Richard Armstrong Poole – Ensign, United States Navy

Foreign Service Officer

Richard Armstrong Poole, second son of Otis Manchester Poole and Dorothy Campbell Poole, was born April 29, 1919, at No.68 Bluff, Yokohama, Japan. A terrible conflagration that swept through the Japanese part of Yokohama from the Park to the Nogeyama Hills, at the time.

Dick’s first three years were passed at No.68 Bluff, Then, in February, l922, he and his brothers Tony and David, with an English nanny embarked with their parents on a six week voyage to England via Hongkong, Singapore, Colombo, the Suez Canal and Marseilles a journey that opened their eyes to the world and left many memories of tropical countries and gaily clad people. He never forgot the wild monkeys in the Botanical Gardens at Singapore, leaping from tree top to tree top like a flock of birds.

Soon after arriving in London in April, the family moved down to a small farm they had rented at Brook in the New Forest, where in ideal surrondings they spent the Spring and Summer, trans-ferring in September to Lustleigh on the Devonshire Moors. Then, as Winter approached, they returned to London. The open air life had been wonderful for the boys and they were the picture of health. On various occasions, the boys for the first time met their English relatives; – their Uncle Archie Campbell, then entering the Church; their great-aunt Haddie, Lady Jephson, born Harriet Campbell, as well as their other great-aunts, Lillian Rice Gillett and Mabel Rice Fraser and the former’s daughter Evelyn Gillett. Also, home on leave from Shanghai their father’s sister Eleanor Maitland and her husband George, their four sons Francis, Jack, Otis and Don, all at school. Twenty nine years were to elapse before Dick set foot in England again or, with few exceptions, saw any of his English kin once more.

Dick’s father having already started back to Japan via America soon after Christmas, his mother followed in March with the three boys and a Danish governess taking the Suez route. Crossing the Bay of Biscay in a terrible storm, a German freighter sank beside them, their ship participating in the saving of her crew.

Arriving back in Japan in April, 1923, they had a tranquil Summer at 68 Bluff; but at noon on September 1st came the Great Earthquake and holocaust which destroyed Yokohama and most of Tokyo. Miraculously the boys escaped unhurt and behaved like little soldiers throughout the succession of terrifying episodes. The full tale of the earthquake is contained in their father’s narrative, but one incident reflecting the boys’ awareness of peril and instant obedience to orders bears telling. Seeking to escape oncoming flames, their father had already made two trips down the cliff from the British Naval Hospital to the beach, and was half way back up the cliff to fetch Dick when ~en panic started above and people began crowding the rope that reached down half way so densely that there was little chance of swarming up against them. At that moment Dick’s grandfather appeared sliding down the rope with his one good arm while holding Dick precariously with the other. Where the rope ended, there was a narrow ledge running horizontally across the cliff-face to a landslide where a section of cliff had fallen away to the beach; and ten feet from the end of the rope this ledge had already began to break away leaving a growing gap five feet across and a straight drop of sixty feet to the beach below. Dick’s father saw that the Commodore could never get Dick safely across that gap with his one good arm, (the other had been temporarily poisoned by red jellyfish stings) nor could he himself get over against the crush; so, shouting to the Commodore to set Dick down on the ledge, he dug his heels into a foothold on the hither side of the gap and called “Dick! Jump into my arms!” Without a second’s hesitation, Dick came through the air like a star-fish, landing on his father’s chest with the grip of a young octopus. Moments later they were all safely on the landslide and scrambled down to the others on the beach.

As has been narrated elsewhere, the family found refuge that night aboard the Commodore’s yacht “Daimyo” and, with hundreds of other foreign refugees, were evacuated by ship to Kobe, the three boys and their mother, with their faithful amah Mine, continuing on to Shanghai, where they lived for three months with their Aunt Eleanor and Uncle George Maitland and their cousin Donald who was a year older then Dick and very companionable. In that comfortable atmosphere the nightmare of the earthquake was soon forgotten and in December they returned to Japan to join their father in Kobe, now become the Company’s headquarters.

