1961: Secretary-General of the UN Dag Hammarskjöld’s Mysterious Death

1961: Secretary-General of the UN Dag Hammarskjöld’s Mysterious Death
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ "Dag Hammarskjöld Medallion 1962 by Harald Salomon" by Berlin-George - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 16 September 1961
  • President Kennedy called this famous peacemaker the greatest statesman of the 20th century. Dag Hammarskjöld died a horrible death when his plane crashed in Africa.

U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died under mysterious circumstances on this day in 1961.

It has remained unknown what caused the crash of his plane in Africa. That was a peacekeeping mission due to the riots in Katanga. His plane should have landed at the airport in Ndola during the first minutes of September 18. Moise Tshombe, the leader of Katanga, was waiting for him because of the negotiations. However, the plane crashed in the woods, located fifteen kilometers from the landing site.

A total of 14 passengers died. Most of them were charred to death due to the fire which engulfed the plane, but two men fell out of plane, including Dag Hammarskjöld. He died from multiple injuries.

Allegedly, there wasn’t anything found which could explain the cause of the accident. However, there have been many theories about the cause, and some of them are something akin to conspiracy theories. Dag Hammarskjöld is the only person who was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the only U.N. Secretary-General who was killed during his mandate. President John F. Kennedy called him the greatest statesman of the 20th century.

The book he was reading, The Imitation of Christ written by the famous Christian writer Thomas à Kempis, was found in his room before the fatal flight. Dag Hammarskjöld was also a man of deep spirituality. Vägmärken (Markings) is the name of the collection of his thoughts and spiritual poetry, which was published after his death. His thoughts inspire many people even today.

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