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Collection Description & Creator Information
Robinson was involved in the establishment of informational and cultural affairs agencies in India, Saigon and Warsaw, and in his letters describes both the internal politics and external challenges of establishing an American news presence abroad. Robinson's account of the creation of the Saigon office is especially thorough.
At the beginning of the correspondence run, Robinson has just been offered a position in the Office of the Coordinator of Information. Early in his correspondence Robinson asks his mother to save his letters for a possible book he would write upon his return (but did not). He also cautioned his family to keep the contents of his correspondence private: "We were told treason charges face the first man to let anything out." Perhaps with a future memoir in mind, he wrote full and lyrical descriptions of many places he visited. The letters are vivid in their descriptions of places and events. He was very meticulous about ensuring the continuity of events in his accounts.
Many of the details in his correspondence concern ordinary daily life - inquiring after relatives and friends, discussing the sale and purchase of various boats (Robinson was an avid sailor), and social events with friends. The letters are less revealing about some important events - the bombing of Pearl Harbor, for example - but are valuable for their description of the atmosphere and growing unease that preceded them.
During this time Robinson had several personal encounters of note. Perhaps most significantly he was one of two American journalists present at a luncheon with "M. Matthieu," the leader of one of the eight major French resistance groups. "Matthieu" described to the assembled group a clandestine meeting in Paris of these organizations with a special representative dispatched by de Gaulle in May of 1943; that meeting produced a written contract stating that once the Council of Resistance could come into the open, it would supersede de Gaulle as the directing power in France, and would push forward the work of evicting the Nazis on its own account. (11/23/43) "The importance of this is hardly to be overestimated," Robinson wrote. Robinson had met personally with de Gaulle a year earlier in November of 1942.
Robinson also had an unusual opportunity to meet privately for several hours with Mahatma Gandhi in Calcutta in December of 1945. At the time Gandhi had accompanied Bengalese governor Richard Casey on a trip to observe the effects of the 1943 famine, and Robinson was able to arrange an afternoon visit. Robinson was also present at the assassination attempt against President Syngman Rhee in Korea in July 1952.
There is a vivid description of the occasion upon which Robinson was a member of the official party that accompanied French High Commissioner Admiral Georges-Thierry d'Argenlieu on a visit of state to the Cambodian Court on the occasion of the announcement of autonomy. Robinson's relationship with d'Argenlieu was somewhat tense; he believed the Admiral was well aware that Robinson had been placed under surveillance by the French civil and military police. Robinson had been warned indirectly that "[his] presence here in Indochina was considered a grave challenge to certain 'powerful interests.'" Once d'Argenlieu lost power, Robinson again felt assured of his personal safety.
Of lesser note is Robinson's description of his public support of radical feminist writer Josephine Herbst's labor efforts on behalf of workers at Ford Motors; shortly thereafter his working hours change from dayside to the overnight shift, a move he believes "is not unconnected with my championing of Josephine Herbst's cause." Also of interest is his vivid depiction of the landing of French troops at Haipong in March of 1946.
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Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
Joseph A. Robinson Papers are open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.
- Credit this material:
Indochina; Joseph A. Robinson Papers, MC194, Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library65 Olden StreetPrinceton, NJ 08540, USA(609) 258-6345
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- Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1