501.BB Palestine/9–1748: Telegram

The Consul General at Jerusalem (Macdonald) to the Secretary of State


1306. Please pass United Nations Paris for Secretary General from Bunche, Jerusalem, 17 September.

Following for information Security Council.

Count Folke Bernadotte, United Nations Mediator on Palestine, brutally assassinated by Jewish assailants of unknown identity, in planned, cold blooded attack in the new city of Jerusalem at 1405 GMT today, Friday, 17 September. Mediator, in Jerusalem on official tour, was en route from Government House to YMCA in a convoy of three cars, two of which were flying United Nations flags and one a Red Cross flag. Party accompanied by an official liaison officer of the Jewish forces. In the Katamon quarter of new city, well within Jewish lines, all three cars were stopped at a road block in which was parked an Israeli Army type jeep filled with men in Jewish Army uniforms all of whom got out but the driver. Two of these men, apparently recognising the Mediator’s car approached it, stood by the window and fired at point blank range. Count Bernadotte and Colonel Andre P. Serot, French Air Forces, United Nations Observer, sitting beside him in rear of car, were both hit several times, Colonel Serot being killed instantly, and Count Bernadotte having lost consciousness almost immediately, dying within a few minutes of his arrival at Hadassah Hospital, where he was driven by UN Secretariat Officer Frank Begley, who was driver of Mediator’s car at time of attack and who suffered only powder burns. General Aage Lundstroem, Chief of Staff of Truce Supervision, also seated in rear of car, miraculously escaped injury. Commander William R. Cox, United States Navy, United Nations Observer, seated in front of car also uninjured.

Dr. Bernard Joseph, Military Governor of Jerusalem and Colonel Day an, Military Commander of Israeli forces in Jerusalem immediately expressed deep regret and concern and stated their intention to hunt down assailants.

Situation in Jerusalem tense. Consulting with Truce Commission and senior observers concerning future arrangements affecting observer personnel in Jerusalem who are in constant danger.

General Lundstroem, as personal representative of Mediator and his chief of staff, carrying on with direction truce supervision work in consultation with Truce Commission and General William E. Riley, United States Marines, senior United Nations Observer.

All members of Observer Corps and United Nations Secretariat staff deeply shocked at sudden loss of their leader in this work whose high [Page 1413] integrity, tirelessness, devotion to his mission and great personal courage were inspiration to us all.

Signed Bunche.1

  1. For the statement by the Secretary of State on the assassination of Count Bernadotte and the preliminary report from the Consul General at Jerusalem on the assassination, both released September 17, see Department of State Bulletin, September 26, 1948, p. 399.

    The Consul General, on September 18, informed the Department of the “general assumption of UN observer group, this office and Jewish military authorities, that assassins were of terrorist group, L.H.Y., commonly known as Stern Gang.” (Telegram 1308 from Jerusalem, 501.BB Palestine/9–1848)

    Mr. Ben-Gurion read to Special Representative McDonald, during the evening of September 18, the orders he had given to the military commander of Jerusalem to arrest all Stern members and to seize their bases and arms. He advised also that he would present to the cabinet meeting that evening an ordinance outlawing the organization. Within 24 hours of the assassination, Israeli forces arrested 40 Stern members in Tel Aviv and 150 in Jerusalem (telegram 122, September 18, midnight, from Tel Aviv, 867N.01/9–1848).

    Acting United Nations Secretary-General Sobolev cabled the Secretary of State on September 18 that he had instructed Mr. Bunche to assume full authority over the Palestine Mission pending a decision by the General Assembly or the Security Council (unnumbered telegram from Paris, 501.BB Palestine/9–1848).