This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Maurice Dolbier introduces Paul Hyde Bonner, author of "Ambassador Extraordinary" as well as other novels related to international intrigue. He describes his own background, clarifying that he was not a career diplomat, but a reserve member of the Foreign Services. He was a specialist on temporary assignment on several projects. He discusses diplomacy in the years after the second world war.
Next, Dolbier introduces Barbara Tuchman, author of "The Guns of August" a book that describes the beginning of World War I. She speaks of her particular love of history writing. She sees no need to add fiction to the rich tapestry of history. She speaks of the challenges of writing history - particularly he own confusion of the "legend" versus the facts she finds.
Finally, Dolbier introduces Walter Kerr, author of "The Decline of Pleasure" which is about to be published. He encourages a decrease in commercialism in favor of intellectual pleasure.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71279
Municipal archives id: LT9523
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
He had been a singer. He left Prabhat at the end of his study singing in Italy. At a successful audition at Les Scala and was signed to begin an operatic career before. The Guns of August one thousand and fourteen changed those plans. Became back to America worked for a time as a clerk at his father's bank in Brooklyn that when the United States at the war went back to Europe this time with twenty seven National Guard divisions. He had been a businessman. He joined us father in law's still waiting for him and rose to the vice president. It World War two as a major in the United States Army Air Force he was in charge of the allocation of aluminum products for the aircraft industry. After the war he was a special advisor to the government of the disposal of surplus and transport and. He had been a deployment. He was a special advisor to the American ambassador to France on my toes concerning the Italian peace treaty he was a special assistant to the chief of the Marshall Plan which of Italy. He had been all of these things and at the age of fifty eight he decided to be something else. There was no evidence he says that I could write. But there was a tendency in the air many retired bankers soldiers and diplomats dabbling in the arts why not. In one hundred fifty two his first novel about an American diplomat in Rome was published it was a popular and critical success and one reviewer summed up the general feeling this way it is written with. That subtle understanding. And it may well leave as. Branded upon. The evidence that Paul Hyde but I could write fiction was in and more evidence has been happily accumulating. And such now both as hotel teller round. The outer drones and now the latest device of Xstrata about one of our diplomats assigned to a post raises a tropical storm I introduce to you a man who says that he enjoys writing as much as he'll sports first of all hyped up. Thank you Mr Dog. Was a very charming introduction. Ladies and gentlemen the name of these down on the side I don't take more time. But. My novels have to do in one way or another with representatives of governments in foreign lands and impression seems to have written risen amongst my limited but loyal audience that I am a retired career diplomat who has turned his hand to the stories based on my life in the foreign service of the Department of State in the comforting assumption that some of you can be counted among my face readers I'm taking this luncheon as an excellent opportunity to set the record straight I owe that the foreign service as well as. They might be getting the impression that I am attempting to claim membership in their exclusive club No I was never a career diplomat directly after the close of World War two I served in the State Department at their request for five years performing several unrelated special jobs resulting from the war. In order to pursue these duties which in one nine hundred forty six covered all of Western Europe and from one nine hundred forty seven one hundred fifty one where in Italy I was made a Foreign Service reserve officer now the Foreign Service Reserve was created by the Congress to enable the State Department to engage the services of outsiders for special jobs for a limited period unlike the Reserve Officers of the Army Navy and Air Force they are not on permanent court they are strictly specialists on temporary assignment the regular foreign service of the Department of State has no need to be ashamed of the adjective exclusive the man who enter it do so only half having passed very difficult and very searching examinations both written or examinations designed to exclude those whose knowledge of history of geography of international law of and of maritime law or of international trade make an homage and of political philosophies is not sufficient in breadth and depth to make a rounded diplomat who can properly represent his country abroad Furthermore a candidate must be fluent in the reading writing and speaking at least one language other than English as for example that must be so clear clean and grammatical that it would pass the standards of Mr Dog. And of the late Howell Ross of the New Yorker there is still a