Foreign Relations of the United States


256. Editorial Note

On January 7, the White House officially announced that King Saud would come to the United States for a state visit, January 29, 30, and February 1. The King, who was to be accompanied by Ambassador Wadsworth and a large royal party, was scheduled to arrive in New York City on January 29 and then proceed to Washington for discussions with the President and Department of State officials. The King arrived in Washington on January 30 and left the United States on February 8. Planning for the visit, however, was complicated by two incidents which threatened to disrupt carefully arranged protocol procedures.

On January 9, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador, having learned that Vice President Nixon would receive the King at the Military Air Transport Service Terminal near Washington, informed Department officials that unless President Eisenhower greeted the King personally, Saud might be forced to cancel his visit. Although the Department sought to impress upon the Ambassador and the King the importance of established protocol procedure and the demands on the President’s health, the King insisted on a personal reception at the airport, maintaining that his personal prestige was at stake. The White House agreed to Saud’s request but Secretary Dulles noted in a memorandum of conversation of January 11 that the President had expressed his annoyance. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Meetings with the President) For documentation regarding the airport meeting, see Department of State, Central File 786A.11.

The second problem concerning the Saud visit involved the planned reception for the King upon his arrival in New York City. Although the Department sought to fete the King upon his arrival, New York City officials, led by Mayor Robert Wagner, were unreceptive to the idea of arranging local ceremonies on the King’s behalf. On January 24, at the 310th meeting of the National Security Council, the President presiding, Hoover raised the problem of the Saud visit. The memorandum of discussion includes the following:

“Bearing on this situation was King Saud’s visit to the United States next week. Saud would arrive in this country in New York, and it was all too likely that there would be certain complications in receiving him. The municipal authorities of New York City are not inclined to provide the usual reception to a foreign sovereign and, instead, the State Department would provide a program of full military honors, which Secretary Hoover summarized. Secretary Hoover expressed himself as on the whole very hopeful of good results from King Saud’s visit, on the basis of what we believe his attitude will be. So far as we can tell, he seems to wish to maintain an independent status in the Middle East. He apparently does not wish to join the Baghdad Pact, and perhaps we can end up by making Saud the senior partner of the Arab team rather than Colonel Nasser.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)

On January 29, the day of the King’s arrival, the New York Times reported, in a front page article, that Mayor Wagner had barred any official welcome for the King, accusing Saud of defending slavery, of being anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish. According to Eisenhower, the Mayor, “sensitive to the heavy Jewish population in his area,” announced that the welcome customarily given to visiting dignitaries would be eliminated. (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Waging Peace 1956–1961, Garden City, New York (Doubleday & Company, 1965), page 115)

Despite the local difficulties, the reception for the King was held. After an Air Force salute at sea, the liner Constitution, carrying the royal party, was escorted into New York harbor by a Navy squadron and greeted pier-side by a Marine Corps band. The King was received by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Representative at the United Nations, who was designated as the President’s personal representative during Saud’s visit to New York. For documentation regarding the New York City reception and the problems accompanying the King’s visit, see Department of State, Central File 786A.11.