There, for the next eighteen months, they resided in the Manager’s residence at San-bon-matsu, (The three Pines) on Kitano-cho, the highest of the steeply terraced roads flanking the Kobe hills. Their other amah, Kane, came down from Yokohama to rejoin them and their grandparents, the Campbells, shared the commodious house for a while. Delightful hill-paths made Sunday walking a pleasure. The three summer months of 1924 were spent on top of Rokkosan in a semi-Japanese cottage beside the golf course 2,500 ft. above the Inland Sea, where their father could join them every weekend. There were only three ways of getting up the steep hills to Rokkosan: on foot, astride sure-footed pack-horses, or to be carried up in a “kago”, the ancient Japanese palanquin or basket-chair suspended from a pole carried by a team of three men. Women and children always went up by “kago”, an experience the three boys always enjoyed.

In May, 1925, just as the family was preparing for another Summer on Rokkosan, Kobe experienced its first startling earthquake, not only alarming to its inhabitants but unnerving to those who had gone through the Yokohama disaster. The boys mother, who had raced back from the lower town to her children, was overcome on finding them safely playing in a neighboring garden. Sympathetically, the Company’s chairman in London suggested that the family should take an early holiday away from Japan. Accordingly, on July 7th, 1925 they all sailed on the “Empress of Asia” for Victoria, B.C. where they settled down for four months in a pleasant house on Transit Rd. in Oak Bay. As things turned out, this was the end of the family’s life in the Far East, though Dick did go back to Japan twenty years later as a member of America’s occupation forces and remained 4 years.

Towards the end of their vacation, the boys father was asked to take temporary charge of the Company’s New York office and, leaving the family in Victoria, went to New York in November. six months later, his appointment having become permanent, he returned to Victoria in June, 1926, and brought the family back with him to Summit, New Jersey, which became the family home for the next twenty-three years.

Beginning with a year in Miss Hood’s School in Summit, Dick and David followed their brother Tony into the Lance School for boys, also in Summit. Seven years later, Dick transferred as Tony had done before him, to the Summit High School for its Junior and Senior years, taking the courses which would further his desire to enter the State Department Foreign Service. Meanwhile, of course, he had made many friends especially Gilmer Twombly with who he spent several Summers at his parents’ place on Twin Lakes, New Hampshire. He also had one Summer at Lancewood Camp and shared another with his Poole cousins on Squam Lake, and still another with a chum in the Catskills. In fact, all their Summers were diversified and enjoyable.

Again following in his brother’s footsteps, Dick in 1936 entered Haverford College where Tony was then a Junior. When the latter graduated two years later, Dick’s younger brother David entered as a freshman. Thus from 1936 to 1940 there were always two Poole brothers in Haverford. Dick majored in Government and, as an excellent student, won two helpful scholarships, graduating in 1940 with high honors. More conspicuously, though he had entered college a rather slim lad he emerged with a powerful build, having doggedly gone in for wrestling to achieve it. In 1936, just before entering college, Dick, like Tony, had a full summers tuition in water color painting under Eliot O’Hara while assisting as handy-man in the Camp at Goose Rocks Beach. Not long after, the whole reach of Goose Rocks Beach was destroyed in a forest fire. In the following Summers, Dick worked as a counselor at “Mowglis” and Agawam” Camps in New England, greatly enjoying the open air life.

While still in Haverford, Dick, on his own initiative, visited the State Department in Washington to verify that the courses he was taking were the most appropriate; and received from Mr.Howland Shaw the most kindly assistance and advice. On leaving Haverford in June, 1940, he entered the Turner Diplomatic School in Washington, and successfully passed the written and oral examinations for the Foreign Service in September and January, being commissioned a Foreign Service Officer of Career on March 20/1941. In the meantime, he much appreciated an invitation from his Aunt Maya and Uncle Bert to spend several weeks with them in Palm Beach, where he had a delightful time swimming and going about with his pretty cousin Eleanor, precisely his own age.

