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The Assassination of Ambassador Spike Dubs — Kabul, 1979

Adolph “Spike” Dubs was a career diplomat who served in Germany, Liberia, and the Soviet Union. He became a noted Soviet expert, and in 1973-74 he served as charge d’affaires at Embassy Moscow. In 1978, he was appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan following a coup d’etat which brought the Soviet-aligned Khalq faction to power.

On February 14, 1979, Dubs was kidnapped by armed militants posing as police. The kidnappers demanded the release of the imprisoned leader of their party. Hafizullah Amin’s government refused to negotiate with the militants. Dubs was then assassinated. A successor to Dubs was not named and the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. The U.S. embassy was finally closed in 1989 as security deteriorated.

Documents released from KGB archives in the 1990s showed that the Afghan government clearly authorized an assault on the kidnappers despite forceful U.S. demands for peaceful negotiations and that the KGB adviser on the scene may have recommended the assault as well as the execution of a kidnapper before U.S. experts could interrogate him. Read more

A Real Life “Thunderball”: The Day the U.S. Lost Hydrogen Bombs in Spain

The March 2009 edition of Time magazine called it one of the world’s “worst nuclear disasters.” On January 17, 1966, a B-52 bomber of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) carrying four hydrogen bombs collided with a tanker during mid-air refueling at 31,000 feet over the Mediterranean off the coast of Spain. The tanker was completely destroyed when its fuel load ignited, killing all four crew members. The B-52 broke apart, killing three of the seven crew members aboard.

Three hydrogen bombs were found on land near the small fishing village of Palomares. However, the non-nuclear explosives in two of the weapons detonated upon impact with the ground, resulting in the contamination of 490 acres. The fourth fell into the sea and was eventually recovered intact after a 2½-month-long search.

News stories related to the crash began to appear the following day, and it achieved front page status in both the New York Times and Washington Post on 20 January. Reporters sent to the accident scene covered angry demonstrations by the local residents. The incident had an eerie similarity with the recently released James Bond movie Thunderball, in which SPECTRE steals two NATO H-bombs, which end up submerged on the ocean floor of the Bahamas. Read more

Bob Strauss – “Hell, Mr. President, I didn’t even vote for you”

Ambassador Robert S. Strauss is one of the giants of Twentieth Century

American politics and diplomacy, whose service dates back to Lyndon Johnson’s first Congressional campaign in 1937. He served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee between 1972 and 1977 and served under President Jimmy Carter as the U.S.Trade Representative and Special Envoy to the Middle East. He was chosen by President George H. W. Bush to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and later Russia, in 1991 and advised and represented U.S. presidents over three administrations and for both major U.S. political parties.

Strauss founded the renowned law firm now known as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in 1945, which has grown to be one of the largest in the world. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981; the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas is named in his honor. Read more

The Missiles of October

October 14, 1962, witnessed the start of one of the most potentially devastating moments in history, when the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Photographs taken by a high-altitude U-2 spy plane offered clear evidence that Soviet medium-range missiles — capable of carrying nuclear warheads — were now stationed 90 miles off the American coastline.

Tensions between the U.S. and the USSR over Cuba had been steadily increasing since the failed April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Though the invasion did not succeed, Castro was convinced that the United States would try again, and set out to get more military assistance from the Soviet Union. During the next year, the number of Soviet advisers in Cuba rose to more than 20,000. Read more

Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History

Our web series of over 800 “Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History” captures key historical events — and humorous aspects of diplomatic life, using our extensive collection of oral histories.

Note:  These oral histories contain the personal recollections and opinions of the individual interviewed.  The views expressed should not be considered official statements of the U.S. government or the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. To read the entire interview, go to our Oral History page.

 

Blood on Ice: The 1969 Hockey Championships and Vengeance for Czechoslovakia

On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia in order to quash the liberal reforms instituted by Alexander Dubcek during the Prague Spring. Over 200,000 troops and 5,000 tanks were sent in and were able to occupy the country the very first day. The nation would have to wait another 20 years before those dreams of freedom and democracy were realized. In one of those ironies of history, Czechoslovakia and the invincible Soviet Union would face off, not once but twice, in the March 1969 World Ice Hockey Championships in Stockholm. Hundreds of thousands of Czechs would gather in Prague to bask in a small but satisfying bit of payback.

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