Scope and Content of Collection
Title: William John Tonesk papers
Date (inclusive): 1923-1992
Collection Number: 2015C36
Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
Language of Material: In English and Polish
18 manuscript boxes, 4 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder
(13.3 Linear Feet)
Abstract: Writings, correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes, personnel records, printed matter, photographs, and memorabilia relating
to the post-World War II transition to a communist regime in Poland, relations between the United States and Poland, and other
aspects of American foreign policy.
United States. Department of State
Tonesk, William John, 1906-1992
Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives
Boxes 20-22 may not be used without permission of the Archivist. The remainder of the collection is open for research; materials
must be requested at least two business days in advance of intended use.
For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.
Materials were acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 2015.
[Identification of item], William John Tonesk papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.
The American naval, intelligence, and foreign service officer William John Tonesk was born in 1906 as Władysław Jan Toniecki
to a Polish immigrant family in Schenectady, New York. During the years 1925 to 1929, Tonesk studied English and economics,
receiving his bachelor's degree from Union College in Schenectady. He then worked for two years as a supervisor for International
Telephone and Telegraph in New York City. In 1931, he began graduate studies at Columbia University, receiving a master's
degree in English and East European studies the following year.
Tonesk spent the next several years traveling and studying in Eastern Europe. While working on his dissertation on the Polish
writer and philosopher Stanislaw Przybyszewski, Tonesk took a job with a travel agency, Raymond Whitcomb, Inc., as chief lecturer
for global travel. He moved on to Pan American Airways in 1940; by 1943, Tonesk had moved to the Office of Naval Intelligence
with the rank of lieutenant.
Tonesk's first station was Cairo, Egypt, where he established contact with the military intelligence of the Polish army of
General Władysław Anders, an army made up of former Polish Gulag prisoners evacuated from the Soviet Union into the British-controlled
Middle East. His next post was Moscow, where he worked as an interpreter for U.S. ambassador Averell Harriman. In the second
half of 1945, Tonesk moved to Warsaw as aide to U.S. ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane. Soon after, he began working for the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA).
While in Warsaw, Lieutenant Tonesk organized the visits of General Dwight Eisenhower, in September 1945, and Herbert Hoover,
in March 1946; most importantly, however, he studied the political situation in the country and reported to Washington. Tonesk
grew increasingly disillusioned with U.S. intelligence authorities, so when Ambassador Lane quit in protest of the U.S. failure
to confront Soviet aggression in Poland, Tonesk followed.
After leaving the CIA in 1952, Tonesk served as a consultant to the Republican National Committee and directed public relations
for the United States Travel Agency in Washington, D.C. The election of Dwight Eisenhower encouraged him to return to government
service via the United States Department of the State, first as a political officer and analyst in Washington and then, from
1956 to 1961, as consul and chief of a special intelligence research unit in Frankfurt, Germany. From 1961 until 1964, Tonesk
served as deputy chief of protocol of the United States.
During the Vietnam War era, Tonesk was first a liaison officer with the Economic Commission to Asia and the Far East and later
the first secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. In retirement, Tonesk consulted for multiple organizations and
corporations regarding business ventures in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Far East. He also collaborated with his longtime
friend and Polish émigré activist, Stefan Korboński, on multiple articles, letters, and editorials concerning the situation
in Poland and the Solidarity movement. Tonesk passed away in March 1992 in Tucson, Arizona.
Scope and Content of Collection
The papers of the American naval, intelligence, and foreign service officer William John Tonesk include writings, correspondence,
memoranda, reports, notes, personnel records, printed matter, photographs, and memorabilia relating to the post-World War
II transition to a communist regime in Poland, relations between the United States and Poland, and other aspects of American
Subjects and Indexing Terms
United States -- Foreign relations -- Poland
Poland -- Foreign relations -- United States
United States -- Foreign relations
Poland -- History -- 1945-1980