(diplomat, economist, author)
|Born||29 July 1905|
|Died||18 September 1961 (Age 56)|
|Victim of||premature death|
|Interest of||Hammarskjöld Commission, Susan Williams|
|Wikipedia page||Dag Hammarskjöld|
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961. On the night of 17-18 September 1961, in the course of a UN mission to try to bring peace to the former Belgian Congo, Dag Hammarskjöld’s Swedish-owned and crewed plane crashed near Ndola airport in the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). All the passengers and crew died. The open verdict reached by a UN Commission of Inquiry in 1961-62 led to UN General Assembly Resolution 1759 (XVII) of 26 October 1962, which requests the Secretary-General to inform UNGA of "any new evidence which may come to his attention".
In 1953 Dag Hammarskjöld's Norwegian predecessor, Trygve Lie, told him: "You are about to take over the most impossible job on earth." During the McCarthy witch-hunts he threw J Edgar Hoover's FBI out of the UN building. He created the UN Emergency Force during the Suez crisis and secured a temporary resolution of the conflict: both the Egyptian President Nasser and Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion trusted him. Significant to this day, he insisted on UN linkage and oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Dag Hammarskjöld who was described by John F Kennedy as "the greatest statesman of the 20th century" was a master of sentences as well as situations, and composed an even better epitaph for himself: "We are not permitted," Hammarskjöld wrote prophetically, "to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours. He who wills adventure will experience it – according to the measure of his courage. He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed – according to the measure of his purity of heart."
A 2011 book by the author Dr Susan Williams entitled "Who Killed Hammarskjöld?", which assembled a great deal of evidence about the crash and argued that the plane was brought down, prompted the diplomat's nephew Knut Hammarskjöld to call for the United Nations to reopen its Inquiry. In September 2013, the Hammarskjöld Commission recommended reopening of the 1962 United Nations Inquiry into the UN Secretary-General's death.
In November 2013, an e-petition was created calling upon the British Government to: "Support a United Nations Inquiry into the deaths of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson". On 4 April 2014, Julian Borger, diplomatic editor of The Guardian, reported that a newly declassified 1961 telegram called for the grounding of a Belgian mercenary (Jan van Risseghem) hours after the UN Secretary-General's aircraft crashed in Africa. On 29 April 2014, an e-petition was created and addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Take action to investigate the deaths of UN Officials Dag Hammarskjöld and Bernt Carlsson!"
On 31 December 2014, the UN General Assembly approved by consensus a Resolution that requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an Independent Panel of Experts to examine the new information that has emerged on the death of former UN chief Dag Hammarskjöld.
- 1 Early life
- 2 UN Secretary-General
- 3 Death
- 4 Four Inquiries
- 5 Alternative theories
- 6 Hammarskjöld Commission
- 7 Dual UN Inquiry
- 8 Honours
- 9 Legacy
- 10 Spirituality and Markings
- 11 Related Documents
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Dag Hammarskjöld was born in Jönköping, Sweden, but spent most of his childhood in Uppsala. The fourth and youngest son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden from 1914 to 1917, and Agnes Hammarskjöld (née Almquist), Hammarskjöld's ancestors served the Monarchy of Sweden since the 17th century. He studied first at Katedralskolan, Uppsala and then at Uppsala University. By 1930, he had obtained Licentiate of Philosophy and Master of Laws degrees. Even before he was finished with his law degree he got a job as assistant secretary of the unemployment committee.
From 1930 to 1934, Hammarskjöld was Secretary on a governmental committee on unemployment. During this time he wrote his economics thesis, "Konjunkturspridningen" ("The Spread of the Business Cycle"), and received a doctorate from Stockholm University. In 1936, he became a Secretary at the Sveriges Riksbank and was soon promoted. From 1941 to 1948, he served as Chairman of the bank.
Dag Hammarskjöld quickly developed a successful career as a public servant in Sweden. He was secretary of the Riksbank (the central bank of Sweden) 1935–1941, State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance 1936–1945, Governor of the Riksbank 1941–1948, Swedish delegate in the OEEC (Organisation for European Economic Cooperation) 1947–1953, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1949–1951 and minister without portfolio in Tage Erlander's government 1951–1953. He helped coordinate government plans to alleviate the economic problems of the post-war period. He was a delegate to the Paris conference that established the Marshall Plan. In 1950, he became head of the Swedish delegation to UNISCAN. Although Hammarskjöld served in a cabinet dominated by the Swedish Social Democratic Party, he never officially joined any political party. In 1951, Hammarskjöld became Vice Chairman of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. He became the Chairman of the Swedish delegation to the General Assembly in New York in 1952. On 20 December 1954, he was elected to take his father's vacated seat in the Swedish Academy.
When Trygve Lie resigned from his post as UN Secretary-General in 1953, the United Nations Security Council recommended Hammarskjöld for the post. It came as a surprise to him. Seen as a competent technocrat without political views, he was selected on 31 March by a majority of 10 out of eleven Security Council members. The UN General Assembly elected him in the 7–10 April session by 57 votes out of 60. In 1957, he was re-elected.
