Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed on Tuesday after the diplomat’s car was targeted in the eastern city of Benghazi by protesters blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was the first sitting U.S. ambassador to be killed in office since 1979.
According to the State Department Office of the Historian, a total of seven U.S. ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty — five of which have been killed by terrorist attacks, while two perished in plane crashes.
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in the Carter administration from 1978 to 1979, Dubs was killed in an exchange of gunfire after a kidnapping attempt by Islamic extremists in Kabul in 1979. The State Department labeled the event a “Significant Terrorist Incident.” The U.S. government did not replace Dubs and eventually closed the embassy due to security concerns. The position was finally filled in 2002. Dubs is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He is memorialized both in the U.S. by the American Foreign Service Association with a plaque in the Truman Building and in Kabul.
Francis E. Meloy, Jr.
The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Meloy was kidnapped by a Palestinian separatist group and shot along with U.S. economic counselor Robert O. Waring as both diplomats headed to present their credentials to the new Lebanese president in 1976. The two officials were assaulted as they were crossing the Green Line, the division between Beirut’s Christian and Muslim sectors. Their bodies were later found on a beach. Melroy served in the United States Navy in World War II, later becoming a Foreign Service officer and serving as U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, before assuming his post in Beirut.
Rodger P. Davies
The U.S. ambassador to Cyprus under the Ford administration, Davies was killed by sniper fire during a demonstration against American policy by Greek Cypriots at the embassy in Nicosia on Aug. 19, 1974. Davies’ secretary, Antoinette Varnava, was also killed. Davies was born on May 7, 1921, in Berkeley, Alameda County, California. The diplomat was appointed ambassador to Cyprus only a month prior to his death. Before his appointment, he served as the director of the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and later the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.
Cleo A. Noel, Jr.
The U.S. ambassador to Sudan for the Nixon administration, Cleo A. Noel, Jr., was killed in 1973 after members of a faction of the PLO, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, specifically called ‘Black September,’ stormed the Saudi embassy in Khartoum during a party for Noel’s outgoing deputy. The faction demanded the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy, as well as allies being held in Israeli and European prisons. Ten diplomats in total were seized, and Noel, his deputy, and a Belgian diplomat were shot to death. Noel was a career diplomat, serving throughout the 1950s and 1960s in U.S. outposts in Italy, Saudi Arabia, France, Lebanon and Sudan.
John Gordon Mein
The U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, Mein was appointed ambassador in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was the first U.S. ambassador to be assassinated while serving in office. Mein was gunned down by Guatemalan rebels in 1968 after leaving a State Department lunch. His car was stopped in the middle of a road where soon after he was shot trying to flee.
Two other U.S. ambassadors have died in plane crashes: Arnold L. Raphel in Pakistan in 1988, and Laurence A. Steinhardt in Canada in 1950.