Tribute to a Fallen Diplomat

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park. 

February 14 marks the thirty-ninth anniversary of the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph “Spike” Dubs in Kabul, Afghanistan.  On February 14, 1979, Ambassador Dubs was kidnapped while being driven through the streets of Kabul.  His captors held him in the Hotel Kabul for several hours.  Their purpose in seizing Dubs is not clear.  Ambassador Dubs died during a botched rescue attempt by Afghani forces under circumstances never fully or adequately explained by Afghan authorities or their Soviet advisors.[i]

Ambassador Dubs had a distinguished career in the Foreign Service.  The following entry from the 1974 BIOGRAPHIC REGISTER of the Department of State (the last year the register was published in unclassified form) provides the outline up to that point.  President Jimmy Carter appointed Dubs ambassador to Afghanistan and he presented his credentials there on July 12, 1978.


While the outline of his career covers all the bureaucratic bases, it does not reflect the ambassador’s achievements nor does it reveal the man.  The editors of the WASHINGTON STAR asked Warren Zimmerman, a former subordinate of Dubs at a posting in Yugoslavia and then working in the U.S. embassy in Paris, for a contribution about the ambassador.  In response, he prepared a draft under the title “Portrait of a Diplomat” that he sent to Washington in the following telegram, from the Central Foreign Policy Files (NAID 654098).

Telegram 05484, February 16, 1979. p1
Telegram 05484, February 16, 1979. p2
Telegram 05484, February 16, 1979. p3
Telegram 05484, February 16, 1979. p4
Telegram 05484, February 16, 1979. p5
Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 05484, February 16, 1979, 1979PARIS05484, p6 Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State

The WASHINGTON STAR printed Zimmerman’s column on the op-ed page of the February 19 newspaper under the title “Memories of a slain diplomat.”  As printed, the column used much, but not all, of the text in the telegram.

Ambassador Dubs is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My thanks to my colleague Jeffery Hartley for his help digging up the newspaper column.

[i]An embassy report on the death of Ambassador Dubs is in Embassy Kabul to Department of State, Telegram 01098, February 14, 1979, 1979KABUL01098, Central Foreign Policy Files (NAID 654098), 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

6 thoughts on “Tribute to a Fallen Diplomat

  1. I had never seen Warren Zimmerman’s tribute to Spike Dubs, with whom I served at Embassy Moscow in the 1960s. Spike was senior to me, and worked on external affairs in the Political section while I was on the internal side. We knew each other well, and I can only second all the good things Zimmerman wrote about him.

    As to Spike’s kidnapping and death, I recall reading a report from our Kabul embassy that his deputy had gone to the Kabul police chief and begged him not to have the police storm the hotel room where the kidnappers were holding him. But they did storm the room, and the kidnappers and our ambassador all died.

    Peter Bridges

  2. Why don’t the Archivists do a similar text blog on Ambasador Stevens murder in Benghazi? Might it be too political? Let’s see the documents.

    1. Those records are not yet in possession of the National Archives and are still with their original agencies.

    2. The National Archives does not yet hold the records of the Department of State relating to the death of Ambassador Stevens.

  3. Thanks for sharing this fine tribute to a fallen diplomat, an especially poignant remembrance as we live through a time when the value of diplomacy is seemingly unappreciated by our own government, and not understood by the American people. I joined the Foreign Service after Amb. Dubs had passed away, but it certainly sounds like he was a man with whom I would have been honored to serve.

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