American Diplomacy
Foreign Service Life

December 2005

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.Kabul -- Recollections Thirty-nine Years Later

At the end of WWII, my outfit, the 382nd Air Service Group, then serving in China, was posted in Shanghai to await our orders for shipment home to the U.S. I used this period to become acquainted with a number of Chinese and Europeans doing business in China. I remarked to them on several occasions that doing business in China must be an interesting and worthwhile career. While none argued the point, several stressed that if I were interested in working in China, it would be best if I first returned to the U.S., and contacted American companies doing business in China. I would be much better paid as an American employee sent to China than if hired locally in China.

I accepted their advice and shipped back to the U.S. I re-enrolled at Heidelberg College at Tiffin, Ohio, where I already had earned credit for one semester in 1941-42. This time, however, I majored in economics rather than music, my previous major.

While at Heidelberg, I learned of a book written by a Ohio State University professor called “How to Get into International Trade.” I ordered the book, and read it with enthusiasm. Among other things of interest in the book, it told of a new school of international affairs established at Columbia University, which provided a master of international affairs degree with several two-year courses. I wrote to the new school, seeking information regarding my prospects. The reply was that I should write again about one year before my desired entry, and they would be able to reply more firmly.

I did as suggested, and received a form to complete regarding my background and hopes for the future. I replied as best I could, and found that I was among the fifty accepted first-year students, of several hundred who had applied. I was a very happy fellow.

In September of 1949 I traveled to New York City to begin my work at the School of International Affairs, then a small office on 118th Street. Most of the courses I followed were by well-known professors who taught very large classes. Some of the classrooms were larger than the office of the School of International Affairs. One of my favorites was the course in international trade and finance taught by Ragnar Nurkse. He was an Austrian who had worked for some years for the League of Nations. There were probably 200 students in his class. I was surprised to find that he knew my name when we sometimes accidentally met outside the classroom.

I soon found that the course covered much more than international trade. It also was concerned with the development of all nations participating in international trade. While also studying international relations and international organizations, it seemed that economic development became an increasingly important subject in my mind.

Meanwhile, President Harry Truman had declared Point IV in his inaugural address, which gave precedence for U.S. help to those countries that tried to help themselves. In early 1951 I went to Washington, D.C., to visit the Technical Cooperation Administration (TCA), the U.S. entity recently formed to implement Point IV. I found no-one there interested in me, so I went to the Economic Cooperation Administration, the organization formed to implement the Marshall Plan. There I was successful in getting the director of personnel interested. He took my address and asked me to continue contact when finished with school. This I did, though I had actually taken a job with a firm in New Jersey before receiving the invitation to work at ECA.

Arriving there, I worked in a small office with two men who were engaged in a program for a wheat loan to India. After working with them for a short while, one day they were visited by a pair of gentlemen from TCA, and all of them departed to go to a meeting. When they returned a couple of hours later, the TCA men said they would be in touch with me. I later learned what that was all about. It seems that they were particularly interested in a new TCA program to be established in India, and the men in my office told them that the fellow in their office knew quite a bit about India. I had actually served there for a few months before going to China during WWII.

I was soon transferred to TCA, and after a short while found myself on an airplane bound for New Delhi, along with the first director of the Technical Cooperation Mission there, Clifford Willson.

There is much advantage to being on the ground floor of a new enterprise. I soon knew most of the people in the U.S. embassy, including Ambassador Chester Bowles, and I soon found myself drafting the original program agreement signed by Bowles and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. I served in India for four and a half years and afterward continued a lifelong career in foreign aid and economic development.

But that's how it all began.

Carl Fritz is a founding member emeritus of the American Diplomacy board of directors.

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