Following the Yalta Conference in 1945, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt boarded the U.S.S. Quincy and steamed south towards the Suez Canal for a secret meeting.
The Quincy, a veteran of the D-Day battle at Utah Beach, was a Baltimore class battleship that had been retrofitted for a Presidential cruise. Upon arrival at Egypt’s Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal, Roosevelt met secretly for several days with King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the country’s founding king.
The meeting was orchestrated by Colonel Bill Eddy, who is described by historian Thomas Lippman as, “the nearest thing the United States has to Lawrence of Arabia”. Colonel Eddy was a highly decorated Marine WWI combat veteran who received two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, the Navy Cross, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
Eddy was also the great-uncle of our founder, Ken Close. Their family had come to Beirut in 1850, staying continuously in the region for 165 years as educators, doctors, and diplomats.
During WWII, Eddy was the OSS chief in North Africa and organized the Arab tribes for Operation Torch, among other missions. A fluent Arabic speaker, he later lived in Jidda and was a personal friend of King Abdulaziz. At the King’s request, Eddy served as the interpreter for both leaders during the days aboard the Quincy and the two heads of state developed an instant rapport with each other.
Although President Roosevelt died only weeks after this historic meeting, it proved to be an auspicious beginning to seven decades of unique friendship and support between our two countries.