AFSA is proud to maintain the memorial wall plaques in the Department of State's C Street lobby, which honor our colleagues who have given their lives in the line of duty.
The first memorial plaque, now at the west end of the diplomatic lobby of the Department of State, was unveiled on March 3, 1933 by Secretary of State Henry Stimson at the entrance of what is now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, standing next to the White House, which then housed the State, War and Navy Departments. The inscription on this plaque states: "Erected by members of the American Foreign Service Association in honor of diplomatic and consular officers of the United States who while on active duty lost their lives under heroic or tragic circumstances". The establishment of this plaque grew out of AFSA’s efforts in the late 1920s and early 1930s to establish a "Roll of Honor" naming colleagues who had died in the line of duty while serving overseas, including due to violence, natural disasters, tropical diseases, and accidents during official travel. The first name is that of William Palfrey, chosen by the Continental Congress as Consul General to France, who set sail in 1780 and was never heard from again.
Who Is Honored on the Plaques?
The first plaque honored early diplomatic and consular officers and, starting with the founding of the Foreign Service in 1924, Foreign Service officers. After World War II the plaque became open to Foreign Service personnel of all ranks. The second plaque erected in 1972 at the east end of the lobby, during the Vietnam War, carried a new inscription: "Erected by the American Foreign Service Association in honor of those Americans who have lost their lives abroad under heroic or other inspirational circumstances while serving the country abroad in foreign affairs." This phrase was interpreted to comprehend the distinctive dangers, including terrorist acts, of life and work in the Foreign Service.. In 1982, eligibility was extended to include U.S. Government employees of other agencies serving at embassies, including military personnel. However, in 2006, due to the sharp increase in the number of non-Foreign Service civilians serving abroad from agencies that have their own memorials to fallen employees, the AFSA Governing Board re-instituted the original plaque criteria. In 2011, as non-Foreign Service staffing continued to expand overseas, including in war zones, AFSA limited inscription to Foreign Service members, with the inscription of other employees only in “exceptional or heroic circumstances.” In 2014, the Governing Board eliminated all exceptions. Nine non-AFSA sponsored plaques in the C Street lobby honor other employee groups, including Foreign Service National employees who died in the line of duty. Please click here to view the criteria. If you wish to submit a name for consideration, please fill out this form.
There are 115 names on the west plaque and 135 on the east plaque, for a total of 250, as of May 2019. These Americans died in 66 different foreign countries, as well as at sea. In December 2019, after a 12-year research effort, the AFSA Governing Board approved the inscription of 48 additional names of colleagues dating back to 1794 whose deaths in the line of duty were unknown to AFSA when the original Memorial Plaque was unveiled in 1933. Until such time that additional space can be added to display those names in the C Street lobby, they are memorialized here on this virtual plaque.
AFSA owns and maintains the plaques. The AFSA Awards and Plaque Committee considers proposals for additional names and makes recommendations to the AFSA Governing Board which selects the final names for inscription, based on the criteria established by the Governing Board. AFSA organizes unveiling ceremonies in cooperation with the Department of State when new names are added. The next ceremony will take place on on a date yet to be determined in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. You may watch the 2019 ceremony by clicking here.
- Theo Horn, Awards and Scholarships Manager, (202) 719-9705.