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Charles Horman


Charles Horman

Charles Horman
Born Charles Edmund Lazar Horman
(1942-05-15)May 15, 1942
New York City, U.S.
Died September 19, 1973(1973-09-19) (aged 31)
Santiago de Chile
Occupation Journalist, writer
Spouse(s) Joyce Horman
Parent(s) Elizabeth Horman (mother)
Edmund Horman (father)

Charles Edmund Lazar Horman (May 15, 1942 – September 19, 1973) was an American journalist documentary filmmaker[1][2] killed during the 1973 Chilean coup d'état led by General Augusto Pinochet[2][3][4] that deposed the socialist president Salvador Allende. Horman's death was the subject of the 1982 Costa-Gavras film Missing.[1][2]

In June 2014, a Chilean court ruled that the US played a "fundamental" role in Horman's murder.[5][6]


  • Biography 1
  • Book, film, and television depictions of the case 2
  • State department memo 3
  • Chilean investigation 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Horman was born New York City, the son of Elizabeth Horman and Edmund Horman. He was an only child and attended the Allen-Stevenson School, where he was a top student in English as well as an excellent cellist; he graduated in 1957. He then graduated cum laude (top 15%) from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1960 and summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1964, where he was President of Pendulum literary magazine. Working as filmmaker at King TV in Portland Oregon, Charles conceived the short documentary "Napalm" which took an Grand Prize at the Cracow Film Festival in 1967. Upon returning to New York City Charles wrote articles as an investigative journalist for magazines in the United States such as Commentary and The Nation, and newspapers such as the Christian Science Monitor. Charles worked as a reporter in 1967-68 for INNOVATION magazine. Protested the Vietnam War at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Honorably discharged from United States Air Force National Guard 1969. In December 1971, Charles and wife Joyce left New York to journey to Chile. Charles and Joyce studied Spanish in Cuernavaca Mexico at the Ivan Illich school for a month, before proceeding southward through Central America. In Panama they sold their camper and flew to Medellin, Columbia. They arrived in Santiago in the late spring of 1972. They settled temporarily in Santiago Chile where Charles worked as a freelance writer.[2]

On September 17, 1973, six days after the military takeover, Horman was seized by Chilean soldiers and taken to the Frank Teruggi, met with a similar fate. At the time of the military coup, Horman was in the resort town of Viña del Mar, near the port of Valparaíso, which was a key base for the American and Chilean coup plotters. US officials speculated at the time that Horman was a victim of "Chilean paranoia," but did nothing to intervene. It is unlikely that Horman would have been killed without a green light from the CIA, according to papers released in 1999 under the Freedom of Information Act.[7] Efforts to determine his fate were initially met with resistance and duplicity by US embassy officials in Santiago.[2]

Book, film, and television depictions of the case

The Horman case was made into 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. In the film Horman is depicted as having spoken with several U.S. operatives that assisted the Chilean military government. The film alleges that Horman's discovery of US complicity in the coup led to his secret arrest, disappearance, and execution. American complicity in the Chilean coup was later confirmed in documents declassified during the Clinton administration.[8] The film was based on a book, first published in 1978 under the title The Execution Of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice, written by Thomas Hauser; this book was later republished, under the title Missing, in 1982.

When the film was released by Universal Studios, Nathaniel Davis, United States 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.[2] The film was removed from the market during the lawsuit but re-released upon dismissal of the suit.

In season 10 of Law & Order, the season finale episode "Vaya Con Dios" was based on this murder.[2]

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 CIA agents played a role in his death.[9] 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 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.[2]

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."[2]

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.[2]

Several other documents released in 1999 report that a Chilean intelligence officer claimed an agent of the CIA was present when a Chilean general made the decision to execute Horman because he "knew too much."[10]

Chilean investigation

In 2001, Chilean judge Juan Guzmán Tapia conducted an investigation into Charles Horman's death. Among five Americans who gave evidence was Joyce Horman, his widow who had filed a criminal suit against Augusto Pinochet the previous December.[11] The investigation included a four-hour re-enactment of the scene in the National Stadium where Horman was killed, one of 10,000 who suffered there.[12]

The judge also considered extradition proceedings for former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger after receiving no cooperation from him or Nathaniel Davis to requests from the Supreme Court of Chile. "At the time of his death, Horman was investigating the murder of René Schneider, the Commander-in-Chief in the Chilean army whose support for Allende and the constitution was seen as an obstacle to the coup."[13][14]

On November 29, 2011, a Chilean court indicted a retired U.S. military officer, Navy Captain Ray E. Davis, head of the U.S. military group in Chile in September 1973,[15] charging him with involvement in Horman's murder; Davis had driven Horman from Vina del Mar, in the coastal area where the coup was launched, to Santiago during the coup.[16] On October 17, 2012, Chile’s Supreme Court approved an extradition request for Davis concerning the deaths of Horman and Teruggi.[17] As of September 11, 2013 the U.S. has not yet been served with the extradition request.[16] Davis, secretly living in Chile, died in a Santiago nursing home in 2013.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Missing Charlie, 40 Years Later".  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Charles Horman, the good American (in Spanish)
  3. ^ Sept. 11, 1973: A CIA-backed Military Coup Overthrows Salvador Allende, the Democratically Elected President of Chile
  4. ^ Chile and the United States:Declassified Documents Relating to the Military Coup, September 11, 1973 - National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 8
  5. ^ Chilean Court Rules U.S. Had Key Role in 1973 Killings of 2 Americans. Democracy Now! 1 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  6. ^ Pascale Bonnefoy (30 June 2014). Chilean Court Rules U.S. Had Role in Murders. The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  7. ^ "U.S. Victims of Chile's Coup: The Uncensored File".  
  8. ^ Ad Hoc Interagency Working Group on Chile (1970-12-04). "Memorandum for Mr. Henry Kissinger". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  9. ^ "State Department Release on Chile Shows Suspicions of CIA Involvement in Charles Horman "Missing" Case", George Washington University. October 8, 1999. Accessed June 8, 2011
  10. ^  
  11. ^ "Americans Testify In Chile". Orlando Sentinel. July 18, 2001. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  12. ^ Bill Vann (17 May 2002). "Chilean court reenacts stadium execution of American journalist". Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  13. ^ Jonathan Franklin and Duncan Campbell (June 12, 2002). "Kissinger may face extradition to Chile". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  14. ^ "Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2002 - Chile". UNHCR. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  15. ^ Helmore, Edward (8 September 2013). "Widow of Missing's Chilean coup victim carries on her fight for justice". The Observer. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Horman, Joyce (11 September 2013). "Justice for Charles Horman – and the truth about the US and Chile's coup". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "Chile OK's extradition bid for ex-US Navy officer".  
  18. ^ Chilean court links US intelligence to 1973 killings of two Americans. The Guardian, 1 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  • 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

  • Charles Horman Truth Foundation
  • State Dept. Memos regarding Horman (both the blacked-out version given to the family and the more complete version released in 1999)
  • Was U.S. Journalist Charles Horman Killed by Chile’s Coup Regime With Aid of His Own Government? (interview with widow Joyce Horman)
  • Missing at the Internet Movie Database
  • Court sentences two Chileans, indicts US in the 1973 murder of Charles Horman. World Socialist Web Site. 30 January 2015.
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