Diplomats in Harm's Way

This section recognizes the dedication and sacrifices of foreign affairs personnel who have faced particularly dangerous conditions during their service abroad.



Diplomats at Risk

Following are just some of the many of the stories of U.S. diplomats and foreign employees of American missions who have faced great danger in crisis situations.  An excellent reference on incidents before 1995 is Joseph G. Sullivan’s   Embassies Under Siege: Personal Accounts by Diplomats on the Front Line, published by Brassey’s in 1995.   Unfortunately, that volume has not been updated to chronicle the heroism and sacrifice of  those serving in later years. 


Allan Wendt (Saigon 1968)

FSO Allan Wendt was the overnight duty officer at the U.S. embassy in Saigon at 2:30 a.m. on January 31, 1968 (during the Lunar holiday of Tet), when Vietnamese Communist forces stormed the compound and other U.S. installations throughout South Vietnam.  Awakened by a loud explosion and automatic weapons fire, he called the Marine Guard on the ground floor, who advised him that while the Viet Cong had not yet penetrated the embassy building itself, they were inside the compound and a second Marine had been wounded in an exchange of fire.  During the six-hour assault, Wendt helped move the injured Marine to the embassy roof and maintained regular contact with the White House Situation Room, the State Department Operations Center and the U.S. Military Command Center at Tan San Nhut airport (which also came under heavy attack).  By the time paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division landed to secure the compound, most of the Communist guerrillas had been killed by U.S. forces firing on them from nearby buildings.  At the end of the siege, 19 Viet Cong, one U.S. Marine and several U.S. Military Police (MPs) were dead.  The attackers did not enter the embassy building at any time. 

E. Allan Wendt later served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Energy and Resources Policy (1981-1986) and as the first U.S. ambassador to Slovenia (1992-1995).