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At the heart of this book is Hammarskjöld himself – a courageous and complex idealist, who sought to shield the newly independent nations of the world from the predatory instincts of the Great Powers. It reveals that the conflict in the Congo was driven not so much by internal divisions, as by the Cold War and by the West’s determination to keep real power from the hands of the post-colonial governments of Africa. It shows, too, that the British settlers of Rhodesia were ready to maintain white minority rule at all costs.

‘This is an extraordinary story narrated here with clarity and devastating effect. Susan Williams is to be congratulated for shining a light onto a very strange and disturbing incident. The result is a gripping and astonishing read.’ Alexander McCall Smith

SUSAN WILLIAMS has published widely on Africa, decolonisation and the global power shifts of the twentieth century, receiving widespread acclaim for Colour Bar (Penguin, 2006), her book on the founding President of Botswana. Other recent books include The People’s King (Penguin, 2003) and Ladies of Influence (Penguin, 2000), as well as edited volumes including The Iconography of Independence: ‘Freedoms at Midnight’ (Routledge, 2010). She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.

9 781431 402984

ISBN 978-1-4314-0298-4 www.jacana.co.za

Who Killed Hammarskjöld?

Susan Williams argues that the official inquiry by the Rhodesian government was a massive cover-up that suppressed and dismissed a mass of crucial evidence pointing to foul play. Who Killed Hammarskjöld? follows the author on her intriguing and often frightening research, which unearthed a mass of new and hitherto secret documentary and photographic evidence.

SUSAN WILLIAMS

One of the outstanding mysteries of the twentieth century, and one with huge political resonance, is the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and his UN team in a plane crash in central Africa in 1961. Just minutes after midnight, his aircraft plunged into thick forest in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), abruptly ending his mission to bring peace to the Congo. Many around the world suspected sabotage, accusing multinationals and the governments of Britain, Belgium, the USA and South Africa of involvement in the disaster. These suspicions have never gone away.

By the author of Colour Bar: The triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation

SUSAN WILLIAMS

Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?


‘A short, taut and highly readable account of Hammarskjöld’s death that suggests strongly that the Secretary-General was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by some supporters of continued white domination in central Africa. ... This is a rivetingly good read and is exceptionally well researched.’ Stephen Ellis, Desmond Tutu professor in the social sciences, Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, and author of Season of Rains: Africa and the World

‘If you want to read a work of serious, well-researched history as exciting as a James Bond novel, this important book, which vividly conveys the tumultuous decolonisation of the Congo, is the one for you.’ Gérard Prunier, author of From Genocide to Continental War: The ‘Congolese’ Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa

‘The death of Dag Hammarskjöld is a major historical puzzle: in this meticulously researched and gripping account Susan Williams has left very few stones unturned in her attempt to unravel it. After reviewing both old and much new evidence she makes a compelling case for a fresh enquiry with full disclosure.’ James Mayall, Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations, University of Cambridge

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SUSAN WILLIAMS

Who Killed Hammarskjรถld? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

HURST & COMPANY, LONDON


First published in the United Kingdom by C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd in 2011 This edition published by Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd in 2012 10 Orange Street Sunnyside Auckland Park 2092 South Africa +2711 628 3200 www.jacana.co.za Job no. 001658 Š Susan Williams, 2011 All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-4314-0298-4 WebPDF ISBN 978-1-4314-0334-9 See a complete list of Jacana titles at www.jacana.co.za

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CONTENTS

Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations List of Illustrations Note

xi xv xix xxv

The Sixteen Dead Prologue 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19.

1 3

‘Bebop-a-lula.’ Stockholm, 2009 The Congo, 1960–61 ‘A third world war’. Katanga and Rhodesia, 1961 Mission for Peace Midnight Death in British Africa ‘They killed him! They got him!’ The White Settlers Investigate The UN Inquiry The Cha Cha Cha. Zambia, 2009 Big Business, Intelligence and Britain An American Intelligence Officer: Cyprus, 1961 High Frequency: Ethiopia, 1961 The French Connection The Hijack Hypotheses Aerial Warfare ‘Operation Celeste’ Mercenaries under Apartheid Private and Military Secrets and Lies v

17 29 43 55 67 79 89 103 115 129 139 151 161 173 183 193 207 217 229


CONTENTS

Epilogue

239

Notes Key Archive Repositories Bibliography Index

243 271 275 291

vi


For Gervase


‘The hardest thing of all—to die rightly. —An exam nobody is spared—and how many pass it?’ Dag Hammarskjöld, 1952, from Markings


THE SIXTEEN DEAD

United Nations staff Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden) Mr Heinrich A. Wieschhoff (USA), Director and deputy to the Under-Secretary, department of political and Security Council Affairs Mr Vladimir Fabry (USA), Special counsellor to the Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Operation in the Congo, l’Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) Mr William Ranallo (USA), bodyguard and personal aide to the SecretaryGeneral Miss Alice Lalande (Canada), Secretary to the Officer-in-Charge of ONUC Sergeant Harold M. Julien (USA), Acting chief security officer, ONUC Sergeant Serge L. Barrau (Haiti), Security officer, ONUC Sergeant Francis Eivers (Ireland), Investigator and security officer, ONUC Warrant-Officer Stig Olof Hjelte (Sweden), from the 11th infantry battalion stationed in Léopoldville Private Per Edvald Persson (Sweden), from the 11th infantry battalion stationed in Léopoldville

Transair crew (all from Sweden) Captain Per Erik Hallonquist Captain Nils-Eric Åhréus Second Pilot Lars Litton Flight-engineer Nils Göran Wilhelmsson Assistant Purser Harald Noork Radio operator Karl Erik Rosén Details from: ‘Special Report on the Fatal Flight of the Secretary-General’s Aircraft,’ 19 September 1961, United Nations Document S/4940/Add.5; www.un.org/depts/ dhl/dag/docs/s4940ad5ef.pdf.

1


PROLOGUE

Between ten and fifteen minutes after midnight on Monday 18 September 1961, a DC-6B aircraft crashed near the airport of Ndola, a town in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), not far from the Congo border.1 The plane had flown from Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) and was taking Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations Secretary-General, and his entourage, on a mission to try to bring peace to the Congo.2 It was reported that only one of the sixteen passengers was found alive—Harold Julien, chief of security, who died six days later. Questions were asked as strange details of the crash emerged. Given that Ndola air traffic control had seen the plane flying overhead and had granted the pilot permission to land, why did the airport manager close down the airport? Why did Lord Alport, the British High Commissioner in Salisbury (now Harare), who was at the airport, insist that the Secretary-General must have decided ‘to go elsewhere’? Why did it take until four hours after daybreak to start a search, even though local residents, policemen and soldiers reported seeing a great flash of light in the sky shortly after midnight? Why was the missing aircraft not found for a full fifteen hours, even though it was just eight miles away from the airport where it had been expected to land? What about the second plane that had been seen to follow the SecretaryGeneral’s aircraft? Why did the survivor refer to an explosion before the crash? Why did Hammarskjöld have no burns, when the other victims were so badly charred? How did he escape the intense blaze, which destroyed 75 to 80 per cent of the fuselage? Two days after the crash, the Rhodesian Federal Department of Civil Aviation set up an air accident investigation, as required by the international civil aviation authorities. The report concluded that the approach to the airport 3