Dick’s first post was Montreal, where he served as Vice Consul from April ’41 to November’42, living in a cheerful bachelor mess with two others. He enjoyed Winter skiing in the Laurentians and also singing in the “Elgar Choir” under Sir Thomas Beecham. In the summer of 1941, his parents visited him in Montreal while on their tour of Quebec and the Gaspe Peninsula.

Dick was next posted to Spain, and after an interim assignment in the Department of State, Washington, he sailed by freighter for Lisbon en route to Barcelona where he served as Vice Consul from March ’43 to November ’44. World War II was at its height, and France was occupied by Germany, and Dick had a hand in the under-cover evacuation of Allied aviators brought down in enemy territory and spirited South through the Pyrenees.

It was while Dick was in Barcelona that he received word of the death of his elder brother Tony in Peru on April 18, 1944, a sad blow as the brothers had always been very close.

When, in 1944, the State Department modified its prohibition against Foreign Service Officers joining the Armed Forces Dick crossed to Casablanca, Morocco to apply for a commission the U.S.Navy; and in November ’44 was sworn in as an Ensign by the Naval Attache in Madrid. He was immediately flown to the United States by army plane, via Africa and South America for training in Combat Military Government, first at Princeton N.J. and then at Monterey and San Francisco. As he learned later; his group was being prepared for the invasion of Japan When, however, Japan surrendered he was dispatched to Yokohama by Naval Transport in October, 1945, to serve in General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur, in Tokyo, where he was promoted to Lieutenant (jg) His duties in the next ten months were mainly in the sphere of Military Government, but one active assignment proved unusually interesting, – the inspection, with three other officers of the little known Hachijo Islands, a chain of a dozen small islands strung Southwards for 350 miles into the Pacific, from Vries Island (Oshima) below Tokyo Bay, to Lot’s Wife (Sofu-gan). On some of these remote and rugged islands are still found the descendants of mariners shipwrecked several centuries ago. It was a unique and stormy experience.

In August, 1946, Dick was released from active duty with Navy and reverted, on the spot, to the Foreign Service, joining staff of the U.S. Political Adviser to S.C.A.P., where he served the ensuing two years. During his three years in Japan, Dick made a few warm friends among the old-time aristocratic Japanese whom he met, spending several weekends with one family who had a Summer home on Schichi-ri-no-hama, (Seven league beach) near Enoshina. He also took every opportunity of making trips into the country, climbing Fujiyama as his father had done fifty years earlier, visiting the chain of lakes around its base and staying in the inn at Shojk Lake where his parents had vacationed in the Summer of 1918 before he was born. A cheery group of young Americans in Tokyo made life very pleasant and he never lacked companions on these expeditions. He also visited Yokohama to see what he could find of old landmarks and the spot where he was born. The Japanese city of Yokohama had been fully reconstructed after the l923 earthquake, but the Foreign Settlement only partially. What had been the Bund, (the water-front boulevard) no longer fringed the water. The debris of the Settlement had been used to fill in the shallow water for a hundred yards out into the harbor, creating a strip of parkland the full length of the Bund. The road-plan had been slightly changed and it was difficult to get ones bearings as all buildings were new. On the Bluff the roads were unchanged but every house was strangely unfamiliar. Even their numbering had been changed, a much needed reform. However, he found the corner lot where No.68 had stood, finding its six-foot iron, still standing; but the house and these on either side were completely modern and nothing remained to revive old memories. No 89, the original Poole home for 30 years, had given place to three small bungalows of American design. And so it went, all along the Bluff. In World War II, just ended, the Japanese part of Yokohama had been again wiped out in bombing raids which also ravaged the foreign settlement but not so badly; and even the Bluff had suffered here and there. All in all, very saddening.

