U.S. Diplomacy Stories

Top front of passport
Passport Travels: Meyer Franklin Kline, globetrotting guidebook editor
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Have a case of wanderlust? As you take a look at this passport from the museum’s collection, join Meyer Franklin Kline and his wife Mildred Kline as they travelled the world in 1915 and 1916.

The Klines, originally from California, planned to travel to Russia, China, Japan, India, the Straits Settlements, and Great Britain, “representing [a] Japanese steamship company.” This U.S. passport — like others from the same time period — included an area to list where the traveler was planning to travel and the reason why.

Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited. Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited.

Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited. Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited. Source: Google Books

A dream job

Meyer Franklin Kline, who went by Franklin, dreamed of travelling the world from a young age. In 1900, at the age of 18, he rode a bicycle from his home in Los Angeles all the way to Montreal in Canada. From there, he boarded a ship bound for Europe and attended the world’s fair in Paris.

“How fine it would be if I could get up some sort of a guide book so I could get expenses paid for a trip around the world,” Franklin recalled thinking during his early years, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1935. And that is exactly what he did.

Beginning around 1913, Franklin spent over twenty years traveling the world while working for the Osaka Mercantile Steamship Company Ltd. in Japan as the manager and editor of their annual reference book, Official Guide for Shippers & Travellers to the Principal Ports of the World. Made available in passenger cabins on the company’s ships, it served as both a handy reference book for global travelers and a promotional piece for the company’s services and history. Its hundreds of pages were chock full of facts, figures, and photos about ships and their routes — as well as about countries and major cities across the globe.

A well-traveled passport

This single-page passport, issued in June 1915, was one of many Franklin used during his travels over the years. The numerous stamps it bears — not to mention the worn edges and tears — speak to the travels Franklin and Mildred undertook in 1915 and 1916.

Cluster of stamps on back of passport, including visa for traveling through Russia in center, in purple ink. The handwriting in black ink above reads, in part: “Passage to China and Japan."

Cluster of stamps on back of passport, including visa for traveling through Russia in center, in purple ink. The handwriting in black ink above reads, in part: “Passage to China and Japan.”

A series of stamps across the front and back show one particularly long trip in June 1916, stretching from London to Japan. Starting out in London, they made stops to the U.S. Consulate General to have their passport’s expiration date extended on May 23 and June 2 — paying a total of $2 in fees in the process. They also visited the Russian Consulate General on June 2 to obtain a visa, thereby gaining approval to travel through Russia to China and then Japan.

Taking a northerly route from London through the Nordic countries — thereby avoiding  Central Europe and the active battlefields of World War I — they traveled to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where they would have boarded a ship headed north. Stamps show them stopping in Haparanda, Sweden on June 11th and then crossing the border to Tornio, Finland the same day. From Tornio they traveled on to Beloostrov, Russia on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, arriving June 12. Their long journey across Russia enroute to China was most likely made by train.

The back side of the passport features several lines in traditional Chinese. This is largely a replication of the standard “greeting” language from the front of the passport, included for the convenience of Chinese officials the traveler might encounter on their journey. “Smooth passage shall be granted to the aforementioned passport holders,” it requests for Franklin and Mildred. “No officer shall block their passage or pose any other obstacles to their visits; instead, protection and assistance shall be provided wherever necessary.” It also duplicates areas seen on the front for descriptive information about the bearer (age, height, shape of nose, mouth etc.)

Though no stamps mark the dates of their journey through China, there is a stamp from a government official in the Chinese city of Dalian and an accompanying chop (or official  seal) — indicating that Franklin and Mildred passed through on their journey. Dalian is a port city on the Yellow Sea and would have been a likely point of departure for a ship sailing for Japan, the final destination of their trip.

Several other trips are evident from the stamps and visas spread across this passport. One stamp by a Colonial Secretary in Hong Kong and a handwritten notation beside it — simply “Travelling to Australia” — shows Franklin and Mildred embarking on another long journey in November 1916.

Reflecting on a life of travel

“Meyer Franklin Kline, pictured in September 1935 holding a copy of the guidebook that he had spent over 20 years compiling and editing.