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

was normal and correct, except that it was about 1,700 feet lower then it should have been. It stated that the evidence available did not allow for a ‘specific or definite cause’ for the crash, because so much of the aircraft had been destroyed and there was so little information from the single survivor. While it observed that pilot error was a possibility, it was unable to rule out the ‘wilful act of some person or persons unknown which might have forced the aircraft to descend or collide with the trees.’3 This initial investigation was followed by two major public inquiries. The first was conducted by a Rhodesian Commission, which produced its report in February 1962. It concluded that the crash was an accident, caused by pilot error.4 The second major public inquiry was conducted by a UN Commission. Unlike the Rhodesian inquiry, it delivered an open verdict on the cause of the crash when it produced its report in April 1962. It argued that, as no special guard was provided for the plane prior to its departure from Léopoldville airport,5 an unauthorized approach to the aircraft for purposes of sabotage ‘cannot be excluded’: although the doors were said to have been locked when the plane was parked at Léopoldville, access was possible to the hydraulic compartment, the heating system and the undercarriage of the aircraft. The Commission added that, ‘it cannot exclude attack as a possible cause of the crash.’ Concern was expressed at the delay in the search and rescue procedures, particularly since the plane crashed not far from an airfield on which 18 Rhodesian military aircraft, capable of carrying out an air search, were stationed.6 Controversy over the cause of the crash continued. Thirty years later, international interest was revived by a letter written to the British newspaper the Guardian on 9 November 1992 by two former UN officials, George Ivan Smith and Conor Cruise O’Brien. The heading of the letter made its contents clear— ‘Hammarskjöld plane crash “no accident”.’ In order to investigate Smith’s and O’Brien’s findings, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs authorized a further inquiry into the crash. This inquiry, which was a small-scale investigation, was conducted by Bengt Rösiö, formerly the Swedish Consul and Head of Mission in the Congo in the early 1960s and then a career diplomat in the Swedish Foreign Service. Rösiö produced a report in 1993, in which he concluded that the ‘least improbable’ cause for the crash was CFIT—‘Controlled Flight Into Terrain.’ According to this theory, the pilot made an error in judgement regarding altitude, due to a sensory or optical illusion, which made him fly too low and crash into the trees.7 Rösiö’s perception of the crash was not new, judging by a British 4


PROLOGUE

official document from October 1961. This records that after a nine day visit to Ndola, Rösiö visited the First Secretary at the British Embassy in Léopoldville and said he was ‘personally satisfied that the crash was an accident and had been due to pilot’s error.’ He then listed the reasons why Swedish experts were critical of the Rhodesian investigation. Rösiö’s purpose, reported the First Secretary to the Foreign Office in London, ‘was I believe to help us and the Rhodesian authorities … and to give us the opportunity to avert subsequent criticism, particularly by the Afro-Asians.’8 Not one of these investigations has laid to rest the continuing suspicions about the crash of the plane that ended the lives of Secretary-General Hammarskjöld and the other passengers and crew. Conspiracy theories have proliferated—in the press, in books, and especially on the internet. But, in addition, serious legitimate concerns have failed to go away, even after nearly fifty years. In 2005, Major General Bjørn Egge, a Norwegian who had been the UN’s head of military information in the Congo in 1961, with the rank of colonel, suggested that Hammarskjöld had a round hole in his forehead that was possibly consistent with a bullet hole. Now eighty-seven years of age, he explained in a statement to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that, straight after the crash in 1961, he had been sent to Ndola to collect the Secretary-General’s cipher machine and his briefcase and had been allowed to see his dead body in the mortuary. The body seemed to have a hole in the forehead: He was not burnt as were the other … casualties, but had a round hole in his forehead. On photos taken of the body, however, this hole has been removed. I have always asked myself why this was done. Similarly, the autopsy report has been removed from the case papers. Again, I ask why?

He added, ‘When I saw Hammarskjöld’s body at the hospital, two British doctors were present, but not very willing to cooperate. However, I noticed the hole in Hammarskjöld’s forehead in particular.’9 Egge qualified his statement carefully in an interview with Aftenposten ten days later: he said there was no tangible evidence that Hammarskjöld’s death was the result of a conscious act by a third party, but that circumstantial evidence pointed in this direction.10 There have been ongoing suspicions, too, about the bullets found in the bodies of two of the security guards; the presence of these bullets was attributed by the Rhodesian inquiry report to the explosions of cartridge cases in the fire. But at the time, the bullets led to considerable suspicion, expressed in particular by Major C. F. Westrell, a Swedish explosives expert. ‘From my experience,’ said Westrell, ‘I can firmly state that ammunition for rifles, heavy machine-guns and pistols cannot, when heated by fire, eject bullets with suffi5


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

cient force for the bullets to get into a human body.’ He based this statement on the results of some large-scale experiments to investigate the danger for firemen in approaching burning ammunition stores. His opinion was shared by Arne Svensson, chief of the technical department of the police in Stockholm, who said that if bullets were found in any of the victims of the air crash, they must have passed through the barrel of a weapon. He also said that if a security guard had had an ammunition pouch placed close to his body and the ammunition was exploded by the heat of the fire, the walls of the pouch would have diminished the power of the explosion. In such circumstances, it is almost impossible for the bullets to go through clothes.11 These suspicions about the bullets have persisted. Questions have also been asked about holes in the aircraft: whether or not they had been caused by bullets. One of these holes was a perforation in the nose dome, with a fracture immediately below it; this was described by the Forensic Ballistics Department of the Northern Rhodesian Police as damage caused by impact, with the qualification that it was ‘extremely difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain with absolute accuracy the cause.’ A small hole was discovered in the cockpit window frame, approximately one centimetre in diameter; after an examination by microscope, it was decided that the hole had ‘not been caused by a bullet, but most probably by an object with jagged point.’12 Some rumours relate specifically to the crash scene. According to the Northern News, the Northern Rhodesian daily newspaper, Hammarskjöld was found leaning against an ant-hill, in a seated position.13 This has been the consensus since 1961 and at the crash site near Ndola, now a memorial to Hammarskjöld, there are steps to the top of this ant-hill and a platform from which one can look out over the neighbourhood. Another rumour is that the Secretary-General survived the crash and crawled away from the aircraft, using vegetation to propel himself forward.14 *

It is important to sift through the many rumours and theories about what happened and to establish what is fact and what is myth, so far as possible. This is extremely difficult, given the passage of nearly 50 years since the crash: documentation has disappeared and key witnesses have passed away. But this difficulty was greatly diminished by the discovery of crucial archive material in the library of Rhodes House, the centre of Commonwealth and African Studies at Oxford University. This material belongs to the archive of Sir Roy Welensky, who was Prime Minister of the British territory of the Central African 6


