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. 


Prudence Bushnell – Nairobi 1998

On August 7, 1998, Ambassador Prudence Bushnell was meeting with the Kenyan Minister of Commerce in a bank building near the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi when a truck driver detonated a 2,000-pound bomb that destroyed an adjacent building and everything in the embassy.  Casualties totaled over 5,000, with 213 dead.  The same Al-Qaida operation included a simultaneous attack on the U.S. embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

After recovering consciousness, quickly descending the bank’s 21 flights of stairs and exiting the building, Bushnell was whisked away to safety, but she quickly returned to the scene of the carnage, where she began directing rescue operations.  A veteran of earlier crises, both in the field and in the State Department Operations Center, she had an excellent sense of what Washington needed to know and what steps were required by leaders on the ground. 

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, American and Kenyan survivors worked to free their fellow citizens and FSN employees from the ruins of the embassy, while others searched morgues, hospitals and private homes for those who were missing.  Under Ambassador Bushnell’s leadership over the ensuing weeks and months, embassy personnel and reinforcements sent by the State Department provided what assistance they could to traumatized employees and their families, dealt with myriad issues raised by Kenyan citizens affected by the bombing and carried out essential functions from the cramped quarters of a new makeshift embassy. 

Prudence Bushnell later served as ambassador to Guatemala (1999-2002).