The December 24th issue of /The Washington Post/ featured on page one
of the Style section a long article entitled "When LBJ Took a Flying
Leap at Peace", discussing Johnson's Christmas 1967 trip to Rome to
discuss the Viet Nam conflict with Pope Paul VI.
One of the paragraphs in the story starts "After a brief visit with
Italian President Giuseppe Saragat, ..."
And therein lies a story.
The then US Ambassador to Rome was Freddie Reinhardt. [G. Frederick
Reinhardt (1911-1971) was one of the most distinguished FSO's I have
ever known, and one of the two best ambassadors under whom I have had
the pleasure to serve. Freddie was a Californian, and was graduated
from the University of California. But his secondary schooling was at
Le Rosey, the prestigious international boarding school in Rolle,
Switzerland, from which were also graduated figures such as CIA Director
Dick Helms, the Shah of Iran, etc., etc.] Freddie was an early
ambassador to Viet Nam, and then, in the late 1950's, when we met, US
Ambassador to Cairo. Although I was very junior in that embassy, and he
at the top of the heap, we became friends as our respective daughters
played together. In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy became
president, among his other dazzlingly intelligent ambassadorial
appointments was that of Freddie to Rome. Freddie was a polyglot, and
one of his many languages -- along with French, German, and Russian (he
was one of the early Sovietologists in the Department, along with Chip
Bohlen and George Kennan) -- was Italian. Freddie was the first career
US ambassador to Rome in decades, if not centuries, and may well have
been the last. President Kennedy made special financial arrangements so
that Freddie could afford the post.
In 1967, Freddie met Air Force One at the airport, and drove with
President Johnson into Rome, where their first stop was the Presidency.
Freddie explained to President Johnson during the drive that he had
taken the liberty, en route to the Vatican, of arranging a short
meeting with Italian president Giuseppe Saragat, since not to have done
so would have been an enormous diplomatic slight to the president of a
close NATO ally. Johnson replied to Freddie, in his famous Texan drawl,
"Son, if I had wanted to see the president of Italy, I would have told
Upon his return to Washington, Johnson had Amb. Reinhardt summarily
fired from his post.
This should go down somewhere in the "Annals of Diplomacy".
Collegial warm regards,