PROLOGUE

Federation, comprising Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now independent Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi) between 1957 and 1963. The Federation had a parliamentary system but the franchise was confined to the white minority. It was under Welensky’s premiership that the Rhodesian investigations into Hammarskjöld’s death took place. Most of the relevant files have been kept secret, but the archivists at Rhodes House decided to give me access because such a long period of time had elapsed and also because the matter of my inquiry was a serious one. These files contain documentation collected in the course of the very first investigation into the crash: a medical report on the victims, including a précis of the autopsies;15 x-rays of the bodies of the dead;16 photographs of the bodies of the dead;17 plans of the crash site;18 and the firearms report.19 It is clear from the photographs, which are in black and white, that many of the crash victims are so charred as to be unrecognizable; Hammarskjöld’s body, on the other hand, has no burns at all. There are six photographs of the Secretary-General: three at the scene of the crash; three in the mortuary. In the first three, he has been moved from his place of death and is lying on a stretcher, surrounded by scrub vegetation. He is wearing a white shirt with elegant cuff-links; his drill trousers are pale, with a slim black belt. His left hand appears to be holding some leaves and twigs and his right wrist is encircled by a metal identity bracelet. Apart from some bloody marks on his face and the fact that his tie is pulled loose to the side of his neck, he looks almost immaculate and extremely dignified. There is an object—which looks like a playing card—protruding from the ruffled tie (or possibly cravat) around Hammarskjöld’s neck. It must have been this card that led to rumours at the time that the Ace of Spades—the ‘death card’—had been left on his body. It is not possible to identify the card as the Ace of Spades on the basis of the photograph, but a civilian photographer at the scene claimed years later to have seen it. ‘Yes! D. H. did have the Ace of Spades in his shirt collar—no comment,’ he recalled. ‘It was requested at that time not to mention this.’20 It is unlikely that a journalist placed the card in Hammarskjöld’s neck, since police officers ‘ensured that the Press touched nothing in the wreck.’21 In the three photographs at the mortuary, Hammarskjöld is laid out on a slab, undressed. The medical report was produced by the Rhodesian pathologists H. D. Ross and J. Hillsdon Smith, and by Squadron Leader P. J. Stevens, a British aviation pathologist at RAF Halston who was sent out from Britain. It constitutes a 7


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

‘Summary and Conclusions, with Discussion,’ rather than the formal reports of the autopsies that were conducted: in effect, therefore, it is a précis of the collected data. The full autopsies themselves are not available in the Welensky archive or in any other archive that I have investigated. This summary report was given to the Medical Board of Sweden, which appointed two Swedish pathologists, Drs A. Frykholm and N. Ringertz, to examine the findings. All this documentation is of crucial importance for any examination of the circumstances surrounding Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. However, I was aware that I did not have the skills necessary to examine and analyse this material. For help, I turned to three experts, all on the UK Register of Expert Witnesses. My first expert is a consultant pathologist: Dr Robert Ian Vanhegan, FRCPath, who has contributed to definitive textbooks and journals in his field and been a lecturer at the University of Oxford; he has twenty years experience of performing autopsies, including military and gunshot injuries. For the purpose of the Hammarskjöld investigation, Dr Vanhegan examined the summary medical report. He noted, however, that this report ‘gives only a précis of each autopsy and does not include a copy of the full report’; it was possible, therefore, that important negative findings were not included. He also examined the photographs of the body of Hammarskjöld. On the basis of the medical summary, he produced a report identifying the primary cause of death: multiple small areas of arterial bleeding within the Secretary-General’s brain and a collection of blood over the right cerebral hemisphere.22 It concludes that the Secretary-General died at the time of (or very soon after) impact, with the cessation of his blood circulation, as shown by the fact that there was minimal blood in the vicinity of his spinal and leg fractures. Substantial collections of blood would have built up had he lived. The extent of his cerebral injuries alone, as recorded in the medical report, suggests that if he had been alive for a short period of time after the crash, he would have been unconscious. Having studied the photographs closely, Dr Vanhegan discounted the belief that Hammarskjöld was holding leaves: ‘What appears to be vegetation in association with the left hand clearly is beneath the outer surface of the fingers (i.e. not held in the palm).’ This disqualifies the theory that the Secretary-General crawled out of the aeroplane with the help of leaves and twigs. There are further reasons to reject the crawling theory: there are no stains left by crushed 8


PROLOGUE

vegetation or earth on the front of his clothing, which is pale; and he had suffered a spinal cord transaction, which ‘would have left his lower limbs paralysed and made it unlikely that he would have been able to crawl.’ Moreover, it is unlikely that he would have lived long enough to crawl away from the point of impact or subsequent fire, which would have taken some time. Dr Vanhegan made an interesting discovery. In one of the photographs at the scene there is ‘a peculiar, almost circular, area of pallor associated with the right orbit’—that is, a whited-out area around the eye. This is seen again in one of the photographs at the mortuary: a peculiar circular area of sharply defined pallor associated with the right orbit, within which there appears to be an ‘abrasion’ in the region of the mid-eyebrow.

Unable to explain these areas of pallor in the two affected photographs, Dr Vanhegan offers an intriguing hypothesis: ‘This could be a crude attempt photographically to “brush out” detail.’ Presumably the extreme pallor has developed over the 50 years since the photographs were taken and then re-touched, if this is what happened. At the time, any such re-touching presumably achieved a natural effect, since there is no reference in any documentation to photographs with a marked contrast in colour around the right eye. It is not possible to compare the images showing this pallor with any other image of the right side of his face, since the right side of the face is not shown in the other four photographs. The other two photographs at the scene were taken from Hammarskjöld’s left, with the effect of obscuring the right side of the face. In the other two photographs at the mortuary, one shows the back of his head and, in the other, the right side of the face is concealed by the hand of the right arm, which is raised over his shoulder; this arm, which has rigor mortis, is not in the same position as the arm at the scene, where it is at some remove from his face. The hypothesis that these two photographs were ‘doctored’ would be consistent with Major General Egge’s concern that the Secretary-General had a round hole in his forehead, which had been removed in photographs taken of the body. In a further statement to Aftenposten, Egge stated that a Norwegian historian, Dr Bodil Katarina Nævdal, obtained a photograph of the body and had it analysed by crime scene technicians; they established that Hammarskjöld’s forehead had been touched up in the photograph.23 The theory of ‘doctoring’ would also be consistent with the experience of Knut Hammarskjöld, the Secretary-General’s nephew, who flew to Ndola immediately after his uncle’s death in 1961. The Northern Rhodesian police 9


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

gave him a set of photographs of his uncle’s body in the mortuary, which showed him with a smooth forehead; but soon afterwards, a young policeman named David Appleton discreetly took him aside and gave him another set, in a manila envelope. Appleton quietly commented, ‘You may find these interesting.’ In this set of photographs, injuries to the head were visible.24 My second expert is Peter Franks, LLB, a highly respected firearms and ballistic consultant, who is also a qualified lawyer. Mr Franks has trained military and police units around the world and is qualified to comment on all aspects of firearms, ranging from the reconstruction of crime scenes to comments on gunshot injuries. For the purpose of his evaluation, Mr Franks studied the ballistics and ammunition report written by R. H. Els for the Forensic Ballistics Department in the Northern Rhodesia Police, which looks at the firearms and 342 bullets found at the crash site and includes photographs of the firearms and ammunition recovered. Mr Franks also examined the x-rays of the bodies with bullets and cartridge fragments; the medical report where there is discussion of gunshot wounds; photographs of the deceased; and plans and photographs of the scene.25 He was conscious, however, that he was reliant on material that was second-hand, none of which he was able to check out himself; if any of this information was inaccurate, it would affect his conclusions. In the photographs of Hammarskjöld, he examined the visible injuries that might be construed as gunshot wounds and concluded that most of the wounds were produced by cuts or blunt trauma injury. The only visible injury which could be a bullet or projectile wound, is the one under the Secretary-General’s chin: ‘The wound under the chin is upon close examination elongated (oval) and not round, and whilst that does not preclude it from being a bullet wound I am not attracted to the idea that this was so.’26 Mr Franks noted that a Smith & Wesson (M12 airweight) revolver was discovered close to Hammarskjöld, which confirms the rumour that there was a revolver near the Secretary-General. It was strange, thought Mr Franks, that the revolver had been severely damaged by heat, yet Hammarskjöld himself was unaffected by the blaze. It was also strange that no weapon was found with Sergeant Harold Julien, chief of security. On the matter of the bullets in some of the victims’ bodies, which are visible in x-rays, Mr Franks does not share Westrell’s view that explosions in the fire cannot cause bullets to penetrate the body. Under normal conditions when 10


