Charles Horman (May 15, 1942 – September 19, 1973), an American journalist, was one of the victims of the American backed Chilean coup of 1973 led by General Augusto Pinochet, which deposed the socialist president, Salvador Allende after bombing the Chilean presidential Palace on September 11, 1973. Horman's death was the subject of the 1982 Costa-Gavras 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'état, 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.
In the film Missing by Costa-Gavras Horman is depicted as having spoken with several US 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.
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.
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, 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. The film was removed from the market during the lawsuit but re-released upon dismissal of the suit.
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 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.
In 2001, a Chilean Judge, Juan Guzman 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 Gen Pinochet the previous December. 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.
The judge also considered extradition proceedings for Henry Kissinger after receiving no cooperation from the ex-US Secretary of State 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 chief of staff in the Chilean army whose support for Allende and the constitution was seen as an obstacle to the coup."
- 1970 Chilean presidential election
- Operation Condor
- U.S. intervention in Chile
- Chilean political scandals
- United States intervention in Chile#1973 coup
- Memoriaviva (Complete list of Victims, Torture Centres and Criminals - in Spanish)
- Jeffrey Davidow
- Charles Horman , the good american (in spanish)
- Sept. 11, 1973: A CIA-backed Military Coup Overthrows Salvador Allende, the Democratically Elected President of Chile
- Chile and the United States:Declassified Documents Relating to the Military Coup, September 11, 1973 - National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 8
- Ad Hoc Interagency Working Group on Chile (1970-12-04). Memorandum for Mr. Henry Kissinger. United States Department of State. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch20-01.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
- "Americans Testify In Chile". Orlando Sentinel. July 18, 2001. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/keyword/horman. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Bill Vann (17 May 2002). "Chilean court reenacts stadium execution of American journalist". http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/may2002/horm-m17.shtml. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Jonathan Franklin and Duncan Campbell (June 12, 2002). "Kissinger may face extradition to Chile". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jun/12/chile.pinochet. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- "Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2002 - Chile". UNHCR. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,RSF,,CHL,,487c5243c,0.html. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- 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.
- State Dept. Memos regarding Horman (both the blacked-out version given to the family and the more complete version released in 1999)
- Missing at the Internet Movie Database