Amidst the WW2, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Ibn Saud met aboard USS Quincy after the Yalta conference.

Colonel Bill Eddy played the role of interpreter.

It however strikes as something very odd that in the photograph of meeting, Colonel Bill is kneeling before the two leaders.

enter image description here

Why is a commissioned officer of US Military doing such a thing? Was it some sort of a diplomatic custom back then that only a King or a ruler may sit with a King while others have to stand or kneel (A medieval custom that existed at least as late as reign of King Louis XIV of France in some form).

But we are talking about 20th century here. For example for current customs, see this meeting of Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin:

enter image description here

The interpreters here are accorded full respect of sitting with the leaders they were accompanying.

So TL;DR, why did Colonel Eddy kneel? Wasn't it considered an insult to the uniform? Was it a matter of diplomatic etiquette of that time?

Or could it be just a coincidence like the colonel dropping something and when he knelt to pick it up, the photographer took the picture?

Let me know if this would be better served at Politics SE instead of here (Though I think while Politics SE can guide me on Diplomatic etiquette, they won't provide me information regarding this specific historical moment so it might be better served here).

  • 1
    Because he is talking with two people sitting in chairs, and it's much easier to converse when your heads are at the same level?
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't read too much into it. Kneeling with one leg during a military briefing is quite common for all army ranks when you are close to a combat zone. In my time as an army officer I have been kneeling a lot like that in combat training. It becomes a habit even if you are outside a combat training zone.

In a photo of the same situation, probably taken just before your image, the Colonel is standing near King Saud and FDR.

enter image description here

He's already bowing down a little to King Saud, probably to understand him better. If bowing down doesn't help to understand a sitting person, the next thing that would feel natural for an army officer is to kneel down like that - no matter if you are trying to listen to a King or any other person.

Keep in mind that the Colonel is not down on both his knees like you would do it in church or in front of a King in ancient times.

They could have offered him a chair, but the next free chair is near FDR - on the wrong side if you want to listen to King Saud.

  • +1 for the photo. Few nits to pick. They are not in a battle zone though, Getting closer to the King to understand him better is understandable however I can't imagine that they couldn't have moved the chair around to the King's side if they wanted to give him a chair
    – NSNoob
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 10:02
  • 4
    @NSNoob That's the thing about a photo, they represent one moment in time. 30 seconds later a chair may have been pulled around, but we have no photo of that, as it would block the photographers view of the people he was actually there to photograph.
    – justCal
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 14:25
  • @user2448131 Ah yes that makes absolute sense.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 14:26
  • The photo of Eddy is evidently not a staged photo, intended as a representation of the whole meeting. Neither is the second photo, where it looks as if the leaders and interpreters are struggling with some idea that's difficult to explain or translate. By contrast, ibn Saud and FDR look fairly relaxed, and glad to have Eddy where he is, presumably so that he can hear ibn Saud better, or ibn Saud can hear him. Remember that ibn Saud was older than he looks, just past 70 at the time of this photo. Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 19:11
  • 1
    That doesn't look like "bowing down" to me at all; it looks like leaning in to try to better catch what is being said. Notice he's looking directly at King Saud, which is not something a bowing person is supposed to do.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 21:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.