Ambassadors at Sea

[ Texas ]

Ambassadors at Sea

The High and Low Adventures of a Diplomat

By Henry E. Catto, Jr.

A fascinating look at the glamour, day-to-day work, and even occasional danger that come with being a high-level representative of the United States government.



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6 x 9 | 428 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72371-9

In 1969, Henry Catto was selling insurance in San Antonio, Texas. Just twenty years later, he presented his credentials as ambassador to the Court of St. James's to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace. In this engaging memoir, he retraces his journey from Texas outsider to Washington insider, providing a fascinating look at the glamour, day-to-day work, and even occasional danger that come with being a high-level representative of the United States government.

Catto's posts brought him into contact with the world's most powerful leaders and left him with a wealth of stories, which he recounts amusingly in these pages. He was the official host for Queen Elizabeth's visit to America during the Bicentennial year—and one of José Napoleon Duarte's protectors after his failed 1972 coup attempt in El Salvador. Catto accompanied Richard Nixon on his historic trip to Russia, sparred with Bill Moyers and the producers of "60 Minutes" as Caspar Weinberger's spokesman at the Pentagon, and hosted George Bush's planning meeting with Margaret Thatcher at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War. In telling these and other stories, he offers behind-the-scenes glimpses into how political power really works in Washington, London, and other world capitals.


Part 1. Life Before Forty
Rocky Mountain High
Party of Choice
Boarding the Train
Twenty-three Rabbits and an Elephant
Making like Marco Polo
The Social Tightrope
D.C. Family Life

Part 2. El Salvador
The Next Step
Anatomy of an Embassy
El Salvador Overview
A Day in the Life ...
Domestic and Social Conventions
Culture Shock
Sad Day for Democracy
Coup d’État
The Bill Collector
Abroad and at Home
Marxist Terrorism
The El Salvador Tour Winds Up

Part 3. Protocol
“Never, But Never, Miss the Motorcade”
Occupational Hazards
Hitting the Road with Nixon, Part 1
Hitting the Road with Nixon, Part 2
The Fall of a President
Back to Business as Usual
A Refreshing Change in Command
“Super K” in Action
Lessons in Hardball Diplomacy
Two Weeks, One King, Four Prime Ministers, and a Shah
Sometimes You Win One ...
... And Sometimes You Lose One
Equal Time for Israel
Preparing for the Next Challenge
Spanish Successes and Bicentennial Bloopers
Hail, Britannia

Part 4. The United Nations and the Pentagon
A Post in Geneva
Return to the Private Sector
Investments in Politics and Publishing
New Administration, New Job
All Over the Map with Cap
Channels of Communication
The Media and the Pentagon
Briefings and Leaks
Civilian Ventures and Explorations

Part 5. The Court of St. James’s
Tapped for a Coveted Post
Settling In
Presentation of Credentials
Dinner at Buckingham Palace—and Murder
A Presidential Visit
A Procession of Dignitaries
Turnover in the Ranks
Good Company, Good Food, Good Entertainment
The Beefsteak Club, the Middle Temple, and Me
Covering the Territory
The Queen’s English and Other Niceties
Ties Between Nations
Trouble in the Gulf
Changing of the Guard
The Approach of War
A Bit of Celebration
A Compelling Offer

Part 6. U.S. Information Agency
“Director of What?”
USIA Covers the World
Achieving Goals, Addressing Concerns
Freedom of the Press
Public Diplomacy and an Open Door Policy at USIA
On the Road Again
The View from the Great Wall
Next Stop, Eastern Europe
The Changing Face of Africa
Meeting Notes
A Losing Campaign
Melancholy Denouement
Moving On


Henry E. Catto Jr. was deputy U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States and ambassador to El Salvador, the United Nations Office in Geneva, and Great Britain, as well as U.S. Chief of Protocol, Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Director of the U.S. Information Agency. He lives in San Antonio and Woody Creek, Colorado.

Advance praise for Ambassadors at Sea:

"Henry Catto served our country with integrity in a variety of important posts. Here Ambassador Catto, sometimes with humor, sometimes with pathos, takes us on a public service journey that should engage all who are interested in what it is like to unselfishly serve. In a wonderfully unpretentious way, Mr. Catto brings alive our embassy in the UK, the U.S. Information Service, and so much else. This citizen ambassador, this true friend of mine, has written a fascinating book."

—George H. W. Bush

"John Kenneth Galbraith once advised the United States taxpayers that they had really got the better of the deal when they sent him as ambassador to India: His memoirs of his stay there generated more IRS revenue than was lost to the government by paying his salary in office. It should be so too for Henry Catto, who gives us in this wonderful book not only an inside look at Great Britain, where he served as ambassador, but an inside look at presidents and kings and government institutions and crotchets. What keeps you reading avidly is the charm, the candor, and the humor. Put me down as one taxpayer redundantly rewarded after reading Ambassadors at Sea."

—William F. Buckley Jr.

"Henry Catto, in succession, ambassador to El Salvador, protocol chief at the White House, ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, press chief at the Pentagon, ambassador to Great Britain, and director of the United States Information Agency—and throughout a pal of George Bush—has had the rare opportunity to see the making of American foreign policy from a variety of angles—and now he tells his story in this shrewd and entertaining memoir."

—Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

"The charm and wit of Henry Catto make for great storytelling. His adventures with presidents, queens, and heads of state provide entertaining insights into the high art of diplomacy."

—Ann W. Richards

"Here's what happened when Texas politics came together with the fears, hopes, and vanities of the leaders of the western world. This is an informative and engaging tale told by a natural-born storyteller, Henry Catto of Texas."

—David Brinkley

"This book has two terrific things going for it. Henry Catto has had a wonderful time working at seriously important positions for the United States of America. And he tells all about it in ways that are truly fun and funny as well as important and serious. The result is a book of charm, wit, and substance—a combination rarely found in public-person memoirs."

—Jim Lehrer