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Gentleman's Military Interest Club
Bear

Just another day at the Embassy

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Hello,

I wonder how embassy personnel got out of an enemy foreign country in WWII. I wouldn't think that they stayed after a declaration of war. Imagine being a Japanese embassy worker in D.C. on December 7, 1941. Imagine being an American embassy worker in Japan on December 7, 1941. I guess your escorted to the airport and asked to get the Hell of the country.

I don't ever recall seeing any photos of what happened at the embassies on the 7th or 8th of December. In my twisted mind I can only picture the embassies being hit with Molotov cocktails and a drive by spray of tommy guns. :violent:

Anyone have any embassy stories that they can share. :cheers:

Any period in history will do. I just used American/Japan as an example. It was either post here or the lounge.

I can't even imagine what went on in Moscow and Berlin. :violent:

thanks,

barry

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Actually the "professional niceties" were observed even between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Sent hme via third party neutrals.

Kind of like the old joke about lawyers and sharks and professional courtesy.

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My father, a ex-high school teacher of history who had managed during that same depression to go on to law school, was called in when the German (and Italian and Japanese) diplomatic staff were interned in the Greenbrier Hotel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Greenbrier

in White Sulphur Springs, WV, in the days after 7 December 1941. His two years of college German (even from a good university) weren't of much help, but he was the best sort of person they had available in those crazy days.

By the time he joined the US Navy early in the spring of 1942 (having passed up the undesirable pre-draft chance to join the Army and not passed the color blindness test for the Air Corps [which condition would eventually bump him from duty on an LST for the North African landings, otherwise I'd not be here...]), these guys at The Greenbrier had been swapped for corresponding US diplomats.

Diplomatic immunity meant something in those days.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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Hello Ed,

Interesting story. I wonder if their are any pictures of them leaving/entering the embassy/hotel. I wonder how the Americans got out of Japan. Maybe Russia or Austrailia.

thanks,

barry

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I believe there are some photos and other information in the hotel's rather extensive archives.

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I can't even imagine what went on in Moscow and Berlin. :violent:

The diary of the Romanian minister of the time, Grigore Gafencu, has recently been published and I presume it contains details about what happened after the declaration of war. Anyhow, the personel of the Romanian Embassy in Moscow was evacuated through Turkey.

In the summer of 1944, the Romanian minister in Berlin was a Germanophile who issued an order that recommended to all the personel under his authority not to recognise the new Romanian government and its decisions. Those who did comply with this order were placed under house arrest, pending the decision of the German authorities. As they could not be exchanged on the front line with their German counterparts, about 200 Romanians were then sent to special concentration camps in Germany and Austria (Krumhubel, Ramingstein and Maria Worth). In May 1945 they were liberated by the Allies and sent to Italy. Later, some of them returned to Romania, while others left for other countries.

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Bear,

From August of 1997 until the weekend before Easter (March) in 1999 my family and I were living in Belgrade. Both my wife and myself were posted to the Canadian Embassy there. During the several months that NATO threatened to bomb Yugoslavia over their treatment of Kosovo we made plans for the evacuations of non-essential staff, destruction of classified material etc. In Oct. 98 NATO made some threatening statements about bombing by a certain date and all of the families and most of the staff were evacuated to Budapest. They gathered at the Embassy and formed vehicle convoys, 6 to 8 cars in a group, heading for Hungary. Getting these cars away from the Embassy was a shambles as our building was on a main four lane street with lots of traffic. Lots of threats were made on the radio that the nationals of countries who bombed Yugoslavia would not be covered by the Geneva Convention and would be dealt with harshly. Many of the local staff at the Embassy also held Canadian citizenship and some fled to other countries. Panic reined in many areas and the countries telephone system became so over loaded that it ceased to function. The cell phone service was the first to go. After that, all landline communications with the outside world was cut. Our communications were intact as we ran our own communications net via INMARSAT. Those of us left in Belgrade moved into the Embassy and waited for further developements. A few days later the last of us left and drove private and Embassy cars to Budapest. What we did in the Embassy during those few days I will have to leave to your imagination. We spent two days in Budapest with our families and by then it was obvious that NATO was not going to bomb so a few of us drove back to Belgrade with the rest of the families and staff following later in the week.

The next few weeks saw things return to a somewhat normal routine extcept that our headquarters advised that we could send any items we valued back to Ottawa for storage at the departments expence. I expected future problems so we sent everything that we did not absolutely need to survive in Belgrade back home and into storeage. In late Jan. early Feb. of 99 NATO began rattling the sabre again and once more we evacuated all of the non-essential staff and families to Budapest. This time the planning was better and the families met in a large parking lot in Novi Beograd and formed into their convoys there. Nine of us stayed in Belgrade. All six military guards and three of us lucky "essential" staff. We didn't move into the Embassy this time but we certainly kept a low profile. Once again NATO backed down and the families and staff returned after about a week.

