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American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

October 2006

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IN MEMORIAM - AMB. HERMANN FR. EILTS

Ambassador Hermann Frederick Eilts died at the age of eighty-four on October 12 at Wellesley, Mass. His family, the Foreign Service, and indeed the nation lost a dedicated, long-serving American patriot. We at American Diplomacy feel that sense of loss acutely, given that he served for several years on our parent organization's board of directors.

Perhaps best known for the key role he played in crafting the Camp David Accords in 1978, he spent most of his professional life in the Middle East, beginning with service during the Second World War as a U. S. army lieutenant in, of all things, a camel corps unit in the Sudan. It was there that he began seriously his study of the region and the Arabic language. After the war, Eilts, discharged with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, plus several campaign ribbons, earned an M. A. in international studies at Johns Hopkins University. He then entered the Foreign Service.

It was an appropriate career for him in more ways than one. His father had been a pre-World War I diplomat in Imperial Germany's diplomatic corps. After serving as an officer in the German army during that war, eventually the elder Eilts emigrated to the United States with his young family, including Hermann (who obtained his American citizenship upon his father's naturalization in 1930).

Ambassador Eilts - few who were not at least his contemporaries called him by his first name -- spent the next thirty-two years at a range of posts beginning with Tehran, followed by Jeddah, Baghdad, and Aden. Thereafter came senior assignments to London and to Tripoli. Beginning in 1965 he served successively as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, deputy commandant of the U. S. Army War College, and then ambassador to Egypt for five years, retiring in 1979.

It was a truly remarkable career, one that he followed up with distinguished service in the field of education, largely at Boston University.

Ambassador Eilts' awards and honors are too numerous to be included here. Suffice it to say, perhaps, that this editor served with numerous first-rate officers in the Foreign Service, but none more admirable professionally and personally than Eilts. He was one of the most accomplished, dedicated, and hard working of the diplomats, long-term careerists or otherwise, whom I have had the privilege of knowing.

Henry E. Mattox



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