1948 - 1998 50 YEARS OF UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS
THE FIRST DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD MEDALS

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES



Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961)
Second United Nations Secretary General

Dag Hammarskjöld was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 10 April 1953 until 18 September 1961 when he met his death in a plane crash while on a peace mission in Africa. With his collaborators at the time, Dag Hammarskjöld put in place the elements of peacekeeping that have served the international community throughout the cold war, and to the present day.

Mr. Hammarskjöld lost his life when his aircraft crashed en route to Ndola, in what was then Northern Rhodesia. He was on a mission to deal with the crisis created by the secession of the province of Katanga from the Congo. It was his fourth trip to the region in connection with UN operations there.

Born on 29 July 1905 in Sweden, Mr. Hammarskjöld was the son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden during World War I, and was educated at Uppsala University and the University of Stockholm. From 1936 to 1953, he rose through the ranks of the Swedish Ministry of Finance and Foreign Office to become, in effect, Deputy Prime Minister, dealing especially with economic problems and cooperation. He also served on the Swedish Delegation to the UN General Assembly from 1951 to 1953.

Mr. Hammarskjöld was unanimously appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations by the General Assembly on 7 April 1953 on the recommendation of the Security Council. He was reelected unanimously for another term of five years in September 1957.


Commandant René de Labarričre (1899-1948)
United Nations Truce Supervision Organization

Commandant René de Labarričre, a Military Observer from France in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), became the first UN peacekeeper killed in the line of duty on 6 July 1948, when the jeep he was driving hit a mine. According to a United Nations press release issued that day, he was investigating an alleged violation of the provisions of the Arab-Israeli truce in the Afoula area of Palestine.

Born on 28 January 1899 in Carcassonne, France, Commandant de Labarričre had joined the French Army as an 18-year old volunteer in World War I. He later graduated from the national military academy at Saint-Cyr and served most of his career in the Middle East. From 1926 until 1939 he held posts in Lebanon and Syria, then administered by France under League of Nations Mandate. He returned to France in 1939 and commanded a company of riflemen in World War II. He was wounded in action and taken prisoner. After the war he was promoted and took command of a battalion. In June 1948 he returned to the Middle East as Military Observer in UNTSO. In a communication on 7 July 1948, the UN Mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, informed the French Government: "Commandant de Labarričre was killed while serving the cause of peace".


Count Folke Bernadotte (1895-1948)
United Nations Mediator for Palestine

Count Folke Bernadotte played a key role in United Nations efforts to keep peace in the Middle East, and paid the supreme price for his dedicated service. In 1948, after the Security Council declared a truce in the first Arab-Israeli war, he was called upon to mediate an agreement between the sides. This led to the first United Nations peacekeeping operation, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). He was assassinated by extremists on 17 September 1948 in Jerusalem after he had completed his report to the Security Council.

The Swedish diplomat was born on 2 January 1895. As vice-chairman and later president of the Swedish Red Cross, he arranged the exchange during World War II of British and German prisoners and the transfer from German concentration camps of Norwegian and Danish political prisoners. He also acted as an intermediary between Heinrich Himmler and the Allies in Germany's first peace overture, in April-May 1945. The General Assembly appointed Count Bernadotte as UN Mediator for Palestine on 14 May 1948.


For more information, contact:
Peace and Security Section
United Nations Department of Public Information
tel. (212) 963-6840

Prepared by the United Nations Department of Public Information, October 1998