The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 29 hundreds of thousands cheered outside. I quickly, by pencil, wrote it out in capital letters and he rehearsed it a few times. And that is really the whole story. … After the speech we came back for a little while to Willy Brandt’s office where there was a short reception with some of the top politicians; and, of course, I had instructions to stay close to the president in case he talked to some Germans. So I couldn’t help overhearing McGeorge Bundy saying to him, “Mr. President, I think that went a little too far.” So, McGeorge Bundy, like myself and many others, instantly realized that his making this statement in German gave it that much more weight than if he had said it in English. … The president seemed to agree … and then and there made a few changes in his second major speech later on at the university, changes that amounted to making a few more conciliatory statements, if you wish, toward the East. … It didn’t have any effect on the famous statement, of course, but it is interesting to me that McGeorge Bundy, like myself, had this instant reaction that the statement was that much stronger for having been made in German, and millions of Germans since then have repeated his “Ich bin ein Berliner” while they probably would not have quoted “I am a Berliner.” 1966 A Bizarre Diplomatic Hostage Crisis in Guinea FSO Robinson McIlvaine arrived as U.S. ambassador to Guinea after President Sékou Touré had granted asylum to deposed Ghanaian President and fellow Marxist Kwame Nkrumah, appointing him honorary “co-president” of Guinea and outraging Ghana’s new revolutionary government. McIlvaine soon discovered how representing the United States can make diplomats a target, even when the dispute is between African rivals. McIlvaine also served as ambassador to Dahomey [now Benin] and Kenya. We were the first diplomatic hostages. That was before Tehran. The entire American community, everybody in U.S. Embassy Conakry, all the Peace Corps—we had several hundred Peace Corps volunteers—were all put under house arrest, and there was a big brouhaha about that. It happened within days of our arrival. … There was a meeting coming up of the Organization of African Unity, OAU. The foreign minister of Guinea, Mr. Beavogui, was going to that meeting. … Anybody going to Addis Ababa from the west coast had to go on Pan Am. So all the other foreign ministers were getting on as the plane went down the coast. [The plane] came to Accra, Ghana, where Kwame Nkrumah had been overthrown, and the new “revolutionary government” wanted his hide. They saw that the Guinean foreign minister was on the plane; and they went on and roughly hauled him off and arrested him. … The Ghanaians then told Sékou Touré: “All right, you want your foreign minister back? Give us Kwame Nkrumah.” …The first thing we knew of [our house arrest] was on a Sunday morning. … DCM Charlie Whitehouse was coming around to pick us up. I went to the gate, and there was a soldier there on guard. Charles came to the gate, and couldn’t get in, and I couldn’t get out. So we wanted to know what it was. The soldier didn’t know. We finally reached the top civil servant in the foreign ministry, and he said: “Oh, well, there’s been some problem. It’s very serious. You have captured our foreign minister.” I said, “I have?” The long and the short of it was, you see, [the Guineans had] put two and three together. Because it was a Pan Am plane, that made it an official plane: it must be a CIA plot. We were the tools of that regime in Accra, Ghana. So, by God, they were going to sit on me and all the other Americans until the Ghanaians gave up the Guinean foreign minister. … A mob had been organized … brandishing signs about “A bas l’imperialism américain [Down with American imperialism]!” There were about 3,000 people all milling around the chancery, and then I heard on the radio from my wife that a similar group was doing the same thing at the residence. Well, that one got out of hand, broke all the windows, and it was pretty scary for my wife and two kids, who were then 3 and 2. They were all holed up in the second floor, and these characters came through the windows. The long and the short of it was that in the end, nothing much was done except breaking all the windows. … I’ll never forget, after the mob went away, and my wife came down. I hadn’t gotten home yet, but she went down, and she started with a broom to sweep up all the broken glass, and a little guy appeared out of the bushes and said, “Oh, no, madame, we did it. Let me sweep it up.” And he took the broom from her and swept it up. … He said, “Oh, well, there’s been some problem. It’s very serious. You have captured our foreign minister.” I said, “I have?” —Robinson McIlvaine