Meyer Franklin Kline, pictured in September 1935 holding a copy of the guidebook that he had spent over 20 years compiling and editing. Credit: M. Franklin Kline, Official Shippers Guide editor, Los Angeles, 1935, Los Angeles Times Photographic Archives (Collection 1429). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

By the time he was interviewed for the 1935 Los Angeles Times article, Franklin had made at least 22 trips around the world. He sometimes even circled the globe twice per year: once in the northern hemisphere, once in the southern. Over the course of the  previous year, he estimated he had traveled more than 55,000 miles.

During his trips he particularly enjoyed collecting rare Chinese objets d’ art (art objects). Since he frequently spent 11 months of the year traveling, he sent them to his home in Washington, D.C. for safekeeping.

Reflecting on his life of travel, Franklin revealed his priorities and his unabated wanderlust. “I have made money, yes, but that was the secondary consideration. I am just as much of a kid in my wish to see the world as I ever was. One can never finish seeing the world, you know.”

About glifaa
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gliffa logo: lgbt+ pride in foreign affairsglifaa–then known as Gays and Lebians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (then GLIFAA) was born in the living room of David Buss and David Larson on March 8, 1992 over brunch. The need for creating an employee organization was firmly established at this first meeting.

Although there has been great progress in terms of achieving equality for LGBT+ employees, obstacles remain. In 2020, the glifaa executive board identified five priorities:

David Buss and David Larson in Seychelles, circa 1987 upon becoming a couple.

David Buss and David Larson in Seychelles, circa 1987 upon becoming a couple.

Protecting LGBT+ Foreign Affairs Employees from Discrimination. As an employee affinity group for LGBT+ employees, glifaa has no higher purpose than to protect its members from the threat of discriminatory treatment at work.

Promoting Accreditation of Same-Sex Spouses. glifaa members want to keep their families together without being forced to sacrifice their ability to advance in their careers. This can only happen when all posts and positions are open and safe for LGBT+ families.

Advocating for Trans* Employees and EFMs. Trans* employees and EFMs face uncertainty and hardship that impedes their or their family members’ ability to do their jobs. glifaa seeks to advance policies that provide clear protections for transgender, gender diverse, and intersex employees and their dependents.

Expanding Front Office Advocacy. glifaa’s many successes would not have been possible without the help of powerful allies within the Department. glifaa aims to harness the power of these allies to support our goals and amplify our message.

Strengthen glifaa as an Organization. For nearly three decades, glifaa’s advocacy has helped cultivate a better working environment for LGBT+ employees. Much work remains.

U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, center, is helped by unidentified men, as she is evacuated from the area of the U.S. Embassy following an explosion in downtown Nairobi, Friday, Aug. 7, 1998. Terrorist bombs exploded minutes apart outside the U.S. embassies in both Kenya and Tanzania Friday, killing more than 67 people, injuring 1,100 and turning buildings into mountains of shattered concrete. At least eight Americans were among the dead in Kenya and seven more were missing, U.S. Embassy spokesman Chris Scharf said. Bushnell, was cut on the lip and helped from Cooperative Bank House, near the embassy, where she had just given a news conference, embassy spokesman Bill Barr said.
Ambassador Bushnell: A Profile in Resilience
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WOMAN’S SUITWorn by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell | 1998Gift of U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell

Woman’s suit worn by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell, 1998. Gift of U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell

I was determined that we were going to get through this as a community even if as individuals we staggered and stumbled now and then.”

—U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell

On August 7, 1998, at 10:30 AM, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania fell victim to coordinated and nearly simultaneous truck bombs – later linked to the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. At U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya, the explosion reduced the interior of the five-story reinforced concrete chancery to rubble. Over 200 people were killed and an estimated 4,000 wounded. At U.S. Embassy Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the force of the blast propelled a filled water tanker over three stories into the air, crashing into the chancery building. Eleven people were killed and over 85 people injured. At the time of the bombing, U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell was meeting with the Kenyan Minister of Commerce in the high-rise bank building across from the embassy’s rear parking lot. She attended this meeting with two colleagues from the U.S. Department of Commerce. When the explosion hit, everyone in the meeting was blown to the floor and injured by glass and debris. U.S. Commercial Officer Riz Khaliq assisted Ambassador Bushnell down several flights of stairs and out of the building.