Hammarskjöld began his term by establishing his own secretariat of 4,000 administrators and setting up regulations that defined their responsibilities. He was also actively engaged in smaller projects relating to the UN working environment. For example, he planned and supervised in every detail the creation of a "meditation room" in the UN headquarters. This is a place dedicated to silence where people can withdraw into themselves, regardless of their faith, creed, or religion.
During his term, Hammarskjöld tried to smooth relations between Israel and the Arab states. Other highlights include a 1955 visit to People's Republic of China to negotiate release of 15 captured US pilots who had served in the Korean War, the 1956 establishment of the United Nations Emergency Force, and his intervention in the 1956 Suez Crisis. He is given credit by some historians for allowing participation of the Holy See within the United Nations that year.
In 1960, the former Belgian Congo and then newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo asked for UN aid in defusing the Congo Crisis. Hammarskjöld made four trips to the Congo. His efforts towards the decolonisation of Africa were considered insufficient by the Soviet Union; in September 1960, the Soviet government denounced his decision to send a UN emergency force to keep the peace. They demanded his resignation and the replacement of the office of Secretary-General by a three-man directorate with a built-in veto, the "troika". The objective was, citing the memoirs of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, to "equally represent interests of three groups of countries: capitalist, socialist and recently independent."
In September 1961, Hammarskjöld learned about fighting between "non-combatant" UN forces and Katangese troops of Moise Tshombe. He was en route to negotiate a cease-fire on 18 September when his Douglas DC-6 airliner SE-BDY crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Hammarskjöld and fifteen others perished in the crash.
A special report issued by the United Nations following the crash stated that a bright flash in the sky was seen at approximately 1:00. According to the UN special report, it was this information that resulted in the initiation of search and rescue operations. Initial indications that the crash might not have been an accident led to multiple official inquiries and persistent speculation that the Secretary-General was assassinated.
Hammarskjöld's death was a memorable event. The Dag Hammarskjöld Crash Site Memorial is under consideration for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A press release issued by the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo stated that, "... in order to pay a tribute to this great man, now vanished from the scene, and to his colleagues, all of whom have fallen victim to the shameless intrigues of the great financial Powers of the West... the Government has decided to proclaim Tuesday, 19 September 1961, a day of national mourning."
Following the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, there were four inquiries into the circumstances that led to the crash:
- By the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Department of Civil Aviation, Report into the accident of 1961, chaired by Colonel Maurice Barber, Federal Director of Civil Aviation
- By the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Report of the Commission on the Accident Involving Aircraft SE-BDY, chaired by Sir John Clayden, Chief Justice of the Federation, presented to the Federal Assembly, Salisbury, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
- By the UN General Assembly, Report of the Commission of the Investigation into the Conditions and Circumstances Resulting in the Tragic Death of Mr Dag Hammarskjöld and of Members of the Party Accompanying Him, chaired by Rishikesh Shaha, 24 April 1962 (UN A/5069).
- A small-scale inquiry was conducted in 1993 by Ambassador Bengt Rösiö for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs:- Rösiö, Bengt, "The Ndola Disaster. Revised version", Stockholm, for Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (November 1992 - February 1993).
The first inquiry into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld was conducted by a Board of Investigation which was set up immediately after the crash by the Rhodesian Department of Civil Aviation. It concluded in its report in January 1962 that "the evidence available does not enable them to determine a specific or definite cause." It regarded pilot error as one of several probable causes. It considered the "wilful act of some person or persons unknown which might have forced the aircraft to descend or collide with the trees" to be unlikely but was unable to rule it out completely, "taking into consideration the extent of the destruction of the aircraft and the lack of survivor’s evidence." 75 to 80 per cent of the fuselage had been burnt.
The second was the Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, which held public hearings, and reported in February 1962. The Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry drew on the work of the Board of Investigation and identified pilot error as the cause of the crash, on the basis of elimination of the other suggested causes.
The third inquiry was set up by the UN and reported in March 1962. This reached an open verdict and did not rule out sabotage or attack. The UN Commission noted that: "the Rhodesian inquiry, by eliminating to its satisfaction other possible causes, had reached the conclusion that the probable cause of the crash was pilot error. The [UN] Commission, while it cannot exclude this possibility, has found no indication that this was the probable cause of the crash." The UN report led to General Assembly resolution 1759 (XVII) of 26 October 1962, which requests the Secretary General to inform the General Assembly of "any new evidence which may come to his attention".
In 1993 a fourth, small scale inquiry was conducted by Ambassador Bengt Rösiö for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Rösiö concluded that the pilot made an error of judgement regarding altitude.
UN Panel of Experts
On 19 May 2014, the Wall Street Journal confirmed that the UN General Assembly (UNGA) had put the Hammarskjöld case on its agenda for discussion during the current session at a date to be arranged. A Draft Resolution to reopen the adjourned 1962 UN Inquiry could then be put to a vote by the General Assembly.
