Talk Story Reflection: Stanton Jue and his stories of War and Diplomacy

On August 28th at the Chinese Community Church in DC’s Chinatown, the 1882 Foundation hosted a Talk Story Event featuring Stanton Jue and his wife Florence: we had the opportunity to learn about their experiences abroad in U.S. diplomacy. Below is a detailed review of the event from Roberta Chew for those who were unable to attend.

Stanton and Florence Jue at the event

Stanton and Florence Jue at the event

We had a wonderful turnout to hear ninety-two-year-old Stanton Jue discuss his U.S. naval and diplomatic career. Stanton was a true pioneer as one of the first Chinese Americans to serve in the U.S. diplomatic corps with the Department of State. Stanton emigrated from South China at age 14 and joined the Navy at age 17 after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Stanton served on a newly-built U.S. destroyer on missions in the Mediterranean and South Pacific. His destroyer was almost cut in two by Japanese bombing in the Battle of Biak, a Japanese stronghold. When asked by an audience member how he felt as a young Asian American in the U.S. Navy when we were fighting other Asians, Stanton said he never experienced any discrimination. As a Japanese and Chinese language specialist, Stanton served at Naval headquarters in Honolulu in intelligence and psychological operations, such as preparing pamphlets that were dropped over Japanese-occupied Pacific islands.

After the war, Stanton benefited from the G.I. bill, which allowed him to pursue a doctorate in political science at the University of California at Berkeley. There he met his future wife, Florence, who was studying to be a teacher. While a graduate student, he worked for the Committee for a Free Asia (later named the Asia Foundation). CFA sought to influence Overseas Chinese leaders and communities in Southeast Asia to not fall under the sway of Communism. The United States was greatly alarmed at the ascendancy of the Chinese Communists and the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949. The U.S. did not want to see more of Asia engulfed by Communism.

Stanton joined the Foreign Service as an information officer in 1956 and served at many overseas posts – Cambodia, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and Australia, where he experienced the sudden shift in U.S. policy towards China. PRC diplomats in Australia did not even speak to U.S. diplomats before Christmas 1978. Suddenly, they were friendly, even jovial, when the U.S. normalized relations with the PRC on January 1, 1979.  Stanton had a brief, six-month tour of duty in Beijing, China, in the early 1980s. It was intended as an orientation tour, but he felt he already knew China, having worked his whole career on it. He returned to Washington as an East Asian policy adviser. When an audience member asked what it meant to be a policy adviser, he said his duty was to promote U.S. foreign policy, which is set by the U.S. President. He said some people might have personal disagreements with U.S. policy such as during the Vietnam War, but it wasn’t his job to dissent.

Most of Stanton Jue’s long, 50-plus year career revolved around U.S. policy and actions towards China.   He was a first hand observer and participant in our China policy as it was defined after World War II. He had a role in helping to keep parts of Asia safe from Communism for which his adopted country owes him a great debt of gratitude. While in the Foreign Service, wife Florence taught at private and governmental schools in Cambodia, Taiwan and Japan. They have been married for 64 years, have a daughter, two grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

 

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