Tag Archives: Susan Williams

Misleading Conduct? US and UK Intelligence Obstruct Justice of UN Investigation

Vlado's casket Geneva Lutheran Church

From Julian Borger’s Guardian article, 24 August 2016, “Dag Hammarskjold: Ban Ki-moon seeks to appoint investigator for fatal crash”:

“[…]Ban [Ki-moon] noted that the UK had stuck to its position last year that it had no further documentation to show the UN investigation. He appended a letter sent in June by the British permanent representative to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, saying “our position remains the same and we are not able to release the materials in question without any redactions”.

Rycroft added “the total amount of information withheld is very small and most of the redactions only consist of a few words”.

The wording of the letter echoed a similar letter, turning down the UN request for more information, the UK sent in June 2015, which said that “no pertinent material” had been found in a “search across all relevant UK departments”.

In reply the UN legal counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares, reminded Rycroft of the shared responsibility of the UN and its member states “to pursue the full truth” about Hammarskjold’s death, and asked him to confirm that the search of “all relevant UK departments” included security and intelligence agencies.

In reply, Rycroft simply quoted the former UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond telling parliament that the foreign office had “coordinated a search across all relevant UK departments”.

“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 Hammarskjold: 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 Hammarskjold 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.”

On 28 August 2016, Dr Mandy Banton (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies), Henning Melber (Senior adviser/director emeritus, The Dag Hammarskjold Foundation), and David Wardrop (Chairman, United Nations Association Westminster Branch) published letters together in the Guardian, “UK’s lack of transparency over plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskjold”. From Melber:

“The US and British responses to the efforts by the United Nations to further explore the circumstances of the plane crash at Ndola should be an embarrassment to all citizens in these countries (and elsewhere), who have an interest in seeking clarification of what happened. The reports so far already present sufficient evidence that there is more to it than what the official government responses are willing to admit.

This form of denial through non-compliance with legitimate demands for access to information is tantamount to obstruction and sabotages the sincere efforts to bring closure to one of the unsolved cases involving western states and their security operations. Such an arrogant attitude further dents the image of those who claim to be among civilized nations then and now.”

From 2 September 2016, here is an excerpt from Justice Richard Goldstone’s letter to the Guardian, “Hammarskjold case is not yet closed”:

“[…]it is highly likely that some member states of the UN, especially but not only the US, hold records or transcripts of cockpit transmissions in the minutes before the plane came down. If so, these may well put the cause of the crash, whatever it was, beyond doubt. But neither the US National Security Agency, which has gradually resiled from its admission to our commission that it held two relevant records, nor, as Dr Banton’s letter (29 August) suggests, the UK government, has so far responded with any vigour to the secretary-general’s plea for cooperation.”

From the 6 September 2016 New York Times, “Release the Records on Dag Hammarskjold’s Death”, written by The Rt. Hon. Sir Stephen Sedley:

“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.

At its close, my commission recommended that the United Nations follow up this lead. The General Assembly appointed a three-person panel, which repeated our request to the N.S.A. This time, the agency replied that the two documents were not transcripts of radio messages as Southall had described and offered to let one of the panel members, the Australian aviation expert Kerryn Macaulay, see them. This she did, reporting that the documents contained nothing relevant to the cause of the crash.

This makes it difficult to understand how those two documents were initially described as “responsive” to a request explicitly for records of radio intercepts, or why they were classified top secret. It raises doubts about whether the documents shown to Ms. Macaulay were, in fact, the documents originally identified by the N.S.A. The recent denial that there is any record of United States Air Force planes’ being present at Ndola increases the impression of evasiveness.”

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From the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) website, “What You Should Know About Obstruction of Justice”:
“Q: Does obstruction of justice always involve bribery or physical force?
A: No. One particularly murky category of obstruction is the use of “misleading conduct” toward another person for the purpose of obstructing justice. “Misleading conduct” may consist of deliberate lies or “material omissions” (leaving out facts which are crucial to a case). It may also include knowingly submitting or inviting a judge or jury to rely on false or misleading physical evidence, such as documents, maps, photographs or other objects. Any other “trick, scheme, or device with intent to mislead” may constitute a “misleading conduct” form of obstruction.”

To Dag With Love

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View from above Ralph Bunche Park.

It was a beautiful week in New York City for my visit to the UN Archives. Every morning, I took the 7 to Grand Central Station, walked down 42nd Street, crossing 2nd Avenue – also known as Yitzak Rabin Way, and then on towards 1st Avenue, where the Headquarters of the United Nations rise up along the edge of the East River. I slowed my pace through Ralph Bunche Park, which is mostly concrete, but the small fenced-in area of plants and flowers attracted a couple of American Robins, who were busy hunting for breakfast. I spent my time between 42nd and 47th Avenue – the location of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza – walking past security guards outside the US Department of State and Foreign Missions, and the House of Uganda, feeling very much at the center of the universe with all the languages being spoken around me. I’m sure I was noticed with amusement by a few, I was the only lady with UN blue hair!

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Dashing diplomats, at the entrance of the UN.

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Taking a rest in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

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The Gazebo

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There was a farmer’s market my first day at DH Plaza.

