Reporter’s Notebook : Shultz Relives Wartime Island Landing
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who is usually reluctant to talk in public about his personal life, began to spin a few war stories as his entourage drew closer to Palau, an island group that was held by the Japanese in World War II. Shultz, as a Marine Corps officer, took part in the 1944 invasion of the islands.
He recalled that he was Marine liaison to the Army unit that invaded Angaur Island while Marine units were taking the nearby island of Peleliu. Observing massive confusion on the landing beach as men and materiel began to pile up, Shultz said he appointed himself beachmaster.
“There was a gigantic amount of stuff unloaded on the beach and while there was a plan for exactly what should go and where it should go and so on, as the battle erupted, it just came in and piled up and it was just sitting there,” he said. “So I just took charge of it and started dispatching it, and so that was basically the Angaur landing.”
A reporter, making a play on words, asked Shultz, “Did you fire any shots in Angaur?”
Shultz, apparently missing the pun, replied, “I’m afraid so.”
The State Department transcript also missed the point, making the question, " . . . shots in anger?”
Despite their training in Washington, where the summer heat and humidity can be formidable, the diplomats, security personnel and other members of Shultz’s staff suffered through days of wilted collars as they tried to maintain the diplomatic uniform of suit and tie on tropical islands where both the temperature and the humidity topped 90.
So there was great relief when the party reached the Philippines, where the business suit is replaced by the barong tagalog, an embroidered, open-neck shirt. Shultz wore one at his first public appearance in Manila, as did staffers and bodyguards.
Many of the Americans’ garments displayed the telltale folds of a shirt just out of the store. Only press spokesman Bernard Kalb held out, sticking to suits and his trade-mark wide orange tie.
Most of the 13 journalists traveling with Shultz did not wait to get to the Philippines to shed coat and tie. When the party reached Brunei, their insistence on comfortable dress threatened, briefly, to cause an international incident.
The sultan of Brunei invited the press corps to tour a few of the 1,788 rooms in his palace, probably the largest in the world. But a palace official said everyone had to be in “proper dress.”
The problem was solved when staffers who were not scheduled to visit the palace anyway gave up their coats and ties to reporters, who grafted them to a variety of open-necked shirts and tropical-weight slacks. The result wasn’t pretty but it met the monarch’s dress code.
One of Shultz’s objectives in his visit to Singapore was to try to persuade the government to get serious about protecting U.S. copyrights and patents, which are regularly violated by local merchants who produce cut-rate forgeries of audio- and videotapes, computer software, designer jeans and a great variety of other products.
At a press conference, Shultz said he was encouraged by the government’s intentions in that area. But while he was conferring with Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, some members of his party were snapping up pirated copies of popular recordings at $3 a cassette.
Shultz appeared to be the victim of a Freudian slip when he attempted to compare the Philippine government’s political and military plans to handle Communist rebels with a similar program in El Salvador. On several occasions, in a long reply to a question, Shultz seemed to say that it is the United States, not friendly local governments, that is running the counterinsurgency program in Central America.
“The strategy has many aspects to it, as we have been applying it, for instance, in Central America,” he said.
Then, after describing a series of political moves, Shultz added: “Along with that, as we have been doing, as President (Jose Napoleon) Duarte has been doing in El Salvador, . . . there is an ability to deal with this militarily if we must, but we’re ready for dialogue.”