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Charles T. Cross papers

Identifier: COU:486

Scope and Contents

The Charles T. Cross Papers contain letters, journals, documents and other materials related to Cross’s long diplomatic career. The collection also includes materials from the years preceding and following his connection with the Foreign Service, as well as letters, journals, and reminiscences of family members and friends. Cross’s letters begin while he was a student at Carleton College, just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Subsequently his letters record his participation in the Navy’s Japanese Language School at the University of Colorado in Boulder and his training as an officer in the Marine Corps. His later letters reflect his participation in some of the most momentous events of the 20th century. Cross’s first hand accounts of combat during World War II and his “Dear Gang” letters written during his posting to Danang, South Vietnam, provide windows on two wars that had profound effects on U.S. and world history. Other letters in the collection provide personal accounts of the American presence in China. Cross’s parents, Adelle Tenney Cross and Rowland W. Cross, were missionaries in China. Adelle Tenney was a young woman in 1915 when she entered the missionary field, and a series of her letters describing her experiences were published in her hometown newspaper (1915-1917). These letters survive in the collection as clippings pasted into a note book. In later years both Adelle Cross and Rowland Cross recorded their China experiences in journals (1931-1948). In addition, the collection includes a typescript of excerpts of letters sent from China by Alice C. Reed, a missionary friend of Cross’s parents. Reed’s letters were written during a period of over thirty years, from 1916 to 1948. Also part of the collection is the published transcript (1980) of interviews of Roland Cross describing the goals and tactics of Christian missionaries in China. The bulk of the papers, however, relate to Cross’s career in the Foreign Service and to his later career as a distinguished lecturer at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, and to his lectureships at the University of Pittsburgh and Carleton College.

The processed collection is divided into thirteen sections of varying size. I. BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION is a single folder containing a curriculum vitae, abbreviated biographies, and an abbreviated bibliography. II. CORRESPONDENCE contains miscellaneous letters organized chronologically. III. SUBJECT FILES make up the largest section and contain letters, journals and other papers organized alphabetically by subject and chronologically within folders. Included in this section are the papers and letters generated during Cross’s Foreign Service postings, as well as the Daily Journals kept by Cross during his postings as Ambassador to Singapore (1969-1971), as Consul General to Hong Kong (1974-1977), and as Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (1979-1981). In addition this section contains Cross’s letters home during World War II and during his posting to Vietnam, as well as the personal journals of Adelle and Rowland Cross, and of Shirley Cross. Cross’s lecture notes from classes he taught at the universities of Washington and Pittsburgh and Carleton College are also contained in this section. IV. LECTURES. This section holds handwritten and typed notes that Cross used for talks he gave to various groups primarily on topics related to his Foreign Service career and U.S. foreign policy toward Beijing, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. It also contains lecture notes on his childhood in China. V. MANUSCRIPTS include twelve papers written by Cross, nine of them in the late 1940s while Cross was a student. His early papers were written on topics relating to China and Japan, and Japanese aggression in China. The 7 manuscripts by other authors are about China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Among these is the Alice Reed manuscript, Excerpts from letters from China written by Alice Reed to her family and friends during the years 1916 to 1948. VI. BOOK REVIEWS. The book reviews, most of them written by Cross, are contained in a single folder. VII. REPRINTS. This section holds copies of published papers. Their topics primarily address issues related to China and Vietnam. It also includes the WW II reminiscences of a Trappist monk, Father John B. Hasbrouck, who attended the Boulder USN JLS with Charles Cross and like Cross, served as an intelligence officer and interpreter with the Marines. Another reprint, Seventy-Five Years of the North China Mission by Rev. Harold S. Matthews, relates the history of Protestant missionaries in China. It was written for the seventy-fifth anniversary in 1935 of the American Board’s missionary presence in China. VIII. CLIPPINGS. This section contains clippings from newspapers and magazines, primarily about China, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia. They are filed alphabetically by subject, and chronologically within the six folders that comprise this section. IX. BOOKS. This section includes a copy of Cross’s autobiography, Born A Foreigner, and two books with chapters written by Cross. It also contains a copy of Rowland Cross’s oral history of Protestant missionary work in China. Two additional folders hold an illustrated history of the 4th Marine Division in WWII (with a photograph of Charles Cross on Iwo Jima) and a propaganda book prepared by the US Information Service in Hong Kong between 1952 and 1954. X. FRAGILE AND DAMAGED DOCUMENTS – RESTRICTED. The documents in this section were removed from the collection for preservation in acid free sleeves and folders. Copies of these documents (secret and confidential WWII maps, propaganda posters, and secret notes and other documents dating from WWII) are inserted with the papers from which the original documents were removed. XI. AUDIO-VISUAL materials are primarily photographs removed from the collection for preservation in acid free sleeves and folders. Xeroxed copies of the photographs are included with the papers from which the original photos were removed. This section also includes a cassette tape of a telephone interview of Cross in 2000 on the topic of the Vietnam War. The interview was conducted by radio host John Rothmann of ABC/KGO in San Francisco. XII. MEDALS/INSIGNIA/COMMEMORATIVES include a combat action ribbon from WWII and various medals, insignia and coins from Cross’s years in the Foreign Service. XIII. OVERSIZE is comprised of one item, a signature book from Hong Kong during the period between 1974 and 1977 when Cross served there as Consul General.


