Was plane carrying UN Secretary General shot down in 1961?
August 22, 2011 2 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On September 17, 1961, a Douglas DC-6 transport aircraft carrying United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld crashed in the British-administered territory of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). The crash killed everyone onboard, except one passenger, who died hours later. Three successive investigations into the crash, conducted by the Rhodesian Board of Investigation, the Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and the United Nations Commission of Investigation, viewed “pilot error” as the most likely cause of the tragedy. Göran Björkdahl, a Swedish aid worker with Sweden’s International Development Cooperation Agency, who is stationed in Burkina Faso, has spent three years researching Hammarskjöld’s death. He has produced a report with his findings, in which he cites interviews with several witnesses of the crash, who are still living. He says that, according to the evidence he has amassed, he has “no doubt” Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane was “shot down by an unidentified second plane”. In an article published in British quality broadsheet The Guardian, Björkdahl also claims that the only survivor of the downed DC-6, American sergeant Harold Julian, who was a member of the UN Secretary General’s security detail, was abandoned to die of his injuries at a makeshift hospital in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia. Björkdahl’s claim is based on his interview with colonial medical practitioner Mark Lowenthal, who tried to treat Julian in the hours following the airplane’s crash. Moreover, Björkdahl alleges that British colonial authorities in Northern Rhodesia were eager to cover up the details of the incident, and went out of their way to intimidate local villagers who witnessed the crash, and to downplay witness testimony suggesting that the Douglas DC-6 may have been shot down. According to Björkdahl’s theory, Hammarskjöld, who was probably the most independent-minded Secretary General in the history of the UN, had angered almost every major power in the world, including the Soviet Union, the United States, and Britain. The latter objected to Hammarskjöld’s fierce support for African decolonization, which made him immensely popular among developing nations, and practically assured his re-election in the voting that would have taken place just months after his untimely death. On the day he died, he was flying to Congo’s mineral-rich Katanga region to meet with European-supported chieftains who in 1960 had seceded from the Marxist government of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Ironically, Lumumba had been assassinated in a CIA-sponsored coup exactly eight months before Hammarskjöld’s death. The Guardian, verified Björkdahl’s claims by interviewing several of the witnesses to the airplane crash, who are still living. The paper also contacted the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s in-house historians, who refused to comment on the story.