The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2017 71 REFLECTIONS Mercy Is Its Own Reward BY ANDREA KORMANN LOWE W hat itemdo you choose to save when you’re an 11-year-old Foreign Service child being evacuated from a maelstrom? What do you think when you don’t even know if your family or father will survive? When the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War broke out in 1967, a hostile mob attacked the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. My father, John Kormann, barricaded himself with his staff of nine, retreating to the inner security vault of what had previously been a bank building. He was briefly able to contact my mother to ask her to warn U.S. families and prepare to evacuate. He and his team inside the embassy then alternated between fighting off intruders as best they could and destroying confidential docu- ments. The frustratedmob turned its fury on the nearby consul’s residence (our home, and the site for receptions and other offi- cial events). Luckily our family hadmoved to the suburbs days before. Against the backdrop of my mother phoning warnings—“The war has broken out. Please keep your children and pets inside and await further instructions . . .” —I chose a family necklace, while my Andrea Kormann Lowe has been honing her diplomatic skills as the founder and, for 10 years, CEO of LPEQ Limited, an interna- tional financial trade association. She is a board director for two private equity funds. The daughter of the late FSO John Kormann, she is based in London and has two grown daughters. brothers chose comic books and a favorite toy. Embassy Evacuation The British 5th Royal Inniskilling Dra- goon Guards made numerous attempts before finally rescuing the trapped Ameri- cans from the embassy 10 hours later. They also formed an escort to get all the American and British families out of their homes and to D’Aosta Barracks prior to evacuation three days later. During the embassy siege, and at the Benghazi airfield, my father’s military experience was invaluable. While the U.S. Air Force planes from the Tennessee National Guard were en route, more than 1,000 Algerian and Egyptian paratroopers had landed in MiG fighters and troop car- riers at the airfield. My father had to make the call whether to continue the evacuation attempt, which could risk loss of life and an international incident. As I strapped myself into a paratrooper bucket seat on the military plane, the tension and distress of the departure was matched by the surreal realization that I was reliving my father’s World War II life. In the end, everyone at the embassy made it out safely. My father was given the State Department Award for Hero- ism for “calm and effective leadership as the officer-in-charge of the embassy in Benghazi.” But the action for which I ammost proud of him, and the tribute for which he will be best remembered, was a simi- larly tough decision in 1945, when he was a 20-year-old paratrooper with the 17th Airborne Division in Germany. Operation Varsity Dad was part of Operation Varsity— the single biggest one-day airborne COURTESYOFANDREAKORMANNLOWE The Kormann family on home leave in Florida with John’s mother in 1966. Back row, from left: John Kormann; his mother, Elsie Behr Kormann; and his wife, Elsa Wells Kormann. Front row, from left: Andrea, Matthew and Wells Bradford (Brad) Kormann.