The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

24 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL that we had to keep them sitting there on the benches in the parks of Havana for years on end sometimes, before they could come. When they walked into the office, we did the very best we could under extremely difficult circumstances. Understandably, the visa applicants themselves weren’t always models of patience. I remember on one occasion we received a complaint from the United States about how somebody was treated at the reception desk. The consul general, Coert du Bois, was a very imaginative and gung-ho officer. When he got this complaint, he had a photographer come and take a picture of the receptionist at work. It was a very dramatic picture. There was this young woman at her desk surrounded by at least 20 people, all with their arms out, shouting at her, trying to get her attention, trying to get in. The poor woman was trying to cope with this great crowd of people. I honestly don’t feel that there was anything untoward about the way we handled the people in general under the circumstances that existed at the time, which were extremely difficult for everybody, on our side and theirs as well. … The people were swarming into Cuba, not only from Germany but from many other countries. We had people from 30 or 40 nations, it seemed, all lined up there waiting for their visas. 1941 Destroying Classified Code Books in Yokohama Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Vice Consul Niles W. Bond was spending most days reporting to the Navy Department on Japanese ship movements in Tokyo Bay, which he observed from a telescope on the roof of U.S. Consulate Yokohama. After war broke out, Bond was considerably closer to the action. When Japan’s military police, the Kempeitai, took over the consulate, he and a colleague defied their captors to keep the Japanese from breaking U.S. secret codes. I turned on the radio and … all of a sudden, the newsreader interrupted and said the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, and Japan was now in a state of war with the United States and Great Britain. It was about five-thirty [a.m.] by the time I got that, and so I woke my colleague, the other vice consul. We had some things to burn. … After two or three hours of this, the Kempeitai arrived in force and took over everything. … One thing we had kept, at the consul general’s insistence … he said: “The last things you want to burn are the code books, because we may get a coded message from the Embassy that we will have to be able to read.” So we kept the code books, and they were still there when the Japanese arrived. The truckload of Kempeitai guards were commanded by a major. He made us go around and open all the files and show him what was inside. He saw the code books. They were in a vault in the consul general’s office, but he didn’t touch them. He didn’t touch anything. He just closed them up and put a Kempeitai seal on them. … This was a mistake on his part, because my vice consul colleague, Jules Goetzman, and I decided that the thing at the top of our list was getting those code books back, out of the vault, and destroyed, before the Japanese got them and read them or used them. ... There were two doors to the consul general’s office, one of which opened into a hallway that led to our apartments upstairs. The other led to his secretary’s office, which was now being used as a sleeping area for the [Kempeitai] guards. The vault that held the code books was right up against the wall on the other side of which they were sleeping. So we found one night that they had failed to shut tight the one door that we had access to. About midnight … we went downstairs very quietly and carefully opened the vault. Every time we turned the thing we heard this “clunk” inside. It sounded horribly loud to Noncommissioned officers of the Imperial Japanese Army’s military police, the Kempeitai, in November 1935. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS My vice consul colleague, Jules Goetzman, and I decided that the thing at the top of our list was getting those code books back, out of the vault, and destroyed, before the Japanese got them. —Niles W. Bond