massive groundswell of gobbledygook in the reports and documents that pour from the various departments and agencies of the executive branch of our government but you won't find it in the dispatches of the regular foreign service officers. Whether or not you agree with what I have to say there will be no doubt as to the meaning these men are in the great majority skilled masters of expose the story broke How did I not had those five years of experience as a reserve officer it is safe to say that I would never have been able to write a publishable book there were two officers in the embassy in Rome the minister counselor and the economic counselor both non basons who were kind of off and watchful enough to edit my dispatches my earlier efforts of which I was secretly probably would come back to my desk so spattered with red pencil corrections and comments that they looked like the drawings of an abstract impression these two men never question my facts but they were quite obviously appalled by my inability to state them in a lucid broach the targets of their red red pencils was syntax and semantics knowing that my dispatches would go to Washington over the signature of the ambassador himself a career officer it was their duty to protect that chief by saying that I used the right words improperly parsed sentences it was two years before my first dispatch went through without a comma order that was a big day for me it was in one nine hundred forty nine and I was fifty six years old and had received my first day in English composition. No college student could have been prouder than I almost grateful it isn't everyone who is paid a fact salary for taking a two year course in composition. When my reserves commission expired in one nine hundred fifty one I made up my mind that the least I could do to repay my debt to the foreign service was to utilize the skill which they had taught me by writing in their defense I know you'll wonder why I say defense but during those five years it had become increasingly clear to me that the men of the career service were developing into prime targets for those snipers on Capitol Hill who were gunning for the executive branch our country had emerged at the end of the war as the only nation strong enough militarily economically and Marley to oppose the insidious advance of international communism without seeking it or even desiring it we had had the role of leader of the world of law and order trust bonds with the signing of the two honest this is the armed forces had relinquished their command to the Department of State diplomacy replace guns and bombs our career foreign service officers were in the front line carrying out the tactical maneuvers in the field based on the strategic policies of the president and the secretary of state the tasks of uniting those nations who with us believed in freedom and democracy and of confining the creeping spread of total Tyrion Boccia vision was stupendous one because the military could not be employed we had but two weapons dollars and sway the skillful and effective use of both of these was and is handled by the officers of the State Department but instead of credit they reap scorn and abuse one of the fighting forces went to battle the press in the halls of Congress ringing with the eulogies of our brilliant generals and the brave boys. Ah diplomatic victories on the other hand there have been some notable ones since one nine hundred forty six go unnoticed and I'm song Looking at the reverse of the medal all military defeats such as POWs harbor the Kasserine Pass and the N.C.L.B. chaired all rally if ever done out Nora cries for the beheading of generals and admirals but let one defeat in our diplomacy it. And the horrors of the Capitol Razon with the cries of traitor and treason just why this is I don't pretend to know but I think I can make a very good guess I live in the low country of South Carolina not far from Charles thanks to the untiring efforts of our congressman Mr elemental rivers we have collected a tidy amount of military bases a Navy Yard a mine Force Base a pilasters missile base a base for the nuclear powered submarines that carried Polaris missiles and a large and active air base for the military air transport command these installations have brought thousands of new residents and millions of dollars to my neck of the ward and though they may also bring us one day an enemy nuclear bomb the people are happy and there is no one implying children include Mr Rivers and then bed time prayers and every adult will vote to keep him in the office as long as he chooses to run now this situation is not by any means unique I dare say that there is not a state in the Union that does not have a military installation of some sort and in addition a great many factories producing hardware for officers small wonder that every member of Congress is in there pitching for the defense budget those dollars pay off and vote now to let us have a look at our first line of defense in the Cold War the State Department. Outside of the District of Columbia which has no representation on Capitol Hill it has no installations on American soil and its procurement is largely paper and pencil not a potential vote and a whole lot as for that entertainment allowance they asked for why every honest churchgoing citizen