Artifact Collection Highlights

The Diplomacy Center’s artifact collection is unique to the nation. Nowhere else does a museum collection exist that is solely dedicated to our nation’s diplomatic history. Artifacts are powerful storytelling tools which will shed light on the work and history of our nation’s diplomats that may otherwise go unnoticed by the general public. At over 8,500 items, the collection reflects a wide range of people, places, and issues that make up our nation’s rich diplomatic history. Collecting efforts are ongoing as we build a world-class collection.

Patti Morton Meritorius Honor Award
In Memoriam: Patricia Anne (Patti) Morton
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May 30, 1935 – October 16, 2019 (age 84)
The first female Diplomatic Security special agent

As the first female Diplomatic Security special agent, Patti Morton was very aware of the legacy she would leave for women. 

The staff of the National Museum of American Diplomacy was saddened to learn of the passing of Patricia Anne (Patti) Morton on October 16, 2019 at her home in Washington DC. Patti was a beloved figure among the museum staff, having shared fascinating stories from her groundbreaking career — including, most notably, becoming the first female Diplomatic Security special agent in 1972.

Originally from Washington State, Patti joined the State Department as a Foreign Service staff officer in 1965 and during nearly 30 year career served in Nepal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Singapore, Vietnam, and Washington, D.C.

This clutch was used by Patricia Morton, recruited to be the first female Diplomatic Security Agent, to carry her .357 Magnum pistol while assigned to the Washington field office in the early 1970s. She weathered the difficult transition from an all-male service to one that included women. At the time, Diplomatic Security did not issue gear for women to hold their weapons. Ms. Morton found her own solution by using this clutch.

This clutch was used by Patricia Morton, recruited to be the first female Diplomatic Security Agent, to carry her .357 Magnum pistol while assigned to the Washington field office in the early 1970s. Gift of Patti Morton

Patti became the first female special agent in 1972 and faced many challenges. One item that she donated to the NMAD collection symbolizes this time: the blue clutch purse in which she carried her .357 Magnum pistol while assigned to the Washington field office in the early 1970s. At the time, Diplomatic Security did not issue gear for women to hold their weapons. Patti found her own solution by using this clutch. During her years as a special agent she earned the nickname “Pistol Packin’ Patti.”

In the all-male world of special agents, she encountered difficulty being accepted. Patti would tell the story of how she spent months being passed over for duty assignments in the Washington field office, since her first name stood out on the list of candidates as a woman’s. A sympathetic supervisor finally fixed this one day by listing available agents only by last name, resulting in Patti being picked for duty.

Patti also broke ground at U.S. Embassy Saigon as the first female Regional Security Officer. Her duties included supervising the Marine security guards who guarded the embassy. The Marines gave her a camouflage uniform (including a matching elastic hair band) to wear the first time they took her to the shooting range, wanting her to fit in. Though she admitted not knowing where she learned to shoot a gun, she became known for being an excellent shot.

While in Vietnam she wrote the post’s evacuation plan, which was significant as it was put to use during the fall of Saigon in April 1975 and the ultimate evacuation and closure of the embassy. Against her wishes she was ordered to evacuate Saigon a few weeks before the city fell, owing to a supervisor who felt the environment was no place for a woman. She had to leave without any of her household effects, which were never returned to her.  

What might just seem like toy cars are actually effective diplomatic training aids. Diplomatic Security Agent Patti Morton utilized these toy cars as part of her duties to train employees at U.S. Embassy Saigon in the art of defensive driving, demonstrating various scenarios which a diplomat might encounter on the road.

Diplomatic Security Agent Patti Morton utilized these toy cars as part of her duties to train employees at U.S. Embassy Saigon in the art of defensive driving. Gift of Patti Morton

Patti was an early supporter of the museum, donating her badge and and special agent ID along with other items in 2004. Among her later donations was a set of toy cars that she used for a very serious purpose: training employees at U.S. Embassy Saigon in the art of defensive driving, demonstrating various scenarios which a diplomat might encounter on the road. 

