Military Reception

May 21st, 1960

Military Reception

~ On the occasion of Armed Forces Day The Military Representatives of the United States of America request the pleasure of the company of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick W. Clayton at a Reception on 21 May 1960 at 1800 hrs. to 2000 hours at the residence of the Air Attache – Smoking / Uniform

2012.03.20 – 18:32.

Kabul, Afghanistan: May 16, 1960

May 16th, 1960



Addressed to:
Hemme Martin
149 No. Forest Street
Gilroy, California

[Stamps removed:  Typed message underneath: Please send this letter on.  Important.]

Senders name and address:
(rubber stamp)
c/o American Embassy / USOM-Kabul
Department of State Mail Room
Washington 25, D.C.
(letter) #10


Kabul, Afghanistan
May 16, 1960

Dear Family,

If you want letters, this time you are going to have to have some carbons, or I shall never catch up on my writing again for a while.  Everyone here is well, including three humans, two ducks, one cat, and three dogs of assorted sizes; and, I suppose, I should add three bacchas {Pharsi for “boys”*}, but, by doing that I imply they are not in the human class and that would be an error.  Well, anyway, this is remarkable mostly because the first three mentioned items were missing for eight days.

Before last week there was a hint from my husband that he might go to Herat by road to check it for equipment transport even though he was sure the acting mission director might highly disapprove.   Thus he started off by Dodge Personnel Carrier (this is just like a jeep almost, but 3/4 ton instead of 1/2 ton – it is quite the bright yellow vehicle – capable of a considerable number of wonders, like traveling under water, etc.) for Kandahar leaving me with secret instructions to get consular permission for me and Donald to go to Herat if it became possible, but not to let the secret slip to ICA {International Cooperation Administration*}.  The consul has to notify the foreign office of RGA {Royal Government of Afghanistan}, and Fred did not even have permission and this upset the consul a great deal.  On the 7th I finally flew to Kandahar with Donald after several radio exchanges in a form of code with father* to verify the fact that I could come.   All of this produced enough tension for me to make a whodunit – plus some other information I had acquired in my little hollow head that was very critical.  It took 2/3 of the way to Kandahar on a bumpy flight before my cares started to roll away.  When father* met us at the airport, I felt better.  The new Ariana DC-6 had come in that same day from Europe with Amanullah‘s body.  In Kabul we saw the other five of Ariana’s planes, so it was quite a day.  The airport {in Kandahar} is longer than Mingaladon*, although not quite as wide strips.

For two days Donald and I just loafed around in the summer climate while father* finished unexpected business.  It was very relaxing.  On Tuesday {at 3:00 A.M.} we three started out for Herat in company with another vehicle the same.  We did the full 400 miles that day, in some cases going up and down as mich as we went horizontally.  A little over 15 hours got us there, beat but unbowed.  Father* was happy because the road would support the heaviest equipment, and he could move Herat ahead.  {the} (air project)  We gulped choi and fell into bed and I never knew the beds in Herat could be so easily slept in, big full pillows, saggy springs and all.  The next morning we were up early and toured the bazaars looking for motor oil, and by ten had oil, had checked the airport and were on our way back to Lash Kar Gah {Lashkar Gah}.  This time we did not have to wait and check up on our companion car and we had no fuel pump troubles and it was about fifty miles shorter so we didn’t take quite twelve hours for the trip.  If I had had time to take pictures, make notes, etc. I could have had a nice article for the {National} geographic about our motor trip across the southern part of the least known country in south Asia.  The plains are terrific, the mountains are magnificent and one looks like it is made of solid white marble.  One village only had date palms and looked like an oasis.  Farah is in a very rich valley.  I suppose one might find that about 10 cars a day use the road on an average.  If I ever get caught up on 9 days of diary, that will be the closest I come to writing the article.  This was one of father’s* quicker trips.

We stayed overnight at the welcome staff house in Lash Kar Gah; the next morning father* did business in Girish {now: Gereshkmap}, and Changiers {now: Char e Anjirs}, running around with Donald, but letting me rest.  In the afternoon we went to Kandahar through the two mile wide swarm of big yellow locusts which is beginning to worry a lot of people.  There are some other groups too.  By dinner time we were there, but not ready for the planned Friday departure because we had a broken shock absorber and a few other minor troubles.  Friday, even father* rested a considerable portion of the day and began to relax.  He did have to get out of bed in the afternoon to receive a radio call from Mr. Hyde.  Hyde wanted to report that the equipment father* had ordered moved from Kandahar to Kabul had finally arrived in Kabul.  The orders had been given in defiance of the impossible “let’s wait a while” attitude that Washington and the mission have been delaying father’s* projects with.  We have to DO SOMETHING in this country.  The procession of clean, bright yellow equipment with USA and Afghan flags ahead of it reached on Jody Ma Wand {Road: also: Jad-i-Maiwand Avenue} from the Chaman {River, in Kart-i-Char, Kabul} and clear back to the Ariana offices before our usual turn {See Parade: below}.  The rock crushers were huge and so were the graders and 10 ton trucks and other things I can’t name.  Seldom has such a wonderful sensation been created in Kabul.  It took days to get steel to reinforce the Logar River bridge, but it was safe and the crossing made and the whole enterprise seems to have been worth while.  The rest of Friday father* really relaxed.  We had a barbecue with Goos and went to bed relaxed.