Things didn't quite return to normal this time. NATO rhetoric was constant and we kept a packed suitcase for each family member by the front door. By the begining of March we were sure that NATO was serious this time. The Friday before Easter we had just arrived home from work when the phone rang. Saturday at 9:00 am everyone was to meet at the parking lot in Novi Beograd and form convoys for another trip to Budapest. This was obviously not a well kept secret as when we arrived at the parking lot the next morning there were several TV camera crews there to cover the departure. This had not happened in the past. Many of our relatives in Canada knew we had left for Budapest again when they saw these pictures on the CBC news telecasts. Us "essential" people gathered at our Embassy to carry out our various duites before we were to leave the following day. The most useful thing I did that day was to remove all of the cases of beer from the Embassy Club and lock them in the vault. This beer was most welcome when I led a small team of specialists to Belgrade to reopen the Embassy in July of 99.

Early on Sunday morning those of us that were left, except for the head military guard and the head of the admin section, each drove an Embassy vehicle to Budapest. We left our armoured suburban for our two collegues. We had been assured they would have two seats on the plane that was to fly the U.S. negotiating team out of Belgrade before the deadline for the commenment of bombing. Tuesday night our two guys drove our suburban the two blocks to the U.S. Embassy and parked it underground before leaving for the airport in the U.S. armoured vehicles. Wednesday afternoon I sat in my hotel room and watched B52s make circular contrails over Budapest while they launched cruise missles at their targets.

It was hard for us who lived there to see the country bombed. I didn't think it would resolve anything and I told my boss so. His response was that I was too close to the problem to see things clearly. In the end, the bombing didn't change much. It took the people to finally topple the government and to start turning things around again. I think people power is far superior to bomb power.

Regards,

Gordon

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Another parallel tale:

A good friend of mine in graudate school was doing his dissertation reserch in Pakistan (that resulted in a 400+ page Buddhist Studies dissertation, but that's another tale). To help fund his work, he took a part-time job teaching history at the US embassy school in Lahore, he also coached basketball (which, there as elsewhere, seemed more important than the history). He had the kids of some prominent folks on his team, both Pakistani and foreign, including the two sons of the Saudi consul in Lahore. He took them off to the regional basketball competition and his team did really well the first day and they went back to their hotel rooms . . . in -- you guessed it -- Kabul. The day of the semi-finals they woke up to -- you guessed it again -- Soviet tanks in the streets of Kabul. They were three weeks getting out and he claims he considered defection if anything had happened to any of the boys.

Edited by Ed_Haynes

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Hello Gordon,

Fantastic! I remember watching CNN when NATO started bombing. Is it like in the movies when they burn everything but the beer.

Hello Ed,

He probably thought WWIII had started.

I remember watching the UN Ambassador to Iraq when the US invaded. He was in the dark and must of had one confusing time. I wonder what happened to him.

thanks,

barry

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Bear,

Burning is slow and labourious, fills the Embassy with smoke and takes a long time. Shredding works a lot better but is also time consuming. Good job for wives and teenage kids!

We learned a lot from the take over of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In those days, shredders did just that. Shredded the paper much the same as the commercial ones you find in peoples homes today. The Iranians put tons of young people to work laying the strips of paper out on any flat surface they could find and reassembled many classified documents. By 1999 good shredders turned documents into a fine powder. Good for the paper and plastic bag industry. Burning works for CDs, mag tapes etc. Need a large metal bin for this though. A garbage can and some combustible liquid works really well. As long as it is outside! There is a problem with this approach. Hardly any of the Canadians in the Embassy smoked. Anybody got a match? Drinking the beer disposes of it.

Cheers,

Gordon

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Many of you probably know this story, but it bears repeating nevertheless.

Chiune Sugihara, [was] a Japanese diplomat in Kaunas, Lithuania, who, defying orders from his government, hand-wrote 2,139 visas allowing Jewish refugees to flee Europe and find temporary sanctuary in Japan during World War II.

In the crucial weeks as the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania, he spent 18 to 20 hours a day writing transit papers. In name, refugees were bound for Cura?ao, a Dutch possession in the Caribbean that required no entry visa; in reality, all who could escape ended up in Japan. Witnesses say he was still writing as he headed for Berlin, throwing the stamped papers and documents out the window of the train as it pulled out of the station. (story taken from a back issue of US News)

In the very finest traditions of both diplomats and decent human beings! He is commemorated in Israel among the other heroes known as "The Righteous Among the Nations": Gentiles who put their own careers and lives at risk to assist Jews in escaping the Holocaust. A quiet hero. We need more such.

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Here's a shot of the Soviet Embassy in Berlin right after it was vacated ..look at the Banner

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And here?s a rare shot of the German Diplomatic delegation being received upon their return to Germany from the US

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