Patti was a consistent presence at NMAD programs and events, showing her unwavering support for the museum. NMAD staff is grateful for her important, trailblazing contributions to American diplomacy and to the museum. Whatever she encountered during her career, Patti shared with us that she would always adapt and make the best with what was available. She had her champions as well as her detractors – she knew that her work was always being watched and evaluated.

Reflecting upon being the first female Department of State Special Agent, Patti said, “When I think of being the first woman security officer, what I think of most is I hope I have done the best job I can, and that it will be easier for those who follow.” 

In early 2019, NMAD Director Mary D. Kane had the opportunity to meet Patti Morton.

Freed hostage Bruce Laingen makes ?V? signs as he steps from the first of four planes carrying the freed hostages from West Point, N.Y., to their official welcome in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 1981 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Laingen was the charge d?affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Iran.
Veterans in Diplomatic Service: L. Bruce Laingen, 1922-2019
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We salute our nation’s veterans! An estimated 7,100 military veterans serve our nation in diplomatic capacities at the Department of State. Throughout our nation’s history, the branches of the military and the Department of State have worked closely together to promote our national security and protect Americans at home and abroad. Building upon this partnership, many military veterans continue to serve our country by joining the diplomatic ranks.  

A notable veteran turned diplomat was L. Bruce Laingen who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a member of the Navy Supply Corps. He was a supply and disbursing officer for a group of landing craft that were used in beach invasions during the Philippine campaigns. He saw combat in the invasion of Luzon at Lingayen Gulf in January 1945.

After the war, he graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Minnesota. He joined the Foreign Service in 1950 and served until 1987 at posts in Germany, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and as U.S. Ambassador to Malta.

Ambassador Laingen endured one of the most harrowing diplomatic crises of the 20th century. 

In 1979, U.S. Embassy Tehran, Iran, became a visible target during the political revolution led by Islamic fundamentalists against the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Animosity towards westerners, in particular Americans who had backed the Shah, had been building for over a year. 

On November 4, 1979, Laingen was serving as Charge d’Affaires (the acting ambassador) at U.S. Embassy Tehran when militants scaled the embassy compound walls, seized control of the embassy, and forcibly detained 66 American staff. At the time of the take over, Laingen and two other embassy staff were meeting with Iranian provisional government leaders at the Foreign Ministry and were detained there. 

Earlier that year on February 14th, militants temporarily took over the U.S. embassy, however the situation was resolved the same day. Many embassy employees did not expect the situation on November 4th to last very long. U.S. embassy Political Officer John Limbert recalled his expectation that the seizure would be a “1970’s style student sit-in” rather than a protracted hostage-taking situation. At the Foreign Ministry, Laingen demanded that the Iranians, as the host government, uphold the diplomatic convention of protecting the exterior of a foreign embassy from intrusion. Unfortunately, none of this happened. Ultimately, 52 Americans were held hostage by the Iranians for 444 days.

On January 20, 1981, after the signing of agreements brokered by Algerian diplomats, Ambassador Laingen and his colleagues were freed from Iran. They flew immediately to Algeria and then to Germany for medical treatment at the U.S. Air Force base in Weisbaden. Afterward, they returned to the United States amid great fanfare. All of the freed Americans were showered with gifts, cards, certificates, and memorabilia that reflected the solidarity across the country for their plight as hostages. 

Looking back at his time in captivity, Ambassador Laingen evoked his experience in the Navy. Being held at the Iranian Foreign Ministry – apart from most of the staff being held at the embassy – was especially hard because he was the “captain of the ship.” He felt it was his duty to be with his people and do what we could to help them. 

Ambassador Laingen donated several items that represent his 1981 return to freedom to the National Museum of American Diplomacy. His story reflects the best of the State Department and U.S. military relationship and the values of service and patriotism that veterans bring to their diplomatic service. 

