The Foreign Service Journal, June 2009

28 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 9 Mr. Stimson, Sect. State Dear Sir — I wish to draw your attention to a Mr. Russel Engdahl who last year was Vice-Consul to Haiti. A fine good Episcopal lad, but who is in danger after much persuasion and pressure from priests and a treacherous Mother of becoming the husband of her daughter and marrying into the Roman Catholic Church … It is appalling the way the heads of our government are fast falling a pray to the Catholic Church thro just such methods and many others. This is an appeal from one who knows but can do nothing. An American Clearly, the National Archives takes its responsibilities seriously: it had kept this letter in Engdahl’s personnel file ever since 1932. History Comes Alive The roots of my research into Engdahl’s life date back to the mid-1980s, when I first lived in Hong Kong while in high school. During that time, I was fortunate enough to meet various longtime residents of the territory, including a few who had been there during World War II. Listen- ing to their stories and visiting some of the battle locations made their experiences come alive. After I left Hong Kong in 1990, however, I rarely thought about this period in history. But those memories came back once I was assigned to the territory in early 2007. Like many other entry-level Foreign Service officers, I was assigned to live at Shouson Hill, on the south side of the island. While that neighborhood offers beautiful views, it is not convenient for public transportation. As a result, up to five of us would crowd into a colleague’s Mazda 121 each morning, carpooling to the consulate together. The vehicle was sometimes so packed that we called it “the clown car.” A positive aspect of this daily shoehorning, though, was the opportunity to discuss many different mat- ters. One day, a fellow carpooler mentioned that he had visited the Stanley Military Cemetery, and had found a U.S. diplomat’s grave from 1942. He also said that the diplo- mat’s name was not on the AFSA Memorial Plaques, which com- memorate Foreign Service personnel who have died in the line of duty. Apart from having scanned the names on the plaques briefly on a few occasions when I was in the C Street Lobby of the Harry S. Truman Building, I did not know much about them. Early in 2008, I moved to the American Citizen Serv- ices unit at the consulate, where my responsibilities in- cluded prison visits. When looking at the map to check the locations of the facilities I was going to visit, I noticed that two of them were very close to the Stanley Military Cemetery. So I decided to stop there and look for the de- ceased diplomat. Unfortunately, I did not remember his name, and I had neglected to ask where in the cemetery he was buried. So although the site is relatively small, I de- spaired of ever tracking down the grave—particularly be- cause I had scheduled my visit to be brief, taking place just before I was to meet an incarcerated American at the nearby Tung Tau Prison. In the last section of the cemetery, I came across a gravestone marked “FRENGDAHL, U.S. CONSUL, DIED 15.4.1942, AGED 34.” The inscription was crudely carved into the rough-hewn stone, so much so that I did not realize that the letters “NGDAHL” were smaller than the “FRE”, making me think that the diplomat’s last name was “Frengdahl.” After the prison visit, I did a few Inter- net searches, and began to realize that “Frengdahl” was an incorrect rendering of the consul’s name, which was actu- ally F.R. Engdahl . Other results I pulled up were prima- rily for “Edmund Roberts,” a name unfamiliar to me. Eventually, I discovered that Roberts was a special diplomatic agent of the United States, sent by President Andrew Jackson to conclude treaties with Muscat, Siam and Cochin China. Roberts intended to travel on to Japan, but died of cholera or dysentery in Macau in 1836 before reaching his destination. He is buried in the Old Protes- tant Cemetery in Macau, along with two other U.S. diplo- mats who died in the 1800s, Thomas W. Waldron and Samuel Burge Rawle. Waldron died of cholera, an occu- pational hazard for a diplomat at that time, while Rawle apparently died of old age. F O C U S Even though the trail was cold, I felt a compulsion to continue my research. Jason Vorderstrasse, an FSO since 2004, is the global af- fairs officer in the Office of Regional and Security Policy Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. He previously served in Hong Kong and Kingston.