Ambassador Bushnell was wearing this green suit (below) to the meeting at the time of the attack. Still visible on the suit are her blood stains from the head injury she sustained. NMAD commemorated the 20th anniversary of the bombing in 2018. Read more.

American Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell is overcome by emotion after laying a wreath at the site of the Nairobi U.S. Embassy bombing Wednesday, Aug. 12, 1998. More than 250 people were killed and more than 5,500 were wounded in the twin bombings Friday in Kenya and Tanzania.

American Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell is overcome by emotion after laying a wreath at the site of the Nairobi U.S. Embassy bombing Wednesday, Aug. 12, 1998. More than 250 people were killed and more than 5,500 were wounded in the twin bombings Friday in Kenya and Tanzania.

Portrait of Dudley
The Legacy of Edward R. Dudley: Civil Rights Activist and the First African American Ambassador
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The Legacy of Edward R. Dudley: Civil Rights Activist and the First African American Ambassador

We think we opened the door and stopped this kind of discrimination.

Ambassador Edward R. Dudley

Ambassador Edward E. Dudley with Liberian President William Tubman, c.1949. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

Ambassador Edward R. Dudley (right) with Liberian President William Tubman, c.1949.   Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. Gift of Edward R. Dudley Jr.

In 1949, Edward R. Dudley became the first African American to hold the rank of ambassador. Before becoming an ambassador, 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.

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.”

Edward Dudley Jr. and Diplomacy Center Associate Curator Katie Speckat discuss items in his father’s diplomatic collection.

Edward Dudley Jr. and NMAD Associate Curator Katie Speckat discuss items in his father’s diplomatic collection.

“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.”

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

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

“….[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.”

In 2019, 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). 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. NMAD is proud to preserve Ambassador’s Dudley’s collection and honor his powerful story.

Passport Travels: Myriam Johnston, U.S. Information Agency Officer
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Spurred by a desire to see the world, Myriam Johnston joined the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1955.

Passport Travels: Myriam Johnston, U.S. Information Agency Officer

Spurred by a desire to see the world, Myriam Johnston joined the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1955. President Eisenhower had established USIA in 1953 in a concentrated effort to engage directly with foreign publics to advance understanding of American policies and culture. USIA played a key role in American foreign policy during the Cold War.

Johnston initially had not set out to become a diplomat, but after studying in France in high school and working as a flight attendant, she knew she wanted to continue traveling. She happened to hear her favorite radio disc jockey mention a recruiting fair at a local hotel for the Voice of America, a part of the USIA, and she decided to stop by during her lunch break.

As she recalled, she was about to leave — convinced they were looking for technical expertise she didn’t have — when she was pulled aside by a USIA recruiter. She explained her lack of experience. “I can’t really do anything except type and speak French,” she told him. “On the contrary,” he replied, “we would be very interested in you.”

Spurred by a desire to see the world, Myriam Johnston joined the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1955.

Assigned to Vietnam, the former colony of French Indochina, where she could use her language skills, Johnston departed for Saigon in March 1955. She recalled making several stops along the way. “They couldn’t fly you all the way [with no layovers]. It would kill you.” From Washington, D.C., she flew to Seattle then to Anchorage, Alaska. Then to Tokyo, with a day or two for rest. Then onward to Hong Kong, and finally to Saigon.

Johnston’s assignment to Saigon was at the height of the Cold War, amid the dissolution of French Indochina and a growing Communist insurgency led by Ho Chi Minh. Johnston’s work as a USIA diplomat meant she would play a key role in American foreign policy, engaging with the Vietnamese public about the United States and its values, and seeking to dissuade them from turning to communism.  While there, she worked on film distribution and production. Visa stamps in her passport show her travels around the region, including a visit to the neighboring Philippines, where she recalled the USIA recruiting script writers, camera men, and technicians to come to Saigon and train the Vietnamese in documentary filmmaking. Her assignment in Saigon ended in October 1957.