Saturday morning we really did not get up early compared to the three A.M. of Tuesday, but we were on our way at seven as planned to drive to Kabul.  We had finished our 315 miles by 7:30 that night, including time out for our flat tire.  Fortunately every where we traveled we had good weather and especially dry roads.  The trip from Kandahar to Kabul was beautiful as our very wet spring has made everything particularly green and the road goes through lots of nice valleys.  The south was hot, but not to hot.  We kept our car windows down and the air and dust whisked through my hair until I looked and felt like a witch when I got here, but most of the damage has been repaired now and I can go ahead with the routines.

In this country there are no routines.  Today Wollmar returned from his call to Washington and we all want to know why he was called there anyway – the bets are he is to be replaced.  In a few days the Ambassador returns from his consultation there.  Today the new Transportation Officer got to Bangkok and gets here at an indefinite time in the future, but is on his way.  It still is not clear whether he will take over the transportation projects or if father’s* position continues as is.  Anyway, a cable says the Assignment Board is considering father’s* request for a reassignment based on the assumption the Division is to be reorganized into two as Washington has suggested.  When the new FWC gets here, we have to give him a big party anyway.  So, I say there is no routine to this place.

I had better sit down and write the nine missing days of diary so I can add the rest of the story.  It is better than a novel and none of us looks the worse for wear.  Father and I are both at good weight levels, looking young and sassy, and Donald is suddenly becoming a lot huskier.

Lots of love to everyone.

Lloydine & Fred & Donald

Notes of explanation or clarification:

Father*  is Fred W. Clayton, Lloydine’s husband and father of Donald (in Afghanistan), Kenneth (in Reno, Nevada) and “Freddie” (Frederick Martin Clayton in Redlands, California).  Lloydine has adopted the use of father to avoid referencing Fred in letters that may be intercepted by parties unknown.

boys  (Persian: bacchas) refers to the “household help” (the “servants”).  In our case there were three: Gulam, the cook; Abdul, the houseboy and Agbar, the gardener.  They slept in unattached quarters near the back door of the house.

Mingaladon*  is the airport that Fred W. Clayton “built” in Rangoon, Burma circa 1951 and 1952.  During six very intense and critical months of construction he was the Chief Engineer, leaving Burma just after the first passenger jet service by BOAC Comet reached Asia.  The Mingaladon (aerodrome) concrete runway was the longest in Asia at the time of completion in 1951. 

Parade:  Fred Clayton always liked parades.  He was always impressed by what could be learned from them, how they captured people’s imagination, how they often got everyone on the same page.  The only parades at that time in Kabul were the annual military parade and the occasional motorcade parades that attended a visiting foreign dignitary, usually a head of state.  There were no marathons.

There were very few pieces of heavy construction equipment in the country.  Most roadwork had always been done by hand in Afghanistan, little changed in method from the days of Rome and the building of the Appian Way.  The Americans did things differently.  The secret was in the construction equipment, most of which nobody in Afghanistan had ever seen.  Fred wanted the average person in the street, on the streets of Kabul the capital, to see it.

The history of foreign aid to Afghanistan was that the Russians provided aid in the cities, where it was easily seen.  In Kabul they gave Afghanistan municipal buses.  They built a large and impressive grain silo and attendant bakery, “the Russian Bakery” where the wheat that America gave during a famine naturally went – there was no other place to put it.  The Russians were credited with feeding the people.  The Russians always “won” the peace in Afghanistan.  The Americans spent (gave Afghanistan) far more money; but it was spent on building “dams in the desert”, canals in the back country, seemingly unnecessary “roads to nowhere, through nowhere” and then there was the occasional airport (too) that just served to remind most Afghans that only the rich and the rulers could ever afford to fly.

Fred’s idea was that one parade might help change it, meaning the image of America that the Afghans had.  The Ambassador was away, the Mission Director was away and Fred and his family were enroute from Kandahar when Fred’s parade happened; although it had been carefully planned.

It was a hit of course.  It helped take people’s minds off the U-2 incident and the American prisoner of war Francis Gary Powers held in Russia.  The U-2 had been downed on the 1st.  The “NASA denial” was on the 5th.  On the 7th Khrushchev revealed that he had the plane, the cameras, the pilot.  Fred’s parade of American construction equipment through the center of Kabul was on the 14th.  The immediate crisis then passed.

The Chaman River passes through Kart-i-Char Kabul about a mile west and southwest of where the Mariwand Road begins near the Kabul River.  The road from Kandahar (then) came in near the southern end of Daruleman Avenue, the equipment may have gone north on Alibad Road (now: Pul-e-Surkh Road) until it reached Sher Shar Mina Avenue that runs east-west toward the center of Kabul to the east.  The equipment may have just gone straight down Duruleman (meaning north) to the gates of the prison before it turned east.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there that day until after the parade was over.

What I do know is that it was a mile long stream (perhaps more) of some of the best construction equipment of the time painted in a very bright yellow, the Morrison Knudsen colors of the time.

2013.05.02. – 23.55.