Foreign Affairs Day Memorial Plaque Ceremony: John Brown Williams Still Missing

Posted: 2:42 am ET
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Last year, we blogged about John B. Williams who was  appointed on 10 March 1842 by President Tyler to be United States consul at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand (see Missing From the AFSA Memorial Plaque: John Brown Williams, First American Consul to Fiji (1810-1860).  He was born in Salem, Massachusetts on 20 September 1810, the seventh of nine children of Israel Porter and Elizabeth (Wait) Williams.  In 1860, J.M. Brower, the United States vice consul in Fiji, informed his family that John B. Williams had died of dysentery on 19 June 1860.  Read more herehere and here.

History.state.gov lists him as follows:

Establishment of Consul at Lauthala1844.
Commercial Agent John B. Williams was appointed the first Consul to the Fiji Islands on August 19, 1844. He was resident at Auckland, New Zealand.

On May 5, the new Secretary of State offered remarks at the Foreign Affairs Memorial Day and said he took “solace in the fact that we did not have to add any names to this plaque this year.” Yup, they forgot again to add John Brown Williams’ name on that wall.  We should note the first U.S. envoy to the Far East, Edmund Roberts, who is  listed on the Memorial Plaque also died of dysentery in Macau, China in 1844.

Excerpt from Secretary Tillerson’s remarks.

It’s been my great privilege to take part in the American Foreign Service Association’s Memorial ceremony honoring the service and sacrifice of the men and women who did not make it back. Even amidst the non-stop business of the State Department, and while we work at a pretty torrid pace, I think it is always important to set aside time to pay tribute to our fallen colleagues.

Although he was unable to be here today, President Trump also released a statement sending his greetings and sincere gratitude to all members of the United States Foreign Service and Civil Services at federal agencies here at home as well as at embassies and consulates around the globe. As I have gotten to know the President, I have seen firsthand how much he appreciates – and that appreciation is growing, I assure you – for the work of our hard-working public servants here, and those who serve on behalf of the nation around the world.

Each of the 248 fallen heroes and heroines whose names are engraved on the Memorial Plaque represents a unique individual life, and I think we can never lose sight of that. These men and women had families, they had loved ones they left behind, dreams unlived, plans unrealized. These names span our country’s history. From the beginning of our young republic, Americans have gone abroad representing our country, advancing our interests and values, and raising our flag. Today, I’d like to share with you some of their stories.

The first name on the plaque is William Palfrey. In 1780, this Revolutionary War veteran and former aide to George Washington was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to be U.S. consul general to France.
[…]
I do take solace in the fact that we did not have to add any names to this plaque this year, but I know our men and women always put mission first, and though they are judicious and they take the necessary security precautions, there are inherent risks in all we do to advance America’s interest and values to keep our nation safe. As your Secretary, I promise you I will do all I can to make sure we are not forced to add another name to this wall, by making the safety of our people my highest priority, and by asking all of you to do the same, and taking action to bolster the protection of our people around the globe.

We’re tried to locate President Trump’s statement but have been unable to find it. The White House posted four statements on May 5 on its website; there’s nothing there in reference to Foreign Service Day.

05/05/17 Remarks at the Foreign Affairs Day Memorial Plaque Ceremony;  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson; Washington, DC

April 2016: Missing From the AFSA Memorial Plaque: John Brown Williams, First American Consul to Fiji (1810-1860)

 

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Missing From the AFSA Memorial Plaque: John Brown Williams, First American Consul to Fiji (1810-1860)

Posted: 2:07 am ET
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On January 28, Judith Cefkin, our Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu tweeted this:

We were curious and a quick look online indicates that John Brown Williams died of dysentery on 19 June 1860. But there’s more.

Below is from The Life of John Brown Williams’, ‘The New Zealand journal, 1842-1844 of John B. Williams of Salem, Massachussetts’ an interesting read from the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum via the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection:

John B. Williams’s combination of commercial and consular activity dates from his appointment on 10 March 1842 by President Tyler to be United States consul at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Less than a month later he wrote Daniel Webster, the Secretary of State, posting a bond and declaring his intention to sail on the brig Gambia of Salem from that city about 20 July 1842. His departure apparently was somewhat delayed for he wrote to his brother Henry L. Williams of his arrival at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, on 25 December 1842 after 137 days at sea.

