Examples of Excellence

From among the legions of outstanding diplomats who have served the United States since the middle of the 20th century, the following 25 individuals were chosen to exemplify the highest standards of the profession. The list is by no means intended to be exhaustive, or to suggest that others are not equally, if not more, deserving of such attention.

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Charles 'Chip' Bohlen (1904-1974)

Charles "Chip" Bohlen was one of America’s top experts on the Soviet Union during his long and distinguished career. After entering the Foreign Service in 1929, he eagerly became part of the first group to be trained in Russian and staff the Moscow embassy, which opened in 1934. In that first tour, he and the other preeminent Kremlinologist of the era, George Kennan, became close collaborators and friends. In the late 1930s, when Russian specialists were considered too anti-communist to suit the political winds in Washington, he was assigned to Tokyo as the resident Soviet expert there. After being interred by the Japanese following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was returned to the United States and assigned to the White House. Bohlen was known for his exceptional skills in personal relations (in which he excelled as a “raconteur”), for his interpreter-level Russian language ability and for his deep knowledge of the Soviet Union. He was a valued staffer who was interpreter for President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Teheran Conference (1943) and the Yalta Conference (1945), and for President Harry S. Truman at the Potsdam Conference later in 1945. He was Counselor of the Department beginning in 1947. His 1953 assignment as ambassador to the Soviet Union was controversial, mainly because of criticism from Senator Joseph McCarthy that he had played a key role in the “Yalta appeasement” that led to Soviet control over Eastern Europe. He was made a career ambassador in 1960, and in May 2006 was honored with his own U.S. postage stamp.

  • Bohlen, Charles. Witness to History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1973.
  • Mitrovich, Gregory. Undermining the Kremlin: America’s Strategy to Subvert the Soviet Bloc, 1947-1956. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2000.

 

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