LAHORE: The fact that US diplomats posted abroad during the last 200 years or so have been flirting with danger and the reality that the worldwide anti-American sentiment has been persisting for a very long time, can be substantiated by the fact that out of the 234 US Foreign Service officials who have died during the course of their off-shore assignments since 1780, not fewer than 111 were actually killed.
These diplomats were murdered, ambushed, lynched by mobs, hit by landmines, killed in gunfire, died in mysterious plane crashes or were among the victims of bombs rocking their country’s embassies abroad. It hence goes without saying that the number of US diplomats killed or assassinated in the line of duty is exceptionally high.
Although William Palfrey, who was lost at sea in 1780, was the first US diplomat who had died an unnatural death in 1780, Harris Fudger was the first-ever American Foreign Service official to be murdered. He was killed in 1825 at Bogota (Colombia).
The figure of 234 off-shore deaths of US Foreign Service personnel in over 230 years hence signifies that on an average, one American diplomat has been dying every year under natural, accidental, heroic or other inspirational circumstances during his foreign posting.
Archives of American Foreign Service Association, the State Department at Washington DC and a thorough study of author Walter Burges Smith’s book “America’s diplomats and consuls of 1776-1865: a geographic and biographic directory of the Foreign Service from the Declaration of Independence to the end of the Civil War,” reveal that some 47 American envoys posted abroad had perished due to epidemics and other tropical diseases, 28 had found their planes/helicopters crashing in mid air and 13 were either lost at sea or had drowned/burned while saving lives.
Similarly, 10 high-profile US diplomats succumbed to injuries in road accidents, four were killed in earthquakes, two have died of volcanic eruption, two could not bear exhaustion and work fatigue, one lost his life in a hurricane and one had an accidental fall in a Prisoner of War (POW) Camp in Hong Kong. Of these 111 US Foreign Service officials, who have were killed during their foreign postings, at least eight have met their deaths in an unnatural way in Pakistan.
These eight American Foreign Service personnel, who died unnaturally in Pakistan, are Sergeant Steven Crowley, US Army Warrant Officer Bryan Ellis, Arnold Raphel (US Ambassador to Pakistan), Brigadier General Herbert Wassom (Chief of the US military group in Pakistan), Gary Durell (a CIA communications technician), Jackie Van Landingham (a consulate secretary), Barbara Green (US Embassy Islamabad) and David Foy (a Facilities Maintenance Officer at the US Consulate Karachi).
While Sergeant Steven Crowley, a 20-year old Marine Security Guard was hit by a lethal bullet during the siege of the US Embassy in Islamabad on November 21, 1979, the burned corpse of a 30-year old US Army Warrant Officer, Bryan Ellis, was also recovered from his apartment on the same day.
Crowley and Ellis were killed a day after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini had claimed that Americans were behind the November 20 takeover of the Grand Al-Haram Mosque at Makkah.
As soon as Khomeini’s claim was repeated in media on November 21, 1979 a group of enraged Pakistani students had stormed the 32-acre US Embassy at Islamabad. The rioters were also infuriated by incorrect radio reports that Washington had bombed the Grand Mosque at Makkah.
After bringing the embassy gate down, the mob fired gunshots and pelted stones at the building’s windows. As Ambassador Arthur Hummel Jr., was out of the building for lunch, Marine Steven Crowley was posted on the Embassy roof to assess the demonstration.
A corporal assigned to the Marine Security Guard Battalion Detachment in Islamabad, Crowley was shot by a sniper just above his left ear while he was doing his job. Although the US Embassy staffers had organized themselves into groups by blood type similar to Crowley’s, in case a transfusion was needed, their injured colleague never actually regained consciousness.
At sunset, as the rioters had begun to disperse, Sergeant Lloyd Miller climbed the roof and brought down the body of Crowley over his shoulder. Within just two days, some 400 shocked US diplomats had flown out of Pakistan.
The Pakistani government had reportedly paid US $121 million to the US, as a cost to rebuild the Embassy compound, after having failed to prevent the incident. Cameron Barr, a Washington Post staff writer, wrote in one of his articles a few years ago,” In a day of orchestrated anti-American outrage, Pakistanis were attacking several US facilities across the country. Nearly 140 people — US diplomats, Pakistani staff members, a visiting Time magazine correspondent (Marcia Gauger) — had assembled in the vault, a suite of rooms on the top floor of the three-story embassy building.
Marines had covered their retreat upstairs by tossing tear gas canisters as protesters broke their way into the embassy, shattering windows and setting fires in offices.”
In his article “A Day of Terror Recalled: 1979 Embassy Siege In Islamabad Still Haunts Survivors,” Cameron Barr further wrote,” Time’s Marcia Gauger, who had stopped by the embassy that day to have lunch with political counselor Herbert Hagerty, scribbled in a notebook, wondering how she might ensure that her record of events would survive, even if she did not. As the afternoon wore on, she would become convinced that she would die.”
Arnold Lewis Raphel (the 18th US Ambassador to Pakistan) and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom (Chief of the US military group in Pakistan) were killed in the mysterious plane crash of August 1988, while they were traveling with the then Pakistani President General Ziaul Haq and the then ISI Chief General Akhtar Abdur Rehman.
American diplomats Gary Durell and Jacqueline Landingham were killed in their van at the Shara-e-Faisal Boulevard of Karachi in 1995. According to Time Magazine of March 20, 1995 two men had jumped out of a stolen taxi and fired at the van carrying the US Consulate officials.
The magazine had reported,” sixteen gunshots later, Gary C. Durell 45, a CIA communications technician, was dead and Jackie Van Landingham 33, a consulate secretary was fatally wounded. A third employee, postal clerk Marc McCloy 31, was shot in the ankle. The gunmen spared the Pakistani driver and sped away.”
The magazine further wrote that it might have been a deliberate attack on CIA employee Durell, asserting that his lady colleague Van Landingham only died because she was sitting beside Durell and came in the line of fire.
Another American diplomat killed in Pakistan was Barbara Green. She and her daughter had lost their lives in a grenade attack at an Islamabad Church in March 2002.
The CNN had reported on March 19, 2002, “The two Americans, a mother and her daughter, were members of the US Embassy community. Wendy Chamberlain, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, identified the American dead as Barbara Green and her 17-year-old daughter, Kristen Wormsley. Green worked at the US Embassy.”
The last American diplomat to be killed in Pakistan was David Foy. He too was killed in the month of March, about five years ago at Karachi in 2006.
A US Embassy press release of March 2, 2006 read, “At approximately 9:05 AM on March 2, two US Consulate employees were killed in a bomb blast while entering the US Consulate in Karachi. One of the employees was an American, David Foy, a Facilities Maintenance Officer at the Consulate. According to the US Consulate in Karachi, all other American staff is safe and accounted for.
Iran is yet another country where American diplomats have been beaten to death by angry mobs. A US Vice Consul to Tehran, Major Robert Imbrie, was ‘mistakenly’ killed by a mob in the Iranian capital on July 18, 1924 while he and his companion were trying to take photographs of a well that was said to have been poisoned by the Bahai sect of Iran. Describing his murder as a product of religious hate, The New York Times had written 86 years ago that diplomat Imbrie was warned not to approach the poisoned well, as women were present there.
Imbrie paid no heed to the warning and kept on walking. Thinking he hailed from the Bahai sect that had poisoned their well, the Iranian women started shouting. A crowd suddenly emerged and the two Americans were dragged out of their vehicle and beaten to a painful death with sticks and stones.