Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Douglas K. Watson
WATSON: No, we didn't much like him. He had overthrown democratic rule. There was some division in the embassy about recognition of and dealing with a his now illegitimate government. There were some outstanding officers in the Political Section. There were views and ideas at play, ethics, biases. I gained an appreciation of what went into political work.
I remember, at one point, I had the privilege, not really recognizing how important it was, of being the control officer for my first CODEL. A congressman from Chicago, Roman Pucinski. He arrived in Greece with a couple of colleagues from the Chicago area Greek American community. I shepherded them around doing this and that for the better part of a day. Then that evening, they became just a tad loose at a wedding festival, and unfortunately they were due to leave the next morning on a 6:00 am flight for Nicosia, Cyprus to meet with Archbishop Makarios and other notables. FSO Tom Boyatt was the control officer in Nicosia. To make a long story short, following the wedding evening festivities, I was able to get them to the Athens Hilton for a brief sleep, but rousting these gentleman out of their beds and getting them into the embassy car and then to the airport for the 6 am flight was a difficult task. So difficult that when we reached the departing gate, the aircraft had departed, but had not yet left the terminal for Nicosia. I tried my best to stop the departure but couldn't. Had I been the ambassador, or the political counselor, I might have known how to do pull this off, but I wasn't able to do that. The CODEL didn't seem to mind not going to Cyprus. They were happy to go back to the hotel, and to bed. I called Tom Boyatt from the embassy. He took the mishap with great grace and dealt with events on his end, I presume successfully. I caught no flack from the Athens embassy for this missed flight.
The political section work was very interesting. And the consular work equally so. Greece was a most marvelous country. As my wife and I look back, we think of Greece in very positive terms. We were able to visit several of the islands. We were able to get up to Meteora in the north. We developed a marvelous friendship with a Foreign Service National there, Alekos Tzinieris, and his family. He later died of cancer. All in all our tour was a positive experience. My daughters did well enough in their schools. My wife was finding and learning her way in the Foreign Service.
Ross McClelland was our DCM there, a very decent man, and his wife a very decent woman. He opened our eyes to a number of things. I was tasked with a couple of other challenges. He had me take the lead on the “BALPA” budget reduction exercise, and on another study. At this distant remove today, I can't remember all that I did or didn't do, but I have the sense that I did some decent work, not excellent but decent.
Then back we went to the States for training to prepare for our next assignment.
Q: Before we leave Athens, you mentioned that there were differences within the embassy as to how to deal with the Papadopoulos junta. Were the embassy and the Department in accord? Did they see eye to eye on this or were there differences of opinion there?