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Free Resources: New Library of Congress Online Collection--Oral Histories of U.S. Diplomats

Posted Feb 22, 2007
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The Library of Congress has announced that a new online collection of interviews with some of the most prominent diplomats of the 20th century is now available from the its American Memory Website. "Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training" < > presents a window into the lives of American diplomats. Transcripts of interviews with U.S. diplomatic personnel capture their experiences, motivations, critiques, personal analyses, and private thoughts. These elements are crucial to understanding the full story of the creation of a structure of stable relationships that maintained world peace and protected U.S. interests and values.

This collection captures the post-World War II period in vivid terms and intimate detail, documenting the way U.S. diplomacy defended the U.S. and its interests in a challenging world. The narratives span the major diplomatic crises and issues that faced the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century and, as new interviews are added, will include developments in the 21st century. The 1,301 transcripts of oral history interviews were donated by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, a private, nonprofit organization.

The collection contains stories about American involvement in the city of Berlin, beginning with the 1948 airlift and the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1962, including interviews from those who were present when John Kennedy said, "Ich bin ein Berliner" and when Ronald Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" There are also recollections from the American ambassador to East Germany (Richard Clark Barkley) at the time when the Berlin Wall was dismantled in 1989.

The collection holds other personal accounts, including those of Robert Dillon, whose embassy in Beirut was attacked by Islamic extremists in 1983, and Prudence Bushnell, whose embassy in Nairobi was blown up by Al Qaeda in 1998.

There are accounts of U.S. dealings with the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek during World War II, and the government's relocation to Taiwan in 1949. When the communist Chinese forces seized control on the mainland, the United States attempted to keep some of its consulates open, but the consulates' staffs were effectively held captive until all were pulled out.

Included are oral histories from individuals who accompanied Henry Kissinger on his historic trip to Beijing in 1971. The collection also holds the tale of the son of American missionaries in China who, as a teenager during World War II, joined Chinese guerrillas to fight the Japanese and many years later returned as U.S. ambassador to Beijing (Arthur W. Hummel Jr.)

Allan Wendt tells what it was like to be the unarmed duty officer in the embassy building when the Viet Cong attacked it in 1968 during the Tet Offensive.

Source: The Library of Congress,

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