Items from the Secretary's office donated to National museum of american diplomacy
Madam Secretary Artifacts in the National Museum of American Diplomacy Collection
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Madam Secretary Artifacts in the National Museum of American Diplomacy Collection

In 2019, the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) was pleased to receive a donation of set and prop items from the beloved CBS television show Madam Secretary. CBS Television Studios, Revelations Entertainment, and the show’s creators Barbara Hall, Lori McCreary, and Morgan Freeman made this generous gift possible.

The donation includes iconic pieces from the title character Elizabeth McCord’s State Department office, including her desk, globe, costumes, and other props. These items will become a part of the museum’s permanent collection and will be showcased in an upcoming exhibit. The items from the show will become a valuable entry point to our museum for visitors who have only understood the work of American diplomacy through the television show.

NMAD Director Mary Kane notes, “Madam Secretary has brought to life the important and tireless work of dedicated American diplomats who represent our nation around the world and in Washington, DC. We are honored to recognize this successful show by including artifacts from the production as part of our permanent collection. We are grateful to CBS Television Studios and Revelations Entertainment for this generous donation. These items will become a focal point of our popular culture exhibit, giving us a compelling and dynamic way to engage our audience who may have been introduced to the work and language of diplomacy through this television show.”

White empty new storage facility with racks
New collection storage facility completed
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The Diplomacy Center’s collection has a new home following completion of a custom designed 2,00  square foot museum storage space. This new space represents a significant upgrade in storage capacity, access, and preservation capabilities for the Center’s unique 8,500+ item collection —  and the only museum collection in the nation focused on preserving our diplomatic history.

Outfitted with specialized museum storage shelves and cabinets, the space provides roughly double the storage capacity that was available in the Center’s former facility. A fifty foot long compact storage system is a central component, which helps save floor space by placing shelves and cabinets on mobile carriages with aisles that can be opened or closed at the touch of a button.

The space also features independent climate control system, providing a stable temperature and relative humidity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A stable climate helps ensure the best possible conditions for long-term preservation of the priceless history the Center is entrusted with caring for and sharing with the public. 

The project to deliver this space unfolded over an approximately two year period and involved coordination between the State Department’s administration bureau, construction crews, diplomatic security, and the Center’s collections manager.

With the space completed, the Center’s curatorial staff is now moving the collection from its temporary location into its new home. The specialized features and increased capacity of this space will enable the Diplomacy Center to preserve, grow, and share its unique collection with the public — now and in the future. 

Chronicle of Freedom
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Original image of old newspaperThis original August 3, 1789 issue of The Independent Gazetteer or the Chronicle of Freedom provides notice of and complete text of the July 27, 1789 act establishing the Department of Foreign Affairs. This legislation enacted what is the core law for the Department of State today. The original Department of Foreign Affairs (with the name changed to Department of State the same year) originally had a staff of 5 people under the first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who had just finished serving as United States minister to France. The original State Department was located in a building on Broadway in New York, before being moved to Philadelphia in 1790 and later to Washington DC. When President Washington appointed the first 17 US consular officers, the officials were Americans who happened to be engaged in trade in particular cities with no salaries provided by the government. The Gazetteer was published in Philadelphia from 1782-1790.

A diplomatic crisis
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old spectacles on minimalistic background

Fake eyeglasses
Issued to Kathleen Stafford as part of her disguise to escape Tehran 1980

The Iran Hostage crisis ranks as one of the most traumatic diplomatic crises in U.S. history. In the wake of a successful revolution by Islamic fundamentalists against the pro-American Shah of Iran, the United States became an object of virulent criticism and the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was a visible target. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the embassy and detained more than 50 Americans staff as hostages. The Iranians held the American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

A few Americans inside the embassy compound managed to escape. Kathleen Stafford was a Foreign Service spouse working as a visa clerk in the consulate within the U.S embassy in Tehran at the time of the takeover. She, along with her husband Joseph Stafford, Robert Anders, Cora Amburn-Lijek, Mark Lijek and Lee Schatz, managed to escape the initial breach of the embassy through a consulate back door that led to an unoccupied alleyway. The escapees divided into two groups to avoid attention. Stafford and her group evaded capture by moving from vacant house to vacant house for a few days before finding more lasting refuge at the homes of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and Consul General John Sheardown, who welcomed them despite great personal risk.

