Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Peter J. Skoufis
I returned in a couple of days to see Miss Bland. She opened my file and there was the letter that was supposed to have been sent to me. Whoever drafted it, apparently put into my file by mistake because it was still unsigned. That really confirmed to me how screwed up the Department was. Martin and Boswell were in Rome in May; I went on home leave in September and not a word from the Department in the intervening period, despite the several inquiries from the Embassy in Rome. I thought that this was another example of the Department's operations; when you are face-to-face, then it responds; if you are far away, no action is taken. In any case, the letter explained that the Department had finally located the Bradley-Byrnes agreement of 1947. Until we had reminded them of it, the people in Washington didn't even know it existed! The personnel people had in the letter agreed that I had been quite right and that I was a member of the Foreign Service all the years since I had arrived in Paris. I thanked them for letting me know after all these years that I had been correct, but I pointed out that they were a little later—I was no longer interested in the State Department. They said they would send me back to do veterans' work, but I told them that I had done for five years and it was time for me to move on. There was another wave of claims and applicants stemming from the Korean War and I had had enough of that work.
Then I went to see Art Weatherbee, who by that time had also found out that someone had goofed. I think all the personnel types had a guilty feeling because they had all let my case fall in the cracks. He also suggested that I wait for a little while; he suggested that I go to Bangor for my home leave and let him have my home phone number so that when a good assignment came up, he could reach me. So that is what I did.
We went to Bangor. I had told my friends in the VA that I would be back in Washington in a month after my home leave. I stayed on the State Department's payroll while on home leave. Shortly after arriving in Bangor, someone in Personnel called me and said that there were two administrative jobs opening up, one in Israel and one in South Africa. The personnel type wanted to know whether I would be interested in becoming an administrative officer. I said that I wasn't really sure. But the more I thought about it and the more I discussed it with Helen, the more interested we became. I was more interested in the South Africa job because my father had a relative who lived there and who had recently visited Bangor—the first time since they were kids in the old country (one had left Greece to go to the United States and the other had gone to South Africa). I didn't return the personnel officer's call while cogitating on my options. So one day, he called me back and said he had to know. I told him that we were prepared to stay in the Foreign Service and that we were prepared to go to South Africa. He said he was delighted and that I could count on becoming the administrative officer in Pretoria in about three or four months. In the meantime, he said I would be assigned to the Foreign Service Institute.