Suspicious Aviation Tragedies: 1961 — Ndola United Nations DC-6 crash

“We saw a plane fly over Chifubu but did not pay any attention to it the first time. When we saw it a second and third time, we thought that this plane was denied landing permission at the airport. Suddenly, we saw another aircraft approach the bigger aircraft at greater speed and release fire which appeared as a bright light. The plane on the top turned and went in another direction. We sensed the change in sound of the bigger plane. It went down and disappeared.”

Dickson Mbewe — Eyewitness

ndola

The wreckage of Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane near Ndola, now Zambia.

Introduction

On 18 September 1961, the Ndola United Nations DC-6 crashed, killing Dag Hammarskjöld — the second Secretary-General of the United Nations — and 15 others died. Hammarskjöld’s death occurred en route to cease-fire negotiations.

A British-run commission of inquiry blamed the crash in 1961 on pilot error. A later UN investigation rubber-stamped its findings. Case close? Not so fast… Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

In 2011, The Guardian talked to surviving witnesses who all described Hammarskjöld’s DC6 being shot down by a second, smaller aircraft. These witnesses were never questioned by the official investigators.

Related Post: Suspicious Aviation Tragedies: Introduction

This year (2016), the South African government revealed the existence of  ‘new evidence’. Consequently, the U.N. Secretary-General has asked the General Assembly to open an inquiry about the circumstances surrounded the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and his colleagues. An assassination has long been suspected.

Richard Goldstone — The former chief prosecutor for the U.N. war crimes tribunals in Rwanda and Yugoslavia — is quite open about this case:

“I continue to have a strong feeling that Hammarskjold’s death was not an accident.”

1961 — Ndola United Nations DC-6 crash

In September 1961, Hammarskjöld learned about fighting between “non-combatant” UN forces and Katangese troops of Moise Tshombe.

On 18 September Hammarskjöld was en route to negotiate a cease-fire when the aircraft he was flying in crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

 

Hammarskjöld and fifteen others perished in the crash.

The aircraft involved in this accident was a Douglas DC-6B, c/n 43559/251, registered in Sweden as SE-BDY, first flown in 1952 and powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-2800 18-cylinder radial piston engines.

Dag Hammarskjöld

Hammarskjold

Dag Hammarskjold

Hammarskjöld’s private letters depict a strong UN leader guided by the UN charter, with a strong sympathy for the emerging new nations – as well as a dislike of the big powers’ arrogance and hypocrisy.

He won diplomatic victories over France and the UK in the Suez crisis in 1957 and over France in the Bizerte crisis in 1961 and he gave moral support to newly independent Guinea.

After this, President Charles de Gaulle withdrew France’s support for the UN Congo operation, boycotted the security council meetings and even encouraged French mercenaries to join the Katanga forces. [Göran Björkdahl — The Guardian]

The body of Dag -- Notice the playing card in his left hand.

The body of Dag Hammarskjold — Notice the playing card in his left hand.

Geopolitics

At the time of Hammarskjöld’s death, U.S. and its allies’ intelligence agencies were actively involved in the political situation in the Congo, which culminated in Belgian and United States support for the secession of Katanga and the assassination of former prime minister Patrice Lumumba.

Belgium and the United Kingdom had a vested interest in maintaining their control over much of the country’s copper industry during the Congolese transition from colonialism to independence. [WIKIPEDIA]

“Researchers say many key players in the region, including white minority governments, had clashed with Hammarskjold, whose U.N peacekeepers had been battling Belgian-backed separatists in the mineral-rich Congolese province of Katanga.

Days before Hammarskjold’s death, the U.N. launched an offensive against Katanga’s separatists as part of an effort to drive hundreds of Belgian officers and European mercenaries out of the country.

The U.N. leader was advocating for Congo’s full independence, while Belgium, with some support from Britain, the United States and South Africa, wanted to ensure that Katanga’s riches – which included the uranium ore used in the production of the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – remained in friendly hands and out of the reach of the Soviet Union.

lumumba

Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjold

Motive does not equal guilt. But you may want to keep in mind that:

Several months earlier, the CIA had played a role in the assassination by Belgian officers and Katangese separatists of Congolese liberation leader Patrice Lumumba, who was suspected of moving too closely to the Soviet Union.” [Foreign Policy Magazine]

Hammarskjöld’s Last Mission

Hammarskjold, meanwhile, died while en route to discuss a cease-fire with Moise Tshombe, the Belgian-backed leader of Katanga’s secession drive.

His broader mission was to convince at Tshombe to ditch his foreign backers and make peace with Congo’s pro-Western leaders. [Foreign Policy Magazine]

Hammarskjöld suspected British diplomats secretly supported the Katanga rebellion and had obstructed a bid to arrange a truce.

On 10 September 1961, Hammarskjöld approved a UN offensive on Katanga – codenamed Operation Morthor – despite reservations of the UN legal adviser, to the fury of the US and Britain.

On the morning of 13 September the separatist leader Moise Tshombe signalled that he was ready for a truce, but changed his mind after a one-hour meeting with the UK consul in Katanga, Denzil Dunnett.

