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. 


Robert Dillon – Beirut 1983

In the early afternoon of April 18, 1983, Ambassador Robert Dillon was preparing to leave his eighth- floor office of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut when a suicide bomber in a pickup truck swerved into the embassy compound from the busy roadway outside.  The driver reached a point next to the building before detonating his deadly cargo, killing 17 Americans, 32 Lebanese employees and 14 embassy visitors and passersby.  Once colleagues had removed debris that had fallen on him, Dillon made his way down the side of the hollowed-out structure.  He immediately set to work trying to reestablish a functioning but much truncated embassy, while Lebanese and Americans worked desperately to meet emergency medical needs and rescue any survivors.  U.S. Marines, deployed at the Beirut International Airport in response to the tumultuous events in Lebanon during the previous year, rushed to the scene and provided security.

Dillon, a veteran of a 1975 crisis in which the Japanese Red Army took over the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and held it for five days, kept his staff in Beirut focused on the immediate tasks before them, secured much-needed psychological as well as material assistance from Washington and with his wife gave emotional support to Lebanese and Americans whose friends and family members had been killed or severely injured.

(Six months after the embassy bombing, on October 23, 1983, a suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut claimed the lives of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers.)

bookGannon, Richard M.  “The Bombing of Embassy Beirut, 1983” in Sullivan, Joseph G., Ed.  Embassies Under Siege.  Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1995.