On 14 December 2014, The Guardian reported that Sweden was about to present a Resolution to UNGA calling for the creation of a Panel of Experts to examine new evidence about the Hammarskjöld crash “and to assess its probative value”. The Resolution with 20 co-sponsors from around the world was expected to win overwhelming support. Annika Söder, State Secretary in the Swedish foreign ministry, said:
- “I would expect a consensus decision to be taken, so it would be passed by acclamation. I can’t see anyone being against steps for getting clarification.”
Annika Söder said there could be a delay in earmarking the necessary funds for a Panel of Experts – initially about $300,000 (£240,000). Once established, the panel could request crucial documents about the crash from the US National Security Agency and the CIA, as well as still-classified records held by the UK and other western European states. On 15 December 2014, Sweden's Ambassador Per Thöresson presented a Draft Resolution to UNGA on setting up a Panel of Experts that follows up on a report last year by the Hammarskjöld Commission. One of the key points of the text is an appeal to all Member States including the United States to release records on the circumstances of the plane crash that may have been kept secret until now.
- "This has been an open wound in Sweden for more than 50 years," Per Thöresson told Agence France Presse. "We are anxious to try to make closure."
The Ambassador said new forensics techniques could be used to examine the wreckage of the plane and that witnesses from that time have yet to be fully heard. Investigators have never had full access to records from the United States, Britain and other countries concerning the crash that occurred as Hammarskjöld was on a peace mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Draft Resolution which was eventually co-sponsored by 41 countries including Zambia and discussed by a General Assembly committee was due to return to the plenary for a vote before the end of the month. Per Thöresson said he expected strong support for the Resolution and that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could then appoint the Panel of Experts in the coming months.
- "The purpose of this Resolution is thus to help shed new light on the circumstances surrounding the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those on board his flight, not only by bringing existing documents forward, but also by providing the conditions necessary to finally hear witnesses whose testimony has so far not been given due attention," the Swedish envoy told the Assembly.
On 31 December 2014, UNGA approved by consensus a Resolution that requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a UN Panel of Experts to examine the new information that has emerged on the death of former UN chief Dag Hammarskjöld.
Despite the multiple official inquiries that failed to find evidence of assassination, some continue to believe that the death of Hammarskjöld was not an accident.
At the time of Hammarskjöld's death, Western intelligence agencies were actively involved in the political situation in the Congo, which culminated in Belgian and United States support for the secession of Katanga and the assassination of former prime minister Patrice Lumumba. Belgium and the United Kingdom had a vested interest in maintaining their control over much of the country's copper industry during the Congolese transition from colonialism to independence. Concerns about the nationalisation of the copper industry could have provided a financial incentive to remove either Lumumba or Hammarskjöld.
The involvement of British officers in commanding the initial inquiries, which provided much of the information about the condition of the plane and the examination of the bodies, has led some to suggest a conflict of interest. The official report dismissed a number of pieces of evidence that would have supported the view that Hammarskjöld was assassinated. Some of these dismissals have been controversial, such as the conclusion that bullet wounds could have been caused by bullets exploding in a fire. Expert tests have questioned this conclusion, arguing that exploding bullets could not break the surface of the skin. Major C F Westell, a ballistics authority, said: "I can certainly describe as sheer nonsense the statement that cartridges of machine guns or pistols detonated in a fire can penetrate a human body." He based his statement on a large scale experiment that had been done to determine if military fire brigades would be in danger working near munitions depots. Other Swedish experts conducted and filmed tests showing that bullets heated to the point of explosion nonetheless did not achieve sufficient velocity to penetrate their box container.
"No skeletons in British cupboard"
Sir Denis Wright, the then British ambassador to Ethiopia, in his annual report for 1961 establishes linkage of Hammarskjold's death to British refusal to allow an Ethiopian military plane carrying troops destined to join the UN mission, landing at Entebbe and over-flying British-controlled Uganda to the Congo. Their refusal was only lifted after the death of the Secretary-General. A Foreign Office official noting his comments on file, wrote affirming no "skeletons" in British cupboard and suggesting the Ambassador's comments should be removed from the final, official 'printed' version of the annual report.
MI6, CIA and BOSS
On 19 August 1998, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), stated that recently uncovered letters had implicated the British MI6, the American CIA and South African BOSS intelligence services in Hammarskjöld's aircrash. The letters, headed "South African Institute for Maritime Research" (SAIMR) — said to be a front company for the South African military — include references to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British MI6 security service. The CIA last year (1997) opened its files on Cold War assassinations and admitted it ordered the murder of Patrice Lumumba, Congolese independence hero and pro-Soviet prime minister.
In a meeting between MI6, special ops executive and the SAIMR, the following emerged from one document marked 'Top Secret':
- "It is felt that Hammarskjöld should be removed. I want his removal to be handled more efficiently than was Patrice."
