Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Douglas G. Hartley
Then there was the big Ljubljana Electronics Fair. Ljubljana had a lot of really competitive companies at that time and still... I mentioned Iskra, which produced pretty sophisticated electronic equipment, also stuff like sights for military applications. It had western licenses and was probably the most sophisticated of the Eastern European electronic producers. I myself had one particular project that was dear to Ambassador Toon, otherwise I never would have taken it on. But in years past the Department of Commerce had often participated in the Novi Sad Agricultural Fair. Novi Sad is a city just about an hour and a half from Belgrade up in the Vojvodina, which is an area of part of Serbia that has a sizable Hungarian minority. Toon felt that we should have some presence there that year (1974), so he asked me to organize an American exhibition. I pointed out that while we had U.S. firms represented by agents, we had no actual companies present. Commerce had shown that they were not the least bit interested, but he said “Well, go ahead and do it anyway.” What I did was find out which U.S. companies had got any licensing arrangements or any agreements or joint ventures of any kind with the Yugoslavs. I solicited the companies throughout Yugoslavia that had the relationships with U.S. companies and asked them if they would support a U.S. fair financially and in terms of equipment. I managed to get, I think, about ten companies to come in. Through them I was able to raise money and construct a budget, with which we hired an architect built a pavilion to house the U.S. exhibit. This is one of the more kind of fun and interesting things—also hair-raising things—I did in the Foreign Service. I remember finally the Department of Commerce realized what we were doing and they decided they had to get in on the act. They sent this guy over, whose name I can't remember. He took one look at us and said, “You have 40 days to the fair and you don't even have the beginnings of a pavilion. How on earth are you ever going to be able to do this. You don't have this, you don't have that.” I said, “Well, that may be true, but that's the way things work here. Nobody does anything until the last moment here. You just have to live with that.” He mumbled and grumbled away about this. And sure enough, about a week to go, we still didn't have a pavilion. We had the land, which was kind of soggy land. I kept asking the architect, “Listen, we've got to get this thing together. We've got to get it going. We've got to have a pavilion.” He said, “Never mind. Not to worry. Everything will be okay.” And he got every relative of his and every friend of his. All of a sudden, people came AWOL from the Yugoslav National Army. We had working for us about 30 or 40 people there. By God, they created a pavilion. They got all the building materials - carpeting, etc. - in place. It was up about 36 hours before the fair. Our pavilion was a great success. We made damn sure it was. Piper Aircraft even flew a single seater in from Switzerland, and though we had informed the government, provided the flight plan, it was almost shot down! We arranged for various officials from the U.S. side to be there to sign agreements with Yugoslavs and of course inflated the numbers like crazy in order to impress the Department of Commerce. We said we signed business worth 35 million dollars and we had the Yugoslav vice president, Todorovic, I think it was, come through. But for me, the important thing was that we kind of thumbed our nose at the Department of Commerce.