Even then, there were staffing issues!

Williams returned to Auckland in late June 1846 to prepare his semiannual report, only to find that he had been wrongly accused of aiding the Maoris in their attack upon the settlers at the Bay of Islands in 1844. A letter from the State Department of 12 December 1845 requested information on a query from the Foreign Office in London which, in turn, quoted a report from the Governor of New Zealand that the United States consul at the Bay of Islands had encouraged the natives to attack the colonists and during the uprising had sold them powder and bullets. The State Department indicated that, if the charge were true, Williams was in serious trouble. This letter, addressed to Williams, was acknowledged by Joel Polack who had been appointed by Williams to succeed Breed as vice consul at Auckland. Polack indicated that the consul was daily expected from Fiji and that a reply would be forthcoming. On 23 June, Williams not having appeared, Polack wrote a long and circumstantial report to Secretary Buchanan completely clearing Williams. The report showed that Williams was not in New Zealand during the Maori uprising, having left for the United States on 12 February 1844; his return was easily proved by his presence on Falco wrecked in Hawkes Bay on 27 July 1845. Polack pointed out that since the consulate had been moved to Auckland Williams had had difficulty in obtaining satisfactory vice consuls for the Bay of Islands.

Fijian history also notes the burning of Mr. Williams house in 1849:

Fijian society was highly stratified. Allegiances to clans and chiefs were complicated, and warfare, including cannibalism, was common as leaders competed for control of the islands.  […] Cakobau, a Fijian chief from the small island of Bau off Viti Levu, gained control of most of western Fiji. In 1849 the home of John Brown Williams, the American consul at Levuka, was burned and looted during a celebration. Williams held Cakobau responsible and ordered payment for damages. Other incidents followed and to pay the debts, Cakobau sold Suva to an Australian company in 1868. More Europeans arrived and many purchased land from the Fijians to begin plantations. Local disorder prompted the Europeans at Levuka to organize a national government in 1871. They named Cakobau king of Fiji. The disorder continued, however, and in 1874 Cakobau and other chiefs requested British annexation. The colony’s first capital was Levuka. It was moved to Suva in the 1870s. Suva became a main port of call between the west coast of the United States and Australia and New Zealand. It also became the headquarters of the British empire in the Pacific Islands.

Mr. Williams does not appear on the AFSA Memorial Plaque. Perhaps one of you can help get his name up on that plaque?

 

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May 1 Memorial Ceremony Honors Foreign Service Employees Lost Overseas: Rayda Nadal and David Collins

Posted: 12:35 am EDT
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Via afsa.org:

On Friday, May 1, AFSA will hold its 82nd Annual Memorial Ceremony, which honors Foreign Service personnel who have given their lives while serving their country overseas.

The plaques on which these individuals’ names are inscribed serve as a powerful reminder of the work of Foreign Service personnel who conduct American diplomacy abroad, often under dangerous and difficult conditions. The Memorial Ceremony is our opportunity to give these individuals the recognition that they are due.

We are honored to have Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy scheduled to preside over this event, along with AFSA President Robert J. Silverman, who will serve as host for the solemn occasion.

The Memorial Ceremony will begin at 10:20 a.m. EST in the C Street Lobby of the Department of State. (Note that outside guests must arrive no later than 9:30 a.m.) The ceremony will be broadcast live on the Department of State’s BNET channel. We welcome members of the Foreign Service to attend the ceremony and to enter through the 21st street entrance. If the lobby is full, the ceremony can be watched via BNET or the live simulcast inside the Dean Acheson Auditorium. We hope that colleagues stationed around the world will watch the live BNET broadcast, as well. As with other AFSA events, a recording will be posted on the AFSA website (www.afsa.org/video) shortly after the ceremony.

This year, we will be honoring the lives and work of David Collins and Rayda Nadal.

David Collins, 54, was a financial management officer at Consulate General Lagos, Nigeria. Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Collins worked as an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God for more than 20 years, serving in many different capacities such as youth minister and business administrator. Mr. Collins also worked for the Compassion Ministry at the Convoy of Hope in Brussels. He joined the Foreign Service in 2009 and served as an FMO in Pretoria before he arrived in Lagos. There, he and his wife participated in an embassy group outing to the beach on April 28, 2013. Swimming in the ocean, the two were caught in an undertow; struggling to save his wife, David managed to push her successfully to higher ground, but was unable to save himself. When he was brought to shore, he still had a pulse, but died during the 90 minutes it took to get emergency medical treatment. His family has requested that donations in David’s name be made to Convoy of Hope in Springfield, Missouri. Information on Convoy of Hope can be found at www.convoyofhope.org.

