Ambassador Leonard G. Shurtleff, past president of the Western Front Association – US Branch and the World War One Historical Association, passed away at the age of 74 on Jan. 22 in Gainesville, Fla.
Ambassador Shurtleff was commissioned as a Foreign Service Officer in 1962 and served for 32 years in a variety of overseas posts including Venezuela, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Colombia, Liberia, and the Congo. He served his country as the U.S. Ambassador to Congo-Brazzaville from 1987-1990. In his State Department career, he was Director for African Regional Affairs, Deputy Director of the Office of Central African Affairs, and an intelligence analyst. Ambassador Shurtleff spoke French and Spanish as second languages and was a Chevalier of the Congolese Order of Merit.
After retiring from the Foreign Service with a rank of Minister-Counselor in 1995, Ambassador Shurtleff moved to Gainesville and became active as a volunteer in a number of organizations. He was a Master Mason, a chapter president of the Sons of the American Revolution, an advisor for the DeMolay organization, and an honorary member of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honorary Society.
He served as President of the U.S. Branch of the WFA from 1996 to 2004 and was a Vice President of WFA in the U.K. and President of the WW1HA from 2013 to 2014.
Ambassador Shurtleff was an authority on the diplomatic and political history surrounding the First World War, writing and lecturing in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He contributed to the scholarship on WWI by serving on the Norman B. Tomlinson Jr. Book Prize Committee from 1999 through 2014 and by maintaining his “Len’s Bookshelf” feature of book reviews on the Web starting in 2000. http://ww1ha.org/lens-bookshelf/
His reviews appeared in many publications, including the WFA’s Stand To. westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews
The depth of his commitment to World War I history organizations is best understood from the memories of his fellow directors of the WW1HA. Sheila Swigert of Staten Island, N.Y., wrote: “Len was such a presence on [battlefield] tours, at seminars, and as president of the WW1HA. On top if that, I really liked him. I shall miss him, as we all shall.”
David Beer of Austin, Texas, commented, “I am really saddened by Len’s death. He was a good friend, a great companion at conferences, and a vital part of our organization. And he really knew books.”
Richard VandenBrul of Livonia, Mich., described meeting the ambassador for the first time: “ I first met Len at a Western Front Association-US Branch meeting at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton. It must have been 1997. I had driven from St. Louis and I arrived at Wright-Patterson in the dark. It Len was holding court and sitting with a few people. I did not know anyone. He was very cordial and invited me to join the group. Over the years we attended many meetings. I shall miss Len. His book reviews were wonderful. Insightful. We were on several Western Front trips together. Len loved what he did and had a great retirement enjoying traveling to and attending WWI Seminars and events. He was our Ambassador at Large!”
Ambassador Shurtleff is survived by his wife, Christine M. Shurtleff, herself a former Foreign Service Information Officer and past president of the Association of American Foreign Service Women.
I knew him as a knowledgeable and entertaining traveling companion and late-night raconteur. He was an invaluable source of insight, especially during the summer leading up to the anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities, detailing the ins and outs – mostly outs – of the diplomacy of those fateful months. I will miss him.