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J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
After the ambassador’s residence
was surrounded by Communist troops
and his bedroom invaded by soldiers,
Dad, though only a second secretary,
was sent to the new authorities to
protest this violation of diplomatic
norms. Though they listened, and
later reassigned the soldiers involved,
the Chinese “alien affairs” officers re-
fused to accept the diplomatic cre-
dentials of the American Foreign
Service officers because the Communists and the United
States had no formal relations.
For the rest of that anxious year the Americans in Nan-
jing were threatened by Communist suspicion and occa-
sional harassment within the city, as well as periodic,
indiscriminate Nationalist attacks from the air. Ralph’s
bland letters to his parents in Seattle deliberately conveyed
an impression of normalcy, but when Mary Lou wrote to
Jean Smith, she would sometimes strike a different note.
“Don’t know when I’ll get your let-
ter answered, as a British couple with
a little boy has moved in with us. They
were bombed out in an air raid last
week. She is suffering from shock and
is not well. I’m sick of the air raids —
don’t mention this to anyone as I
haven’t written home about the bomb-
Once the new government in Nan-
jing restricted the movement of Amer-
icans, Mary Lou was forced to cut back on her charitable
work. In spite of all our parents’ efforts to shield us, my
brother and I began to feel fear, too.
I remember my first glimpse of Communist troops
from the window of the car. In their mustard-yellow uni-
forms and tight, disciplined ranks, they seemed unlike any
soldiers we had seen before. As we drove by they looked
straight ahead, apparently as indifferent to the large for-
eign car as they were to the Chinese civilians who moved
Both my parents saw
it as critical that the three
of us get back to Dad
before the city fell to
Communist troops.