New UN Investigation (2016)

The United Nations Secretary General has released a note calling for the appointment of an eminent person to review any new information related to the plane crash that killed former UN Chief Dag Hammarskjold in 1961.

Declaring “this may be our last chance to find the truth” Ban Ki-moon sent a note to the general assembly, saying there were enough unanswered questions arising from the crash to warrant further investigation and that the responses of the UK, US and Belgium (the major powers in the region at the time) to a UN request for archive material “do not appear to alter” that conclusion.

“Seeking a complete understanding of the circumstances is our solemn duty to my illustrious and distinguished predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, to the other members of the party accompanying him, and to their families,” UN Secretary General  Ban Ki-moon said.

Related Post: UN to probe whether SEC-GEN Hammarskjold was assassinated

Related Post: UN to probe whether SEC-GEN Hammarskjold was assassinated — UPDATE 27 August 2016

Eyewitnesses

The key witnesses were located and interviewed over the past three years (2009-2011) by Göran Björkdahl, a Swedish aid worker based in Africa, who made the investigation of the Hammarskjöld mystery a personal quest since discovering his father had a fragment of the crashed DC6.

“Dickson Mbewe, now 84 (in 2011), was sitting outside his house in Chifubu compound west of Ndola with a group of friends on the night of the crash.”

“We saw a plane fly over Chifubu but did not pay any attention to it the first time,” he told the Guardian. “When we saw it a second and third time, we thought that this plane was denied landing permission at the airport. Suddenly, we saw another aircraft approach the bigger aircraft at greater speed and release fire which appeared as a bright light.”

“The plane on the top turned and went in another direction. We sensed the change in sound of the bigger plane. It went down and disappeared.” [The Guardian]

A dozen witnesses have confirmed this story or various parts of it.

Timeline

The witnesses say the crash site was sealed off by Northern Rhodesian security forces very early in the next morning.

This happened hours before the wreckage was officially declared found, and they were ordered to leave the area.

New Evidence from South Africa

The South African government has recently announced (2016) the  discovery of decades-old intelligence documents detailing a plot to assassinate Hammarskjöld. The CIA has dismissed allegations as “absurd and without foundation.” This is not entirely new…

“Another theory — put forward in letters that were allegedly written by a clandestine South African mercenary agency, and released by the South African government in 1998 — purports that South Africa had carried out a determined operation to “remove” Hammarskjöld from office.

The plot, known as Operation Celeste, allegedly had support from then CIA director Allen Dulles, who promised “full cooperation from his people,” in addition to the Belgian Mining company Union Minière.

But the UN panel was unable to confirm the veracity of the documents: in part, because South Africa did not respond to the investigators’ request for help.” [VICE NEWS]

The Usual Suspects

“The secret UN cables between UN headquarters in New York and the UN mission in Congo proved to be a mine of information.

They reveal the growing frustration of Hammarskjöld and his officials over the tactics used by the powerful mining company Union Minière, owned mainly by Belgian, British and American investors, to obstruct and undermine the UN mission in Congo.”  [Göran Björkdahl — The Guardian]

“All those parties – the Belgians, the South Africans, the CIA – had a reason for opposing Dag Hammarskjold’s mission,” Goldstone told FP.

Crypto AG

I have long suspected that Crypto AG had entered into a close relationship with the NSA and that some of their machines were rigged to allowed the US Agency to easily ‘decrypt’ the coded messages. These claims were vindicated by US government documents declassified in 2015.

Related Post: Blast From The Past: The NSA – CRYPTO AG Sting

According to Sixten Svensson  (Brother- in- law of Crypto AG Founder Boris Hagelin), the machine used by Hammarskjöld during his visit to Congo was one of the rigged machine. So the CIA, the NSA and the CGHQ were able to read his communications in real – time. (This information will not be published before 2033.)

svensson

Hammarskjöld’s Last Message

The following message had been sent the day before Hammarskjöld’s death.

hammarskjold-message

DOCUMENTARY: Political assassinations – Dag Hammarskjold

An Amazing Man: Göran Björkdahl

Göran Björkdahl is a Swedish aid worker based in Africa, who made the investigation of the Hammarskjöld mystery a personal quest since discovering his father had a fragment of the crashed DC6.

Björkdahl concludes that:

Hammarskjöld’s plane was almost certainly shot down by an unidentified second plane.

The actions of the British and Northern Rhodesian officials at the scene delayed the search for the missing plane.

The wreckage was found and sealed off by Northern Rhodesian troops and police long before its discovery was officially announced.

The one survivor of the crash could have been saved but was allowed to die in a poorly equipped local hospital.

Book and Academia

Dr Susan Williams’ latest book “Who Killed Hammarskjöld?” (Hurst 2011) assembled a significant body of new evidence to suggest that the 1961 plane crash in which Dag Hammarskjöld died was not an accident.

Who_Killed_Hammarskjold

On the strength of which, the Hammarskjöld Commission was established in 2012, and recommended in September 2013 that the adjourned 1962 UN Inquiry into Dag Hammarskjöld’s death be reopened to examine the new evidence assembled by Dr Williams. [WIKISPOOK]

“I think the British response is extraordinary. It’s very brisk and curt and evasive,” said Susan Williams, a British historian at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, whose book Who Killed Hammarskjöld: The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa, revealed new evidence that helped persuade the UN to open a new investigation into the crash near Ndola, in what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.

