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.


In Memoriam

To honor those killed in the line of duty or under other heroic or inspirational circumstances, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) maintains two Memorial Plaques in the main lobby of the Harry S Truman building of the State Department. Starting with William Palfrey, “lost at sea” in 1780, and including a grim catalogue of death by natural disaster, tropical disease, murder, fatal effort to save others and stories defined by place and year (e.g., Vietnam 1968, Beirut 1983, Kenya 1998), the 244 names inscribed on the list as of May 2013 can be found at Names on AFSA Memorial Plaques.”

You can read some of their stories from the oral history collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.

On Foreign Service Day, May 3, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry honored eight individuals added to the plaques. Anne T. Smedinghoff, died in Afghanistan on April 6, 2013; the four heroes of Benghazi (Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Ty Woods), USAID employee Ragaei Said Abdelfattah (died in a terrorist bombing in August 2012), and two Foreign Service members who died during the Vietnam war: Joseph Fandino and Francis Savage.


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.