PROLOGUE

cartridges are placed on or in a fire, he said, it is usually the cartridge case that will move at high velocity when the cartridge explodes; but there are circumstances when the cartridge case is restricted, so that the bullet will be propelled out of the case at some speed. He is satisfied with the verdict of the Rhodesian police report that the penetration of bullets was the result of explosions in the fire, since the bullets have no ‘stria’—that is, rifling marks showing that they went through the barrel of a gun. But he had a number of concerns. One of these related to the injuries suffered by Serge Barrau, a bodyguard, who was severely burnt in the crash. The x-rays reveal that there were one or two cartridge percussion caps in the soft tissue of his right upper arm; a number of fragments of cartridge case in his abdomen; and a number of cartridge percussion caps in the soft tissue around the right hip. Mr Franks was at a loss to find an explanation for these injuries, since neither firearms nor ammunition were discovered in his immediate vicinity. Yet all the firearms-related projectiles in his body were percussion caps or fragments of cartridge cases—and for these small items to have enough energy to enter his body, even over a small distance, they would have had to travel at high velocity. This means that the weapons must have been nearby at the time the ammunition exploded, otherwise the objects would not have been able to penetrate the body. Since Barrau was a bodyguard, commented Mr Franks, he would be expected to have had a firearm in close proximity—‘indeed with spare ammunition— so a holster and spare rounds on his person. This would make it possible for him to have the wounds/injuries he has.’ But, he added, ‘there were no weapons or ammunition or cartridge cases or fragments.’ The only explanation he could offer was that maybe his body was moved prior to the crash site being investigated by Rhodesian police. In the case of Per Persson, a Swedish soldier, the picture is again complicated, since the bullets recovered from his body were all 9mm—not 0.38, the ammunition used by the revolver he is likely to have worn in a shoulder holster. However, the bullets could have come from other weapons found close to the soldier, which used 9mm ammunition. Mr Franks examined the plan of the wreckage and plotted the approximate location of firearms and ammunition. Generally, they were distributed throughout the length of the wreckage in an explicable manner, but with two puzzling exceptions. One of these was that the two sub-machine guns at the site, with appropriate magazines and ammunition, were discovered near the two pilots— but at some distance from the two soldiers on the aircraft, Stig Hjelte and Per 11


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

Persson. This was odd, since the sub-machine guns and ammunition would almost certainly have been issued to the two soldiers on board. A Smith & Wesson 0.38 revolver also caused Mr Franks some concern. Looking at the photograph of the revolver, showing the cylinder swung out in an open position, he noticed that there was a firing pin indent in one of the cartridges. This meant that the weapon must have been discharged and a shot fired. Franks rejected the possibility that it had been accidentally discharged, since Smith and Wesson revolvers have an in-built safety feature and cannot be fired without the trigger being pulled. ‘Not even an air crash would cause such a discharge,’ commented Mr Franks, who is an expert on the construction, components and safety mechanisms of Smith & Wesson (and also Colt). The photograph of this weapon reveals, too, that at least one of the cartridge cases was removed from its original chamber and replaced after the gun was discharged. This is evident from an indent across the primer, caused by heat forcing the cartridge case back against the recoil shield of the weapon as it discharged. The fact that this indent can no longer be matched to the shape of the recoil shield indicates its removal and replacement.27 The only possible explanation, concluded Mr Franks, was that it was removed and replaced ‘following initial inspection but prior to the photograph being taken.’ There is reason to suspect similar tampering before the photograph of a Colt official police 0.38 special was taken. The initial explosion appeared to have opened the weapon, exposing its cylinder, so that all the cartridges in the revolver appear to have exploded from heat. Yet Mr Franks could determine that one cartridge had been moved prior to being photographed and then replaced for the photograph. In the case of another Smith & Wesson revolver, one of the cartridge chambers is empty and there is no evidence in the chamber that a cartridge was blown out in the crash or the fire. Mr Franks was puzzled by this. He noted that it was common practice in the 1960s for bodyguards to leave empty the chamber under the hammer of a revolver, for safety purposes—but this was not necessary with this particular, very safe, revolver. Mr Franks’s final query relates to the variety of ammunition. He noted that on the one hand, the bodyguards carried ‘up-to-date, excellent weapons.’ But some of the ammunition that was found spread across the crash site had been discontinued just prior to the Second World War, while other ammunition was from 1951 and 1956. ‘I would have expected that such a high profile VIP, with a professional unit of body guards, would have the best equipment,’ commented Mr Franks. ‘So why would they be carrying old stock 0.38 ammunition?’ Moreover, the ammunition was mixed: ‘It is normal for ammunition to 12


PROLOGUE

be issued in a batch, so I would have expected all of them to have Winchester or Remington ammunition.’ It would be extremely strange, he reflected, ‘that the bodyguard team should use various manufacturers’ ammunition and even stranger that it is quite old. There is no real explanation for that. Nor is it very professional, because older ammunition becomes less reliable.’ On the specific issue of the holes in the aircraft, Mr Franks concluded that these were not caused by bullets. He added that the photographs are not clear, even when enlarged—but even so, at this stage he ‘would have to say no.’ Finally, although it was outside his remit, Mr Franks dismissed the theory that Hammarskjöld was found leaning against an ant-hill. He pointed out the spot on the wreckage plan showing where Hammarskjöld was found; but no ant-hill is indicated there, even though ant-hills are shown on the plan. There are other indications that he could not have been leaning against an ant-hill: there is no blood on the front of his shirt, which there would have been if he was sitting up—in such a case, gravity would have caused the blood to run down his face on to the shirt. In fact, the photographs show that the blood from his facial wounds trickled down the sides of his face, towards his ears. Mr Franks made a final point on this topic: that the Secretary-General’s right arm has rigor mortis and is lifted upwards; this would not have been possible if he was leaning against an ant-hill. My third expert is Peter Sutherst, a forensic photographic expert with over fifty years of experience, who has supplied testimony in numerous police and Ministry of Defence inquiries.28 Mr Sutherst was puzzled that there is no photograph of Hammarskjöld’s body in situ. ‘You would expect to find this,’ he told me. ‘An aircraft accident investigation ought to produce photographs to show where the bodies were found.’ For an initial investigation, it is usual procedure for the bodies to be left in situ, so that there can be an examination of where the bodies are in relation to the aircraft. Then a chart is produced showing where the bodies are— ‘but they would need pictures to verify it. In the forensic service, you put a flag to show even where a bit of body is.’ In fact, there are photographs of all the bodies in situ in the relevant file—but not that of Hammarskjöld, which was photographed only on a stretcher at the crash site, nor that of his bodyguard, Bill Ranallo. This is strange, commented Mr Sutherst, since the post mortem photographs were done professionally and all the photographs of the Secretary-General are 13