Dick also visited Kobe. The entire city, including the foreign “Concession”, had been relentlessly bombed out in the war, nothing remaining but a sea of ashes in which skeletons of brick buildings stood up here and there like tombstones. Only the uppermost terraces of the foreign residential section had escaped and he found the old Dodwell Manager’s residence above San-bon-matsu still standing, but shockingly dilapidated, serving as a home for derelict Japanese seamen, and rapidly crumbling. Of the three tall pines that towered above the shrine across the road, only three ugly stumps remained. Storms and old age had brought them down.

In December, 1948, Dick returned home on leave, by plane via Alaska, arriving just in time for Christmas with the family at 8 De Bary Place, Summit, laden with Oriental gifts for everyone. David, too, came up on furlough from N.E.P.A. at Oakridge, Tenn., and on Christmas eve they were joined by Tony’s erstwhile widow Luba, her husband Clive Parry, and their daughter Katherine, 3 years old, who had arrived the day before from England. This was the first meeting with Clive who became one of the family from that time on. A son was born to Luba and Clive a month later, whom they named Anthony after Tony, and Dick is his Godfather.

During the course of his few months of leave, Dick spent some time in Washington being briefed for his next post in South East Asia; and also slipped down to Charlottesville, Virginia, to glimpse “Missing Acres”, a 75-acre estate beside the Blue Ridge to which his parents were about to retire and where they have lived ever since.

In May ’49, Dick was sent as Vice Consul to Singapore and a month later was trvidereed to Kuala Lumpur, where he shared the residential quarters above the Consulate with the bachelor Consul William Blue. Not long after, the latter had suddenly to return home and Dick was appointed Acting Consul and presently full Consul. It was the time of guerilla warfare in Malaya and Dick’s contacts with both Malayan and British Officials were most interesting. One evening the U.S. Consulate was under rifle fire for a short time but no one was injured. Some time later, Sir Hugh Gurney, the High Commissioner was slain in a guerilla ambush. During his two years in Kuala Lumpur, Dick took up polo, playing with the British and Indian Army Officers and owning a good pony. He made several warm Malayan friends, particularly Dato Nik Kamil who was later to become Malayan Ambassador to Washington and visited with Dick at “Missing Acres”. At the end of Dick’s two-year tour of duty in Kuala Lumpur he visited Thailand and Cambodia, and at some risk, in view of guerilla activity, penetrated alone in a borrowed jeep to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.

In May, 1951, he was assigned to the Embassy at Jakarta, where the Indonesia had just taken over from the Dutch and considerable confusion prevailed, politically and commercially. In this post he stayed hardly two months, his home leave having been unexpectedly advanced. On his homeward flight he visited friends in Belgium briefly, then crossed over to England where he enjoyed meeting again in West Byfleet, Surrey, his Aunt Eleanor, who had been widowed in February that year, – and his cousins Jack, Otis and Donald, as well as some other friends in and about London.

After short leave with the family at Missing Acres, Dick was appointed in September ’51 to the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs in the State Department, Washington, where he remained until December, 1954. During this period, he lived in his own bachelor apartment in Georgetown, enjoying the amenities of life in America after so many years abroad. He made many friends whom he used to bring down to Missing Acres for long weekends, frequently mixed foursomes whom he ruthlessly induced to golf, swim, ride, walk and even climb in the hills. One of these charming creatures he subsequently married, but that was as yet unsuspected, even by themselves.

While abroad, Dick had frequently realised that he was familiar only with the Eastern fringe of the United States. During this period in Washington therefore, he spent a vacation of several weeks driving across the continent to the Pacific North West, down the Coast to California and back by the Southern route. He visited many scenically famous spots, had many entertaining adventures, dropped in on his cousin Molly Poole, now married to his school-fellow George Lenci in Roseburg, Oregon, and visited Luba’s parents in San Francisco as well as looking up other friends all along the way. In all, a most pleasant and illuminating journey.

