Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Douglas K. Watson
WATSON: Yes, we had a Consulate General in Alexandria and we had a Consulate in Port Said. One of the things that I did early the day prior to our evacuation, was to take a photograph of our embassy building with the seal of the United States over the front portico with the Spanish flag raised over the embassy, as the Government of Spain was protecting our interests. I took another photograph as we loaded the baggage up the ramps and gangplanks of the Greek ship on which we departed. Both photos appeared in the State Department magazine. The U.S. government had chartered a Greek vessel to transport us from Alexandria to Piraeus, Greece, the port for Athens.
Q: I wanted to ask you whether the U.S. Navy played any part in this.
WATSON: None of which I was then aware, although my understanding is that they offered some protection at least near the port as the Greek ship arrived and departed with us aboard. There were also at least a couple of Soviet ships in the Alexandria harbor at the same time we were leaving. The Egyptian train authorities had cautioned us to draw our window curtains as we came into Alexandria on the train. As we slowly rolled into the Alexandria train station, and opened the shades that early morning, maybe 6:00 A.M., there were many Egyptians shouting and waving their arms as we rolled in. They did not appear happy. I remember a number of protesters with their shoes on their hands, above their heads, the shoe soles facing us.
Q: It was an unfriendly group.
WATSON: It was an unfriendly group. As we boarded the ship, a number of the Egyptian port personnel, some in military uniform, were very gruff with private U.S. civilians. One Egyptian port official was being very rude to a woman, a private American citizen, regarding her baggage and her papers. I was able to assist exercising some presence and authority, and persuaded the Egyptian official to treat her more reasonably and expeditiously.