Diplomatic Deaths

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens Is One of Six Ambassadors Killed in the Line of Duty

Christopher Stevens and more ambassadors killed in the line of duty.

AP Photo (4)

AP Photo (4)

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed on September 11 when rioters attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. From the killing of the Sudanese envoy by the Black September terrorist group in 1973 to the mysterious plane crash involving the Pakistani diplomat, he is one of only six U.S. ambassadors killed in the line of duty.

Ben Curtis, File / AP Photo

Christopher Stevens, Libya, 2012

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three others were killed Tuesday in Benghazi in what may have been a planned attack carried out during rioting sparked by an anti-Muslim film produced in the United States. President Obama denounced the attack as “outrageous,” while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed “profound sadness.”

AP Photo

Adolph Dubs, Afghanistan, 1979

Adolph Dubs, known as Spike, was appointed the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in 1978 after the Soviet-backed Khalq came to power in a coup. On Feb. 14, 1979, three men approached the black Chevrolet carrying Dubs in Kabul and burst into the car with guns when the driver rolled down the window. They took Dubs to the government-owned Kabul Hotel, dragging him from the car upon arrival as they met up with another accomplice. Within three hours, dozens of Afghan commanders—under direct orders from the foreign minister, who possibly was acting under the orders of the KGB—had stormed the hotel in a “rescue attempt,” leaving Dubs and the four kidnappers dead. Following Dubs’s death, President Carter cut off aid to Afghanistan—and Afghanistan deteriorated under a series of coups, countercoups, and kidnappings, and eventually was left open to the Soviet invasion later that year.

Ahmed Azakir / AP Photo

Francis E. Meloy Jr., Lebanon, 1976

A career diplomat, Francis Meloy Jr. has the honor of having the shortest service as a chief of mission in Lebanon. On June 16, 1976, Meloy was on his way to present his credentials to the Lebanese president when he was kidnapped, along with U.S. Economic Counselor Robert O. Waring and their driver, by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after crossing a checkpoint in Beirut. Their bullet-ridden bodies were found shortly afterward.

AP Photo

Rodger P. Davies, Cyprus, 1974

Appointed the U.S. ambassador to Cyprus in May 1974, Rodger P. Davies was killed by sniper fire during a demonstration at the U.S. embassy by Greek Cypriots on Aug. 19 of that year. After Davies’s death, President Ford called him a “great ambassador” and said his service “embodied the best of time, of effort, and competence.”

Bettmann / Corbis

Cleo A. Noel Jr., Sudan, 1973

On March 1, 1973, eight members of the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September stormed a party at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum, demanding the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the man who killed Robert F. Kennedy, and several other members of the organization being imprisoned throughout the world. They then took hostage the U.S. ambassador, Cleo A. Noel Jr.; one of his staff, George Curtis Moore; and a Belgian diplomat. President Nixon announced the next day that he would not negotiate with terrorists—and Black September members took the trio to the basement and shot them. The eight operatives who carried out the operation surrendered to the embassy on March 3.

John Gordon Mein, Guatemala, 1968

The first U.S. ambassador to be assassinated in the line of duty, John Gordon Mein was traveling from his residence in the suburbs of Guatemala City on Aug. 28, 1968, when rebels from Revolutionary Armed Forces forced his car off the road one block from the U.S. consulate. Mein was shot to death by the rebels in what was later revealed to be a bungled kidnapping attempt.

Barry Thumma / AP Photo

Arnold L. Raphel, Pakistan, 1988

Arnold L. Raphel, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, was killed in Pakistan on Aug. 17, 1988, when his passenger plane went down. The plane was also carrying 28 other people, including U.S. Brig. Gen. Herbert M. Wassom, Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq and 10 of Zia’s senior generals—all of whom were killed. Although mechanical failure was immediately blamed for the death, a preliminary Pakistani investigation refuted that claim with an air chief saying that Pakistan “strongly suspects foul play,” although a U.S. investigation released on Sept. 11, 1988, insisted that mechanical failure had not been ruled out. Zia’s son blamed former Pakistani Prime Minister Benzair Bhutto for the crash.

Carl Nesensohn / AP Photo

Laurence A. Steinhardt, Canada, 1950

Famous for his service as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1941—and acting as a go-between for President Roosevelt and Josef Stalin—Laurence A. Steinhardt was killed in a plane crash while serving as the U.S. ambassador to Canada in 1950.