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

of high quality. The photographer was likely to have had a supply of additional film if needed and in the case of the crash scene, the photographs were evidently taken during daylight, so there would have been no need for a flash. The lack of a photograph of Hammarskjöld’s body in situ is all the more odd given that a ‘wreckage plan’ was produced to show where the bodies were found—all of them, including those of the Secretary-General and Ranallo. Mr Sutherst also noted that there was no mention in the medical report of the leaves and twigs, or of the playing card tucked into the Secretary-General’s neck. These findings, he argued, would be expected in a post mortem report; in any case, details are given of his appearance in other respects, such as his clothing. The careful observations made by my three expert witnesses dismiss some, though not all, of the myths, rumours and theories surrounding the crash and Mr Hammarskjöld’s death. It is easy to understand the origin of the theory that Hammarskjöld crawled out of the aircraft, since the photographs of his body on the stretcher appear to show him holding leaves and twigs; but it is now clear that this was an impression accidentally created by the photograph. But the experts’ observations also raise some new and unexpected questions. How did the belief develop that Hammarskjöld was found leaning against an ant hill? Where was he actually found, before being placed on a stretcher? Why was no photograph taken of his body in situ, for the purpose of the investigation? Mr Franks was struck by the anomalies in the presentation of the firearms and ammunition; he was concerned, too, that the Secretary-General’s body was close to the burnt aircraft, but not at all burnt itself; also that his briefcase and cipher machine were not even charred. ‘I could speculate forever on this,’ he commented in a note to his conclusions. ‘It does not feel right—it smells of either a cover up (for whatever reason) or just simple incompetence.’ Dr Vanhegan suggested the possibility that two of the photographs were airbrushed to conceal detail. ‘It is beyond reason,’ he noted in a discussion of the findings in his report, ‘that exactly the same sort of artefact would appear on exactly the same feature on widely separated frames (of film); and, again, even less likely had cut film or plates been used as negatives.’29 If it is the case that the photographs were ‘doctored,’ then it follows that an attempt was made to conceal some detail. But if so, what kind of detail? There 14


PROLOGUE

is no mention in the medical report of any injury in the right orbit of Mr Hammarskjöld’s face. But on the basis of the information provided by the medical report, the Secretary-General was killed by the impact of the crash—so why would there be any need to kill him? Was the evidence in the medical report altered too? Why was it decided not to include the full autopsies in the medical report? Who made these decisions? Did any person or group of people, or any organization or political party, have a reason to want Mr Hammarskjöld out of the way? What was the political background to the sudden death of the Secretary-General and the other passengers and crew on that moonlit night in the centre of Africa?

15


1 ‘BEBOP-A-LULA’ STOCKHOLM, 2009

In 1961, the year of his death, Dag Hjalmar Agne Hammarskjöld was in his mid-fifties. But he looked much younger: slim, fit and good-looking, with greyblue eyes and straight sandy-coloured hair. He was five foot nine inches but seemed taller—so that the press frequently referred to him as ‘tall.’1 He made an immediate and strong impression on everyone he met.2 When Hammarskjöld was appointed the second United Nations SecretaryGeneral in 1953, the United Nations had been in existence for just eight years. As its leader, according to one historian of the organization, he seemed ‘to restore the soul that had somehow slipped away in the UN’s first few years.’3 In the judgement of Sir Brian Urquhart, a senior UN official who worked closely with Hammarskjöld, he was that ‘most unusual of creatures, a truly good man’: His integrity was absolute. His intellect was acute and subtle. His political judgment was by no means infallible, but he erred comparatively rarely. He was alert, responsible, and sensitive.

He made ‘a new art of multilateral diplomacy,’ adds Urquhart, by his skill, stamina, and resourcefulness: ‘He gave a fresh dimension to the task of international service by the qualities of his mind and of his compassionate nature.’4 Hammarskjöld was driven by the highest standards of duty and service. He once jokingly remarked to his friend, the poet W. H. Auden, that he regarded his job as ‘being a kind of secular Pope.’5 For Dag, the work of the organization he led reminded him of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which he arranged 17


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

to be played at the UN Day concert in October 1960. ‘On his road from conflict and emotion to reconciliation in this final hymn of praise,’ explained Dag at the concert: Beethoven has given us a confession and a credo which we, who work within and for this Organization, may well make our own. We take part in the continuous fight between conflicting interests and ideologies which so far has marked the history of mankind.

Inspired by that faith, he urged his listeners, ‘we strive to bring order and purity into chaos and anarchy.’6 Not quite four months before his death, on 30 May 1961, Hammarskjöld visited Oxford to receive an honorary degree. He used the occasion to put forward his concept of an independent international civil service as the keystone of an effective global order. The Secretary-General, he argued in his acceptance speech, ‘remains under the obligation to carry out the policies as adopted by the [UN] organs; the essential requirement is that he does this on the basis of his exclusively international responsibility and not in the interests of any particular State or group of States.’ For him, this was a question of integrity, even if that integrity drove an international civil servant into positions that were in conflict with interested parties.7 Not everyone approved of this new, autonomous importance for the United Nations. Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, was suspicious of Hammarskjöld’s position of neutrality which, he said, ‘seemed almost like taking an impartial position between the principles of good and evil.’ Hammarskjöld ‘was a Swede,’ observed Macmillan condescendingly in his memoirs, Pointing the Way—‘and although we admired the Swedish people we could not forget their long history of skilful abstention from the great causes which had torn the world apart.’8 Here Macmillan was implicitly criticizing Sweden’s policy of neutrality, which had determined its stance through the Second World War. But the need for the neutrality of the UN was particularly acute, believed Hammarskjöld, in the context of the Cold War. In 1954, he attempted to use the UN to counter the American-backed toppling of the democratically elected President of Guatemala, though his efforts failed to have the effect for which he hoped.9 Under the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, the UN had been shaken and demoralized by the excesses of McCarthyism; now Dag was determined to imbue it with a new sense of purpose and commitment to the ideals of international service.10 18


‘BEBOP-A-LULA.’ STOCKHOLM, 2009

He had a sense that he was shaping the organization for the future. He was a keen advocate of ‘preventive diplomacy,’ as a strategy to influence the political decisions of individual countries. He employed this strategy for the first time as Secretary-General in 1954–5, to negotiate the release of American soldiers captured by the Chinese in the Korean War. In 1956, during the Suez Canal crisis, he exercised his own personal diplomacy to enable the UN to end the use of force by Israel, France and Britain against Egypt. In 1958, he suggested to the UN Assembly a solution to the crises in Lebanon and Jordan, which led to the withdrawal of American and British troops. In 1959, he sent a personal representative to south-east Asia when Cambodia and Thailand suspended diplomatic relations with each other.

