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Heath (Donald R.) papers
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  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Donald R. Heath papers
    Date (inclusive): 1917-1975
    Collection Number: 2019C13
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 60 manuscript boxes, 4 oversize boxes (34.25 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: Donald Read Heath (1894-1981) was a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service from 1920 to 1961. His papers consist of correspondence, speeches, writings, sound recordings, photographs, and printed matter largely surrounding his diplomatic positions. A few items remain from his early life prior to his first counselor of embassy appointment.
    Creator: Heath, Donald R. (Donald Read), 1894-1981
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    The Donald R. Heath Papers were donated to the Hoover Institution Library & Archives by Richard E. Brown in 2019.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Donald R. Heath Papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives

    Biographical note

    Donald Read Heath (1894-1981) was a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service from 1920 to 1961. Born in Topeka, Kansas, Health graduated from Washburn University in 1915 and was a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He attended the University of Montpellier in France for one semester. Heath began his career as a White House correspondent for United Press International in February 1916. He was a correspondent until August 1919, when he joined the U.S. Army, serving at first lieutenant during World War I. He resumed being a correspondent in October 1919 until September 1920. In 1920 he married Sue Louise Bell and joined the U.S. Foreign Service.
    He held a consular position in Romania, Poland, and Switzerland between 1920-1929. From 1929-1932 he as consular at the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and served as assistant chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs at the State Department. In 1937 he was the first Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin until 1941. Between 1941-1944 Heath held the position of consul in Santiago, Chile, holding the number two position immediately below Ambassador Claude Bowers. For a little less than a year he was also chief of the Division of North and West Coast Affairs at the State Department. Heath was next sent to Europe as deputy to Ambassador Robert D. Murphy, who was the State Department's adviser at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces and then at OMGUS, the Office of Military Government of the United States in Germany. Then, in 1944, he was advisor to General Dwight D. Eisenhower and served as an advisor on reconstruction until 1947.
    In 1949 Heath was the first postwar U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria. He was recalled from the post in 1950 when the Bulgarian government declared him persona non grata, accusing him of plotting against the Bulgarian government in connection with Bulgarian deputy prime minister Traicho Kostov. Among other charges Kostov was accused of conspiring with the U.S. Embassy and hanged for treason. Upon Heath's return to the U.S., he received numerous speaking invitations. Bulgaria dropped all charged against Heath in 1959 and diplomatic relations were restored.
    Between 1950-1954 he was appointed to Indochina, as the first U.S. Ambassador to the newly independent countries of Laos and Cambodia. Concurrently, he was the first Ambassador to Vietnam in 1952. Afterward, he was Ambassador to Lebanon, 1955-1958, Yemen, 1958-1959, and Saudi Arabia, 1958-1961. Heath retired in 1961 and was a professor at UCLA. He died in Orinda, California in 1981.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Donald Heath papers (1917-1975) consist of correspondence, speeches, writings, certificates, photographs, sound records, and printed matter. Only a few items have survived to document the first half of his career, during which he held junior positions in various diplomatic stations abroad. The material up to 1941 is grouped into a small Early Life File.
    The Chile File is probably the most complete in the collection. It includes official and unofficial correspondence, memoranda and reports, and reflects American concern to monitor activities of the Axis powers in Chile and to bring about a severance of diplomatic relations with those powers by the Chilean government. The file also includes extensive correspondence with Laurence Duggan, who was subsequently accused of performing espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.
    The Germany File documents Heath's tenure as deputy political adviser to the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) from 1945 to 1947. It includes correspondence between Ambassador Robert D. Murphy and Heath while Murphy was attending the Moscow Conference in the spring of 1946.
    The Bulgaria File marks Heath's advancement to ambassadorial rank. The Indochina File covers this crucial period of the last phase of French struggle against the Viet Minh up through the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. American moral and financial support for France during this period laid the groundwork for subsequent more direct involvement. Heath attended the Geneva Conference of 1954 which prescribed a peace settlement. The Lebanon File covers this period, during which the Suez War took place, and also during which Heath was briefly recalled to join the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in New York.
    The Saudi Arabia File details Heath as ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the minister of Yemen. Each of the series above includes a subseries of Heath's wife's, Louise Bell, papers, consisting principally of lengthy letters prepared for circulation among family members in the United States. These provide an interesting unofficial perspective on diplomatic life.
    The Retirement File contains papers of Donald Heath after the conclusion of his diplomatic career. They reflect continued interest in the Middle East, in the new Vietnam War, and include summaries of interviews with scholars researching the development of American policies.
    There is also a large Audiovisual File. It consists primarily of photographs and is arranged in subseries corresponding to Heath's various postings. There are also three reels of sound recordings of talks by Heath from his retirement period.
    Finally, a small Oversize File includes photographs, certificates, and Bulgarian propaganda posters.


    The Donald Heath papers have been organized into the following ten series, and are largely based on the diplomatic positions he held. These series are: 1. Early Life File; 2. Chile File; 3. Germany File; 4. Bulgaria File; 5. Indochina File; 6. Lebanon File; 7. Saudi Arabia File; 8. Retirement File; 9. Audiovisual File; and 10. Oversize File.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    World War, 1939-1945 -- Diplomatic history
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Chile
    Chile -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Bulgaria
    Bulgaria -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Cambodia
    Cambodia -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Laos
    Laos -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Vietnam
    Vietnam -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Lebanon
    Lebanon -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Saudi Arabia
    Saudi Arabia -- Foreign relations -- United States
    Diplomats -- United States
    Personal correspondence
    Heath, Louise Bell