Golf Diplomacy, 1957

By David Langbart

In April of this year, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, made a state visit to the United States.  In June 1957, Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, then Japan’s prime minister, made a similar visit to the United States.  That visit came to symbolize a renewal of the strength of the U.S.-Japan friendship after World War II.

Both President Dwight Eisenhower and Prime Minister Kishi had a passion for golf and as planning for the visit  began, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sent the following telegram (that he personally drafted) to the American ambassador to Japan, Douglas MacArthur II (the famed general’s nephew):

Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles, May 17, 1957

Ambassador MacArthur replied with the following message:

Telegram from Ambassador MacArthur, May 18, 1957

The President and Prime Minister played golf on the afternoon of June 19 at the Burning Tree Club at which time the following photograph was made:

President Eisenhower is second from the left; Prime Minister Kishi is wearing the dark shirt. The other gentlemen are not identified.


  • The telegrams come from file 033.9411 in the 1955-59 segment of the Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), part of RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.
  • The photograph is Image 79-AR-4250-H from White House Photographs Taken by Abbie Rowe, 1941-1967 (NAID 520052) in RG 79: Records of the National Park Service.
  • A selection of documents about the visit is printed in Foreign Relations of the United States: Japan, 1955-57, Volume XXIII, Part 1.
  • For more on the overall U.S.-Japan relationship, see The Clash: U.S.-Japanese Relations throughout History by Walter LaFeber.

I appreciate the assistance of my colleagues Cathleen Brennan and Marcus Martin in securing a copy of the photograph.

2 thoughts on “Golf Diplomacy, 1957

  1. Excellent post as usual.
    Was there an after-action report? Did diplomacy improve as a result of the game? Did either participant deliberately lose to gain the other’s goodwill?

  2. UPDATE. Several people asked about the final score at Burning Tree. The Department of State records do not include any information on that, so I contacted the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library. My good colleagues Karl Weissenbach and Kevin Bradley provided the following information.

    There is no record of the scores of the players. An article from the June 17 issue of the Chicago Tribune in the White House files notes that Kishi had played golf for 30 years and brought his own shoes because he believed the borrowed ones used on a recent trip to Ceylon [Sri Lanka] had hurt his game.

    At a June 18 press conference, White House Press Secretary James Hagerty listed the members of the two foursomes in the golf expedition to Burning Tree as:

    President Eisenhower
    Prime Minister Kishi
    Takizo Matsumoto, a member of the Diet
    Sen. Prescott Bush (R) Connecticut

    Koichiro Asaki, the Japanese Ambassador to the U. S.
    Congressman Charles Halleck (R) Indiana
    Deputy Under Secretary of State Robert Murphy
    Congressman George H. Mahon (D) Texas

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