Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Dennis Kux
Then I went into the U. S. Army, as one did in those days. That experience really tipped me toward the Foreign Service. For me, personally, the US Army was a good experience. I started in the Infantry and ended up in Intelligence. I had been in the ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps], so I was lucky and wasn't a private, but a Second Lieutenant, which made a hell of a difference.
Until I joined the Army, I was very much an insulated New Yorker. The Middle West was New Jersey, and the Far West was Ohio. Washington, DC was the Deep South. My universe was pretty circumscribed. The Army mixed you up with people from all over the country and from different sorts of backgrounds. It was good for me. Just before entering on active duty in the summer of 1952, I took the written Foreign Service exam. I wasn't sure I wanted to join the Service, but felt there was no harm in trying the exam. A government professor at college, Eugene Parker Chase had worked in the State Department on United Nations affairs and urged me to try. Then I remember an appealing recruiter from the State Department coming around and making the Foreign Service sound alive.
In those days, the exam was a three and a half day ordeal. There were three days of essay questions—three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon and then a half day on foreign language. I took the test in the Federal Building in Atlanta, GA, as I was going to enter the Army in nearby Fort Benning. It was August and very hot. There was no air conditioning. I really suffered as I was not used to Southern style heat. I think that just getting through the ordeal was a major achievement. I can still remember sweat pouring down my arms as I took the exam. The exam was given in one of those old schoolrooms, where you shared a combination wooden desk and bench with someone else. There were, maybe, 20 or 25 persons. Some of them dropped out by the time the ordeal was over. It was a pretty rigorous affair, consisting of history, economics and English writing sections. I remember “boning up” on economics. The foreign language part was not so difficult. It just involved reading comprehension. I passed the exam, somewhat to my surprise.