Hammarskjold dies in U.N. plan crash

Pat Williams

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Friday, September 22, 1961.

Dag Hammarskjold is dead. The man who devoted the last nine years of his life to the cause of world peace and security died as I think he would have liked to, in defense of this cause.

When Hammarskjold came to the U.N. as Secretary General in April of 1955 he brought with him a wide background in economics and politics. Trained as a political economist he served as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden and as a member of the Swedish Cabinet. He had been active in The Organization for European Economic Cooperation and had served his nation’s delegation to the U.N. General Assembly as Vice Chairman and during the seventh session as Chairman. He had been described as his nation’s leading economist and one of its leading diplomats.

As Secretary General of the U.N. he had worked as long as sixteen hours a day for the cause of world peach. In doing so he had incurred the dislike of many of the larger nations. His efforts to frustrate the aims of Soviet imperialism in the Congo resulted in Russian demands for his resignation and in the notorious table-pounding incident in the U.N. In spite of the opposition of the Soviets, Hammarskjold continued his efforts. In doing so he gave his life.

What will his death mean to the future? Harold Blostein of the Washburn Political Science Department expressed the view that the death of the Secretary General raised grave doubts about the ability of the U.N. to function. “The Soviet Union will not go along with the election of a new Secretary General,” he said. “Without a Secretary General there can to be an effective Secretariat and without the Secretariat there can not be an effective U.N. This would be a serious blow to the cause of peace.”