Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David E. Mark
The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project
AMBASSADOR DAVID E. MARK
Interviewed by: Henry Precht
Initial interview date: July 28, 1989
Copyright 1998 ADST
Q: David, perhaps you could tell us something about how you became interested in the Foreign Service and set out on this career.
MARK: I had had no special orientation for the Foreign Service or international affairs during my undergraduate days. As a matter of fact, my only contact with the foreign world was a high school graduation trip at age 15 in 1939 when I went to France and dropped briefly for five days into Nazi Germany and then into Switzerland. But, except for an interest in travel, it had not left me with any particular ideas about a career in the field. In any event, after I finished my undergraduate work at Columbia University, I was drafted into the Army in 1943, so that career thoughts were put off quite a bit.
However, by 1945, when the war had come to an end, I took account of the fact that I had not been sent overseas, and, therefore, was likely to be retained in the service a long time, while people with higher priority would be discharged. And about that time, in September or so 1945, there was this sign put up on our unit's bulletin board which said, “First post-war examination for the Foreign Service; people who succeed will probably be discharged in order to enter the Foreign Service.”
And so I said, “My, God. What an opportunity.” At the time, I was going to Columbia Law School, even though in the Army, because I had managed to get assigned to Newark, New Jersey air base and had wangled a job on the night shift so that it was possible for me to go back to law school in the daytime. I had finished one year before entering the service, and this seemed to be an alternative possibility to practicing law.
In any event, I took the exam, which in those days was two and a half days long, and also did, I think, the French and German tests, both of which I failed. I waited for the results, which came about January or February 1946, saying that I had passed the written exam and was marked down for an oral exam in Hagerstown, Maryland, of all places, in April 1946.