Monthly Archives: February 2014

Photos of Hammarskjold

Several months ago, I was sent something serious that has been troubling me, and I have been reticent to write about it, because I wanted to be more informed before giving my opinion.

The anonymous source that sent me the scans of letters from the archive of Roy Welensky (I have three, one of them is published here), also sent photos of the crash site and wreckage of the Albertina in Ndola. Some of the photos I recognized from Susan Williams book Who Killed Hammarskjold?, but many I had never seen before.

In one photo, labelled “Offloading wreckage of DC-6B SE-BDY prior to burial at Ndola airport”, you see white men standing around, talking to each other, while black men work to offload the wreckage from the back of a truck into a pit, which has been made by a nearby bulldozer that is preparing to flatten everything before burying it all. I don’t understand why the plane had to be buried, it makes no sense to me. Is it normal to bury planes like this? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

In another photo, labelled “Location of levelled site with “burial party” Messrs. J.D. Williams (Ndola Airport Manager) H.C. Bowell (Aircraft Engineer) M.C.H. Barber (Director of Civil Aviation) and M. Madders (Chief Aircraft Engineer)”, you see these four white men, standing side by side in the bulldozer tracks of the freshly covered grave of the Albertina, smiling, hands on hips, a pipe in the mouth of the Ndola Airport Manager. They look rather pleased with themselves.

But the most troubling thing I received were the autopsy photos of Dag Hammarskjold, six of them. I don’t know how many people have seen these photos, but they are shocking, and very sad. The post mortem of Hammarskjold makes no mention of the playing card that was placed in his shirt collar (an ace of spades, supposedly, which was from decks of playing cards found scattered at the scene) but there it was, very clearly seen in the three photos taken at the crash site. The card also appears to have been adjusted to its side in one photo. Even if it was placed there as a sick joke, it certainly lends a sinister note to the whole macabre scene. The three photos from the crash site show him on a stretcher, his clothes unburned and intact, his face streaked with blood, and the other three were taken in the mortuary, but there is no photo evidence of the actual place where Hammarskjold’s body was found. I wish I could publish these photos, so people could see for themselves, but I’ve been asked to keep them private.

Having seen them, I found myself very upset at Brian Urquhart after reading this passage he wrote in his biography of Hammarskjold:

“Hammarskjold was thrown clear of the wreckage and alone among the victims, was not burned at all. Although the post mortem showed that he had probably lived for a short time after the crash, his injuries–a severely fractured spine, several broken ribs, a broken breastbone, a broken thigh, and severe internal hemorrhaging–were certainly fatal. He was lying on his back near a small shrub which had escaped the fire, his face extraordinarily peaceful, a hand clutching a tuft of grass.”

Did Urquhart look at the same photos I did? Because the face of Hammarskjold does not look “extraordinarily peaceful” to me, it looks beaten and bloodied. And just like the post mortem report, Urquhart makes no mention of the obvious playing card. What was the point of this omission, if not to cover up the horror of the situation? These are just my observations.

Unfortunately, Urquhart was of the opinion that the testimonies of African witnesses who saw the Albertina followed closely by smaller planes just before the crash, and any other theory of murder, were just “fantasy”, as he writes in the epilogue of the biography:

“Although there is a large–and still growing–literature on Hammarskjold’s death, it is significant that none of those who cling to the idea that he was murdered in one way or another have seen fit to demand a new inquiry or to present serious evidence. The main conspiracy theories put forward are mutually exclusive–if one is true, all the others must be false–and so far none of them is backed by anything more than rumor, speculation, and fantasy.”

Urquhart wrote this back in 1972, but I wonder if he still holds the same opinion after reading Susan Williams book, and the September 2013 Report from the Hammarskjold Commission. After all these years have gone by, I have to ask, why is there still so much secrecy about what happened to Hammarskjold?

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Medal of Saint Bernard

From the estate of Vladimir Fabry, here are a few items of interest. First, the “Notice of Death” from Ndola, Northern Rhodesia:
(click images to enlarge)
Vlado Notice of Death Northern Rhodesia

The same notice would have been sent to the families of the other crash victims, who should be remembered here for their sacrifice:
H. A. Wieschoff
William Ranallo
Alice Lalande
Harold M. Julien
Serge L. Barrau
Francis Eivers
Per Hallonquist
Nils-Eric Aahreus
Lars Litton
Nils Goran Wilhelmsson
Harald Noork
Karl Erik Rosen
S.O. Hjelte
P.E. Persson

The post mortem of Vlado says his body was badly burned, and that he was identified by a monogrammed signet ring, so it was surprising to find this letter, and to learn I was in possession of at least one artifact from the crash:
Estate of Vladimir Fabry

November 9, 1961
ESTATE OF VLADIMIR FABRY

Memorandum re contents of a sealed package delivered by Geneva Headquarters of United Nations to Miss Olga I. Fabry on October , 1961.

The box was tied with brown cord and the cord sealed with a metal U.N. seal. Attached to the box was an envelope from the United Nations Organization in the Congo marked “Urgent, Confidential”, addressed to Mr. John Olver of the the European office of the United Nations in Geneva. The envelope was marked “If Mr. Olver is absent, to be opened by Mr. A. Marx, Chief of Personnel.”

On opening the envelope it was found to contain a letter marked “Confidential”, dated September 29, 1961 addressed to Mr. Olver and signed by Mr. B. Grunzweig. The letter concerned the estate of the late Dr. Vladimir Fabry and stated that the writer understood that the package contained partially destroyed or burned money, travellers’ checks and notebooks belonging to Dr. Fabry. It was requested that the package be delivered to Dr. Fabry’s family, since it might be possible to recover some of the money contained therein. A copy of the letter is attached hereto.

On breaking the seal and opening the package, it was found to contain an envelope in which the following documents and currency were enclosed, all party burned and in the case of some of the currency, badly burned and difficult to decipher. The badly burned currency was in a separate envelope. On the top of the package of burned currency there appeared to be a partially burned folded bill on which the letters “llars” appeared. From what could be seen of the bill, it appeared to be U.S. currency, the denomination unknown. The bills in this package are compacted and stuck together, and they are badly burned. For that reason no attempt was made to separate these bills in order that the same in their present condition might be presented to the proper U.S. officials for examination.

The other contents of the envelope are the following:

1. A number of identification cards of the late Dr. Fabry.
2. American Express travellers’ checks partially burned on one side although readily decipherable, consisting of seven checks of $20 each bearing serial numbers Z35-790-419/425.
3. U.S. currency partially burned along one side but decipherable, consisting of 3 $10 bills and 5 $1 bills.
4. 2 Swiss 20 franc notes, partially burned along one side but readily decipherable.
5. 3 Belgian franc notes in denominations of 20, 50 and 100, respectively.
6. One singed blank airmail envelope.
7. One St. Bernard’s medal.

Though I have looked, I have found no sign of the burned notebooks. Here is all that remains from the crash, from the last moments of Vlado’s life, one St. Bernard’s medal, which I now carry as my own good luck charm:

Vlado St Bernard Medal 1
Vlado St Bernard Medal 2