Dag Hammarskjöld/Premature death

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Event.png Dag Hammarskjöld/Premature death (air disaster,  assassination?,  mid-level deep event?) Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Dag death.jpg
Newly­ discovered documents revive the claim that UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was killed by South African agents backed by the CIA and MI6
Date18 September 1961
LocationZambia,  Africa

On 1 August 2016, Foreign Policy magazine reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is proposing to reopen an inquiry into allegations that his predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld was assassinated by the South African Institute for Maritime Research, an apartheid-era South African paramilitary organisation that was backed by the CIA, British intelligence and a Belgian mining company in the Congo.

The initiative follows the South African government’s recent discovery of the original documents detailing the alleged plot, dubbed Operation Celeste, that was designed to kill Hammarskjöld. Copies of the documents were first made public in 1998, when the South African National Intelligence Agency turned over a file to Desmond Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission related to the 1993 assassination of Chris Hani, the leader of the South African Communist Party.

One document, marked “top secret”, described a meeting including representatives of SAIMR and Britain’s intelligence agencies, and reported CIA director Allen Dulles as saying:

“Dag is becoming troublesome … and should be removed.”[1]

British officials quickly dismissed the [copy] documents as likely to have been Soviet forgeries.[2] The documents were also dismissed as fakes by a former Swedish diplomat, Bengt Rösiö, and both MI5 and the CIA have denied any involvement in Hammarskjöld's death. However, they bear a striking resemblance to other documents emanating from the SAIMR, when it was headed by self-styled Commodore Keith Maxwell-Annandale and forged links with both South Africa's military intelligence and the National Intelligence Service. These documents show the SAIMR masterminded the abortive 1981 attempt to depose Seychelles president Albert René, and was behind a successful 1990 coup in Somalia.[3]

On 25 August 2016, declaring "this may be our last chance to find the truth", Ban Ki-moon called for the appointment of “eminent person or persons” to pursue an investigation into the death of his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld in a mysterious 1961 air crash at Ndola in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia):

“Seeking a complete understanding of the circumstances is our solemn duty to my illustrious and distinguished predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, to the other members of the party accompanying him, and to their families.”[4]

In August 2020, Ludwig De Braeckeleer wrote:

Where is the UN Hammarskjöld inquiry going? Short answer: NOWHERE. Over the last 12 months, we have not heard one word about this investigation and all indicates that there is no real intention to solve the case.[5]

Four Inquiries

Following the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, there were four inquiries into the circumstances that led to the crash:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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).
  4. 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).[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]

Alternative theories

Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjöld at UN headquarters in July 1960

Despite the multiple official inquiries that failed to find evidence of assassination, many 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.

Exploding bullets

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.[11] 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.

Sparks in the sky

In 2014 The Guardian reported about NSA intercepts requested by the UN and that the only survivor of the crash, Harold Julien, in the few days that he lived after, told medical staff about: “sparks in the sky” shortly before the crash. This opens up the possibility that the plane was manipulated and brought down in an area where special operation units were waiting to observe the crash and kill designated survivors.[12]

"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.[13]


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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

Gunshot wound

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.[17]

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.[18]

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."[19][20][21]

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.[22]

Continuing Doubts

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.[23] In September 2013, the Hammarskjöld Commission recommended reopening of the 1962 United Nations Inquiry into the UN Secretary-General's death.[24][25]

In August 2016, commenting on the UK's reluctance to provide information on evidence that had recently come to light about the 1961 plane crash near Ndola, in what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, Susan Williams said:

“I think the British response is extraordinary. It’s very brisk and curt and evasive."

Part of that evidence was a report from a British intelligence officer, Neil Ritchie, who was in the area at the time of the crash and who was trying to organise a meeting between Hammarskjöld and a rebel leader from neighbouring Congo, where the UN Secretary-General was seeking to broker a truce:

“This was British territory and they had a man on the ground. It doesn’t make them responsible for the crash but it does indicate they knew a lot of what was going on,” Williams said, adding it was “highly unlikely” that Ritchie’s report which she found in an archive at Essex University, was the only British intelligence report coming the area at the time.[26]

1961 Telegram

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.[27]

UN Investigation Resolution

On 31 December 2014, the UN General Assembly approved by consensus Resolution 69/246 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.[28] On 6 July 2015, Ban Ki-moon announced that he had conveyed the experts' report to the President of the General Assembly recommending:

“A further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts. Such an inquiry or investigation would, however, be in a better position to reach a conclusive finding regarding the tragic events of 17 and 18 September 1961 with the benefit of the specific information requested by the Panel from the Member States concerned.”[29]

Ban Ki-moon said he would pursue the pending requests for specific information made by the Panel to certain Member States, and urged all Member States to declassify or otherwise make available any information they may have in their possession related to the circumstances and conditions resulting in the deaths of Dag Hammarskjöld and the other members of the party accompanying him.[30]

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

Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home's telegram 249 of 17 September 1961 received at 1035 hours by the Governor of Northern Rhodesia in Lusaka, Sir Evelyn Dennison Hone, announcing that UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld proposed to arrive at Ndola between 1400 and 1600 hours 17 September 1961 "subject to ceasefire".