Another letter headed "Operation Celeste" gave details of orders to plant explosives in the wheel bay of an aircraft primed to go off as the wheels were retracted on takeoff.
Archbishop Tutu said that the TRC, whose mandate expired at the end of July 1998, was unable to investigate the truth of the letters or the allegations that South African and/or Western intelligence agencies played a role in Hammarskjöld's aircrash. The British Foreign Office suggested that the letters may have been created in the 1960s as Soviet misinformation or disinformation.
On 29 July 2005, Norwegian Major General Bjørn Egge gave an interview to the newspaper Aftenposten on the events surrounding Hammarskjöld's death. According to General Egge, who had been the first UN officer to see the body, Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead, and this hole was subsequently airbrushed from photos taken of the body. It appeared to Egge that Hammarskjöld had been thrown from the plane, and grass and leaves in his hands might indicate that he survived the crash – and that he had tried to scramble away from the wreckage. Egge does not claim directly that the wound was a gunshot wound.
Gaddafi calls for UN investigation
In his speech to the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September 2009, Muammar Gaddafi called upon the Libyan president of UNGA, Ali Treki, to institute a UN investigation into the assassinations of Congolese prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, who was overthrown in 1960 and murdered the following year, and of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961.
Plane was shot down
In August 2011, a series of articles in The Guardian reported on an investigation by Swedish aid worker Göran Björkdahl, which concluded:
- Hammarskjöld's plane was almost certainly shot down by an unidentified second plane;
- The actions of the British and Northern Rhodesian officials at the scene delayed the search for the missing plane;
- The wreckage was found and sealed off by Northern Rhodesian troops and police long before its discovery was officially announced;
- The one survivor of the crash could have been saved but was allowed to die in a poorly equipped local hospital;
- At the time of his death Hammarskjöld suspected British diplomats secretly supported the Katanga rebellion and had obstructed a bid to arrange a truce; and,
- Days before his death, Hammarskjöld authorised a UN offensive on Katanga – codenamed 'Operation Morthor' – despite reservations of the UN legal adviser, to the fury of the US and Britain.
At the end of his investigation Göran Björkdahl is still not sure who killed Dag Hammarskjöld, but he is fairly certain why he was killed:
- "It's clear there were a lot of circumstances pointing to possible involvement by western powers. The motive was there – the threat to the west's interests in Congo's huge mineral deposits. And this was the time of black African liberation, and you had whites who were desperate to cling on. Dag Hammarskjöld was trying to stick to the UN charter and the rules of international law. I have the impression from his telegrams and his private letters that he was disgusted by the behaviour of the big powers."
It now appears that his plane was shot down in order to protect western mining interests in Belgian Congo's mineral rich Katanga province, to this day a major source of cobalt, copper, tin and diamonds - not to mention radium and uranium.
- Full article: Hammarskjöld Commission
- Full article: Hammarskjöld Commission
In 2011, Dr Susan Williams’ book "Who Killed Hammarskjöld?" was published. It offered no definite answer to its own question, but it marshalled a striking quantity of evidential material which had come to light in the intervening years. In response to Dr Williams’ book, Lord Lea of Crondall assembled an international Enabling Committee and invited Sir Stephen Sedley, a recently retired Lord Justice of Appeal for England and Wales, to chair a Commission of Jurists to inquire into the disaster. Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen of the Netherlands, Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa and Ambassador Hans Corell of Sweden agreed to serve with Sir Stephen as Commissioners.
On 9 September 2013, the Hammarskjöld Commission report was published. It recommended reopening the adjourned 1962 United Nations inquiry into the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld's death on the basis of 'significant new evidence'. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked the Commission of Jurists for their work and the Enabling Committee for its initiative in setting up the Commission. He said the UN Secretariat will closely study the findings of the Commission's report.
The Commission report resurrected a telling comment by former President Harry Truman to a New York Times reporter a day after the plane crash:
- "Dag Hammarskjöld was on the point of getting something done when they killed him," Truman was quoted as saying. When pressed to say to whom "they" referred, Truman replied: "That's all I've got to say on the matter. Draw your own conclusions."
Los Angeles Times
On 9 September 2013, Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times wrote:
- An international legal inquiry into the 1961 plane crash that killed UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld claimed Monday to have identified "significant new evidence" of possible sabotage that justifies reopening the inconclusive UN investigation done in 1962. (In this July 1960 file photo, Hammarskjöld, right, meets newly elected Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba at the world body headquarters in New York.)
Western Intelligence plot
J. von Hettlingen at 12:46 PM September 11, 2013 commented:
- Conspiracy theories about the charismatic Dag Hammarskjöld's premature death abounded in 1992. In 1998 the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission released documents that pointed to a possible international plot, involving South African security services, to kill Hammarskjöld in 1961.
