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. 


Bruce Flatin – Kabul 1979: Assassination of an Ambassador

On February 14, 1979, as the Soviet Union was emerging as a much stronger force in Afghanistan in the months prior to its December invasion of that country, Ambassador Adolph “Spike” Dubs was on his way to the U.S. Embassy when his car was stopped and he was taken at gunpoint to the Kabul Hotel.  Learning of the ambassador’s abduction, political counselor Bruce Flatin sped over to the hotel, where he encountered Soviet and Afghan officials who claimed that the assailants were terrorists demanding the release of political prisoners.  Throughout the four-hour stand off, Flatin repeatedly emphasized the U.S. insistence (relayed from Secretary of State Cyrus Vance) that no precipitous action be taken that could threaten Dubs’s life.  However, despite the assurances received from officials on the spot, troops located in a building across the street and inside the hotel suddenly began to fire on the room where the ambassador was held.  Then, after a lull and the entry of Afghan police into the room, more gunshots were heard by the Americans forced to wait outside in the hotel corridor.  When he finally was allowed inside, Flatin found the ambassador dead, slumped over in a chair.  It has never been discovered precisely why Ambassador Dubs was killed on that day or by whom.

bookTaylor, James E.  “The Murder of Ambassador Dubs, Kabul, 1979,” in Embassies under Siege. Sullivan, Joseph G., Ed.  Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1995.