Rayda Nadal, 37, was a Foreign Service specialist serving at Embassy Moscow. She joined the Foreign Service in 2008. Ms. Nadal served as an office management specialist in Kuwait City, Kabul, Nassau and New Delhi. She worked for Ambassador Capricia Marshall under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Office of Protocol in Washington, D.C. While in Moscow, Ms. Nadal sustained injuries in a gas explosion in her apartment on May 22, 2014. She was transported for treatment to a hospital in Sweden where she died on May 26, 2014. Her family requests that donations in Rayda’s name be made to the Harriet Tubman Emergency Shelter in Washington, D.C. Information on the shelter can be found at www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/HarrietTubmanShelter.

David Collins and Rayda Nadal affected the lives of others through their dedication and passion. Please join us on May 1, as we commemorate their lives and legacies.

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AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony Adds Eight Names to Wall of Honor

AFSA’s Memorial Plaque Ceremony was held at the State Department today.  The ceremony was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director Brennan, USAID Administrator Shah and Secretary Kerry who delivered his remarks here.  Excerpt:

The most important thank you that we can all give – and we do – is to the family members. I know this is a mixed day. It’s a hard day. It’s a day that brings back pain, but it’s also a day, I hope, of comfort and of pride in knowing that the contributions and the memories of your loved ones are a permanent part of the State Department, as strong as the marble which will carry their names for eternity.

Today we add eight names to our wall of honor, eight people who dedicated their lives to service. And to a person, each one sought out the most difficult assignments. They understood the risks, and still they raised their hands and they said: “Send me.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, and American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) President Susan R. Johnson honor foreign affairs colleagues who have lost their lives while serving overseas in the line of duty or under heroic or other inspirational circumstances, at the AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]  Click on image to view video of the ceremony.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, and American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) President Susan R. Johnson honor foreign affairs colleagues who have lost their lives while serving overseas in the line of duty or under heroic or other inspirational circumstances, at the AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Click on image to view video of the ceremony.

The ceremony honored the following individuals:

ANNE T. SMEDINGHOFF
Foreign Service Officer, died in Afghanistan from injuries sustained during a bombing on April 6, 2013.

J. CHRISTOPHER STEVENS
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

SEAN PATRICK SMITH
Information Management Specialist, was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

TY WOODS
Security Specialist, was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

GLEN A. DOHERTY
Security Specialist, was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

RAGAEI SAID ABDELFATTAH
USAID Foreign Service Officer, was killed during a suicide bombing in Afghanistan on August 8, 2012.

A lot have been written and said about the individuals above but two who were honored today were from 40 years ago.   And we don’t know much about them. So we are excerpting that from Secretary Kerry’s remarks:

Joe Fandino served in the Air Force during the Korean War where he sat on the “black box” during missions, meaning it was his job to blow up the plane if it got into real trouble. So he was a man who understood high-stakes situations. He also had a tremendous sense of humor. On his first Foreign Service posting to the Dominican Republic, he was riding with the Ambassador, who just happened to be his future father-in-law, and the rioters began rocking the car. And the Ambassador asked, “Joe, what do you intend to do if things get really bad?” And Joe didn’t miss a beat. He just leapt up and said, “I’ll jump out of the car, tear off my tie, and yell ‘down with the Americans!’” (Laughter.) Joe’s family and friends cherish those memories of his charm and his ability to cut through the noise. He died in 1972 while serving in Vietnam with USAID.

Frank Savage used to ride his Harley around Europe while wearing a Levi jacket with a big American flag sewn onto the back of it. He was proud of his country, and he wanted everybody to know it. Frank volunteered to serve in Vietnam with USAID, and when he wasn’t on duty, he helped defend a local orphanage from Viet Cong attacks. He was severely injured in the 1965 terrorist bombing of My Canh, the floating restaurant, but after a year, he volunteered to go back. And Frank felt he that had a job to finish, which is characteristic of every single one of these people. Sadly, he became critically ill from his original wounds and he died in Saigon in 1967.