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.[31]

The Guardian

An April 2014 article in The Guardian referred to a newly declassified diplomatic cable suggesting the aircraft could have been shot down by Jan van Risseghem, a Belgian mercenary pilot.[32]

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

Dag Hammarskjöld former UN Secretary-General

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 newseditor@wsj.com)[33]


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."


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Hammarskjold and Kennedy vs. The Power EliteArticle7 August 2016James DiEugenioPresident John F. Kennedy hears of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba's murder from UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson. Perhaps no photo from the Kennedy presidency summarises who Kennedy was, and how he differed from what preceded him and what came after him, than this picture.
Document:I am convinced! Hammarskjöld did not die in an air accidentarticle17 February 2012K G HammarThe archibishop of Uppsala opines that Dag Hammarskjöld's death was no accident.
Document:Midnight in the Congoarticle30 March 1999Lisa PeaseA probing analysis of evidence that both Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjöld were assassinated by agents of the UK and US intelligence services
Document:UN Wants to Know If Spy Agencies Hold Answer to Dag Hammarskjöld’s DeathArticle15 July 2017Alan Cowell
Rick Gladstone
After 56 years and many investigations, there is new hope that secrets lurking in Western intelligence archives could solve "the biggest whodunnit" in United Nations history: the mysterious death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld...


5star.png 17 January 2020 Terje  Should be categorized as an assassination
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  1. "UN to Probe Whether Iconic Secretary-General Was Assassinated"
  2. "Dag Hammarskjold: Was his death a crash or a conspiracy?"
  3. "CIA and MI5 linked to Hammarskjöld death"
  4. "Dag Hammarskjöld: Ban Ki-moon seeks to appoint investigator for fatal crash"
  5. "Four Years Ago — UN to Probe Whether SEC-GEN Hammarskjold Was Assassinated"
  6. "The Hammarskjöld Commission - Key Documents"
  7. "UN poised to open fresh inquiry into 1961 Dag Hammarskjöld crash"
  8. "Statement by Ambassador Thöresson on introducing draft resolution on investigation of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and those onboard his flight"
  9. "Sweden urges fresh look into Secretary-General death"
  10. "UN requests appointment of panel to probe new information on Dag Hammarskjöld death"
  11. "The Man Who Killed Hammarskjöld?"
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/13/spy-messages-solve-mystery-un-chief-death-crash
  13. P R O FCO 31/165300 Ethiopia: Annual Review of 1961
  14. "Notes for Media Briefing By Archbishop" by Desmond Tutu, Chairperson of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission, 19 August 1998
  15. "Letters Say Hammarskjöld Death Western Plot"
  16. "UN assassination plot denied"
  17. "Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead"
  18. "Gaddafi's address to UN General Assembly" 23 September 2009
  19. "Dag Hammarskjöld: evidence suggests UN chief's plane was shot down"
  20. "I have no doubt Dag Hammarskjöld's plane was brought down", Göran Björkdahl, The Guardian, 2011 Aug 17
  21. "Call for new inquiry following emergence of new evidence" The Guardian 2011 Sept 16
  22. "Flight 103: it was the Uranium"
  23. "New inquiry into Dag Hammarskjöld's death"
  24. "Judges call for reopening of inquiry into 1961 death of UN chief"
  25. "Report of the Hammarskjöld Commission"
  26. “This was British territory and they had a man on the ground. It doesn’t make them responsible for the crash but it does indicate they knew a lot of what was going on”
  27. "Dag Hammarskjöld's plane may have been shot down, ambassador warned"
  28. "Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an independent Panel of Experts"
  29. "UN Secretary-General Presses Probe Into Former Chief’s Death in 1961"
  30. "Secretary-General Conveys Report of Independent Expert Panel about Death in 1961 of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, 15 Companions"
  31. "Comments on Los Angeles Times article
  32. Document:Dag Hammarskjöld's plane may have been shot down, ambassador warned
  33. "UN Considers Reopening Probe into 1961 Crash that Killed Dag Hammarskjöld"