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Duck Diaries Collection

What are the Duck Diaries?

The Duck Diaries Collection details the journey of a crew of students with “El Pato Valiente,” a repurposed military vehicle (known as a “Duck”) as part of a goodwill tour of Central and South America. The crew consisted of Dan Twomey, Tom Twomey, George Burrill, Fraser Shaw, Robert Hinds, Walter Kutrieb, Bill Hayes (who returned to America after arriving in Guatemala City), Colin Reid (a New Zealander who joined up with the crew in Oaxaca, Mexico), and Edwin Naylor (who left the group in Panama after the Jungle Cove incident). In addition, they were accompanied by a German Shepherd named Robin. The trip lasted about a year, from July 1961 to July/August 1962 and took the crew all the way from New York to Brazil. Afterwards, the Duck returned to the Northeastern U.S., and the crew went their separate ways. They have remained in close contact for several decades.

The official name of the Duck crew’s goodwill tour was Operation Americas; their motto was “mutual understanding.” And their logo:

Various news reports and documents in the Duck Diaries Collection claim that the crew traveled anywhere from 27,000 to a little over 30,000 miles during Operation Americas. As they traveled, they talked to locals, visited universities, and put on shows to bridge the gap between North and Central/South America—the people and the culture.

Meet the Crew:

The Origins

The origins of Operation Americas can be traced back to Bob Hinds at Cobleskill College of Agriculture where he and Tom met an international student from Barranquilla, Colombia—Pedro Recio. In Matt Twomey’s documentary, The Duck Diaries: A Cold War Quest for Friendship Across the Americas, Bob describes how Pedro laid the foundation for the trip. Being from Colombia, Pedro’s opinions on the US government were less than favorable—he felt the US did not treat Latin Americans well. This fundamental tension between Latin America and North America, Bob felt, could best be solved through communication and human connection. After all, that is how he cultivated a close friendship with Pedro.

Seven college students who believe most of the world’s problems stem from the fact that “we don’t get together and talk man to man"...

- September 28th, 1961 AP Press Release

The Duck crew won a decent amount of notoriety both before and after the trip. A March 13th, 1961 Congressional Record includes remarks on the origins of Operation Americas made by the Republican representative of New York’s 27th district, Robert R. Barry:  

Unknowingly, Pedro Recio, of Barranquilla, Colombia, while an agricultural major at Cobleskill, instigated the good will project through his own misconceptions about North American people, according to President Bob: Pedro was antagonistic. He didn’t understand American ways or our philosophy, but, after many months of working at it, we became fast friends.

Another 1961 Congressional Record includes remarks from Senator Kenneth Keating to the President John F. Kenedy:

...His [Bob’s] initial inspiration came from Pedro Recia, of Barranquilla, Colombia, an exchange student at Cobleskill College, whose image of Americans and their philosophy was distorted and antagonistic. Bob was successful in reversing Pedro’s erroneous impressions, and now he and his seven companions will attempt to get across a similar story throughout South America.

…Four of the group are singers well versed in American folk music. This talent will serve as an entree for the boys into campus life of the universities which they will visit, and it is their hope that through the medium of music they will acquire the confidence and friendship of their young neighbors.

The project is purely a private affair. However, it has received the warm sanction of the Department of State, and financial assistance has come from their own communities, universities, and various professional organizations….

Mr. President, the initiative shown by these young men is a heartening example of the vitality of young people of America and their desire to build world understanding and peace. I know all of us wish them Godspeed on their very worthwhile journey.

The Mission

Within the Duck Diaries Collection, is a draft of Bob’s essay, “Americans All,” in which he describes the intentions behind Operation Americas:

Thats [sic.] our idea, we’re all Americans. Throughout all of Latin America Latins seem to have distorted opinions about Americans of the North. Through a conglomeration of misguided information and superficial associations we North Amercians have emerged in the eyes of the Central or South Americans as “Ogres”, the horrible men from the North. The characterization given to us by the Latin is the snob, the exploiter or the ignorant tourist. Something must be done about eradicating these false views.

In our project of good will we feel we are making a small inroad into this tremendous frontier of false impressions. We are a small group of only 7 students but if what we have done can serve as an example of what can be done than [sic.] the problem can be solved. What is required is for more young Americans, sincre [sic.] of heart, to travel and take part in projects that involve personal relationships with the Latin American…Rather than lecture about our ideals we try to extend good neighborliness aby demonstrating a sincere interest in and understanding of Latin Americans which are conveyed [sic.] by personal conversation and entertainment media…they [performances and programs] are aimed at winning mutual understanding and promoting good will through laughs and fun. 

More on this topic can be found in the "Making Friends" section of this LibGuide 

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