You may read the full text of the remarks here.

The memorial plaque ceremony traditionally happens once a year, usually on the first week of May. Unfortunately, it has been the case in the last several years that a new name is added on the wall every year.

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

May 3, 2013: Foreign Affairs Day to Honor Eight Employees Killed in the Line of Duty

Via the State Dept:

Each year on the first Friday of May, the Department of State observes Foreign Affairs Day, the annual homecoming for our Foreign Service and Civil Service retirees. This day also commemorates the members of the Foreign Service who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives serving the United States overseas. Both a solemn occasion and a celebration, Foreign Affairs Day recognizes employees of foreign affairs agencies and their dedication and service as they address foreign policy and development challenges around the world.

Over 400 retirees are expected to return to the Department of State on May 3 to participate in a morning program of remarks and seminars with senior officials to discuss key foreign policy issues, with a special keynote address from Secretary of State John Kerry. Hosted by the Director General for Human Resources, the Department will also present the Director General’s Foreign Service Cup to W. Robert Pearson and the Director General’s Civil Service Cup to Janice S. Clements, both of whom have distinguished themselves in their State Department careers and afterwards in service on behalf of their communities.

Alongside the seminar program, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association and union of the Foreign Service, is hosting its annual ceremony honoring colleagues who were killed overseas in the line of duty or under heroic circumstances. Known as the AFSA Plaque Ceremony, the event centers around the plaque in the Department lobby that lists the names of 236 fallen colleagues going as far back as 1780.

This year AFSA is honoring eight individuals whose names are being added to the plaque, bringing the total to 244 names. The family and friends of these eight heroes will be in attendance as the engraving of the names of their loved ones will be unveiled for the first time. Relating events in Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s to more recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Libya, this year’s honorees on the AFSA plaque are: Anne T. Smedinghoff, J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Patrick Smith, Ty Woods, Glen A. Doherty, Ragaei Said Abdelfattah, Joseph Gregory Fandino, and Francis J. Savage.

Vice President Joe Biden will preside over the ceremony and will be joined by Secretary of State Kerry and AFSA President Susan Johnson. Finally, on behalf of President Barack Obama, the Department is conferring the Thomas Jefferson Star Awards and Medals, as well as the Secretary’s Awards, in a private ceremony the same day. This year’s Foreign Affairs Day programs are a particularly special tribute to the increasingly challenging nature of diplomacy and development.

image from afsa.org

screen capture from afsa.org

Per 22 USC § 2708a, the  Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service is awarded to any member of the Foreign Service or any other civilian employee of the Government of the United States who, while employed at, or assigned permanently or temporarily to, an official mission overseas or while traveling abroad on official business, incurred a wound or other injury or an illness (whether or not the wound, other injury, or illness resulted in death)—as the person was performing official duties; as the person was on the premises of a United States mission abroad; or by reason of the person’s status as a United States Government employee.

The first two names on this list, Francis J. Savage and Joseph Gregory Fandino died in Vietnam in 1967 and 1972 respectively. We have not been able to find anything on Mr. Fandino, but on April 18, Congressman Tom Reed of New York spoke about the late Mr. Savage in the House of Representatives:

Mr. REED. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the life of Francis J. Savage. A resident of Olean, New York, Mr. Savage served his country admirably across the world for the better part of two decades as a member of the Foreign Service and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mr. Savage’s career in the Foreign Service began with an assignment in Iceland in 1950, but he was subsequently transferred to Marseilles, France where he met his wife, Doreen. The two continued to serve across the world, specifically Greece, Trinidad, Tripoli, and Libya.

Following his tenure with the Foreign Service, Mr. Savage began to work for the USAID. It was during this time that his work took him to Vietnam as a Provincial Representative. Tragically, Mr. Savage was mortally wounded at the My Calm bombing in 1965. To honor his sacrifice, President Lyndon Johnson posthumously awarded Francis Savage with the Secretary’s Award at the White House with his surviving wife, Doreen, and two children in attendance.

It is with great privilege that I announce Francis J. Savage will be honored on May 3, 2013, Foreign Affairs Day, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. Mr. Savage’s service and sacrifice to this great nation deserves such recognition and I am proud to represent the district Mr. Savage once called home.

