In the winter and spring of 1967, a half-century ago, my father Ellis O. Jones of blessed memory, then 39 years old, served as a United States Foreign Service Officer in Taiz, Yemen. Taiz is in the southern part of that country, on the road from the port of Mocha to the present capital of Sana’a.
When Dad went to serve in Taiz in early 1967, the United States Agency for International Development (AID) had finished constructing a road connecting Mocha, Taiz, and Sana’a. They had also recently completed a water supply project for Taiz. Their staff, based in a three-story office building had, as Dad put it, “reverted to management roles.” Dad took over running an “Embassy Office” in Taiz. It was an embassy compound, but the embassy itself had recently relocated to Sana’a at the insistence of the Yemeni government.
Recall other things going on in the spring of 1967: the war in Vietnam, the takeover of Greece by a junta of colonels on April 17th, the British preparations to relinquish their protectorate in Aden the next year, the runup to the Arab-Israeli war, and so forth. At that time the pan-Arab expansionism of Egyptian president Gamal abdel-Nasser’s United Arab Republic (UAR) was in full swing. The Saudi kingdom, and the US, saw Nasser as a socialist aligned with communist ideologies.
At that time the rule of Yemen was contested. In Sana’a were royalists backed by the Saudi kingdom. Centered in Taiz were advocates of a republic backed by Nasser’s Egypt.
A series of unfortunate events unfolded, culminating in the overrun of the US diplomatic compound in Taiz by a mob on April 26th. Dad recounted these events in his Oral History, starting on page 40.
The New York Times covered the events. Here are that newspaper’s stories.
On April 17, the Times ran two longer background articles reporting on the Republicans and the Royalists.
On April 29, the events in Taiz merited mention in the newspaper’s summary of news.
Dad’s work in looking after the USAID people imprisoned by the republican Yemeni authorities was published May 3.
A background story on the situation on the southern Arabian peninsula ran May 14.
The squabble continued, with threats and posturing. Finally the US prevailed upon Nasser’s government to intervene and end it.