- The Commission said eight letters it uncovered during its investigation into apartheid-era crimes suggested South African, British and American secret services might have been involved. Its Chairman, Desmond Tutu, revealed documents that contained references to sabotage Hammarskjöld's plane.
- The letters were said to record meetings between the South African military, the CIA and Britain's MI5. In a meeting it was felt that Hammarskjöld should be removed. One undated letter said Allen Dulles - then CIA Director - promised full co-operation.
- The documents were released because the Commission had not had time to investigate them before its mandate expired in July 1998. The documents were turned over to Nelson Mandela and his justice minister Dullah Omar, who would decide what further action should be taken.
- Cold War superpowers were jostling for influence in the Congo and Western governments weren't entirely comfortable with Hammarskjöld's conciliatory approach to the demands of revolutionary leaders, fearing their mining companies might be nationalised, should a peace agreement be reached.
Obviously, Britain killed Hammarskjöld
T Stone at 8:47 PM September 09, 2013 commented:
- "That leaves the conspiracy-minded to conclude that the danger posed by release of the materials would be to the intelligence agencies' image and legacy, fueling new suspicions that the death of Hammarskjold wasn't an accident."
- No, that leaves anyone with a 3-digit IQ and an interest in this matter to conclude that the National Security Agency has information proving that Hammarskjold's plane didn't crash "by accident".
- Factor in President Truman's comment: "The Commission report resurrected a telling comment by former President Harry Truman to a New York Times reporter a day after the plane crash."
- "Dag Hammarskjold was on the point of getting something done when they killed him," Truman was quoted as saying. When pressed to say to whom "they" referred, Truman replied: "That's all I've got to say on the matter. Draw your own conclusions."
- President Truman would have been livid if the CIA had killed the UN Secretary-General without his approval - look at how he fired General MacArthur for not following the chain of command. Yet Truman knew who did it, and couldn't say more.
- And it is still a matter of "national security" today.
- Obviously, Britain killed Hammarskjöld, the NSA has evidence, but to release it would endanger the "Special Relationship" if normal Brits learn that they killed the very 2nd Secretary-General of the institution that's supposed to bring peace to the world.
Follow the money
Of 213 comments on The Guardian article, "Follow the money" was the recommendation by commenter Eilonwy:
- There is a Belgian company called Umicore (mining/minerals/smelting) which was partly formed from the Belgian company, Union Minière du Haut Katanga (UMHK) in the late 1980s. They (UMHK) and the Belgian Government had owned one the richest sources of rare and precious minerals in the world, since just after the end of World War I - all to be found (coincidentally) in Katanga.
- Nearly 3/4 of the world's Cobalt was sourced from their mines in the Belgian Congo, in the inter-war years. This is not to mention the vast reserves of copper, tin and silver.
- More importantly perhaps, the world's richest deposits of Uranium Ore/Uranium Pitchblende, were to be found in northern Katanga. In the 1930s UMHK had, to all intents and purposes, a monopoly on Uranium ore and was thus the only source of Uranium in large enough quantities that could be practicably utilised for all sorts of projects - The Manhattan Project for example.
- Industrial concerns of this scale would be in bed with all sorts of interested parties, a veritable whore's orgy of the world's biggest industrial, political and powerful players. Why on earth would they want to give up such a financial and strategic cornucopia in the 1930s - or at any time since?
- Realistically, which world powers were going to come out fighting for poor Patrice Lumumba and the holy graal of African democracy? Certainly not Belgium, the USA, Britain (or any of her colonies, including South Africa and Rhodesia).
- There was much too much lovely money to be made and cheap, readily available necessaries to ensure a global, strategic, military edge, to bother about morals, human life and inconsequentialites like the sanctity of the United Nations.
- Maybe I'm completely wrong though!
Wall Street Journal
On 19 May 2014, the Wall Street Journal published the following article entitled "UN Considers Reopening Probe into 1961 Crash that Killed Dag Hammarskjöld" with the sub-heading "New Evidence of Possible Foul Play Has Emerged":
- The United Nations is considering reopening its investigation into the mysterious 1961 plane crash that killed then-UN chief Dag Hammarskjöld after new evidence of possible foul play emerged.
- The UN General Assembly put the case back on its agenda in March at the recommendation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after more than half a century of speculation that the Swedish diplomat's plane was either sabotaged or shot down.
- Mr Ban's recommendation came after a report by the independent Hammarskjöld Commission, formed in 2012 with the participation of South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The report in September 2013 raised the possibility the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have a tape-recorded radio communication by a mercenary pilot who allegedly carried out an aerial attack on the Secretary-General's plane.
- The NSA told the Commission that none of its searches produced any account of the events surrounding the plane crash. But it added that "two NSA documents have been located that are associated with the event," which it has decided to withhold.
- Mr Hammarskjöld was on his way to Northern Rhodesia—now Zambia—when his Swedish DC-6 airliner plunged into a forest 9 miles from the airport in the city of Ndola just past midnight on 18 September 1961.
