Elbridge Durbrow

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Elbridge Durbrow (September 21, 1903 – May 16, 1997) was a Foreign Service officer and diplomat who served as the Counselor of Embassy. Anderson deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow in the late 1940s and then the US ambassador to South Vietnam from March 1957 to April 1961.

South Vietnam country in southeast Asia

South Vietnam, officially the Republic of Vietnam, was a country that existed from 1955 to 1975, the period when the southern portion of Vietnam was a member of the Western Bloc during part of the Cold War. It received international recognition in 1949 as the "State of Vietnam", which was a constitutional monarchy (1949–1955). This became the "Republic of Vietnam" in 1955. Its capital was Saigon. South Vietnam was bordered by North Vietnam to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, Thailand across the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest, and the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia across the South China Sea to the east and southeast.


Early life

Durbrow was born in San Francisco, California. Durbrow graduated from Yale University in 1926 with a degree in philosophy. He then continued his education at Stanford University, the University of Dijon in France, the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands, the École Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris and finally the University of Chicago, where he studied international economics and finance. [1]

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Yale University private research university in New Haven, Connecticut, United States

Yale University is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701, it is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

Philosophy intellectual and/or logical study of general and fundamental problems

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?


Durbrow began his career in the US Foreign Service by serving as Vice Consul at the American embassy in Poland. He rose through the service's ranks over the next decade and served in Bucharest, Naples, Rome, Lisbon, and Moscow. [1] In 1941, Durbrow became the assistant chief of the US State Department's Eastern European affairs division. [2]

Poland republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Bucharest Capital of Romania

Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial centre. It is located in the southeast of the country, at 44°25′57″N26°06′14″E, on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, less than 60 km (37.3 mi) north of the Danube River and the Bulgarian border.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

In 1944, Durbrow was appointed as the chief of the Eastern European division of the State Department in Washington, DC. That year, he was also one of the American delegates at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, [1] which set up the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Bretton Woods system of money management. After World War II, Durbrow was vocal in his opposition for the diplomatic recognition of new governments in Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria because of their communist origins. [2] In 1946, he left that position to succeed George F. Kennan as the Counselor of Embassy and Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, under the US ambassador to the Soviet Union and future CIA Director, Walter Bedell Smith. Durbrow warned Smith and others of Soviet expansionism and efforts to break up the Western world. [1]

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development international financial institutions, sells loans to middle-income developing countries, part of the World Bank Group

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) is an international financial institution that offers loans to middle-income developing countries. The IBRD is the first of five member institutions that compose the World Bank Group, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. It was established in 1944 with the mission of financing the reconstruction of European nations devastated by World War II. The IBRD and its concessional lending arm, the International Development Association, are collectively known as the World Bank as they share the same leadership and staff. Following the reconstruction of Europe, the Bank's mandate expanded to advancing worldwide economic development and eradicating poverty. The IBRD provides commercial-grade or concessional financing to sovereign states to fund projects that seek to improve transportation and infrastructure, education, domestic policy, environmental consciousness, energy investments, healthcare, access to food and potable water, and access to improved sanitation.

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is a legal agreement between many countries, whose overall purpose was to promote international trade by reducing or eliminating trade barriers such as tariffs or quotas. According to its preamble, its purpose was the "substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis."

International Monetary Fund International organisation

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., consisting of "189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world." Formed in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference primarily by the ideas of Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes, it came into formal existence in 1945 with 29 member countries and the goal of reconstructing the international payment system. It now plays a central role in the management of balance of payments difficulties and international financial crises. Countries contribute funds to a pool through a quota system from which countries experiencing balance of payments problems can borrow money. As of 2016, the fund had SDR477 billion.

From 1948 to 1950, he served as an adviser to the National War College in Washington, DC, and spent the next two years as director of the Foreign Service's personnel division. [2] In 1952, he was sent to Italy, where he served as deputy chief of mission to the US ambassador to Italy, Clare Boothe Luce. Two years later, he was promoted to the diplomatic rank of career minister. [2]

National War College

The National War College (NWC) of the United States is a school in the National Defense University. It is housed in Roosevelt Hall on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., the third-oldest Army post still active.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.