knows that it's for cocktail parties and dinner parties the wines and liquors so that off fancy dan diplomats can open up in striped pants and morning coats why we put tax Weyers slaving here at home no indeed no more money for that sort of nonsense cut the budget in half and let him drink no there is only want to exception to this disapproval of entertaining of our embassies abroad that is when the Congressmen themselves go junketing around the world they expect and demand a red carpet at receptions and official dinners with all the cocktails and champagne they can guzzle some of them believe me stout guys with. The like of the court appeal of off foreign service officers not only makes them safe targets for ridicule and abuse but it also deprives them of sufficient funds to pursue their mission successfully without digging into their own pockets because the great majority of career officers like officers the Armed Forces have no resources beyond their limited by and by monthly paychecks expensive posts like London Paris and wrong are usually handed to rich outsiders who are willing to stand the drain for the privilege of being called Mr Ambassador and your excellency in the days before the First World War when we as a nation and he had to Washington's injunction to avoid foreign entanglements embassies and Legations were considered. The plums of reward to be handed to deserving tycoon. Who had contributed handsomely to the party in power because we had no stake in international intrigue in those days there was almost no trouble they could get us into that is no longer the case today our ambassadors of the field commanders of our tactical political battle we cannot afford to place men in these commanders who had not the knowledge and training to cope with the subtle and dangerous situations arising everywhere every day imagine the shock and outrage of the American public if a man who had contributed fifty thousand dollars to an electoral campaign well made a lieutenant general or a vice admiral. We would think the administration is going mad and rightly so. Well by what method of rodeos nation do we kid ourselves into thinking that in these difficult policy times we can make him an ambassador. All right here I must say time. That I have been some notable exception. In political appointee one of these one of the five standing is the proprietor of the paper today Mr John Hay Whitney who did an outstanding job as ambassador to the Court of St James during the last administration. In Ambassador Extraordinary which is the title of my new book I proud to paint a picture of the wrong kind of political appointee. If you want to know what I think of him read the book. By doing so you make it part of the following suit. If you wish to give heart to the American Booksellers Association and me by. There has been some wonderment expressed. Along with general admiration. At how Barbara Tuchman became such an expert on tactics and strategy Well this is Tuchman as the mother of three daughters. As the father of three daughters I find this quite easy to understand. But mistook one's interest in military battles and in political intrigue began another girlhood years when she fell under the fascination of the romantic novels of Xander Dumas and civil to Scott and an interest in international affairs was almost hereditary her grandfather was Henry Morgenthau Sr President Wilson's ambassador to Turkey in one hundred fourteen. Their uncle was President Franklin Roosevelt secretary the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr Barbara Tuchman was born in New York City and attended learned in school majored in history at Radcliffe from which are graduated in one hundred thirty three she was sort of such assistant at The New York offices of the Institute of Pacific Affairs and later served in the institute's Tokyo branch she reported the Spanish Civil War from Madrid for the nation and then was American correspondent for the British weekly New Statesman and next. During the war years she worked for the Office of War Information and she has written three books each of which took a few years the bible of the sword and account of Britain's relations with the Holy Land through centuries of history the Zimmerman Telegram a fascinating report on one of the kinds of deal Helms major diplomatic mistakes when he made them they would be it's and he made them all the time. And her present book The Guns of August a colorful comprehensive and remarkably clear description of the beginnings of World War One which is both a major treatment in the field of American historical writing and despite the underlying there's an irony of the feel. Exciting and attaining book I'm happy to present the author through your mouth with Barbara thank. You. First comes out. I. Really say that my reaction to what's happened to this book is been one of the stars. Keep reading the reviews and watching that numbers game on the bestseller list and asking myself. First to. Step into a book on the wrong part it's. Surprising to venture into that uncharted territory when. Captain and Pearl Harbor was considered poor firing in publishing circles when when I took the. First chapters of the telegram which was also on the First World War two publisher. Present one he said very kindly that it was his best advice to drop th