  • 1915 - 2007

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical Note

Charles T. Cross spent more than three decades in the Foreign Service of the United States. Cross began his career as a United States Information Serivce officer, first in Taiwan (1949-1950), then in Djakarta, Indonesia (1950-1951), and in Hong Kong (1952-1954). Subsequently, Cross served in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as the U.S. Political Officer from 1955 to 1957, where he watched the British deal with a communist uprising and bring about a democratic country. In the latter year he was entrusted with the position of American Counsil in Alexandria, Egypt. This was a challenging assignment due to the tensions arising from the first Suez Crisis. In 1959 Cross returned to Washington where he filled the job of Officer in Charge of Burma Affairs in the State Department. Two years later he moved over to Laos, assuming the position of Officer in Charge of Laos Affairs. In this capacity he participated as an American delegate to the Fourteen-Nations Conference on the Neutrality of Laos held in Geneva, Switzerland, (1961-1962). In 1963-1964 he was assigned to the National War College in Washington, D.C. In 1964 Cross began a new assignment as Deputy Chief of Mission in Nicosias, acting as the principal liaison between the Embassy and the United Nations presence in Cyprus. During his subsequent posting to London as Political Officer (1966-1967), Cross participated in secret negotiations between the United States and North Vietnam through the British. His real duties, however, centered on trying to sell U.S./Vietnam policies to skeptical student audiences throughout England. In ten months he spoke to 20 groups, only two of which were mildly friendly. Cross' expertise in counter-insurgency operations, aquired especially in Malaysia, led to his next assignment in Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), in Danang, South Vietnam (1967-1969). As the Senior Civilian Deputy to the Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force in South Vietnam, he directed pacification efforts in the I Corps area. During this period Cross dealtt with the security challenges arising from the Tet Offensive in early 1968. While the Danang assignment posed many dangers, even more difficult for Cross was the forced seperation from his family. In 1969 Cross recieved an appointment as Ambassador to Singapore, an enjoyable posting and one that Cross was reluctant to leave when he was recalled in 1972 due to the machinations of Vice President Spiro Agnew. Briefly he served as Diplomat-in-Residence at the Univeristy of Michigan, teaching courses on East Asia and the practice of diplomacy. Later in 1972 he left Michigan to resettle in Washington D.C., where he joined the State Depatment's Policy Planning Staff (1972-1974). In 1974 Cross once again returned to the field, this time as Consul General in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong posting offered many amenities, but it also posed difficult challenges, including the need to address the often wrenching plight of refugees from Vietnam. When Cross left Hong Kong in 1977 he was named a Senior Foreign Service Inspector. In this capacity he traveled through South Asia, analyzing the effectiveness of the U.S. policy in Bangeladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Napal, Afghanistan, and Iran, and assessing the U.S. State Depatment responses to crises in Israel, Iran, and Afghanistan. An enduring issue throughout Cross' career was the United State's China policy. The competing inetrest of the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the nationalist Republic of China (ROC) threatened to disrupt U.S.-China relations. In an attempt to stabilize the situation, the Carter Administration formally recognized the PRC and established an embassy in Beijing. The U.S., however, did not support a PRC takeover of Taiwan and the elimination of the ROC. To maintain the difficult balance between competing PRC and ROC claims, Carter created the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). The AIT was not an embassy, but had many of the functions of an embassy, perhaps the most important being a reassuring American presence. To fill the position of AIT’s Director, the Administration chose Cross, an experienced diplomat and someone with considerable understanding of the tensions between mainland China and Taiwan. AIT’s Director, however, could not have any official connection with the U.S. government. In 1979 Cross retired from the Foreign Service before assuming this new and important post. In 1981 Cross and his wife Shirley left Taiwan and moved to Seattle where Cross took up a new career as a Distinguished Lecturer in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Over the next decade he taught classes at the JSIS and in the History Department at U.W., and at the University of Pittsburgh, where he participated in Pittsburgh’s Semester at Sea program. In addition, Cross spent a semester at Carleton College as a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor. In 1999 Cross published his autobiography, Born A Foreigner. In 2001 he contributed a chapter titled The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT): The First Two Years (1979-1981) to Implementation of Taiwan Relations Act: An Examination After Twenty Years. His other publications include an article in Foreign Policy (1983) titled Taipei’s Identity Crisis and a chapter in Education in Diplomacy (1984). He has also delivered numerous lectures on diplomacy and related subjects to a variety of organizations. Ambassador Cross and his wife continue to make their home in Seattle.