Clare Boothe Luce American writer, politician, ambassador, journalist and anti-Communist activist

Ann Clare Boothe Luce was an American author, politician, U.S. Ambassador and public conservative figure. She was the first American woman appointed to a major ambassadorial post abroad. A versatile author, she is best known for her 1936 hit play The Women, which had an all-female cast. Her writings extended from drama and screen scenarios to fiction, journalism and war reportage. She was the wife of Henry Luce, publisher of Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated.

On March 14, 1957, US President Dwight Eisenhower named Durbrow as the US ambassador to South Vietnam. [3] At the time, the US had a minor military and political presence in Vietnam to prevent communism from taking over the region.

Durbrow had a difficult time in his ambassadorial role. [1] He often had to work with the authoritarian regime of Ngo Dinh Diem and the corruption and ineffective policymaking that accompanied it. South Vietnamese officers, disgruntled with Diem's government, tried to persuade Durbrow into joining anti-Diem groups.

Durbrow began to feel uneasy about Diem's authority, had to refuse because the US government was still supported Diem. [1]

In 1960, Diem and his younger brother and chief political adviser, Ngo Dinh Nhu, accused Durbrow of supporting a failed coup attempt by paratroopers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. [4] Durbrow later recalled receiving a phone call from one of Diem's aides, who asked him to tell Diem to surrender or face a howitzer attack on the presidential palace. Durbrow refused, and no attack occurred. He later learned that the aide had been forced to make the call. [5]

In April 1961, us President John F. Kennedy formed a committee to assess the political, military, and socioeconomic situation in Vietnam, in the hope of determining what it would take to keep Communism out of South Vietnam. [1] On April 16, Kennedy replaced Durbrow with Frederick Nolting, who supported appeasement. Langer, Durbrow served as a delegate to the NATO council in Paris and later as a government adviser to the National War College and the Air University. [1]


Durbrow retired from his 38-year diplomatic career in 1968. He spent the next two decades writing and lecturing on foreign affairs. Throughout the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Foreign Policy Institute and as the director of the Center for International Strategic Studies and the Freedom Studies Center in South Boston, Virginia. [1]

Durbrow died at his home in Walnut Creek, California on May 16, 1997 from complications of a stroke. He was survived by his second wife, Benice Balcom Durbrow, and two sons from his first marriage, Chandler and Bruce. [2]

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1960 in the Vietnam War

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1959 in the Vietnam War

1959 saw Vietnam still divided into South and North. North Vietnam authorized the Viet Cong to undertake limited military action as well as political action to subvert the Diệm government. North Vietnam also authorized the construction of what would become known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail to supply the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Armed encounters between the Viet Cong and the government of South Vietnam became more frequent and with larger numbers involved. In September, 360 soldiers of the South Vietnamese army were ambushed by a force of about one hundred guerrillas.

1957 in the Vietnam War

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1958 in the Vietnam War

In 1958, the upswing in violence against the government of South Vietnam continued, much of which was committed by the communist-dominated insurgents now called the Viet Cong. In South Vietnam, President Ngo Dinh Diem appeared to be firmly in power, although many American officials expressed concern about the repressive nature of his regime. The United States continued to finance most of the budget of the government of South Vietnam. North Vietnam continued to campaign for reunification with the South while focusing on its internal economic development, but pressure from hard-pressed communists in the South was forcing the North to contemplate a more active military role in overthrowing the Diem government.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Saxon, Wolfgang (1997-05-23). "Elbridge Durbrow, U.S. Diplomat, Dies at 93". The New York Times . Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Pearson, Richard (1997-05-20). "Elbridge Durbrow, 93, Dies; Ambassador to S. Vietnam". The Washington Post . p. B06.
  3. "Chiefs of Mission by Country, 1778-2005: Vietnam, South". United States State Department . Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  4. Hammer, Ellen J. (1987). A Death in November. E. P. Dutton. p. 133. ISBN   0-525-24210-4.
  5. “Interview with Eldridge Durbrow, 1979 (Part 1 of 3).” Archived 2010-12-22 at the Wayback Machine . 02/01/1979. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
G. Frederick Reinhardt
United States Ambassador to South Vietnam
Succeeded by
Frederick Nolting