Part of that evidence was a report from a British intelligence officer, Neil Ritchie, who was in the area at the time of the crash and who was trying to organise a meeting between Hammarskjöld and a rebel leader from neighbouring Congo, where the UN secretary general was trying to broker a truce.

“This was British territory and they had a man on the ground. It doesn’t make them responsible for the crash but it does indicate they knew a lot of what was going on,” Williams said, adding it was “highly unlikely” that Ritchie’s report which she found in an archive at Essex University, was the only British intelligence report coming the area at the time. [The Guardian]

Means, Motive, and Opportunity — Preliminary Conclusions

Primary Conclusions

Hammarskjöld’s DC6 was most likely brought down by a jet plane.

The direct motive of the culprits (Intellectual authors of the crime) appears  to their unwillingness to lose control over Katanga minerals. For some the interest may have been finnancial, for others it was geopolitical.

Intended or not, a long-term consequence — perhaps goal — was to insure that,  after Hammarskjöld’s death, no other UN Secretary General would ever be a challenge to the big powers.

The intellectual authors of the crime are probably to be found among Belgium, american and British investors.  USA and UK Intelligence Agencies probably played a supporting role as well as mercenaries from South Africa and Katanga.

Secondary Conclusions

The official timeline of the 19 September day is probably a cover-up.

The Police and troops most likely interfered with a proper investigation.

British and Northern Rhodesian officials at the scene delayed the search for the missing plane.

The sole survivor could have been saved. Clearly, someone decided to let him die.

Forensic sciences analysis (exploded bullets) is not credible.

Who Killed Hammarskjöld?

In April 2014, The Guardian published evidence implicating Jan van Risseghem.

Risseghem was a military pilot who served with the RAF during World War II, later with the Belgian Air Force and became famous as the pilot of Moise Tsjombé in Katanga.

jan-van-risseghem

Jan van Risseghem

The article claims that an American NSA employee, former naval pilot Commander Charles Southall, working at the NSA listening station in Cyprus in 1961 shortly after midnight on the night of the crash, heard an intercept of a pilot’s commentary in the air over Ndola – 3,000 miles away.

Southall recalled the pilot saying:

“I see a transport plane coming low. All the lights are on. I’m going down to make a run on it. Yes, it is the Transair DC-6. It’s the plane,” adding that his voice was “cool and professional”.

Then he heard the sound of gunfire and the pilot exclaiming: “I’ve hit it. There are flames! It’s going down. It’s crashing!”

Based on aircraft registration and availability with the Katanga Air Force, registration KAT-93, a Fouga CM.170 Magister would be the most likely aircraft .

The website http://www.belgian-wings.be/ claims that van Risseghem piloted the Magisters for the KAF in 1961. [WIKIPEDIA]

The following piece “Dag Hammarskjold, un complot qui n’est plus une théorie” explains how it was possible to identify Jan van Risseghem.

Release the Records

Stephen Sedley was a judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales from 1999 to 2011 and a visiting professor of law at Oxford University from 2011 to 2014.

In a recent Opinion piece published in the New York Times (02/09/2016), he wrote the following:

Two recent commissions — the first of which I led, the second set up by the United Nations General Assembly in response to my commission’s findings — appear to have been stalled by a United States agency that may hold critical evidence pointing to the cause of the disaster. (…)

There was also evidence that the N.S.A. was monitoring the airwaves in the Ndola region, almost certainly from one of two American aircraft parked on the tarmac. Our inquiry therefore asked the agency for any relevant records it held of local radio traffic before the crash. The agency replied that it had three records “responsive” to our request but that two of those were classified Top-Secret and would not be disclosed. (…)

As the United Nations appoints a new leader, it needs to continue to press all its member states to disclose and declassify whatever records they hold that might help to resolve the mystery of the violent death of the organization’s second Secretary-General.

Very nicely said, but I have a strong feeling that the US, the UK and Belgium are not about to declassify or disclose any relevant documents in the near future on the ground of National Security. I wish I could be wrong…

PS: This post will be updated on a regular basis whenever additional information is made available.

REFERENCES

Dag Hammarskjöld: evidence suggests UN chief’s plane was shot down — The Guardian August 2011

‘I have no doubt Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane was brought down’  — The Guardian August 2011

UN to probe whether iconic secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold was assassinated — Foreign Policy Magazine | Published: August 2, 2016

Dag Hammarskjöld: Ban Ki-moon seeks to appoint investigator for fatal crash — The Guardian August 2016

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary General on the release of his follow-up note to the report of the Independent Panel of Experts dealing with the death of Dag Hammarskjöld — UN 24 August 2016

Ban releases follow-up to report on the death of former UN chief Dag Hammarskjöld — UN 24 August 2016

Release the Records on Dag Hammarskjold’s Death — NYT September 2016

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Suspicious Aviation Tragedies: 1961 — Ndola United Nations DC-6 crash

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