Public service was at the core of the Hammarskjöld family’s ideals: his father, Hjalmar, had been a governor of the province of Uppsala and Prime Minister of Sweden, and his ancestors had served the Swedish crown for over two centuries. Dag, born on 29 July 1905, was the youngest of four sons—Bo, Åke, Sten and Dag—of whom three followed the path of civil service. The eldest, Bo, who was 14 years older than Dag, became the governor of one of the provinces, like his father. Åke served as a Swedish diplomat in Washington following the First World War, after which he was seconded to the League of Nations in Geneva; he was then appointed Secretary-General, and later Judge, of the Court of International Justice at The Hague. ‘From generations of soldiers and government officials on my father’s side,’ commented Dag in a radio interview with Edward R. Murrow in 1953, ‘I inherited a belief that no life was more satisfactory than one of selfless service to your country—or humanity. This service required likewise the courage to stand up unflinchingly for your convictions.’11 He was also influenced by his mother’s side of the family. From them, he explained in the same radio interview, ‘I inherited a belief that, in the very radical sense of the Gospels, all men were equals as children of God.’12 He loved his mother, Agnes, very deeply. On the day of her death he stated: ‘She had the qualities I admire most: she was courageous and good.’13 The lineage of the Hammarskjöld family is among the oldest in Sweden and Dag’s youth was spent in a sixteenth-century castle in the university town of Uppsala, forty-five miles from Stockholm. The castle was vast—with turrets, banqueting hall, dungeons and labyrinthine passages. But it was also austere, 19


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

a characteristic of his family’s life. An outstanding student, Dag moved seamlessly into a distinguished career in Stockholm in the Swedish civil service. With a PhD in economics, he ran the Finance Ministry while still in his thirties and coined the term ‘planned economy’ at the Swedish Central Bank. With his brother Bo, who had a similar role at the Social Welfare Ministry, he helped to launch the Swedish welfare state.14 He was committed to the extension of social services to the whole population of Sweden and cared deeply about social justice. His genuine concern for the vulnerable and needy did not always, though, translate into a gentle manner: he was never unkind, but his manner at times was brisk and curt. His grey-blue eyes were expressive and sparkled with pleasure when something aroused his deeply ironic sense of humour. But they could also, when he felt outraged by some unacceptable behaviour, glitter with icy disapproval.15 This was perhaps the negative side of his high-mindedness and his widely praised ‘air of detachment and imperturbability.’16 Hammarskjöld derived great satisfaction from his intellectual interests, which were driven not only by his spiritual yearning but also by a keen aesthetic sense. He had an extensive and broad range of artistic friends—from the novelist John Steinbeck to the modernist sculptor Barbara Hepworth.17 The evening before leaving for Léopoldville on 12 September 1961, he gave a small dinner party in his New York apartment on Seventy-Third Street for the American painter Ben Shahn, and Carl Nordenfalk, the director of Stockholm’s National Museum, with their wives. They discussed plans for Shahn to paint Hammarskjöld’s portrait, which Nordenfalk had been trying to arrange for over two years. ‘It was an extremely stimulating evening,’ observed Nordenfalk with satisfaction afterwards.18 But Dag was no snob: he was as happy to chat about daily life with his bodyguard, Bill Ranallo, as he was to engage in an intense analysis of poetry. According to a colleague, Dag ‘drove himself harder than any of us. He arrived precisely at the office—9.00 am I think, seldom left before 8.00 pm, never went to official cocktail parties, was at the office almost all Saturday.’ His tidiness was legendary and his walk brisk: he was a man who exemplified selfdiscipline. To one senior official, the Irish diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien, this discipline seemed to verge on rigidity: When he was talking of the tests ahead, and still more when—as I most dreaded—he engaged in his grim, Nordic rite of literary discussion, his manner was grave and regal. But when he relaxed, one was startled as if by the snap of a spring, tightly compressed and suddenly released.19

20


‘BEBOP-A-LULA.’ STOCKHOLM, 2009

He expected dedication from everyone. ‘Late every evening,’ said one of his senior officials, ‘when the debating halls were silent and the last of the delegates had folded his papers and departed, after the lights had gone out in the vast glass edifice, Hammarskjöld’s suite would be a hive of activity until the late hours.’ By 8 or 9 p.m., those with families left, but others remained to eat dinner with the Secretary-General and continue work. When there was a crisis, they worked on until well after midnight.20 Dag himself rarely had more than four to five hours’ sleep a night.21 Some of his peers found him distant. ‘Hammarskjöld, you know,’ reflected Urquhart in 1984: was not somebody one got to know very well. He was extremely aloof. I worked with him a great deal, but I never claim that I knew him at all. If you were on trips or something you would have a marvelous evening with him and he’d be simply enchanting, but the next day he would be the same old, slightly Garboesque Swede.22

But to others, he seemed warm and loving. W. H. Auden, for example, described Hammarskjöld as ‘a great, good, and lovable man.’23 Although their meetings were brief and infrequent, Auden said that he ‘loved the man from the moment I saw him. I felt certain of a mutual sympathy between us, of an expressed dialogue beneath our casual conversation. The loneliness and the religious concern which his diary records, I sensed.’24 The Australian George Ivan Smith, who handled public information issues for the UN at the highest level, was possibly the UN official who was closest to the Secretary-General, on a personal as well as work-related basis. He accompanied him on many missions as his spokesman, including his visit to the Middle East following the Suez Crisis. ‘I should have written to you long ago,’ wrote Hammarskjöld to Smith in 1956: first of all in order to thank you for invaluable assistance on all levels: as political advisor, as an incredibly skilled public relations man, as general caretaker of a sometimes somewhat helpless group, and a very fine, understanding and stimulating personal friend.25

He and Smith went on many holidays together and wrote to each other as ‘Flexible’ (Hammarskjöld) and ‘Fluid’ (Smith).26 Smith’s daughter remembers when Dag came to her family’s home in London for a cocktail party in 1957, when she was a teenager; he seemed to her gracious and ‘almost godlike,’ but kind and honest, with a genuine respect for young people.27 Hammarskjöld inspired intense loyalty and affection from his staff, which he reciprocated. Bill Ranallo, who had been with the UN since 1946 and had 21


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

been the chauffeur and bodyguard of Trygve Lie, was Dag’s constant companion. Ranallo was tough: according to a South African newspaper covering the Secretary-General’s visit to the country in January 1961, he wore dark glasses and ‘always had a tell-tale bulge over his pocket.’28 He was also intelligent, good company and tactful, excelling in all the things for which Hammarskjöld had no time or no appetite—running the household, driving and cooking. He was devoted to his boss, as was his wife. More than anybody else, they made Dag’s life as easy and as comfortable as possible and watched over him protectively. Ranallo insisted that Dag wear his identity bracelet at all times;29 the bracelet bore the inscription ‘Grateful Bill.’30 Dag spoke four languages fluently: Swedish, English, French and German. He was also, according to the English novelist C. P. Snow, who visited him at the UN in New York at the end of the 1950s, deeply fastidious. ‘Showing us to seats on the sofas,’ recalled Snow: he was as immaculate as any man I had ever seen. He was wearing a tawny brown suit, a shade darker than his hair. He had a green tie, and socks exactly matching…. One almost forgot his physique in the perfection of his attire: but he was long-headed, with Nordic grey-blue eyes, athletically built, about five feet eight or nine.31