- He had planned to negotiate a peace deal with Moise Tshombe, leader of the separatist Katanga province in the newly independent Congo. Mr Hammarskjöld opposed Katanga leaving the Congo and UN troops were fighting Katanganese mercenaries about 100 miles away as Mr Hammarskjöld was about to land.
- The UN, Rhodesia and Sweden conducted separate investigations into the crash. Sweden and Rhodesia both concluded it was pilot error. The 1962 UN investigation ended without conclusion, requesting the Secretary-General "inform the General Assembly of any new evidence which may come to his attention."
- Five decades later, Mr Ban has done just that. His request and the UN General Assembly's agreement to put it on the agenda means there will be a discussion at a date that hasn't been set yet. After that, a resolution to reopen the probe could be drafted followed by a vote.
- The Hammarskjöld Commission report based many of its findings on a 2011 book "Who Killed Hammarskjöld?" by British researcher Dr Susan Williams. "The possibility…the plane was…forced into its descent by some form of hostile action is supported by sufficient evidence to merit further inquiry," the report said. The Commission reported evidence that first came to light in the book from Charles Southall, a former US Navy commander who was working at an NSA listening post in Cyprus on the night of the crash. Both the Commission and Dr Williams spoke to Mr Southall.
- Mr Southall told the Wall Street Journal he was called to work the night of the crash by a supervisor who delivered a cryptic message, telling him to expect an important event. Their conversation took place about three hours before the crash. Later, Mr Southall said he heard an intercept of a pilot carrying out an attack on Mr Hammarskjöld's plane. He said the transmission had been intercepted seven minutes before he heard it. " 'I see a transport coming in low. I'm going to make a run on it'," Mr Southall quoted the pilot as saying on the intercept. "And then you can hear the gun cannon firing and he says: 'There's flames coming out of it. I've hit it.' And soon after that it's crashed."
- Although the Hammarskjöld Commission asked the NSA for an audio recording or a transcript of what Mr Southall says he heard, Mr Southall told the Wall Street Journal the intercept was actually made by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA couldn't be reached for comment.
- "Authenticated recordings of any such cockpit narrative or radio messages, if located, would furnish potentially conclusive evidence of what happened" to Mr Hammarskjöld's plane," the Commission's report said.
- In response to the Commission's Freedom of Information Act request, the State Department released a declassified cable found in NSA archives sent by then-US Ambassador to the Congo, Edmund Gullion, two days after the crash. "There is a possibility [Mr Hammarskjöld] was shot down by the single pilot who has harassed UN operations." He identified the pilot as Belgian mercenary Jan van Risseghem, who died in 2007.
- The Commission's report set out the geopolitical context in which powerful interests saw Mr Hammarskjöld's defence of African nationalism as a threat. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and South Africa supported Katangan independence to keep the province as a buffer against the southward wave of African nationalism, the report said.
- The Belgian mining company, Union Minière du Haut Katanga, supported independence to prevent Congolese nationalisation of Katanga's rich uranium and cobalt resources, the Commission said. At the time Katanga supplied 80% of the West's cobalt, which is widely used in batteries, jet engines and in the medical industry.
- Katanga's uranium was used in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs, and keeping the uranium from a pro-Soviet Congo was also a CIA priority, the Hammarskjöld Commission said.
- Union Minière funded the Katanga separatist government that hired hundreds of mercenaries to fight UN troops in Katanga, the Commission said.
- The possibility that the plane was shot down had been raised shortly after the crash. However, this was the first revelation that the US Ambassador at the time raised this explanation, and the first time a Belgian mercenary was identified.
- Witness accounts by residents in the vicinity of the crash site, ignored in the UN and a Rhodesian government probe, which blamed pilot error, seem to corroborate an aerial attack, the report says. Several witnesses, some interviewed by the Commission, reported seeing another jet firing at Mr Hammarskjöld's plane. The white minority Rhodesian government commission dismissed the reports as unreliable.
- An American UN security chief, Harold Julien, who survived the crash for six days, told doctors of an explosion aboard the UN plane. But this too was dismissed by the Rhodesian investigation.
- Both the book and the Commission raised questions about whether those accounts should have been dismissed.
- If the UN reopens its investigation, it could deal with unexplained details raised by the Commission's report, such as possible bullet holes in the plane's fuselage and bullets found in the bodies of several of the crash victims.
- The Commission questioned why a Norwegian UN aircrew sent to search for the plane was arrested at Ndola and why it took 15 hours to find the plane even though several witnesses spotted the wreckage at dawn and saw mercenaries and Rhodesian army and police at the site.
- The Inquiry could also investigate a report that a second mercenary pilot claimed he accidentally shot the plane down during a botched hijacking.
- Also unexplained was why Mr Hammarskjöld's body was the only one not burned and why a playing card, possibly the ace of spades, was found tucked in the collar of his bloodied shirt.
- (Write to Joe Lauria at email@example.com)
On whose orders?
