almost overwhelming challenge. What made this challenge
greater for the U.S. Mission in Russia than
it was for the missions elsewhere was the enormity
of that challenge. By 1917, the Russian
Empire held – and these were military prisoners
– about 160,000 German, but two million
Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war. They also held civilians
hostage or as prisoners. They refused to let them
go back to their home countries, and they had
about 200,000 German civilians and about
100,000 Austro-Hungarian civilians that they
took from usually the borders and moved
them off to Siberia. What made the challenge
even more difficult for the mission was the
scale of everything. You heard the size of
the prisoners of war populations, but the
mission itself was relatively under-staffed. There was the Embassy in
Petrograd, and then seven consulates spread out
throughout the Russian Empire, and only 26
diplomatic and consular officers to cover
all that territory. And it was spread out. The empire was vast. It was about 8.5 million
square miles, and that included a lot of Siberia,
and we only had one consulate in Siberia and
that was in Vladivostok, which was way at the
other end of Siberia. In fact, the first
missions – relief missions to look after these German
and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war actually
came from the U.S. Mission in China, which
was, relatively-speaking, closer to some of
these camps in Siberia than Petrograd was. One of the other
challenges, too, was the host country. Even though we were a
neutral country and trying to work well with Imperial
Russia, Imperial Russia was essentially, at
this point, poorly administered, failing as
an empire, and completely unprepared for these huge
numbers of POWs that were flooding the country
as the Russian forces had successes in
Eastern Europe. Finally, the mission itself
was sort of problematic. Beyond its size, which was
very small, we did not have the best A-team
leadership there. In fact, when the
war broke out, there was no ambassador. And then the ambassador
that they did appoint initially left after
a year, and then they finally got a second
ambassador, who was there until the United States
entered the war in 1917 in the Bolshevik Revolution. So the leadership
was trouble. By the spring of 1916,
although some progress had been made to bolster the
mission’s POW relief and assistance efforts –
oh, one thing I do want to add too. One of the other
challenges too, besides the numbers of prisoners
that they had to kind of look out for, was
the relief money that was coming in. Millions and millions of
dollars were coming in from Germany,
Austria-Hungary, from charity organizations, and
from the family members of all these prisoners. And it was up to
the United States to administer this
money properly and keep track of it. So, not only did they
have to look out for the welfare of the actual
prisoners, but they had all of this money that
they were kind of responsible for
managing properly. By the spring of 1916,
although some progress had been made to bolster the
mission’s relief efforts, Washington wasn’t
satisfied. They ended up pulling –
like I said, they pulled that first Ambassador,
George Marye, who went out in 1914, and they replaced
him with David Francis, who would remain in
position until the Bolshevik Revolution and
the end of U.S.-Russia relations at the time. But at that time, though,
fortunately – and this is where the story gets
interesting – the heroes were not necessarily
the top echelon. The diplomatic heroes were
sort of from the rank and file of the diplomatic
consular corps. And one person, in
particular, that I want to highlight is Fred
Dearing, that guy there. In the spring of 1916, he
actually arrived at post a little before Francis did,
the new Ambassador, and he immediately noticed the
need to reorganize. The Mission was doing all
it could to sort of deal with this relief effort,
but he noticed that – and this is a quote from him –
“It should not be hidden from the Department that
the work in caring for German and Hungarian
prisoners under the past Embassy administration,
had come to a practical deadlock. I was compelled
accordingly to begin with a bottom-up.” So,
essentially, what he did was he established a whole
different organization, in addition to the Embassy. He called it the
Second Division. The First Division was the
Embassy proper, and they did what normal embassies
do, but he said, “We need a complete organization
dedicated to the relief work.” So he managed to
convince Washington that it was worth resourcing,
and that’s what they did. Unfortunately for Dearing,
bad health compelled him to leave early, basically
before his first year at post, but then Washington
sent who I would sort of identify as yet another
hero of this particular mission, a guy
named Basil Miles, who was an old Russia hand. He had served in 1905-1906
in Russia, and he came out and kind of finished the
job of standing up the Second Division. And by the time 1917
rolled around, the Second Division itself had a
staff of 35 in Petrograd alone and 40 at the
consulates and sort of sub-stations, because
some of that staff were actually officers who went
out to inspect some of these prisoner of war
camps and tried to meet with some of these
prisoners, civilian prisoners, out in Siberia. However, by the spring of
1917, just as the Second Division was finally
taking shape, the U.S. broke relations with
Germany in February of 1917, and by April we had
broken relations with Austro-Hungary and we were
going to war with them. And so, all this work
to set up this Second Division kind of came to
not, and just as things were – as is typical, just
as things are finally starting to work, they
had to take it all down. But the concluding
thought, for now, since I’m running out of time,
is that if not for the efforts of these people,
who noticed the need for organization and new
structures and a new way of doing things, the
suffering of the POWs, both civilian and
military, would probably have been a lot worse. So their efforts, though
not complete, they did a good job of trying to mitigate
some of that suffering. Thank you. AMBASSADOR SMITH: Terrific.