The group of six would remain guests of the Canadian diplomats for almost three months until a CIA extraction operation lead by Tony Mendez, and made famous by the movie “Argo,” allowed them to escape Iran on January 28, 1980 by posing as a film production team. The CIA agents gave Kathleen this pair of fake eyeglasses as part of her costume for the day of escape. Kathleen and the other “houseguests” had to memorize their cover stories, take on fake personas, and carry fake documentation that would allow them to surreptitiously pass through Revolutionary Guard security at the Tehran airport.

Edward Dudley Jr. and Diplomacy Center Associate Curator Katie Speckat discuss items in his father’s diplomatic collection.
Archival Collection of the First African American Ambassador Comes to the National Museum of American Diplomacy
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We think we opened the door and stopped this kind of discrimination.

Ambassador Edward R. Dudley

In 1949, Edward R. Dudley became the first African American to hold the rank of ambassador. Ambassador Dudley’s son, Edward Jr., has donated his father’s extensive archival collection from his time serving as the head of the U.S. mission to Liberia from 1948 to 1953 to the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD). The NMAD is truly honored to receive this generous gift. Increasing the diversity of diplomats represented in the NMAD’s holdings is a top curatorial priority. 

Before becoming an ambassador, Edward Dudley had a distinguished career as an attorney. Ambassador Dudley was a civil rights lawyer in the 1940s, appointed to the New York Attorney General’s Office and then was recruited by Thurgood Marshall to become a Special Assistant at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Subsequently, he became the Legal Counsel to the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, moving there with his young family.

Diplomacy Center Deputy Director Jane Carpenter-Rock reviewing Ambassador Edward Dudley’s collection in New York.

Diplomacy Center Deputy Director Jane Carpenter-Rock reviewing Ambassador Edward Dudley’s collection in New York.

In 1948, President Harry Truman sent Dudley to Liberia as U.S. Envoy and Minister. Upon elevation of the Mission in Liberia to a full U.S. Embassy in 1949, Dudley was promoted to the rank of Ambassador. With that, Ambassador Dudley became the first black Ambassador in U.S. history. This also made him the highest ranking diplomat, often referred to as the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia.  

After departing Liberia in 1953 he continued to practice law and was later elected to the New York Supreme Court in 1965, serving on the high court until 1985.

During an oral history interview with the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, Ambassador Dudley recounted what he considered his highest achievement in Liberia. During this time, African American Foreign Service officers were stuck in what was perjoratively called the “negro circuit.” Dudley describes their situation:

In Liberia “…the leading black foreign service officer there had never had the opportunity of serving anywhere else in the world, despite the fact that it was a policy of our State Department to rotate foreign service officers about every two years….”

“…Despite the fact that we had scores of black people — men and women — in both the Foreign Service Officer corps and in the other areas of government such as secretaries, clerks, other people, none had ever gotten outside of a little triumvirate there that we called Monrovia, Ponta Delgada and Madagascar — all black, hardship, disagreeable posts.” 

“This had been going on for year after year after year, after year…. I am reminded of one man by the name of Rupert Lloyd, a graduate of Williams College, who had been serving in the Foreign Service when I got there at Monrovia for almost ten years. Another fellow, William George, who had just moved over to one of the other hardship posts…. There had been one woman they told me who had been there for almost twenty-five years. She’d gone when I got there. Another one for seventeen years. So I decided to check into it and I got the staff to prepare some research on it, and I did some myself. We put together a memorandum which was a statement documenting every black in the Foreign Service over a long period of years: where they were; when they came into the service; how long they had been in; and, the fact that they had never been transferred. And next to that we added a class of white Foreign Service officers that we took from the register who came in at the same time as Rupert Lloyd came in and we showed where they had been. In every instance, they had had four, five, six transfers and had been in three, four and five different posts throughout the world, and very few hardship posts.”

