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1961: UN Secretary General killed in air crash
The body of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has been identified among the wreckage of a plane which crashed last night outside the Northern Rhodesian town of Ndola.

The Swedish statesman was due in Ndola for peace talks following clashes between United Nations peacekeeping troops and forces striving for independence in the breakaway Congolese province of Katanga.

There was only one survivor from the aircraft. Twelve other bodies have been recovered.

The survivor, Sergeant Harold Julian, a United States member of the UN Security Force is still in a serious condition in hospital.

Tributes

He told rescuers Mr Hammarskjold had ordered the plane to change direction and fly to a new destination just before landing. Shortly afterwards there was an explosion on board, followed by several smaller explosions.

The plane was due to land at Ndola late last night. It made contact with the air traffic control tower, asking permission to land, then changed direction at the last minute and turned north.

Mr Hammarskjold had been in the Congolese capital, Leopoldville, to disccuss details of UN aid with the government when he learned of the fresh outbreak of fighting.

He boarded a DC6 late yesterday afernoon to fly to Ndola for face-to-face talks with Moise Tshombe, governor of Katanga province.

The UN was under orders to fly after dark because of the risk of being shot down by a Katangan jet fighter.

The last contact was a message to the air traffic control tower at Ndola shortly after midnight.

When Mr Hammarskjold's plane did not arrive on time, checks were made at Congo and Rhodesian towns in case the aircraft had changed route.

The wreckage of his plane was spotted soon after daylight. The DC6 had crashed through trees, hit the ground and disintegrated.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Hammarskjold from world leaders.

President John F Kennedy said his name would be "treasured high among the peacemakers of history".

The British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said the world would "mourn the loss of a public servant who had pursued his duty with courage, single-mindedness and devotion".

The Secretary General's death leaves the UN facing a crisis of succession at a critical point in its history. The UN under Mr Hammarskjold's lead has committed itself to armed intervention in Congo - despite Soviet opposition.

The Soviets have dissociated themselves from the formal tributes to Mr Hammarskjold. They are likely to use the power vacuum to push their demands for a troika made up of three deputy secretaries general representing different political groups in the UN to make joint decisions.

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Dag Hammarskjold
Dag Hammarskjold was posthumously awarded the Nobel peace prize


In Context
Dag Hammarskjold was posthumously awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize.

He did much to raise the profile of the UN and the post of secretary general.

He led several peace missions to Beijing, the Middle East and the Congo. Under his guidance a UN Emergency Force was sent to establish peace in the Middle East after the Suez Crisis of 1956.

Forces were also sent to Laos and Lebanon and against fierce opposition from the Soviet Union, he deployed armed forces in Congo.

It has never been established whether his plane was deliberately shot down or the crash was accidental.

He was succeeded by the Burmese representative on the UN, U Thant, who served until 1972.

UN troops finally left Congo in 1964 and Moise Tschombe won the elections of 1965.

Witness
I was a 21-year-old Rhodesian television reporter when he was killed. The plane crash was the first big international story I ever covered.

I drove north from Salisbury with a cameraman, and arrived at the crash site in the morning.

I can recall today the smell of burning flesh in the woods where the plane came down, and seeing coins - slightly discoloured - lying among the charred remains of the bodies.

A Manchester Guardian reporter by the name Clyde Sanger had scooped himself by filing a story that Hammarskjold's plane had landed safely at Ndola airport.

The story was splashed across the Guardian's front page - and this earned the reporter the name "Side Clanger" forever after.

Sergeant Julian died in hospital the day after the crash, if I remember correctly.

Ian Black has since worked as a journalist all over the world and is currently South East Asia correspondent for an Australian news agency.

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