Thank you, Charles. Last, but not least, we
have Dr. Thomas Faith, who will explain how the
understaffed U.S. Mission Embassy in London
evolved into a central clearinghouse for all U.S. diplomatic
activities in Europe. He will also discuss how
a lone consular official, assigned to a post in
southwestern Ireland, dealt with a challenge
surrounding the sinking of theLusitaniaand
other ships carrying American citizens. DR. THOMAS FAITH:
Thank you, and like my colleagues here, I’d also
like to say thanks to the audience and say how much
I appreciate being here with my fellow panelists. Like my colleagues here
have said of their posts in other
countries, the U.S. Ambassador in London and
his staff were similarly blindsided by the
onslaught of war and the diplomatic challenges
that resulted. First and foremost among
the challenges that occurred at Embassy
London was tending to the unprecedented humanitarian
needs of over 100,000 U.S. citizens, located
throughout the British Empire and
throughout Europe. Now, I say that the
citizens in Europe became charges of Embassy London
because London and Great Britain in general became
weigh stations for American citizens who were
trying to leave Europe at the time, as they waited
for transport home. If you couldn’t depart
from France or Italy, in general, you left on a
passenger liner leaving from Great Britain
or Ireland. And while you waited on a
berth to travel home, you were a charge of Embassy
London, if you needed food or money or clothing
or a place to stay. This created an atmosphere
of perpetual crisis at Embassy London that
continued to occur in waves throughout the
period, from 1914 to 1917. The stress of these
enormous responsibilities resulted in severe
staffing challenges at U.S. Embassy London, which
means that there are a lot of diplomatic heroes at
Embassy London, way too many to cover today. I wanted to highlight
Chandler Anderson, who was a former councilor at the
Department of State and happened to be living in
London at the outbreak of war. He volunteered his
services as the Embassy’s legal advisor and he’s
one of the most talented international legal minds
of the early 20th century, now working for Embassy
London and writing papers on every subject
imaginable for the Embassy staff, papers on the U.S. obligations when it comes
to international relief efforts, when it comes to
supervising POWs, when it comes to international
shipping and the U-Boat War and so forth. And all of these legal
opinions and all of this legal advice helped guide
Embassy London out of some very difficult situations
and provide them with a guidebook where
none exists for most of these issues. Another Chandler, Chandler
Hale, was a former Assistant Secretary of
State, who also happened to be living in London at
the outbreak of war and volunteered his services. He took over Austrian
interests after the break in relations
between Germany and Austria-Hungary and
Great Britain, the U.S. Embassy, just as in
these other countries, took over German and
Austro-Hungarian interests within Great Britain, and
that meant supervising camps that held POWs
from those countries and also citizens. In November, 1914, there
was a deadly riot at the Douglas Alien Camp in
Great Britain that resulted in the deaths
of several Germans and Austro-Hungarians and
several Britains. And no one trusted any
other government to sort of get to the bottom
of what happened. And Chandler Hale from
the United States, was mentioned specifically as
an impartial sort of third party observer, and he was
tasked with going to the camp and interviewing
participants in the riot and witnesses and trying
to determine exactly what happened. I should mention very
briefly here also the work of volunteers. People who weren’t
directly affiliated with the Department in one way
or the other, like Herbert Hoover, who directed the
Belgian relief mission during World War I, also
operated out of London in large part, with
U.S. Embassy London. The German war against
commercial shipping in the seas around Great Britain
put Embassy London at the center of one of the most
significant dilemmas the U.S. government faced
during the war. When the Department
learned that over 128 U.S. citizens had been killed
in the sinking of theLusitania, they depended
on, by and large, U.S. Consul Wesley Frost, who
was the only U.S. consul in Queenstown at the time. This was only his second
overseas posting, and he had only been there for a
year and he had to deal with one of the first
mass casualty incidents overseas that the United
States had ever faced. And there’s no,
again, guidebook, for how to deal with this. He had to manage it, more
or less, on his own, caring for the U.S. survivors who had lost
everything, including family members,
identifying dead Americans that he could alert their
families back at home what had happened to them, and
keeping both the Embassy in London and the
Department of State and the British government
informed about everything that he learned sort
of along the way. Thank you. AMBASSADOR SMITH: You
know, I’m struck – let me start off with just sort
of an overarching question for all of our panelists. I’m struck, though,
in listening to these presentations by not
only the enormity of the challenge that our
colleagues faced during the First World War
in carrying out their responsibilities
for assisting U.S. citizens and carrying
out our obligations as a neutral power, but the
fact that there was no blueprint for any of this. There really
was no roadmap. There was no FAM that they
could consult about how to carry out an evacuation
in these circumstances. And they pioneered a lot
of things that we think are new from our
perspective. And Lindsey mentioned
the sports diplomacy was only one perhaps
in that regard. But I’m thinking, more
importantly, of the public-private
partnerships that really made possible the sort
of work that they had to undertake in that regard. It really is remarkable,