In December, 1954, Dick was assigned to the American Embassy in Bogota, Columbia, as Chief of the Political Section, where his Spanish proved invaluable and his fluent French of service too. The extreme altitude of Bogota, 9,000 ft. did not incommode him and he enjoyed settling into a new semi-detached house and creating his first garden out of a terrace scooped from the hillside at second story level. A good maid enabled him to entertain less haphazardly than he had in Washington; and a golden Labrador puppy completed his household. Dick soon made many good friends among the Colombian families and was invited on hunting expeditions to the immense ranches they owned and on one occasion a fishing expedition by plane to the Bay of Utria on the wild Coast. There he was induced to leave the party and accompany a group of young colonists who were pioneering up a small coastal river, penetrating with them on foot to their jungle camp amongst most primitive Indians, whence, after relaxing overnight, he returned to the coast alone with a friendly native family in their dug-out canoe. A uniquely interesting experience of which he brought back some striking color photo-graphs.

In August, 1957, Dick returned home via Nassau in the Bahamas, on three months leave, being slated to go hack to Bogota early in November for another two years. Some of this leave he spent in Washington, and when his departure loomed a scant two weeks away, he telephoned his parents the tumultuous news that he and Jillian were going to get married. This was the attractive girl he had brought down with a foursome to Missing Acres in July, 1954 and with whom he had kept in touch ever since. Though English born she had been brought to Washington by her mother when thirteen years old and educated in American schools and Washington University, becoming an American citizen in 1954. That weekend Dick brought her down to Missing Acres to renew acquaintance with his parents whose affection she instantly won. Bright intelligent and pretty, she was at 27 the ideal girl for Dick who had reached 38 without yet becoming a confirmed bachelor. They made an engaging couple, – he just under 6 ft. tall, broad shouldered and fair, with clean-cut features and a cheery, outgiving nature, yet thoroughly capable; – she slimly fascinating, warm-hearted and frank. It did one good to see them together.

Jillian’s mother being in Paris and her father in South Africa, she and Dick welcomed the idea of being married from Missing Acres. A hectic week later, on November 2/1957, after a wedding breakfast at Farmington Country Club, they were married in a simple ceremony at St.Paul’s Episcopal Church, Ivy, the Reverend Dudley Boogher officiating. An informal and jolly reception followed at Missing Acres in perfect Indian Summer weather. Jillian’s elder sister, Diana King, came down from Washington for the weekend, as did Dick’s brother David and wife Sally from Rye, N.Y.; and among the hundred guests from far and near were his father’s cousins John and Mildred Armstrong, with daughter Elizabeth and John’s sister Susannah with her husband Laurence Coleman Four days after the wedding, Dick was off to Colombia, Jillian rejoining him a month later for a brief honeymoon in the Caribbean. She was delighted with his house and garden in Bogota; and since she already spoke French fluently soon learned Spanish. Besides the inevitable social round, Jillian busied herself with volunteer work in connection with the children’s hospital. For recreation, Dick and Jillian (an accomplished horsewoman since childhood) regularly went riding on the plateau above the town, accompanied by their devoted Labrador “Moby”. Towards the end of their two-year stay, they made an official visit to Lima, Peru, taking in the famous ruins of Machu Picchu on the way. While in Lima, they visited the grave of Dick’s brother Tony, who had so sadly died there in 1944.

In July, 1959, Dick’s tour of duty having ended he and Jillian, bringing “Moby” with them took passage for New York in a passenger liner that touched at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, giving them just time to dash up to Palm Beach for breakfast with his uncle Bert, his daughter Eleanor and four grandchildren. It was a happy and memorable occasion as his Uncle Bert died 3 years later, on June 11/1962. From New York they came straight to Missing Acres and shortly afterwards proceeded to Washington where Dick was to assume his new post of Officer in Charge of Peruvian Affairs in the Bureau of International Affairs. As this meant residing in Washington for four years before the State Department again sent him abroad, he and Jillian bought a charming low rambler in the woods just across the Patomac, – 3947 Mackall Ave., Langley Forest, McLean, Virginia, – which is their present home. When comfortably established, Jillian took a congenial position as Executive Secretary of the National Cathedral Association which she enjoys and still holds. With her mother, and two charming step-daughters, back in Washington and her sister Diana close by, Washington feels like home.