WSJ commenter Gerald Hanner said:
- And the next question is: On whose orders was that pilot carrying out his attack?
- The story doesn't mention the language the pilot was speaking. That would be enlightening too.
Dual UN Inquiry
In November 2013, former diplomat Patrick Haseldine created this e-petition calling upon HM Government (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to:
- "Support a United Nations Inquiry into the deaths of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson"
- On 9 September 2013, the London-based Hammarskjöld Commission reported that there was "significant new evidence" about the plane crash that killed United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and recommended that the adjourned 1962 UN Inquiry should now be reopened.
- UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson was the highest profile victim on Pan Am Flight 103 which was sabotaged over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.
- Since Bernt Carlsson's death has never been investigated, the British Government should propose extending the remit of the new UN Inquiry to cover the deaths of both senior diplomats: Dag Hammarskjöld and Bernt Carlsson.
The e-petition was open for signature by UK citizens and residents from 13 November 2013 to 13 May 2014.
Lord Kinnock's response
- Dear Prof Haseldine,
- Thank you for your note.
- I am prepared to support the call for an UN Inquiry.
- Hammarskjöld posthumously received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, having been nominated before his death.
- Honorary degrees: The Carleton University in Ottawa (then called Carleton College) awarded its first-ever honorary degree to Hammarskjöld in 1954 when it presented him with a Legum Doctor, honoris causa. The University has continued this tradition by conferring an honorary doctorate upon every subsequent Secretary-General of the United Nations. He also held honorary degrees from Oxford University, England; in the United States from Harvard, Yale, Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Amherst College, Johns Hopkins, the University of California, and Ohio University; in Sweden, Uppsala University; and in Canada from McGill University as well as Carleton.
- On 6 April 2011, the Bank of Sweden announced that Hammarskjöld's image will be used on the 1000 Swedish krona banknote, the highest-denomination banknote in Sweden.
- After Hammarskjöld's death, US President John F Kennedy regretted that he opposed the UN policy in the Congo and said: "I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century."
- Refusal to resign: One of Hammarskjöld's greatest moments was refusing to give in to Soviet pressure to resign. Dag Hammarskjöld: "It is very easy to bow to the wish of a big power. It is another matter to resist it. If it is the wish of those nations who see the organisation their best protection in the present world, I shall do so again."
- In 2011 The Financial Times reported that Hammarskjöld has remained the benchmark against which later UN Secretary-Generals have been judged.
- In an editorial in The Guardian of 31 December 2014 Dag Hammarskjöld was reported to have said: “Everything will be all right when people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”
Spirituality and Markings
In 1953, soon after his appointment as United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld was interviewed on radio by Edward R Murrow. In this talk he declared: "But the explanation of how man should live a life of active social service in full harmony with himself as a member of the community of spirit, I found in the writings of those great medieval mystics Meister Eckhart and Jan van Ruysbroek for whom 'self-surrender' had been the way to self-realisation, and who in 'singleness of mind' and 'inwardness' had found strength to say yes to every demand which the needs of their neighbours made them face, and to say yes also to every fate life had in store for them when they followed the call of duty as they understood it."
His only book, Vägmärken (Markings), was published in 1963. A collection of his diary reflections, the book starts in 1925, when he was 20 years old, and ends at his death in 1961. This diary was found in his New York house, after his death, along with an undated letter addressed to then Swedish Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Leif Belfrage. In this letter, Dag writes, "These entries provide the only true 'profile' that can be drawn ... If you find them worth publishing, you have my permission to do so". Markings was described by a theologian, the late Henry P Van Dusen, as "the noblest self-disclosure of spiritual struggle and triumph, perhaps the greatest testament of personal faith written ... in the heat of professional life and amidst the most exacting responsibilities for world peace and order." Hammarskjöld writes, for example, "We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours. He who wills adventure will experience it – according to the measure of his courage. He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed – according to the measure of his purity of heart." Markings is characterised by Hammarskjöld's intermingling of prose and haiku poetry in a manner exemplified by the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō in his Narrow Roads to the Deep North. In his foreword to Markings, the English poet W H Auden quotes Hammarskjöld as stating "In our age, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action."
|Dag Hammarskjöld's plane may have been shot down, ambassador warned||article||2014/04/04||Julian Borger||Borger describes a recently released diplomatic cable which casts fresh doubts on the theory that Dag Hammarskjöld died an accidental death.|
|I am convinced! Hammarskjöld did not die in an air accident||article||2012/02/17||K G Hammar||The archibishop of Uppsala opines that Dag Hammarskjöld's death was no accident.|
- Durel, Bernard, op, (2002), «Au jardin secret d’un diplomate suédois: Jalons de Dag Hammarskjöld, un itinéraire spirituel», La Vie Spirituelle (Paris). T. 82, pp. 901–922.
