Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Douglas K. Watson
WATSON: Absolutely. We had some competent officers doing our reporting, who often had access to a lot more information than embassy folks. To what extent that field information really fed into embassy reporting, or to what extent it fed into Agency reporting both in the field and in Saigon, I don't know. My view increasingly was that our reporting wasn't going to make a hell of a lot of difference anyway. Political policy had been decided in Washington and we were proceeding full bore. Now, 25 plus years later, with McNamara having revealed that everything was not always quite as crystal clear as had been pretended, my guess is that of those Foreign Service Officers who remained in the Foreign Service, who made a career of the Foreign Service, the Vietnam CORDS experience probably keenly broadened their understanding of the political process, and the key roles of the intelligence community and of the military. Vietnam for me was a significant experience and a very good one.
Q: You mentioned Ambassador Bunker. Did he ever visit your area while you were there?
WATSON: No, he didn't. I don't know how much field visiting he, in fact, did. I don't recall visits by embassy personnel. I remember Dick Holbrooke and other key Congressional staffers visiting us. Dick Moose, I think, also paid a visit.
Q: Your tour in Vietnam was certainly an interesting one, if perhaps a watershed in your career in some ways. When that was over, you finally got to Latin America.
WATSON: I did indeed, at long last.
Q: How did this happen? Did you ask for it?
WATSON: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, Sheldon Krys was the officer in central personnel who was staffing Latin America. And Karl Ackerman headed ARA/EX. I imagine what I had done in Vietnam must have indicated that I had some kind of breadth. I suppose my general services work in Spain had been acceptable. And my personal rank was only one grade level below the administrative officer position in Quito, Ecuador.
So, I came back to Arlington and had a couple of months leave in March and April, followed by a four week Spanish brush-up. Sheldon said, “Okay, fine. We can assign you to Quito as an Administrative Officer.” When I went back in for the language brush-up, my three plus, three plus had declined to two plus, three. The brush-up was very effective, getting me to the level where it needed to be so that when I stepped off the plane, except for making the mistake of using the Castillian pronunciations of the Zs and the Cs, as in “Gracias,” which the Ecuadorians didn't use. I quickly learned Ecuadorian pronunciation and used the language extensively. Ecuador was a superb experience. What a beautiful, beautiful country.