Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Nicholas A. Veliotes
VELIOTES: Yes, and also if you're doing your job on behalf of your boss, you are saving him a lot of time. Because that's all we do is save our bosses time, you know. You can argue that the entire State Department as an institution is designed to filter the issues that get to the secretary, the recognition that he has just so much time and energy. But when you're in a position like that, if you are saving the time of your boss, it means you are making decisions on his behalf that others are taking away as his, and you learn how to personally bear responsibility and how to be prudent, and you hone your judgment. So it's not unusual that that would lead to greater success.
Q: Then your next assignment was to New Delhi.
VELIOTES: Yes, but it almost didn't happen.
Q: We're talking about 1964 to '66.
VELIOTES: Right, it almost didn't happen. Vietnam had become very big by that time, and I had been told that I was going to Vietnam to become the deputy political counselor, replacing Bob Miller. I wasn't wild about the idea, with two little kids and my wife, and not sure I could take my family. This was early in '64. Then the embassy was bombed, and the ambassador said there can be no transfers. So my assignment was canceled.
My assignment to India grew directly out of the fact that while I was in the Secretariat, I worked with the office of the under secretary, now the deputy secretary, very closely, and I was actually detached to Chester Bowles on some trips abroad. His executive assistant was Brandon Grove, in India. Brandon was back in Washington on a recruiting trip for the ambassador. Shortly after my assignment to Vietnam had collapsed, I saw him and he asked me if I'd like to come out to Delhi. If so, I was one of the people the ambassador would be interested in having. So I asked my wife, and she was delighted at the thought of going to India. And that's how we got to India, in the summer of '64.
But just as my wife and children had left for California, and our household shipment had left for New Delhi, I got a phone call, about midnight, congratulating me on my new assignment to Vietnam. And I just said, “No way. I don't care who, I'm not going. I was ready to go, I've gone through this, my wife and children and the household effects. I'm going to India.”
Q: What were you doing in India? What was your position?