Tuesday, 27 December 2016 18:51

Remembering Christian Chapman, Class of 1964

Christian A. Chapman, a U.S. diplomat who served in hot spots including Southeast Asia and survived an assassination attempt in Paris during a three-decade career in the Foreign Service, died Nov. 27 at his home in Washington. He was 95.

The cause was dementia, said his son, Hillary Chapman.

The son of an American father and a French mother, Mr. Chapman served with the Free French forces in World War II before joining the diplomatic ranks in 1950. His first assignment was as a consular officer in Casablanca during the waning days of French rule in Morocco.

He later served as an economic officer in Beirut and as an assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Iran, arriving shortly after Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was deposed in a U.S.-backed coup in 1953.

Mr. Chapman spent the late 1950s in Vietnam and then Laos, where he was chief political officer. After postings in Luxembourg, Paris, Brussels and Washington, he returned to Laos in the mid-1970s. As chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, he helped manage the crisis when demonstrators with the communist organization Pathet Lao seized control of U.S. buildings.

Back in Paris, while serving as chargé d’affaires, he survived an assassination attempt in 1981 claimed by the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions, a terrorist organization.

A gunman fired on him as Mr. Chapman left his home en route to work. The bullets missed him, and he escaped unharmed. “I had a luncheon date, a reception, and a dinner, and I went to all three, to show publicly that the American chargé was not cutting and running,” he later told The Washington Post.

Christian Addison Chapman was born in Paris on Sept. 19, 1921. His father taught French literature at Princeton University, and his mother was a homemaker.

Mr. Chapman grew up in Paris and New Jersey and was attending Princeton when World War II broke out. Midway through his sophomore year, he left the university and joined the Royal Air Force, fighting alongside the Free French forces.

In an interview with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, he said that he was shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans. He received French military decorations including the Legion of Honor.

Mr. Chapman returned to Princeton, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1948. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1983, later leading the Washington chapter of the Friends of Vieilles Maisons Françaises, a French-American historical preservation organization.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Anita Ioas of Washington; two daughters, Catherine Chapman-Wong of London, Ontario, and Jennifer Chapman of Washington; his son, Hillary Chapman, also of Washington; and two grandchildren.

Obituary Courtesy of The Washington Post.

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