At times Dag was criticized for his patrician background and what was seen as an excessive refinement—that he could seem, as one colleague put it, ‘like a nobly formed Ming vase among rough clay jars.’32 In the first month of his Secretary-Generalship, rumours spread across the UN Plaza and New York that Hammarskjöld was homosexual. C. P. Snow obliquely remarked: ‘People have suggested that Hammarskjöld did not become a normal [sic] man because of the overpowering personality of his father.’ (Snow sneeringly referred to ‘the famous Hammarskjöldian ambiguity’ and mocked his brilliance—‘the only man alive who can be totally incomprehensible with complete fluency in four languages’).33 Dag tackled the rumours head on, pointing out that if there was any truth in them, he could not have accepted the office, given public opinion on homosexuality and the fact that it was illegal in the US. Some attributed his permanent bachelorhood to his high level of fastidiousness and to the fact that physical contact seemed to make him uneasy; in any case, he said that marriage and the immensely demanding post of the Secretary-Generalship were ‘totally incompatible’ pursuits.34 A different kind of rumour was triggered by the posthumous publication of Dag’s poems and prose reflections, which appeared under the title of Vägmärken in 1963; the book was translated into English as Markings, although 22


‘BEBOP-A-LULA.’ STOCKHOLM, 2009

a more literal meaning would be ‘Road Marks’ or ‘Signposts.’ He described this collection of writings as ‘a diary … begun without a thought of anybody else reading it … a sort of “white book” concerning my negotiations with myself— and with God.’35 To some of those who read the introspective Markings, his spiritual searching seemed excessively intense. John Lindberg, a distinguished Swedish diplomat and the author of Foundations of Social Survival, who had been a friend of Dag Hammarskjöld when they were at school together in Uppsala, described the journal as ‘the outpourings of a lonely man of high authority; it is sad, resigned, and carries the self-imposed burden for the household of nations. It shares with the Confessions of St Augustine a deep consciousness of guilt.’36 Some suggested that Hammarskjöld’s reflections revealed suicidal tendencies and that he was responsible for his own death in some way; others believed he had a premonition of his death.37 Dag eventually found his faith as a Christian in his late forties, though he continued to suffer from a deep sense of unworthiness. He did not participate in the liturgical and sacramental life of a church; as Secretary-General, suggests Auden, he may have felt that any public commitment to a particular Christian body would label him as too ‘Western.’ But in any case, adds Auden, he gives no evidence in his diary of desiring such a commitment.38 In 1961, the year of Dag’s death, the UN was still only fifteen years old. In that short period, there had been a dramatic shift in the balance of power at the UN because of European decolonization. For with the addition of the Congo, the Afro-Asian bloc now provided 47 UN members out of a total of 100 and the West could no longer count upon automatic majorities in the General Assembly. Sixteen African states joined the UN in 1960, so that Africa itself now provided one-quarter of its membership. Conscious of the significance of this global shift, Dag travelled through Africa for a month between December 1959 and January 1960. ‘So now you’re an African,’ wrote his friend Alexis Leger—‘ahead of the rest of the planet, as usual, by half a century.’39 Dag was particularly concerned about South Africa’s policy of racial segregation, especially after the Sharpeville massacre of March 1960. Apartheid had provoked considerable friction at UN headquarters in New York, where the newly decolonized nations were demanding that South Africa be excluded from the organization. As a result, commented Bengt Rösiö, the Swedish consul in Léopoldville some years later, ‘Mr Hammarskjöld’s most vituperant oppo23


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

nents were, naturally, those who feared the end of what unquestionably was white supremacy in Africa.’40 The European colonial powers—notably Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal—were not happy about the growing influence at the UN of the newlyindependent states. The Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias looked with apprehension at the prospect of the Sixteenth General Assembly in September 1961: The real crisis will begin when the United Nations resumes its work within a few days. Then we are likely to see the fate of Berlin and Europe being decided by the fiery oratory of the leaders from Ghana and Liberia …41

In late 1961, the Earl of Home, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, commented acidly that the UN ‘was now run by the Afro-Asian bloc.’42 These new states were exerting an influence that would have been unheard of only a few years earlier. In his introduction to the UN’s Annual Report of 1960, Hammarskjöld described the states of Africa and Asia as ‘powerful elements in the international community,’ whose independent voice in the world polity was a factor to be reckoned with. The UN was to them their ‘main platform’ and protector, he said, as they ‘feel themselves strong as members of the international family but are weak in isolation.’43 The Pakistani delegate to the UN was grateful for this support. ‘Your position was different to that of your predecessor,’ he wrote in a letter to Dag in February 1961, referring to Trygve Lie. This, he said, was ‘because in your case, small nations (who composed the majority in the United Nations) stood behind you and viewed you as their friend and guide and as a symbol of the United Nations in which they sought protection.’44 It was Dag’s ‘fundamental conviction,’ noted Kofi Annan many years later, ‘that the essential task of the UN is to protect the weak against the strong.’45 Annan, who began his own career at the UN within a year of Hammarskjöld’s death, drew heavily on Dag’s vision for the UN during his own Secretary-Generalship from 1997 to 2006. *

It is October 2009, 48 years and one month after the crash of the Albertina, and I am in Stockholm. I am standing on a large green space in front of the main building of the Royal Library of Sweden—the Kungliga Biblioteket. It is an imposing building, completed in 1878, which houses the documents and printed books that make up the national library of Sweden. The leaves on the trees are almost golden, dropping gently to the ground, and the air is crisp and 24


‘BEBOP-A-LULA.’ STOCKHOLM, 2009

cold with the onset of winter. From almost every window, bright lights give out a hue of warmth. But it’s an illusion—I feel chilled to the bone and hurry over to the library. I am on my way to the manuscript department, to study the Hammarskjöld papers. Here, the pale daylight streams in through clean high windows, while the desks are dust-free and the walls a clean white. There are tubs of pencils, ready sharpened, and everyone speaks softly. I have ordered my files ahead of time and they are quietly delivered to me, one by one. The first contains the items Dag left in Léopoldville on 17 September 1961, the day he departed for Ndola. I see that one of the items in the file is Hammarskjöld’s wallet, which is an unusual item to find in an archive.46 In this wallet is a card bearing the typewritten names and phone numbers of the key people in Dag’s life in New York: some of them were his senior advisers at the UN, including Dr Ralph Bunche and also Heinrich Wieschhoff, the director of the UN political division, who died with him at Ndola. Dag frequently referred to the formidable Wieschhoff as his éminence grise.47 This image was not just figurative but real: pale eyes under a furrowed brow, with sparse grey hair on a bald head.48 Wieschhoff ’s wife, Virginia, was close to Dag. She once asked him to ease up on the hard-pressed staff in the Congo; some of their wives, she said, had become worried by the fatigued tone of their husbands’ letters. Dag was mortified. Although acutely sensitive to injustice, he was not always aware of the feelings of others. On his next visit to the Congo, it is said, he invited junior officials to a party and painstakingly apologized to each one of them.49 Another victim of the crash is on the card—Bill Ranallo, his bodyguard. Ranallo ‘Senior’—Bill’s father, with the address of ‘White Plains’—is also there, as are the phone numbers for the Regular Cable Room, the Code Cable Room, and for Dag’s country retreat near Brewster in New York State. Dag’s UN identity card records that in 1953, he weighed 154 pounds.50 Also in the wallet is a blood donor card—and I am not surprised to discover that Dag chose to donate blood. The card states: ‘You have RH Negative blood, a rare type.’ Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me either. There are several newspaper cuttings in the wallet, some of which are mystifyingly abbreviated. One of them is less than a sentence: ‘and when Nefertiti murmurs, “Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool,” the Bible seems a long way off.’ There must have been a good reason for Dag to keep this cutting, but it is not apparent to me. Nor is the reason for another cutting: ‘Throughout this period, the image of President Eisenhower as 25


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

national leader had become blurred. He held no press conferences—his last was Oct. 30—and.’ Less baffling is a cartoon with a drawing of an umpire at a baseball game, who is upset because the baseball players are angry at him. An onlooker reassures him: ‘You’re not expected to be Dag Hammarskjöld, Potts. Just call them as you see them.’ One cutting makes me smile: BEBOP-A-LULA Bebop-a-lula she’s my baby, Bebop-a-lula she’s my baby, Bebop-a-lula she’s my baby love. (Copyright 1956 by Lowery Music, Inc.)

