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         Charles T. Cross Papers

Looking North from Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima by 4th Marine Division photographer, 1945, Cross 23_05_02_11
Looking North from Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima by 4th Marine Division photographer, 1945, Cross 23_05_02_11

Charles T. Cross was among a select group of young men admitted to the U.S. Navy’s Japanese Language School at the University of Colorado, Boulder, during World War II.  Following his graduation in 1943, he enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve and subsequently served as an intelligence officer and Japanese language interpreter in the Pacific theater.  Cross participated in the Marine landings at Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, earning the Bronze Star for bravery at Saipan. 


After the war, Cross completed his undergraduate degree with honors at Carleton College and entered the graduate program in Far Eastern Studies and International Relations at Yale University.  With a newly minted Master of Arts Degree in 1949 he began his long and distinguished career in the Foreign Service of the United States.  Cross’s foreign postings were primarily in southeast Asia, eventually leading to appointments as the Senior Civilian Deputy to the Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force, based in Danang, Vietnam (1967-1969); Ambassador to Singapore (1969-1972); Consul General  in Hong Kong (1974-1977); and  Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (1979-1981).  Following his retirement from the Foreign Service, Cross undertook a second career as a Distinguished Lecturer in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.  In addition, he taught classes in diplomacy and related subjects through the University of Pittsburgh’s Semester at Sea program and spent a semester at his alma mater, Carleton College, as a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor.  Now retired from teaching, Cross and his wife live in Seattle, Washington.


In 1999, Cross’s autobiography, Born A Foreigner:  A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia, was published.   In his memoir Cross describes his military service and his careers both as a diplomat and as a teacher.  His memoir also covers his early life growing up in China as the only son of Congregational missionaries.  Born in 1922 in Peking, Cross’s family later moved to Tongzhou where Cross completed his primary and secondary education in an American school for foreigners.  Cross grew up speaking Mandarin and learning, through close daily contact, the culture of the family’s Chinese neighbors.  During these years, the Japanese occupation of China spread to engulf the area around Tongzhou, creating great anxiety for the missionaries and culminating in a series of massacres of the local Chinese population.  Before Pearl Harbor and the Declaration of War by the United States, Cross had witnessed first hand the brutality of Japanese aggression.  These experiences impressed upon the young Cross the importance of American engagement with the rest of the world through diplomacy whenever possible, and through force when absolutely necessary  -- lessons that played a formative role in Cross’s later life.


The collection includes letters, journals, and other materials documenting Cross’s diplomatic and teaching careers.  His “Dear Gang” letters written from his posting in Danang provide insights from an on-the-scene observer and participant in the Vietnam War.   Earlier letters written home during World War II present Cross’s impressions of Boulder and the Navy’s Japanese Language School, as well as descriptions of some of the momentous events of the War in the Pacific. In addition, the collection contains the letters, journals and reminiscences of Cross’s parents and of other Christian missionaries in China.


The Charles T. Cross Papers were completely organized and preserved as of October 2007.  The processing of the collection was funded by a grant from the Freeman Foundation.