Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert Gerald Livingston
LIVINGSTON: Jim Lowenstein. He and I came in the same class. Mike Sterner, I think was in the same class. Well, I think it was fairly heavy Ivy League, but not preponderantly. There were some women in it. There may have not been very many, three or four, maybe. They were always making an effort to get out of the Ivy League mode, and so there were Midwesterners. It was preponderantly male. I thought they were quite well-educated, generally speaking. I think they were mostly younger than I was. They were taking them younger then than they have subsequently. That's my impression. It was obviously much easier to get in the Foreign Service. They were expanding; they were scrambling. They weren't taking everybody, but they were taking a lot of people. No blacks. I wouldn't have even thought about blacks, but now, looking back from the perspective of 1997-98, I don't think there were any blacks at all.
Q: Where did you want to go when you came in? Did you want tbecome a Yugoslavian...
LIVINGSTON: I wanted to be in Eastern Europe, obviously. A little less Russia, but I wanted to do Eastern Europe because that was my thing, and I remember the first assignment. The training didn't last all that long in those days... maybe a month, two months?
Q: I think around two months.
LIVINGSTON: So let's see what happened. Hang on. It must have been January... No, that's not quite right. What happened there? I'll tell you what happened. I got assigned to the Bureau of Research and Intelligence working on Yugoslavia as a matter of fact, and I worked on Yugoslavia. It must have been for a year or so. That was '56-57 and I worked on Yugoslavia and I remember writing NIEs and how terrified I was because I was too academic. They really had to be absolutely right, you know. That was during the great NIE phase...
Q: NIE is National Intelligence Estimate.
LIVINGSTON: ...and I guess the Agency was responsible for them but they farmed them out and I remember trying to do one on Yugoslav workers' councils. I remember agonizing in the spring of '57. You know, it wasn't going to be the “last word” and there weren't enough sources and I looked at it very academically. It really has to be accurate... I didn't have enough perspective to say, “Nobody's going to give a shit about this at all.” (Laughter)
Q: It was true. We were creating the “great American encyclopedia.”