Leadership and Conflict

Powerful secretaries George Marshall and Dean Acheson returned the State Department to a preeminent place in foreign policymaking. Various bureaus, including the Policy Planning staff headed by George Kennan, took the lead in formulating landmark postwar policies, including the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. In an article in Foreign Affairs, Kennan, writing as “X,” put forth the principles of containment that guided U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War. The State Department provided leadership in the development of NATO and the formulation of NSC-68, which called for the United States to meet Soviet challenges “quickly and unequivocally.”

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy speaks at Senate hearings in June 1954.

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy speaks at Senate hearings in June 1954.

Despite its new energetic leadership role, the department faced serious problems in the 1940s and 1950s. Senator Joseph McCarthy and others in Congress raised charges of treason and subversion within the ranks of the department and especially the Foreign Service—an episode climaxed by the Alger Hiss case. McCarthy claimed to have a list of up to 200 names of Communists who had “infested” the department, but he never produced the list. Hiss was eventually convicted of perjury.

Many organizations besides the State Department assumed specialized foreign affairs tasks as U.S. influence and responsibilities around the world grew to proportions never before imagined. These included the National Security Council (NSC), the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), the Agency for International Development (AID), the United States Information Agency (USIA), the Peace Corps, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and many others.

Secretaries of state and ambassadors sometimes had difficulty maintaining control over various embassy elements. President Kennedy and every president since has felt the need to assert ambassadorial leadership at posts abroad by writing a personal letter to the ambassador outlining his or her responsibilities and authorities.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower broadcasts to the world on the Voice of America on its fifteenth anniversary in February 1957.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower broadcasts to the world on the Voice of America on its fifteenth anniversary in February 1957.

The Foreign Service Act of 1946 thoroughly overhauled the management and administration of the Foreign Service and created the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) to provide language, area, and professional training for foreign affairs personnel. In 1993 FSI moved to a permanent site designed for its special purposes at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, ending many years of teaching in makeshift, leased quarters.

The State Department grew rapidly after World War II, opening a record number of missions abroad, increasing its domestic and foreign services, and moving to new quarters in 1947, which were greatly expanded between 1957 and 1961. In 1957 a major overhaul of the personnel system, proposed by Henry M. Wriston, led to the integration of many Civil Service employees into the Foreign Service, doubling it in size.

George F. Kennan appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 30, 1967.

George F. Kennan appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 30, 1967.

Loy W. Henderson (1892-1986)

Loy W. Henderson (1892-1986)

Loy W. Henderson, known as “Mr. Foreign Service,” began his 39 years of service as vice consul in Dublin in 1922. During his career he played a prominent role in historic developments in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, and in the State Department’s management operations.

Henderson served as minister to Iraq, 1943-45; ambassador to India and minister to Nepal, 1948 51; and ambassador to Iran, 1951-54. As deputy under secretary for administration in 1955, he was instrumental in the construction of the main State Department building. Later he was chiefly responsible for implementing the Wriston Report’s proposals, which recommended integration of the department’s Civil Service officers into the Foreign Service, and for the policy of accrediting ambassadors and fully staffed embassies to all the newly independent countries of Africa.

Henderson was among the first group of five officers to achieve the rank of career ambassador the highest in the Foreign Service. The department’s international conference room was dedicated the “Loy Henderson Conference Room” in 1976.

Cordell Hull, 1933-1944

Cordell Hull
Secretary of State
1933-1944

Edward Reilly Stettinius, Jr., 1944-1945

Edward Stettinius, Jr.
Secretary of State
1944-1945

James Francis Byrnes, 1945-1947

James Byrnes
Secretary of State
1945-1947

George Catlett Marshall, 1947-1949

George C. Marshall
Secretary of State
1947-1949

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