Mr. Reed’s statement is on the Congressional Record here.
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Barbara Robbins Memorialized in AFSA’s Plaque, Now Officially Claimed by the CIA

WaPo has an interesting piece on Barbara Robbins, a slain CIA secretary’s life and death.  She is listed in AFSA’s Memorial Plaque as a State Department employee killed in the line of duty.  Her name was apparently added in 1965.

Screen capture from AFSA’s Memorial Plaque

Last year, during the CIA’s annual memorial ceremony, then Director Leon E. Panetta paid tribute to Ms. Robbins, the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War, and the first Agency officer killed in Vietnam. Via YouTube/CIA: “CIA officer Barbara A. Robbins was killed on March 30, 1965, in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Her name was added to the CIA’s Book of honor, which lists Agency officers who died while serving their country.”

After 46 years, the CIA has now publicly acknowledged her as one of their own.

Excerpt below from the WaPo article:

The CIA director revealed only a few details about the 21-year-old woman, a secretary among spies. In the agency’s annual memorial service for employees killed on the job, then-Director Leon E. Panetta announced that a new name had been inscribed with calligraphy inside the CIA’s Book of Honor: Barbara Annette Robbins, who had volunteered to go to Saigon during the Vietnam War and died in a 1965 car bombing at the U.S. Embassy.

The private ceremony inside the agency’s main lobby last year marked the first time the CIA publicly acknowledged Robbins as one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War.
[…]
In 1961, Robbins headed off to a secretary’s school at Colorado State University and, after two years, somehow got recruited by the CIA. She wanted to combat the rise of communism. When she went to Washington in 1963, Warren said the family knew she was working for the agency. But they thought her Vietnam posting was with the State Department.
[…]
The car bomb killed Robbins, another American and several Vietnamese, and injured at least 100 more. The secretary’s name and photo were splashed across the country’s newspapers: the Washington Daily News, Stars and Stripes, the New York Daily News — all describing her as a State Department employee.

Her body was flown back to Denver, and a funeral was held April 3, 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk each sent sympathy telegrams to the Robbins family.

That year, the State Department held a ceremony honoring Robbins, placing her name on a plaque in its main lobby.

Continue reading, Barbara Robbins: A slain CIA secretary’s life and death.

Click here to view some 20 photos related to Barbara Robbins, including old State Department, US Army and family photographs.

There is another interesting item in the WaPo article.  In the late morning on March 30, 1965, the CIA secretaries inside the U.S. embassy heard loud pop-pop sounds outside. Four of them ran to the deputy chief of station’s office to peer out the windows. “The enormous thud propelled everyone backward. The iron grates and windows shot out into the office like knives. The boxy air-conditioning units blew into the offices like little bombs.”

Thirty-three years later, on August 7, 1998, in the aftermath of a truck bomb at US Embassy Nairobi, the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report cited a similar window scene: “In the several seconds time lapse* between the gunshots/grenade explosion and the detonation of the truck bomb, many embassy employees went to the windows to observe what was happening. Those who did were either killed or seriously injured.”

Domani Spero

AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony: Sharon S. Clark

Via AFSA:

The annual AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony honors Foreign Service personnel who have lost their lives while serving our country. This year’s ceremony will be held on Friday, May 4 at 10:35 a.m., in the C St. lobby of the Department of State, in front of the west plaque. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Maria Otero will pay her respects to the family of Sharon S. Clark, whose name AFSA will be adding to the plaque, bringing the total to 236.  AFSA President Susan R. Johnson will read a message from President Obama and also make brief remarks.

This year’s honoree is Sharon S. Clark.

Sharon Clark
May 17, 1953 – December 26, 2010
(Photo from Fisher Funeral Chapel)

Sharon, a first-tour Foreign Service Office Management Specialist, died on December 26, 2010 of cerebral malaria in Abuja, Nigeria. Although she is not the first member of the Foreign Service to die of cerebral malaria, we hope fervently that she will be the last.  Over twenty members of her family will be present at the ceremony.

The solemn ceremony offers us an opportunity to remember and honor all our fallen colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States, and to remind us of the dangerous and difficult conditions that our Foreign Service personnel face today in many parts of the world.  Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt gratitude go out to all their loved ones. On behalf of the family we invite you to honor Ms. Clark’s life by making a charitable donation to Africare (www.africare.org). Sharon was very enthusiastic about education and passionate about Nigeria’s women and children.

Click here for her online obituary.