Saudi Arabian Guests February 12-14, 1945
Source: David L. Byrd Papers (#734.1.c)
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
On his return from the Yalta Conference in February 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, met King Saud [Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman al Faisal al Saud] of Saudi Arabia to establish a postwar alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis needed to find a new ally to replace the rapidly weakening Royal Navy, which had protected Saudi independence for decades. The Americans wanted to ensure a growing and reliable source of oil to ensure the postwar recovery of the world economy. The meetings took place, during 12-14 February, aboard the American cruiser USS QUINCY (CA-71) which lay at anchor in the Great Bitter Lake portion of the Suez Canal. Despite the dissimilarities between the sides, the agreements which emerged have proved highly successful. The US agreed to defend Saudi independence and the Saudis agreed to be a reliable source of energy for the world. The agreement hammered out at the QUINCY meetings remain in effect to this day, despite serious misgivings on both sides, and recurrent tensions over the policies of each nation.
The attached document, headed “Saudi Arabian Guests February 12-14, 1945”, lists the members of the entourage which accompanied King Saud during his stay aboard the QUINCY. It was published to help the ship’s crew check the identity of the visitors. The list was preserved by David L. Byrd, who was a member of the US Naval Academy’s class of 1941 and junior officer aboard the QUINCY. He donated the David L. Byrd Papers to East Carolina University in 1996.
The King’s named entourage makes very interesting reading. It includes several expected members: the King’s brother and sons; his ministers and counsellors, his chaplain, and his physicians, various tribal representatives, and their various assistants, interpreters, and specialists. However, the list also has a medieval quality in that it includes the King’s astrologer and fortune-teller, his food-taster and caterer, his chamberlain and valet, the Royal purse-bearer, and two ceremonial coffee-servers. Even more interesting, however, are the unnamed members of the entourage, which included 10 guards armed with sabres and daggers, 3 valets, one for each of the royals, and “9 Miscellaneous slaves: cooks, porters, scullions” a total of 48 individuals. Reading the list, one has to wonder what the QUINCY’s crewmen, especially the African Americans among them, might have thought about the proceedings. Nearing the end of a great World War to defeat enemies whose stated goal was to enslave the world, the American president was welcoming slaves aboard an American warship, making an alliance with their masters, and then permitting the slaves to be taken off the ship, without making any effort to free them.