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50th Anniversary of the Death of Dag Hammarskjöld

On 18 September 1961, 50 years ago, Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations, died in a plane crash near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, along with 15 others.   

On 13 September 2011, there was a commemoration at UN Headquarters. On 18 September 2011, Ambassador Jan Eliasson, President of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly, delivered the 2011 Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture in Uppsala, Sweden.

The UN's second Secretary-General perished in a fatal plane crash while on a peace mission to the Congo. Dag Hammarskjöld was on his fourth trip to the country, overseeing the operations of the United Nations Force in the Congo (ONUC), established in July 1960 in response to an urgent request from the Congolese government for UN military assistance.

The aircraft carrying the Secretary-General and his party took off on a 200-kilometre flight the evening of 17 September, but never arrived at its destination, or communicated with the control tower at Ndola airport. A great flash in the sky was reported to have been sighted in the early morning hours of the 18th over Rhodesian territory (today Zambia), a few miles away from the airport. A search party found the wreck of the airplane in the early afternoon and recovered 15 bodies and one survivor, Harold Julien, who died several days later of the burns he sustained.

Andrew Cordier, Chief of Staff at the time, said in a tribute to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in September 1961: "Let us not be ashamed to shed some tears over our loss, nor shrink from reflection of the void that has been created for us and the world, but let this be a part of our rededication to the task which he so nobly advanced. ... Our greatest tribute to him will be our continuing individual and collective efforts, by following his glorious example, to strengthen the edifice of peace.”

The Fallen

Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden) Secretary-General
Heinrich A. Wieschhoff (United States) Director of Department of Political and Security Council Affairs
Vladimir Fabry (Czechoslovakia) Legal Adviser with the United Nations mission in the Congo (ONUC)
William Ranallo (United States) Personal aide to the Secretary-General
Alice Lalande (Canada) Secretary to the head of the United Nations mission in the Congo (ONUC)
Harold M. Julien (United States) Acting Chief Security officer (ONUC)
Serge L. Barrau (France) Security officer (ONUC)
Francis Eivers (Ireland) Investigator (ONUC)

Swedish Air Crew:

Captain Per Hallonquist
Captain Nils-Eric Aahréus
2nd Pilot Lars Litton
Flight Engineer Nils Goran Wilhelmsson
Air Purser Harald Noork
Radio Operator Karl Erik Rosén

Soldiers of the Swedish 11th Infantry Battalion:

Warrant Officer S.O. Hjelte
Private P.E. Persson

Resources

News stories

    UN Web Services Section, Department of Public Information, United Nations 2011