Myriam Johnston’s service with USIA spanned 25 years, from 1955 until her retirement in 1980. Other overseas assignments brought her to France, Côte d’Ivoire, and Bangladesh — utilizing four more passports also now in the museum’s collection, issued in 1959, 1969, 1975, and 1977.

Johnston, who married Richard R. Hallock later in her life and changed her name to Myriam Johnston Hallock, donated the passports and other items from her career to the museum in 2005 and 2007.

 

Richard Solomon, a China scholar and diplomat, during a period of “Ping-Pong diplomacy.” Here he is pictured with Zhuang Zedong in 1972. (Solomon Family Photo)
Ping Pong Diplomacy
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inscribed ping pong paddle

Inscribed Ping Pong Paddle
Gift of Zhuang Zedong to Dr. Henry Kissinger | 2007. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy

I was as surprised as I was pleased. I had never expected that the China initiative would come to fruition in the form of a ping-pong team.” President Richard Nixon

Chinese ping pong player Zhuang Zedong’s surprise interaction with an American player at a championship game in Japan in April 1971 commenced what became known as “ping pong diplomacy” and a thaw in diplomatic relations between the United States and China.

Immediately following these well-publicized interactions, China (PRC) invited the U.S. ping pong team to play inside Communist China. A year later, the PRC ping pong team visited the United States on a goodwill tour. These sports exchanges provided a public opening for the serious diplomatic negotiations going on behind the scenes.

Henry Kissinger, then the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, secretly traveled to Beijing twice during 1971 to discuss the conditions under which each side would consider a normalization of relations. Soon afterward, President Nixon travelled to China in 1972, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit mainland China. Near the end of the trip, the two governments issued the Shanghai Communiqué. This agreement articulated a “one China” policy and provided the basis for the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, which would occur in 1979.

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
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Welcoming Ambassador Pickering as the Chairman of the Diplomacy Center Foundation Board of Directors

The National Museum of American Diplomacy is honored to welcome Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering as the Chairman of the Diplomacy Center Foundation Board of Directors. The Diplomacy Center Foundation (DCF) is the State Department’s private, nonprofit fundraising partner for the museum. Ambassador Pickering joined the Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2001 and has served as the vice-chair since 2015.

Over the course of his remarkable, forty-year diplomatic career, Ambassador Pickering served in many senior roles, including Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1997-2000) and as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, and Jordan.

Ambassador Pickering was the U.S. Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations in New York, where he led the U.S. effort to build a coalition in the UN Security Council during and after the first Gulf War.

He has held additional positions in Tanzania, Geneva, and Washington, including as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Oceans, Environmental and Scientific Affairs and as Special Assistant to Secretaries of State William P. Rogers and Henry A. Kissinger.

Philip C. Habib is shown speaking as chief negotiator for the United States at the Peace Talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam in Paris, France, 1970.
Philip Habib: America’s Diplomat
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Philip Habib: America’s Diplomat

Philip Habib’s was awarded the Presidential Medal of FreedomBorn to parents who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon, Philip C. Habib grew up in New York and joined the Foreign Service in 1949. Habib became a renowned diplomat over his 30+ year career, first for his service and expertise in Southeast Asia — including a prominent role in the Vietnam peace talks that resulted in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords — and later for his role as a peace negotiator in the Middle East.

Habib grew up in a household where Arabic was regularly spoken. “… We spoke a mixed language in the home. [My parents and grandmother] would speak to me in Arabic, and I would answer in English…” Habib was aided by his background when called out of retirement by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to serve as his special emissary to the Middle East, spending two years in successful pursuit of a ceasefire in a conflict in Lebanon.

Philip Habib received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan in 1982 in recognition of his work in Lebanon. The citation proclaims his success there as “one of the unique feats of diplomacy in modern times” and that “Philip Habib’s mission saved the city of Beirut and thousands of innocent lives.” The medal and the citation are part of NMAD’s permanent collection, as well as other artifacts representing Habib’s diplomatic career donated by the Habib family.

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.