when you think about this. They did it, by the way,
without any L vetting process or anything else –
[LAUGHTER] – that we have to deal with today
– not to disparage any of our L colleagues. But they had to do this on
the fly and do what they thought was best under
the circumstances, and I think it’s remarkable. I just wondered if any of
our panelists would like to comment more on that
public-private element of all of this. DR. KRASNOFF: Yeah. Certainly, that’s what
helped to make everything possible within
the France context. Given the fact that you
had maybe a half dozen official Embassy
employees, they had to rely on the volunteerism
and the spirit of service from the American – not
only citizens in France, whether they were resident
there or stranded there, but also in the American
business community. And they happen to be
somewhat lucky, depending on how you look at it,
that one of the leaders of the American business
community in Paris was Herman Harjes, who
operated the Paris Division of JP Morgan. And so through that and
the connections with the Morgan Bank in New York,
they were able to quickly rectify some of
the fiscal issues. But that is just one
example of the many public-private
partnerships that got under way, and
particularly a lot when you talk about the
hospital services and medical – tons and tons
of medical volunteers, doctors and nurses,
from the United States arriving, trying to do
anything they could for any of the war wounded,
not just the French, not just any one side. And I think that helped to
really spark a lot of good will, and reading through
the accounts, that’s what you find, or at least in
the first part of the war, this was focused on, just
good will to try to create solutions, no matter how
outside the box or how abnormal they were,
in recognition that something had to be
done and quickly. DR. ROTRAMEL: If I could
speak to that just very quickly – we’re probably
almost out of time. It was the same situation
in Germany, at least in the beginning when there
was some good will. Ambassador – so, Gerard,
he was able to negotiate an agreement with the
Dresdner Bank, so that they would actually cash
checks from Americans. So it actually turned the
Embassy into a travel agency with some of the
German shipping lines. The third Secretary
offered up a large amount of money, 10,000 marks,
the equivalent of maybe about $60,000 in cash
right away, with a promise from his grandfather for
another 2.4 million. So, something
like $20 million. So that was
really helpful. As the war grew old, James
Gerard was in a very difficult position, in
Washington and also among his colleagues
back home, democratic political friends. They saw him as more
and more pro-German and anti-British, while the
German government and German industry, all these
German banks, saw him particularly as anti-German
and pro-British. And this is one of the
things that stopped some of those public-private
partnerships and also ruined his political
career when he came home. No one really liked him
that much for a while. AMBASSADOR SMITH:
[LAUGHING] It’s also a classic Hatch Act violation,
running for office. [LAUGHTER] Should be used in
our ethics course online, I think. We don’t have a
lot of time left. I don’t know how much
we’ve got, frankly, and I know all of you are giving
up your lunch hour for this. I did want to ask a few
more questions, but I also wanted to underscore that
after today’s event, our panelists will be in
the lobby outside. We’ve got a display,
courtesy, I think, a lot of Bureau of Consular
Affairs – thank you to them – of passports and
other documents from the time that I think are just
wonderful to look at, and hopefully all of you will
be able to spend some time. I did want to underscore,
though, the importance not just of these heroes and
the work that they did, but also the impact
this had on the Department of State. Ambassador Reeker talked
about his at the beginning of our presentation today,
but in many ways this leads to the modern form
of the Department of State. A lot of the lessons
learned that are drawn during this period are applied
in the post-war period. Efforts made to modernize
and to professionalize the Foreign Service,
notwithstanding the fact that it was great to
have people with deep pockets and a lot of
private-sector experience at our missions during
the war, but there was a recognition that there
needed to be a more professionalized Service,
one with dedicated Civil and Foreign Service
officers running it. That had a
profound impact. In January, 1919,
long-time Department advocate, Congressman John
Jacob Rogers introduces the first of many bills
that are proposed over the subsequent five years to
improve the status and professional capacities of
the nation’s diplomats. The final version of what
came to be known as the Rogers Act, of course,
was signed into law in May of 1924. I think it’s safe to
say the heroic work of American men and women
responding to the challenge of the First
World War is important, not only for the way in
which it inspires us today, but also how it
shaped, as I say, the structure of the
Department of State today. I’m delighted that we’ve
had this opportunity to share some of the
experiences and sacrifices of these unsung heroes and
their contributions to our national security. I want to commend our
panelists today for their contributions. I also want to refer all
of you to – if you’re interested particularly
in nominating somebody for the heroes
among us – to our [email protected]
for more details. You can also visit
state.gov/heroesofdiplomacy to learn more about
this initiative. I hope all of you can join
us outside in the lobby afterwards for an
opportunity to get in more detail with some of our
colleagues here and to see this wonderful exhibit. So thank you all
very much for coming. [APPLAUSE]

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