Cross was born in 1922 in Peking, China, the only child of Congregational missionaries. He spent his early years in the missionary compound learning to speak Mandarin and absorbing the culture of the Chinese with whom he came into daily contact. After an extended furlough in the United States the family moved to another missionary compound in Tongzhou. Cross completed his primary and secondary education there at an American school for foreigners. These years were anxious ones for Cross’s parents as the Japanese occupation of China spread to engulf the region around Tongzhou. A series of massacres in 1937, collectively known as the Tongzhou Massacre, brought home the brutality of the Japanese occupiers. By the time Cross left China in 1940 to begin his undergraduate studies in Minnesota, his sentiments against Japanese aggression were well formed.

When the United States declared war on Japan in December of 1941, Cross was a sophomore at Carleton College in Minnesota. Like many of his classmates, he immediately decided to join one of the military services. Hoping to make use of his language skills as a military officer, he applied for admission to the Navy’s newly formed Japanese Language School. Following his acceptance Cross began his studies in June of 1942 at the JLS located at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Almost from the beginning Cross expected to be dropped from the program because of his difficulty with the courses. He managed, however, to survive the winnowing process and graduated in July of 1943. Cross attained another goal when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. Through the end of 1943 Cross trained in earnest for deployment to the Pacific theater, learning the elements of combat and continuing his study of Japanese through captured Japanese documents. Early in 1944 Cross shipped out from San Diego, California, and participated in the 4th Marine Division landing at Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands. Subsequently he participated in the invasions of Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. For his bravery on Saipan, Cross was awarded the Bronze Star. After the Japanese surrender Cross was deployed to China where the Marines were repatriating Japanese soldiers and working to implement U.S. policy aimed at forestalling the spread of communist forces. In December of 1945 Cross was released from active duty and returned to the United States. In January of 1946 Cross was back in Minnesota, newly married to his long-time sweetheart Shirley Foss and re-enrolled in Carleton College. In 1947 he received the B.A. degree, cum laude and entered the graduate program in Far Eastern Studies and International Relations at Yale University. Cross received the M.A. degree in 1949. Later that same year he began his long career in the Foreign Service as a United States Information Service officer in Taipei, Taiwan.


13.5 linear feet (26 boxes)

Language of Materials



Charles T. Cross (1922-) had a distinguished career in the Foreign Service, serving as Ambassador to Singapore, Consul General in Hong Kong, and Director of the American Institute in Taiwan. Cross was born in China and grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese. At the start of WWII, Cross was a sophomore at Carleton College. He applied for admission to the Navy's Japanese Language School at the University of Colorado Boulder. Upon graduation in 1943, Cross joined the Marines, serving in the 4th Division as an intelligence office and interpreter. He participated in four Marine Corps landings, recieving the Bronze Star for Bravery in Saipan. After the war Cross returned to CArleton, graduating cum laude in 1947. In 1949 he received the M.A. degree from Yale University and began his extensive diplomatic career in the Foreign Service. The Cross Papers include his professional papers as a diplomat and as a university lecturer, as well as personal papers from WWII and Vietnam. The collection also contains letters, journals, and remininscenes of his parents and other missionaries in China.


This collection is arranged into the following series:


Surveyed by Elizabeth M. Campbell, 2005 Processed by Katherine Harris, 2007 Edited by Agostina Ntow, October, 2014
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States