Robert Murphy

Murphy headshot
The son of a railroad worker, Robert Daniel Murphy (1894-1978), was born in Milwaukee, attended Marquette University and received a law degree from George Washington University in 1920. He began his career at the US Post Office (1916), moved to be a cipher clerk at the American legation in Bern, Switzerland (1917), was admitted to the US Foreign Service in 1921 and was posted as Vice-Consul in Zurich and Munich, Consul in Seville and Consul in Paris from 1930 to 1936 before becoming chargé d’affaires to the Vichy government.

At President Roosevelt’s request, Murphy investigated conditions in French North Africa in preparation for the November 1942 Allied landings, the first major Allied ground offensive during World War II. He was appointed the President’s personal representative with the rank of Minister to French North Africa. Murphy made contact in Algiers with various French army officers including Giraud and Darlan, and recruited them to support the Allies’ invasion of French North Africa.

With his British counterpart, future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, Murphy worked to ensure that following the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, Giraud and de Gaulle would unite the French among the Allies. Murphy stayed with Eisenhower’s staff as the principal civilian representative of the President and the State Department with the Allied command in Italy in 1943. In 1948, Murphy was advisor to General Lucius Clay, American military governor in Germany, during the Soviet blockade of Berlin, and the Berlin airlift. He later was American ambassador in Belgium (1949) and in Japan (1952), Deputy Under Secretary, and later Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

After Murphy retired from the State Department in 1959, he was an adviser to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. He served on President Ford’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He was chairman of Corning Glass International and a director of the Corning Glass Works. He received the Distinguished Service Medal and several foreign honors, including the French Croix de Guerre with palm, the Belgian Order of Leopold, the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, the German Order of Merit and the Spanish Order of Isabella.

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