The Hoover Institution Library & Archives has received a significant increment of new materials to the collection of Donald R. Heath, a career civil service diplomat who worked in Berlin during the interwar period. The increment to the collection includes correspondence, documents, and photographs, some of which were recently used as source material for author Rebecca Donner’s bestselling historical nonfiction book All the Frequent Troubles of our Days, which documents underground resistance in Berlin in the 1930s. Donner’s book was hailed by the New York Times reviewer Jennifer Szalai as “Astonishing…wilder and more expansive than a standard-issue biography….[an] extraordinarily intimate book… conveying what it felt like in real time to experience the tightening vise of the Nazi regime.”

Donald Read Heath (1894–1981) was a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service from 1920 to 1961. Prior to joining the civil service, Heath was a White House correspondent for United Press International from February 1916 to August 1917 and then again from October 1919 to September 1920. From August 1917 to October 1919, he was first lieutenant in the U.S. Army in World War I. In 1920 he began a career in the foreign service that would last four decades. 

From 1920 to 1929, Heath held consular positions in Romania, Poland, and Switzerland. From 1929 to 1932 he was a consul at the American Embassy in Haiti, and he was then assistant chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs at the State Department. From 1937 to 1941 he was the First Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin before the American entry into the war. Then from 1941 to 1944, he was a consul in Chile followed by less than a year as the chief of the Division of North and West Coast Affairs at the State Department. 

In 1944 Heath returned to Europe as an advisor to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He remained in Germany as an advisor on reconstruction until 1947 when he was posted as U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria. Due to Cold War tensions, the Bulgarian government declared Heath persona non grata in 1949 and the U.S. promptly broke off diplomatic relations. 

Following his expulsion from Bulgaria, Heath was posted as the first U.S. Ambassador to the newly independent countries in Indochina including Laos (1950–1954), Cambodia (1950–1954), and South Vietnam (1950–1954). During these concurrent postings he was resident in Saigon. He was next the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon (1955–1958), Yemen (1957–1959), and, finally, Saudi Arabia (1958–1961). 

The Donald R. Heath papers at Hoover consist of correspondence, speeches, writings, sound recordings, photographs, and printed matter largely surrounding his diplomatic positions. A few items pertain to his early life and military service prior to his first counselor of embassy appointment.


Jean McElwee Cannon

Curator for North American Collections / Research Fellow

Jean M. Cannon is a research fellow and curator for North American Collections at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives at Stanford University, where she specializes in acquisitions,…

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