On February 6/1961, during a blizzard, a welcome little son was born to Dick and Jillian in Washington, and on June 3rd christened Anthony Hanbury in the National Cathedral, Dean Sayre and Canon Arterton officiating. He is a fine, sturdy little boy, fair like his mother and father, and already full of character.

The children of Richard and Jillian Poole are:

Anthony Hanbury Poole, born February 6, 1961, in Washington, D.C. and christened June 3/1961 in the National Cathedral, by Dean Sayre.

Colin Rawnsley Poole, born January 14, 1964, in Washington, D.C. and christened April 18/1964 in the National Cathedral, by Dean Sayre.

Richard A. Poole

McLean, Virginia – Richard A. Poole, one of the last surviving members of the team of Americans tasked with writing a new Constitution for Japan after World War II, died Sunday, 26 February 2006, at his home in McLean of natural causes. He was 86.

As a 26-year-old U.S. Navy Ensign, he was selected by General Douglas MacArthur’s staff to chair the committee that would define the role the Emperor would play in a Post-war Japan. Poole is often credited with having coined a new Japanese word to represent the concept that the Emperor is a symbol of the State, not a deity as many believed. It was felt the Emperor should be viewed in much the same way that the King or Queen of England is a Constitutional Monarch or symbol of Great Britain.

More than a half-century later, Poole and his wife Jillian, were invited to return to Japan to participate in a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of the new constitution and for a national discussion on whether the Constitution should be revised or updated to accommodate the many major changes taking place in International relations.

Poole was asked to testify before a special Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, that was considering such changes. He felt some revision was necessary.

“In the light of today’s reality and the need for Japan to assume responsibilities in foreign affairs on much the same basis as other leading democracies, it strikes me that the current ambiguity with regard to re-arming the nation should be removed,” he said.

Born on April 29, 1919 in Yokohama, Japan, Poole and his family survived the great earthquake of 1923 and subsequently moved to Summit, New Jersey where he spent the majority of his youth. Poole graduated from Haverford College in 1940 and then entered the U.S. Foreign Service as an American Foreign Service Officer. A 39-year career followed – with time out for service with the U.S. Navy during World War II. In 1970 he received the Department of State Superior Honor Award for his contribution to the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States. He retired in 1979 after serving on five Continents and in many countries, including Canada, Columbia, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).

Poole was a member of the McLean Citizen’s Association for over 40 years, serving on the Board of Directors for many years. The majority of his time was devoted to being the Chairman of the McLean Trees Committee, where he coordinated the planting of thousands of trees and bushes in the McLean area. He was known locally as “Mr. Trees” and was instrumental in organizing the newspaper collection containers at Cooper Intermediate School in McLean, the primary source of revenue for the Trees Committee. In the past few years he worked to create the McLean Trees Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, out of the original Trees Committee. In addition to the Trees Committee he was active with the McLean Planning Committee. Poole was named Citizen of the Year by the McLean Citizens’ Association in 1993.

He is survived by his brother David A. Poole, his wife, Jillian H. Poole, their two sons, Anthony (Tony) H. Poole (married to Elizabeth) & Colin R. Poole and two granddaughters Alison C. Poole and Natalie Q. Poole.

Place of birth – Yokohama, Japan – April 29, 1919


  • The Army Commendation Ribbon for meritorious service and superior performance – United States Army Forces, Pacific – 1946
  • Honorable Discharge – U.S. Navy – 1946
  • Superior Honor Award – Department of State – 1970
  • Service recognition and appreciation – Department of State – 1951, 1966, 1971, 1976


  • Citizen of the Year – McLean Citizen’s Association – 1993
  • Senior Citizens Service Award – Rotary Club of McLean – 1994
  • Bull Dog Award – McLean Citizen’s Association – 1997
  • Friends of Trees Award – Fairfax County Tree Commission – 1998
  • Burial 24 May 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment