Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald McConville
I think the episode with the ambassador arriving was a separate one shortly thereafter. The ambassador was supposed to arrive at the airport - I was again duty officer. The Dominican thing was still going on, because I was called in to the embassy to see two cables, again on the Dominican situation, and they were classified, so as duty officer, I was supposed to pick up the classified cables and decide whether or not somebody needed to be notified any action. There were two immediate cables, or immediate action cables. I went into the embassy and was sitting up in the communications room. At that time, the communicator had to type these things up, so I was sitting there with him while he's typing this up, and suddenly there's a loud explosion outside. We looked at each other, and I went dashing out the door - we were on about the third floor or something like that - and went downstairs. The Marine guard was there, and he was starting to go out the big front doors of the embassy. I went out with him. We got out there, and there was smoke drifting off and the smell of powder and so forth. Somebody had thrown a bomb at the embassy. The new ambassador, a guy named Chuck Adair, had arrived and all the big wheels in the embassy had been out to the airport to meet him and then were going to convene at the ambassador's residence and have a few drinks with him welcoming him in. I knew they were all there, and I called them and asked to speak to the political counselor, a man named Henry Kaler, and I say, “Henry, we've got a couple things. First of all, we've got two cables on the Dominican situation, at least one of which will require action tonight, and somebody threw a bomb at the embassy.” The DCM or charg� - DCM by this time, I guess - Rufus Smith was there. So I repeated it to him. So they all came down to the chancery at that point. I remember one of them came walking back into the embassy carrying the sort of charred remains of this bomb. Then they called over to the bomb squad at the Canal Zone, and they came over to take a look at this thing and promptly told these guys that this was still unexploded sticks of dynamite that they had in their hand there, that the detonator had gone off but apparently the dynamite itself probably had been sitting somewhere where it had gotten very damp or something for too long and hadn't actually exploded and they were carrying around some live dynamite yet. It had only been actually the detonators that had gone off. Had the dynamite itself gone off, it would have probably blown a hole in the side of the embassy. That was the groups that were so unhappy about the election and so forth, and they tossed this bomb at us. These kinds of things seemed to happen every time I was the duty officer. So it was a very interesting period of time when I was there. I really enjoyed the experience in the economic section, and then by this time, because of all these interruptions, they only had about four months left and they had suggested to me, “Look, we can split that time between admin and political, but it might make more sense - we could really use you in admin - if we kept you four months in admin and make more use of you.” I said that was fine with me, because by that point I really didn't think I had a lot of interest in the political side. I really wanted to be in economic, and I thought admin might be a fallback because of my own experience. So I worked in the admin section for four months. Again, there were things about the admin operation that appealed to me, but the economic was clearly my first choice. My next assignment was the Philippines.