President Johnson’s View of Diplomats and Diplomatic Work, 1965

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in Research Services at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

A May 1965, letter that Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration William J. Crockett sent to American ambassadors overseas provides unique insight into President Lyndon Johnson’s attitudes towards the work of the Foreign Service and its domestic U.S. context.  As the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration, Crockett was the senior official in the Department directly responsible for the management of the Department and the Foreign Service.  He wrote the letter after accompanying several new ambassadors on a visit with President Johnson before they proceeded to their posts.

Letter from W.J. Crockett to Ambassador Charles Bohlen, 14 March 1965 (NAID 580618)

Johnson was a good communicator.  He also could be brash, boorish, overbearing, combative, and crude when dealing with people.  When Crockett states that Johnson “stated emphatically,” even without the exact words, one can almost hear the President lambasting his new ambassadors in Crockett’s description.

Source: William J. Crockett to Ambassador Charles Bohlen, May 11, 1965, file ORG 1, 1964-66 SUBJECT-NUMERIC FILE, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  Crockett sent the same letter to 71 other U.S. diplomatic representatives overseas.  Copies of those letters are in the file.

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