- Lipsey, Roger Hammarskjold: A Life (University of Michigan Press; 2013) 670 pages; scholarly biography
- Urquhart, Brian, (1972), Hammarskjold. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
- Velocci, Giovanni, cssr, (1998), «Hammarskjold Dag», in Luigi Borriello, ocd – Edmondo Caruana, ocarm – Maria Rosaria Del Genio – N. Suffi (dirs.), Dizionario di mistica. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, pp. 624–626.
- "19 September 1961: UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold dies in plane crash" from The Guardian archive
- "My hero: Dag Hammarskjöld" by Timothy Mo
- "New inquiry into Dag Hammarskjöld's death"
- "Judges call for reopening of inquiry into 1961 death of UN chief"
- "Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission"
- "E-petition to: 'Support a United Nations Inquiry into the deaths of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson'"
- "Dag Hammarskjöld's plane may have been shot down, ambassador warned"
- "Take action to investigate the deaths of UN Officials Dag Hammarskjöld and Bernt Carlsson!"
- "Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an independent Panel of Experts"
- "Biography, at Dag Hammerskjoldse"
- "Hammarskjöld" by Richard Sheldon, page 28, Chelsea House Publishers, New York ISBN 0-87754-529-4
- "The Meditation Room in UN Headquarters"
- "Holy See's Presence in the International Organisations
- "Replacing the UN Secretary-General by a 'troika'" (in Russian)
- "Dag Hammarskjøld Foundation"
- "Special Report on the Fatal Flight of the Secretary-General's Aircraft"
- "The Hammarskjöld Commission - Key Documents"
- "UN poised to open fresh inquiry into 1961 Dag Hammarskjöld crash"
- "Statement by Ambassador Thöresson on introducing draft resolution on investigation of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those onboard his flight"
- "Sweden urges fresh look into Secretary-General death"
- "UN requests appointment of panel to probe new information on Dag Hammarskjöld death"
- "The Man Who Killed Hammarskjöld?"
- P R O FCO 31/165300 Ethiopia: Annual Review of 1961
- "Notes for Media Briefing By Archbishop" by Desmond Tutu, Chairperson of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission, 19 August 1998
- "Letters Say Hammarskjöld Death Western Plot"
- "UN assassination plot denied"
- "Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead"
- "Gaddafi's address to UN General Assembly" 23 September 2009
- "Dag Hammarskjöld: evidence suggests UN chief's plane was shot down"
- "I have no doubt Dag Hammarskjöld's plane was brought down", Göran Björkdahl, The Guardian, 2011 Aug 17
- "Call for new inquiry following emergence of new evidence" The Guardian 2011 Sept 16
- "Flight 103: it was the Uranium"
- "Who Killed Hammarskjöld?: the UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa"
- "Hammarskjöld Commission of Jurists"
- "The Dag Hammarskjöld Commission report"
- "Ban Ki-moon to study findings of Commission linked to death of former UN chief Hammarskjöld"
- "'Significant new evidence' cited in 1961 death of U.N.'s Hammarskjöld"
- "Comments on Los Angeles Times article
- Document:Dag Hammarskjöld's plane may have been shot down, ambassador warned
- "UN Considers Reopening Probe into 1961 Crash that Killed Dag Hammarskjöld"
- E-petition to HM Government
- "Posthumous Nobel Peace Prize"
- "Carleton Through the Years"
- "Dag Hammarskjöld: The UN Years"
- "Sweden's new banknotes and coins"
- "Dag Hammarskjöld and the Congo crisis, 1960–61"
- "UPI Audio: Year (1961) in Review"
- "The road to redemption"
- "The Guardian view on the next UN secretary general: let’s appoint only on talent"
- "Dag Hammarskjöld's Diary"
- Henry P Van Dusen. Dag Hammarskjold. A Biographical Interpretation of Markings Faber and Faber London 1967 p 5
- W H Auden Foreword to Dag Hammarskjöld's Markings Leif Sjoberg and WH Auden (trans) Faber and Faber London 1964 p 23.
- Dag Hammarskjöld archives on UN Archives website.
- Dag Hammarskjöld – biography, quotes, photos and videos
- UNSG Dag Hammarskjold Conference on 9–10 November 2011 at Peace Palace
- Video of Hammarskjöld's funeral in Pathe archive
- UNSG Ban Ki-Moon Lays Wreath Honouring Dag Hammarskjold of 1 October 2009 and UNSG with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
- UNSG Kofi Annan, Dag Hammarskjöld and the 21st century, The Fourth Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture 6 September 2001, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and Uppsala University (pdf)
- About Dag Hammarskjöld (Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation)
- United Nations Secretaries-General
- Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General at the official website of the UN
- The Nobel Prize
- Letters say Hammarskjöld's death Western plot
- Media briefing by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
- 18 September 1961 UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld is killed and BBC
- Audio of Dag Hammarskjold's response to Russian pressure From UPI Audio Archives
- ‘Who Killed Hammarskjöld?’ and the UN in Zambia
- Crash of Hammarskjöld’s Plane in 1961: ‘VIP planes don’t crash…
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