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Charles Horman

Charles Horman , an American journalist , was one of the victims of the Chilean coup of 1973 led by General Augusto Pinochet , which deposed the socialist president, Salvador Allende. Horman's case was made famous by Costa-Gavras' 1982 film Missing.


Horman was born and raised in New York City, where he attended the Allen-Stevenson School, from which he graduated in 1957. He then graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1960 and Harvard University in 1964 and worked for a number of years in the US media. In 1972, he settled temporarily in Chile to work as a freelance writer.

On September 17, 1973, six days after the military takeover, Horman was seized by Chilean soldiers and taken to the National Stadium in Santiago, which had been turned by the military into an ad hoc concentration camp, where prisoners were interrogated, tortured and executed. The whereabouts of Horman's body were presumably undetermined, at least according to the Americans, for about a month following his death, although it was later determined that, after his execution, Horman's body was buried inside a wall in the national stadium. It later turned up in a morgue in the Chilean capital. A second US journalist, Frank Teruggi, met with a similar fate.

At the time of the military coup d'etat, Horman was in the resort town of Vina del Mar, near the port of Valparaiso, which was a key base for both the Chilean coup plotters and US military and intelligence personnel who were supporting them.

While there, he spoke with several US operatives and took notes documenting the role of the United States in overthrowing the Allende government.

This discovery led to his secret arrest, disappearance, and execution. Efforts to determine his fate were met with resistance and duplicity by US embassy officials in Santiago, who knew Horman had been killed and the reason why.

Book, film, and television depictions of the case

The Horman case was made famous by the Hollywood film Missing (1982), directed by Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek as Horman's father and wife, trying to discover his fate. Horman himself was portrayed by John Shea. The film was based on a book first published under the title "The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice" (1978) by Thomas Hauser (it was later republished under the title Missing in 1982).

When the film was released by Universal Studios, Nathaniel Davis, US ambassador to Chile from 1971 to 1973, filed a USD $150 million libel suit against the director and the studio, although he was not named directly in the movie (he had been named in the book). The court eventually dismissed Davis's suit.

In season 10 of Law & Order, the episode "Vaya Con Dios" was based on this murder.

State department memo

For many years thereafter, the US government steadfastly maintained its ignorance of the affair. However, in October 1999, Washington finally released a document admitting that US intelligence agents played a role in his death.

The State Department memo, dated August 25, 1976, was declassified on October 8,

1999, together with 1,100 other documents released by various US agencies which dealt primarily with the years leading up to the military coup.

Written by three State Department functionaries — Rudy Fimbres, R.S. Driscolle and W.V. Robertson and addressed to Harry Schlaudeman, a high-ranking official in the department's Latin American division — the August document described the Horman case as "bothersome," given reports in the press and Congressional investigations charging that the affair involved "negligence on our part, or worse, complicity in Horman's death."

The memo was written while Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State.

The State Department, the memo declared, had the responsibility to "categorically refute such innuendoes in defense of US officials." It went on, however, to acknowledge that these "innuendoes" were well founded.

The three State Department officials said they had evidence that "The GOC [Government of Chile] sought Horman and felt threatened enough to order his immediate execution. The GOC might have believed this American could be killed without negative fall-out from the USG [US Government]."

The report went on to declare that circumstantial evidence indicated "US intelligence may have played an unfortunate part in Horman's death. At best it was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the GOC. At worst, US intelligence was aware the GOC saw Horman in a rather serious light and US officials did nothing to discourage the logical outcome of GOC paranoia."

After the release of the State Department memo, Horman's widow, Joyce, described it as "close to a smoking pistol." The same memo had been released to the Horman family more than twenty years earlier, but the above-mentioned paragraphs had been blacked out by the State Department. The latest version still has blacked-out passages, for reasons of "national security," but reveals more.

Additional information

See also

Chilean coup of 1973

Chilean political scandals

United States intervention in Chile1973 coup


Jeffrey Davidow




Hauser, Thomas (1978). The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Hauser, Thomas (1982). Missing. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-006453-2.

External links

State Dept. Memos regarding Horman (both the blacked-out version given to the family and the more complete version released in 1999)
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Charles Horman

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