116. Editorial Note

Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld left Léopoldville on September 17, 1961, intending to meet Katangan provincial President Moise Tshombe in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia. His plane crashed as it approached Ndola that evening, and all aboard were killed. Telegrams from Léopoldville and Salisbury on September 18 reported first that the plane was missing and later that the wreckage had been located and Hammarskjöld’s body identified. (Department of State, Central Files, 332.70G/9–1861 and 310/9–1861) A report dated January 19, 1962, by Officer in Charge of the U.N. Operation in the Congo Sture Linner (U.N. document S/4940/Add.5) is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pages 833–835.

Secretary of State Rusk, who was in New York to attend the General Assembly session, called on Hammarskjöld’s Executive Assistant Andrew W. Cordier and U.N. Under Secretary for Special Political Affairs [Page 227] Ralph J. Bunche at 1 p.m. on September 18. They stated that the plane had flown at night because of a single jet plane that had fired on U.N. forces on a number of previous occasions. According to a memorandum of the conversation, Bunche “emphasized the depradations of a single jet fighter and raised the question of how to deal with it,” and Rusk assured the group that “the United States could not stand idly by and let U.N. planes be interfered with on their missions.” (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1957)

In a report dated March 8, 1962, a U.N. Commission of Investigation into the circumstances of the Secretary-General’s death stated that it could find no evidence of sabotage, attack from ground or air, aircraft failure, or pilot error but could not exclude any of those possibilities. (U.N. document A/5069 and Add.1) Extracts are printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pages 844–847.