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. 


James Bishop – Mogadishu 1990-91

As 1990 came to a close in Somalia, the embassy headed by Ambassador James Bishop had 37 American staffers, having been through successive draw downs as civil war and mob violence spread through the country.  Though the embassy attempted to conduct basic operations, gunfire was heard outside the compound and some of it was aimed inside.   Asserting his ambassadorial authority, Bishop refused to allow the Marines – either those assigned to the embassy or those who came later aboard the rescue helicopters – to return fire from the Somalis.  Given the extreme volatility of the mobs, that policy proved a very sound one.

The final rescue occurred on January 5, 1991, when two CH-53s from the USS Guam were sent to evacuate the remaining Americans and nationals of 30 countries who had sought refuge in the compound.  As the last helicopters left Mogadishu, intruders came over the walls, killing several Somali embassy workers and, probably inadvertently, destroying the warehouse containing food supplies that might have brought some relief to embassy Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs) left behind.  At the end of the evacuation, 281 people, including eight ambassadors, 61 Americans and 39 Soviets, had been brought to safety.

James K. Bishop also served as ambassador to Niger (1979-1981) and Liberia (1987-1990)