Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park
Late in the morning of November 5, 1942, Walter William Orebaugh, American Consul General at Nice, France, received a telephone call from Pinkney Tuck, American Chargé d’affaires at the American Embassy at Vichy, who informed him that the Department of State had instructed that he should go to Monaco immediately and open a consulate. Orebaugh, born in Wichita, Kansas on March 19, 1910, graduated from Wichita Municipal University, in 1931; and was appointed to the foreign service on December 17, 1931. He served at Montreal, Wellington, Trieste, Venice, and again at Trieste. He became vice consul at Nice on March 8, 1941, and consul there on June 23, 1942.
After talking with Tuck, Orebaugh immediately set about turning the Nice office over to the Vice-Consul and in the afternoon of November 5, Orebaugh drove the 12 miles to Monaco to see Prince Louis to inform him of the American Government’s decision to open the Consulate and to obtain his formal consent to its establishment. On November 6, about noon, the American flag was hoisted at the corner of the north wing of the Hotel Metropole where two rooms had been engaged temporarily to serve as the American Consulate. The first in history to be established in the Principality, was thus informally opened for public business.
Orebaugh’s tenure in Monaco would be short-lived. On November 11, Italian military forces occupied the Principality. Six days later the Italians arrested Orebaugh and two of his clerks – Miss Amy Houlden (a British subject), and American Mrs. Anne Charrier, and on November 30, they were sent to Italy for internment. They were first interned at Gubbio on December 2. The first day after their arrival Orebaugh addressed a letter to the Swiss Legation in Rome appealing for its assistance. At the same time he wrote a postcard under a fictitious name to an old friend of his who lived in Trieste. Orebaugh so worded this postcard that when received, he would understood that its author could only be Orebaugh. This friend was Manfred Metzger. Metzger was an Austrian, having been born in Trieste of Austrian parents, but since the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich, technically a German national. Orebaugh knew him several years before he left Trieste where he was stationed from 1937 to 1941 as Vice-Consul. Orebaugh always found him a sympathizer with the Allied cause and friendly to Americans and definitely pro-democratic in his thinking. Metzger visited the United States in 1938 on his honeymoon and returned to Trieste, with an American car, radio-phonograph, etc. He was married to an Italian girl and had one child. From his father he inherited wealth and part ownership in Robert Metzger & Co., a Trieste firm engaged in the transportation of wine in railroad tank cars. Orebaugh believed that he had firms in Switzerland, France, Austria, and Italy. He described him primarily as a man with a mind for business and with little interest in politics.