“Well, right away you would know that there was something wrong…and I knew exactly what to do…. I asked for an audience with the Under Secretary of State…. it was his responsibility to correct what was not only an unwholesome situation but, in my judgment, an illegal situation since the Foreign Service Act had indicated that discrimination of this kind was not to be permitted.”

“….[W]ithin six months time, transfers came through and the number one Foreign Service officer was sent to Paris, France: Rupert Lloyd. And this is the first time that a black Foreign Service officer had ever served in Europe. A second Foreign Service officer, Hanson, was sent to Zurich, Switzerland, and a young lady of great talent was sent to Rome, Italy. They even cleared my code clerk — a fellow by the name of Mebane — out and he was sent to London, England, and they moved the people out so fast that the Liberians complained and said, ‘What’s happening?’” 

“In my judgment this was probably one of the more important things that I did the whole time I was there, not so much between the relations of Liberia and the United States, but for black Americans. We think we opened the door and stopped this kind of discrimination.”

The NMAD is proud to accept Ambassador’s Dudley’s collection and honor his powerful story.

Page of old scrapbook featuring family of four
A Legacy of Service
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As a young girl, Sylvia Blake set sail with her parents and brothers in 1930 to Guatemala when her father, Sheldon Whitehouse, was assigned there as the U.S. Envoy. Sheldon Whitehouse served as a Foreign Service Officer for nearly 30 years around the world, including London, Caracas, Paris, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Guatemala, and Colombia. He instilled a tradition of public service in his family for generations to come.

Sylvia, herself a child of the foreign service, married Foreign Service Officer Robert Blake. As a foreign service spouse, Sylvia served alongside her husband and supported his and the entire embassy’s efforts to promote U.S. national interests abroad. They lived in many countries, including Leopoldville (Kinshasa), Congo during a very tumultuous time. Robert later served as U.S. Ambassador to Mali (1971-1973).

Sylvia’s brother Charles Whitehouse joined the foreign service and served as U.S. Ambassador to Laos (1973-1975) and to Thailand (1975-1978). Prior to these assignments, he served as the deputy to Ellsworth Bunker, the American ambassador in Saigon.

Sylvia’s son Robert Jr. joined the foreign service and would go on to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Maldives and Sri Lanka (2006-2009), Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs (2009-2013), and U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia (2013-2016).

And Sylvia’s nephew Sheldon Whitehouse, son of Charles, is currently serving as a U.S. Senator for Rhode Island.

Sylvia’s mother kept detailed scrapbooks of their service abroad, a practice that Sylvia continued. Today, three generations of the Whitehouse/Blake family’s service to our nation are preserved in her collection of scrapbooks and photo albums. Earlier this year, Diplomacy Center curatorial staff had the opportunity to visit with Sylvia in her Washington, D.C. home and to digitally capture pages from these historic scrapbooks and albums.

The photographs and mementos vividly depict the personal and familial side of foreign service life, the vital function that the foreign service family plays, and the Whitehouse/Blake family’s dedication to representing the United States abroad. This collection of images captures a legacy of service and greatly supports the Diplomacy Center’s exhibition development and research efforts.

Sylvia has also graciously supported the Diplomacy Center Foundation’s capital campaign by making a $100,000 donation to the Founding Ambassador’s fund. 

 

Passport, Diplomacy Center, Rufus King
Piracy and Passports: How American merchants protected themselves from capture and enslavement
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May 13 marks the 218th anniversary of President Thomas Jefferson ordering U.S. naval vessels to stop Barbary interference with American trade in the Mediterranean. Jefferson’s decision to use force against the Barbary nations of Algiers and Tripoli (semi-autonomous Ottoman Empire states) came after 15 years of negotiations and the Americans’ refusal to continue paying monetary tribute as the price for trading unmolested.