I am starting to understand that it would be a mistake to pigeon-hole Hammarskjöld too closely: for there is a world of difference between Beethoven’s Ninth and this popular rock-and-roll song. Along with the wallet in this file of items left in Léopoldville when Dag went to Ndola, there are two copies of the UN Charter, in booklet form. In the same way that he saw the role of the Secretary-General as that of a secular pope, he regarded the Charter as the UN’s Bible. He was never prejudiced towards people in any way, stated a friend. ‘His real bias or partiality,’ he added, was ‘towards the Charter.’51 There are two UN passports, both out of date—one cancelled in June 1956, the other in January 1959. There is a cheque-book from the Chemical Corn Exchange, dated 1959–60, so also out of date. It is reassuring to know that even the meticulous Dag carried around useless papers and documents, just like ordinary people. The cheque-book reveals that Dag used the Waldorf Hand Laundry, read the New Yorker magazine, bought liquor now and then (though not very much), had his own tailors, bought books from the Doubleday store, transferred money to a Stockholm account, and paid the salary of Nelly, his housekeeper. In another file are the contents of the briefcase that he took with him to Ndola: his New Testament and a book of psalms. Here too are Rainer Maria Rilke’s Elegies and Sonnets, in German; a novel by Jean Giono, in French; Mar26


‘BEBOP-A-LULA.’ STOCKHOLM, 2009

tin Buber’s I and Thou, in English, borrowed from the UN library; and the same book in the original German, inscribed to Hammarskjöld by Buber himself. Dag had also packed the writing pad on which he had started to translate Buber’s book into Swedish.52 He was very interested in Buber’s diagnosis of the political and military problems underpinning the Cold War—his belief that they were problems of trust, communication and human behaviour. Dag also carried a cardboard time-selector, which showed the time differences between the countries of the world. This exemplified the nature of his life—based in New York, but connected to events and conditions across the globe. I leave the Royal Library for my hotel in the Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm. Now it is evening, and on the river the boats are twinkling with bright lights. Everyone I meet is exquisitely courteous and speaks perfect English. I am ashamed that all I can say is Tack—‘Thank you’—and Hej—‘Hello.’ I must try harder, but it is easy to be lazy in this sophisticated city. I have arranged to meet Bengt Rösiö, the Swedish diplomat who was the Swedish Consul and Head of Mission in Léopoldville in 1961–62. It was Rösiö who delivered a report into Hammarskjöld’s death to the Swedish Foreign Ministry in 1993. We meet in the shadowy lounge of my hotel, lit with flickering candles in the Swedish style. Rösiö is charming and tells me about the difficulties of working in the newly independent Congo—the constant sense of a ‘creeping feeling of fear.’ He is very clear that the Albertina crashed as a result of pilot error, not sabotage.53 Next day I set off for an interview with Sture Linnér, who was Officer-inCharge of the UN operation in the Congo at the time of the crash of Hammarskjöld’s plane in Ndola. He is an intellectual, with a doctorate in Ancient Greek from the University of Uppsala, who translated Homer into Swedish, and became a full-time academic after leaving the UN. Dag and Sture, it turns out, quoted Herodotus to each other. Sture is tall and handsome and supremely chivalrous; though now in his 90s, it seems to me that no man could show greater pleasure in the company of women. Like Rösiö, he tells me of the sheer terror of life in the early 1960s in Léopoldville, where he and his wife lived in a modern villa on a hill in Kalina, the elegant residential quarter that, only a year before, had been reserved for Europeans. The Belgians, adds Sture, rarely had anything to do with the Congolese and were shocked when his wife invited Congolese colleagues to din27


WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJÖLD?

ner. They were even more appalled to learn that she had danced with General Mobutu. Their house was surrounded by a huge garden, lush with trees and flowers, which led down to the steep banks of the Congo River. But here, as they were sitting outside one day, a paid agent of the Belgians shot at them, the bullet passing so close that it burnt his wife’s ear. The sniper was caught by one of the UN Gurkhas who were guarding them. Of Dag, Sture speaks with palpable emotion. Despite his shyness, he explains, Hammarskjöld was a hugely caring man who had not wanted Sture’s wife to go with him to the Congo, as he had feared for her safety. When news arrived in Léopoldville of the Secretary-General’s death, remembers Linnér sadly, it was a terrible and bitter shock—‘as if the ground disappeared beneath my feet.’54

28


At the heart of this book is Hammarskjöld himself – a courageous and complex idealist, who sought to shield the newly independent nations of the world from the predatory instincts of the Great Powers. It reveals that the conflict in the Congo was driven not so much by internal divisions, as by the Cold War and by the West’s determination to keep real power from the hands of the post-colonial governments of Africa. It shows, too, that the British settlers of Rhodesia were ready to maintain white minority rule at all costs.

‘This is an extraordinary story narrated here with clarity and devastating effect. Susan Williams is to be congratulated for shining a light onto a very strange and disturbing incident. The result is a gripping and astonishing read.’ Alexander McCall Smith

SUSAN WILLIAMS has published widely on Africa, decolonisation and the global power shifts of the twentieth century, receiving widespread acclaim for Colour Bar (Penguin, 2006), her book on the founding President of Botswana. Other recent books include The People’s King (Penguin, 2003) and Ladies of Influence (Penguin, 2000), as well as edited volumes including The Iconography of Independence: ‘Freedoms at Midnight’ (Routledge, 2010). She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.

9 781431 402984

ISBN 978-1-4314-0298-4 www.jacana.co.za

Who Killed Hammarskjöld?

Susan Williams argues that the official inquiry by the Rhodesian government was a massive cover-up that suppressed and dismissed a mass of crucial evidence pointing to foul play. Who Killed Hammarskjöld? follows the author on her intriguing and often frightening research, which unearthed a mass of new and hitherto secret documentary and photographic evidence.

SUSAN WILLIAMS

One of the outstanding mysteries of the twentieth century, and one with huge political resonance, is the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and his UN team in a plane crash in central Africa in 1961. Just minutes after midnight, his aircraft plunged into thick forest in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), abruptly ending his mission to bring peace to the Congo. Many around the world suspected sabotage, accusing multinationals and the governments of Britain, Belgium, the USA and South Africa of involvement in the disaster. These suspicions have never gone away.

By the author of Colour Bar: The triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation

SUSAN WILLIAMS

Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa


Who Killed Hammarskjöld?