182. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland) to Acting Secretary of State Bowles 1


  • Situation Created by the Death of Hammarskjold 2
There is no provision for an Acting Secretary-General nor has the Secretary-General ever formally designated anyone as “Acting” in his absence. There is no order of precedence among the Under Secretaries-General, of which there are 13. The nationalities of these 13 are: U.S.—3 (Cordier, Bunch, Vaughn), India—1 (Narasimhan), U.K.—1 (Hamilton), USSR—1 (Arkadev), France—1 (deSeynes), China—1 (Hoo), Yugoslavia—1 (Protitch), Brazil—1 (de Sa), Panama—1 (Huertamatte), New Zealand—1 (Turner), Greece—1 (Stavropoulos). (Tab A)3 There has been a general understanding since the San Francisco Conference in 1945 that no national of one of the permanent members of the Security Council should serve as Secretary-General.
In this situation, it is proposed that the General Assembly tomorrow postpone all business except for (a) the election of the President of the 16th Session and (b) the adoption of a resolution requesting Mr. Mongi Slim (Tunisia), who is expected then to be the Assembly’s President, to undertake pending the appointment of Mr. Hammarskjold’s successor, the functions of his Office. (Tab B)4 Such action is within the powers of the Assembly. This procedure was developed in consultation with the Secretary and Ambassador Stevenson. The British are in agreement and the resolution will be introduced by Ireland. Mr. Slim, of all those previously mentioned as possible [Page 390] successors to Mr. Hammarskjold when his term expires in 1963, is by far the most acceptable from the United States standpoint (Tab C).
It would obviously be impossible in fact for one man to perform all of the duties of Assembly President and also of Secretary-General. However, the Assembly’s rules of procedure provide for the election of 13 vice presidents and that the President, whenever he is unable to preside, “shall appoint one of the Vice Presidents to take his place.” So far as can be determined at this juncture before the elections are held Wednesday, the Vice Presidents will be: the five permanent members of the Security Council, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ghana, Niger, Cyprus, Netherlands, Greece, and an East European. Again, under the general understanding at the San Francisco Conference, it is unlikely that one of the five permanent members would be asked to serve.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, United Nations (General), 9/61, Box 310. Secret. Drafted by Virginia F. Hartley on September 18, and concurred in by Leonard C. Meeker (L).
  2. Regarding the death of Secretary-General Hammarskjold in a plane crash near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, on September 17, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XX, Document 116.
  3. The tabs are not printed. The titles of the 13 Under Secretaries-General were: Executive Assistant and General Assembly Affairs (Cordier), Special Political Affairs (Bunche), and General Services (Vaughn); Special Political Affairs (Narasimhan); Director of Personnel (Hamilton); Political and Security Council Affairs (Arkadev); ECOSOC Affairs (de Seynes); Conference Services (Hoo); Trusteeship Affairs (Protich); Public Information (de Sa); Commissioner for Technical Assistance (Huertematte); Controller of the Budget (Turner); and Legal Counsel (Stavropoulos).
  4. The draft resolution reads: “The General Assembly: Records with sorrow the tragic death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in the service of the United Nations; Decides to invite M. Mongi Slim, President of the Sixteenth Regular Session of the General Assembly, to undertake provisionally the functions of Secretary-General pending the appointment of a Secretary-General.”