Smithsonian Journeys Experts
William Bach joined the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Vietnam as an infantry officer in 1966. After 20 months of combat duty, Bill left Vietnam and the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He returned to Vietnam in 1969 with the U.S. Department of State and served throughout the country in various senior advisory and political reporting positions until the war’s end in April 1975. Considered one of State's top Vietnamese linguists, Bill continued his Foreign Service career, serving with distinction in Nigeria, Venezuela, Germany, Australia, Bosnia, and, from 1995-98, once again in Vietnam. Bill earned a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1984, and served on the National Security Council for a year. Bill was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bonn, Germany from 1987-91, where he worked and reported extensively on Gorbachev's Perestroika policy, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and on German unification. Returning to Vietnam to open the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi from 1995-98 as the Minister Counselor for Public Diplomacy, Bill established groundbreaking exchange and educational programs to advance human rights, democracy, rule of law, and privatization--once again winning State Department honors for performance and linguistic ability. Bill was promoted into the senior Foreign Service in 1999, and served as Political Adviser to the American commanding general for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, where he helped facilitate the return of the victims of ethnic cleansing to their former homes, such as Srebrenica. During his 40-year military and diplomatic career, Bill published articles in several foreign affairs journals and testified before Congress on various international issues. Bill and his wife, Thanh-Huong, have two grown children and live in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
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