Former Ambassador Kaiser Dies at 93

Thursday, May 24, 2007



Philip M. Kaiser, a former ambassador to Austria, Hungary and Senegal who during the Cuban Missile Crisis acted to deny the Soviet Union landing rights at airports where its planes might refuel, died Thursday. He was 93.

Kaiser died of aspiration pneumonia at Sibley Hospital in Washington, his family said. He had been admitted three days earlier.

Kaiser, a former assistant secretary of labor during the Truman administration, served as the U.S. ambassador to Senegal and Mauritania from 1961 to 1964. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he persuaded the Senegalese president to deny landing rights to Soviet airplanes.

Kaiser had earlier accompanied Senegal's president, Leopold Sedar Senghor, on a visit to the White House, where he had a warm meeting with President John F. Kennedy. When Kaiser went to see the Senegalese president to ask him to deny the Soviets access to the airport at Dakar, the country's capital, Senghor agreed.

"Anything President Kennedy wants," Senghor said.

President Carter named Kaiser ambassador to Hungary in 1977, and he played a key role in persuading the Carter administration to return the Crown of St. Stephen to Hungary in 1978. It had been in U.S. hands since 1945.

"We returned the crown. We got a trade agreement" giving Hungary favored trade status, Kaiser recalled in an oral history interview at the Harry S. Truman Library. "We opened up the country to the West, and that relationship has continuously expanded."

Philip Mayer Kaiser was born in Brooklyn on July 12, 1913, the ninth of 10 children of Moishe Bear and Tema Kaiser.

Kaiser's parents had emigrated from the Ukraine (then part of Russia) in 1905 and his four oldest siblings were born there.

Kaiser is survived by his wife, Hannah Greeley Kaiser, and his three sons: Robert G. Kaiser, an associate editor of The Washington Post; David Kaiser, a professor of history in the strategy department at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.; and Charles Kaiser, an author and journalist. Kaiser has four grandchildren.

Charles Kaiser explained Thursday why all of Kaiser's sons had become writers.

"At the dinner table every night, there was a competition to tell the best story. And if you didn't tell the story as dramatically as possible, my father would lean forward and bellow: 'Great reporter! You buried the lead of the story!'"

"After a while," said Charles Kaiser, "you never buried the lead again."

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