Prior to the early 1780s, American merchants enjoyed trading wheat, flour, and pickled fish throughout the Mediterranean in return for wine and salt under the protection of the British navy. Once the colonies won their independence, they lost this protection and fell prey to Barbary pirates lying in wait at the mouth of the Strait of Gibraltar. These “pirates” — as the western world called them — were actually corsairs or privateers. Pirates are rogue actors not beholden to any nation and operate illegally, while corsairs are ship owners who work for and split their profits with the head of government. But to Americans, who believed firmly in free trade, the kidnapping of sailors and theft of ships was nothing less than piracy. Unfortunately, without a navy to protect private shipping, there was nothing American merchants could do except to try and negotiate treaties agreeing to pay enormous sums of money. U.S. diplomats accomplished such treaties with Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis in 1796 and 1797. The diplomats agreed to pay ransom for 89 American sailors (some which had been held for 11 years) and a yearly tribute amounting to about 16 percent of the entire appropriated U.S. budget.

The years following these initial treaties were a tense period for American merchants and sailors, especially those who had been previously captured. If their ship fell into the hands of Barbary corsairs, they would need to prove their American identity, which a passport could provide. Before 1941, the United States did not require its citizens to carry a passport for travel except during wartime, making passports from the late 18th century/early 19th century extremely rare.

Rufus King, then American minister to Great Britain, issued this 1798 passport to David Hinckley, a wealthy Boston merchant who traveled frequently to London on business. It is the oldest in our extensive collection and also one of the more intriguing. Barbary corsairs had captured David Hinckley in the early 1790s, enslaving him into hard labor for two years until diplomats secured his freedom through ransom. In 1798, Hinckley ensured he had an official U.S. government passport on his person to prove he was an American citizen and protected under the 1796 and 1797 treaties.

Passports would not, however, provide protection if nations broke treaties. The United States government quickly fell behind on its payments and the Barbary States resumed piracy around 1800. But unlike the 1780s, the United States had built a navy and Thomas Jefferson was ready to use it in defense of American trade without tribute. The First and Second Barbary Wars (1801-1805 & 1815) concluded favorably for the United States and diplomats drew up new treaties declaring that none of the nations would show any “favor or privilege in navigation or commerce” to any particular country. And cautious traders, like David Hinckley, could now travel more safely in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, with or without passport in hand.

Crowd of soldiers walk by citizens in a black and white photo with Austrian Alps in background
Medal of Freedom
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The Consulate General had its windows and doors blown in or out several times, and all of us had narrow escapes, but no one was actually hit, a miracle in view of the thousands of flying and rocket bombs directed our way. We owe our lives to Divine intervention and to the efficiency of the 50th American Anti-Aircraft Brigade under the able command of Brigadier General Clare H. Armstrong.

James H. Keeley, quoted in Foreign Service Journal, September 1945

a bronze medal on a gray background

James H. Keeley, American Civilian, for exceptionally meritorious achievement which aided the United States in the prosecution of the war against the enemy in Continental Europe, as United States Consul-General, Antwerp, Belgium, from 7 November 1944 to 30 March 1945. He contributed greatly to the maintaining of security and the averting of panic among the civilian population of Antwerp. His successful efforts greatly aided the war effort and reflect high credit upon him. 29 Nov 1945

May 8th is celebrated in Europe and in the United States as Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day. On this day in 1945, the Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, paving the way for the end of World War II.

During the war, the port of Antwerp, Belgium was crucial for logistical support for Allied forces. On October 12, 1944, Nazi forces commenced V-bomb attacks on both Antwerp and London. Known as Vergeltungswaffe (vengeance weapon), V-bombs were imprecise and killed almost exclusively civilians. By March 1945, more V-bombs had fallen on greater Antwerp than London.

The V-bomb attacks in Antwerp killed more than 3,400 civilians and 700 allied service personnel. In almost six months of terror, there were just 12 days when no bombs fell.

During this entire time, Foreign Service Officer James H. Keeley bravely served as Consul General at U.S. Consulate Antwerp. For his successful efforts during wartime, President Truman awarded him this Medal of Freedom in 1945. Keeley is credited as contributing “…greatly to the maintaining of security and the averting of panic among the civilian population of Antwerp.” Keeley also gave credit to the bravery and endurance of the local Belgian consulate staff who did not leave the post.