The Honored Dead: Other Ambassadors And Diplomats Killed In The Line Of Service

on September 12 2012 1:12 PM
Chris Stevens
Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, smiles at his home in Tripoli. He died Wednesday morning in an attack on the US Embassy in Libya. Reuters

The death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three members of his staff in Benghazi is a tragedy, and they join a long line of diplomats who died representing their nations.

November 9, 1938, Ernst Eduard vom Rath, German diplomat in France: Vom Rath was a low-ranking German official at the consulate in Paris when he was shot in the head and killed by 17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish Pole. Vom Rath's death sparked the anti-Semitic rampages on Kristallnacht, often considered the beginning of the Holocaust.

September 17, 1948, Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg, UN Security Council Mediator on the Arab-Israeli conflict: The Swedish nobleman was responsible for saving the lives of around 31,000 German concentration camp prisoners during WWII. In 1948, he was appointed "United Nations Mediator in Palestine," the first such position in the UN's history, to assist in peacefully transitioning new Jewish arrivals into Palestine. On September 17, 1948, a man in an army uniform fired a Tommy gun out the window of a car at Bernadotte and another diplomat. The men turned out to be members of the leftist Zionist Lehi group, who thought Bernadotte was "a British stooge" and that his ideas were dangerous to the Jewish state.

March 28, 1950, Laurence Adolph Steinhardt, U.S. Ambassador to Canada: Steinhardt served as U.S. ambassador to Sweden, Peru, the Soviet Union, and Turkey under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and then as Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Canada under Harry Truman. He was killed in a plane crash en route from Ottawa to Washington D.C.

August 28, 1968, John Gordon Mein, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala: Mein was appointed ambassador in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson.  He was killed in the middle of the road one block from the consulate after leaving a State Department lunch, when two men approached his car and told him to get out. He got out, started to run, and was gunned down. He was the first ambassador in United States history to be killed while serving. The assassins were suspected of being members of the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), a guerrilla group.

April 5, 1970, Carl von Spreti, West German Ambassador to Guatemala: Von Spreti arrived in Guatemala during the Guatemalan Civil War after stints as the German Ambassador to Luxembourg, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. He was kidnapped on March 31 by the same group that killed U.S. Ambassador Mein, and killed on April 5. Immediately afterwards, West Germany froze all ties with Guatemala.

March 2, 1973, Cleo Allan Noel, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Sudan: Noel was appointed Ambassador to Sudan in 1972 by President Richard Nixon, after the U.S. decided to restore diplomatic ties with Sudan which had been severed following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. On March 1, 1973, members of a faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization called Black September stormed the Saudi embassy in Khartoum during a party. Noel, his outgoing deputy George Curtis Moore, and ten other diplomats were seized. Noel, Moore and a Belgian diplomat were killed the next day.

June 16, 1976, Francis E. Meloy Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon: Meloy served in the Navy in WWII, and became a Foreign Service Officer right afterwards. He was appointed Ambassador to Lebanon in 1976, but was kidnapped with U.S. Economic Counselor Robert O. Waring by a Palestinian separatist group and shot.

July 21, 1976, Christopher Ewart-Biggs, British Ambassador to Ireland: Ewart-Biggs served first as British consul in Algiers, where he was also the target of attacks by French colonialists, and later was appointed ambassador to Ireland. He was living in Dublin for a mere two weeks when an IRA land-mine exploded near his residence. Thirteen members of the IRA were arrested and questioned in connection with the assassination, but no convictions were ever handed down.

January 4, 1978, Said Hammami, Palestinian Representative to the UK: After living as a refugee for a time in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, Hammami joined the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964 at age 23, and was a ranking  member by age 30. Yasser Arafat appointed him the first delegate of the PLO to the UK in 1973, at which point Hammami began to promote the two-state solution idea. He was shot and killed in his office on January 4, 1978 by the Fatah Revolutionary Council, a militant Palestinian splinter group supported by the Iraqi government.

May 7, 1978, Rodger Paul Davies, U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus: Davies, who served under President Gerald Ford, was killed by sniper fire during a demonstration at the embassy.

February 14, 1979, Adolph Dubs, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan: Dubs was appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan under President Jimmy Carter after the Soviet-aligned People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan came to power in April 1978. He was kidnapped on February 14, 1979 by four members of the opposition party, called Settam-e-Melli, who intended to trade Dubs in exchange for their incarcerated leader, Badruddin Bahes. Dubs was taken to the Kabul hotel and killed in the cross-fire between his Afghan captors and the security forces attempting to rescue him.

June 3, 1982, Shlomo Argov, Israeli Ambassador to the UK (survived): Educated at Georgetown and the London School of Economics, Argov was appointed ambassador in 1979 under then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. On June 3, 1982, three men approached Argov after a dinner in London and shot him in the head. Argov survived, but stayed in a coma for three months and suffered severe injuries. It later emerged that the three men were members of a Palestinian Liberation Organization splinter group, and that the attack had been ordered by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. Three days later, Israel invaded Lebanon, marking the beginning of the Israel-Lebanon war. Argov remained paralyzed and in the hospital for the next 20 years. He died in 2003.

August 17, 1988, Arnold Lewis Raphel, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan: Raphel joined the State Department in 1966, and was appointed ambassador by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and was "deeply involved in the diplomacy leading to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan," according to his NY Times obituary. He died in a plane crash in Pakistan, along with then-Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq and Brigadier General Herbert Wassom, head of the U.S. military in Pakistan. The circumstances of the plane crash were considered suspicious.

August 19, 2003, Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN Special Representative in Iraq: de Mello was a Brazilian national who joined the UN High Commission for Refugees in 1969. He did field work with refugees in Bangladesh, Sudan, and Cyprus in the 1960s and 1970s, clearing land mines in Cambodia in the 1990s, and eventually becoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2002. In 2003, he was persuaded by U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to accept an appointment as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq. The position was supposed to last four months, but he was killed in the Canal Hotel bombing in August by Al-Qaeda, ostensibly for his work in East Timor. At the time of his death, he was a rumored candidate for UN Secretary-General.

November 20, 2003, Roger Short, British Consul-General in Turkey: Short joined the British Foreign Office in 1969, and served as Consul-General in Oslo and Ambassador to Bulgaria. He became Consul-General to Turkey in 2000. He was one of around 28 people who were killed by a truck bomb aimed at him and his consular staff.

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