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Fun public art – the giant Hello Kitty Time After Time Capsule, designed by Japanese artist Sebastian Masuda.

After my morning walk, I made my way to the UN archives, where the staff were waiting to help me get started. The archives are open to everyone, it’s a free service, and I had a really positive experience there – I even met someone who worked with Vlado’s sister, Olga – who was a librarian at the Dag Hammarskjold Library – that made me very happy. Here was my desk the first day:

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Of course, since it was my first visit to an archive, I requested too much, and had to narrow down and prioritize quickly what I wanted to look at after the first day. To me, it was all very interesting, but I would have needed to spend a month in there, 8 hours a day, just to see everything I requested, and I had only three days!

The hard work was a pleasure, but it gave me an appetite. Fortunately, there were plenty of great choices for lunch in the neighborhood. One day, I had a Maine lobster roll from a food truck across the street from UN Headquarters, and if I hadn’t been so eager to get back to the work, I would have tried out the Nigerian food truck on the next block, too.

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Also had a nice lunch here – a “Dag Burger with Cheese” at Dag’s Patio Cafe in DH Plaza.

By the end of my visit, I came to appreciate that it is the personal letters of these people that interest me the most, and how lucky I am to have so much of Vlado’s correspondence. I went to the archives out of curiosity, with no expectations, but with hope that I would find something special, something that other eyes had missed.

And I was rewarded for my efforts – with a love letter written to Dag.

When I found it, I immediately thought of Susan Williams’ discovery in the Royal Library of Sweden in Stockholm, the intriguing newspaper clipping she found inside Dag’s wallet that said ‘and when Nefertiti murmurs, “Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool,” the Bible seems a long way off.’

The writer is very forward in her intentions, and though it embarrasses me to admit it, I couldn’t help but see a bit of myself in her admiration for his character, her wish to do something good because of him. I can’t deny the romantic tone of my writing, that I fell in love with both Vlado and Dag in the course of my research, and that love for them gave me the courage to write some of the things I did, so I feel this letter was meant to be found by me. The last page, with her signature, will be transcribed, to protect her identity. From the same file, I’m also including transcriptions of a letter of introduction from the Ambassador to Spain Jose Felix de Lequerica, and a small note from the Secretary-General’s private secretary, Miss Aase Alm, which came before he received her letter.

From the United Nations Archives in New York, S-0846-0004-08, Operational Records of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, 1953-1961.

“Mision permanente de Espana
en las Nacions Unidas

New York, September 14, 1959

Miss Aase Alm
Private Secretary to the
Secretary General of the
United Nations.
New York, N.Y.

Dear Miss Alm:

I have received today a letter from His Eminence Cardinal Spellman, introducing Miss ——, from Houston, Texas, and asking me to receive her. During the course of the conversation Miss —— told me that she wishes to present her compliments to Mr. Hammarskjold and speak to him about a personal matter. I have called her attention about the difficulty of such an interview, as I personally cannot arrange for this meeting not knowing myself the nature of same.

But in the view of the interest shown by Cardinal Spellman, I am giving this letter of introduction to Miss —— in the event that during your conversation with her you may be able to find something of interest to the Secretary-General and, at the same time, comply with the wishes of Miss ——.

Thanking you in advance for your kind attention, I remain

Very truly yours,

Jose Felix de Lequerica
Ambassador
Permanent Representative of Spain
to the United Nations.”

On this note from Miss Alm, two big exclamation points in red pencil were added to hers–in red pencil at the top of the love letter is written “Oh!”:

“I asked Miss —— to write to you, as you were too busy at the moment to receive her; explained at the same time that an appointment would be difficult unless she could give you some information what it would be about. I think you would want to see this because of the introductions from Spellman and de Lequerica!”

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Written on stationary from The Drake Hotel, Park Avenue at 56th Street, New York 22, N.Y.:

TELEPHONE: PLAZA 5-0600
[Ext. 421 written beneath]

Personal

Dear Mr. Hammarskjold;

I chose to meet you through the Spanish Ambassador because I thought that Spain’s more or less neutral position would eliminate any political implications. Even though I did not relate my specific reason for desiring to see you, His Eminence Cardinal Spellman very graciously assisted me by sending a letter of recommendation to H.E. Jose Felix de Lequerica.

Since meeting you through conventional channels is highly improbable, I shall proceed with all frankness and sincerity to reveal my reason for wanting to see you.

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These reasons are unknown to my friends, relatives, or even to my mother who has accompanied me to this city. People travel all over the world to see the many wonders and the beauty of nature, but God’s greatest creation is mankind, and a man of your goodness and wisdom is the most beautiful sight of all.

You know Dag, that although Cassanova was supposed to have been the greatest rogue lover of all time, none of his numerous lady loves ever followed him. Of course his base type of love can be compared to your love for humanity only in that yours is so much more superior on both counts.

How well you use your intellect and readily become a tool to God’s manipulations by carrying out your mission, the burden of your high office with dedication and inspiration.

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If you should perhaps have a few human imperfections, I’m sure they are heavily overshadowed by your better qualities. You undoubtedly derive much satisfaction by working and administrating for humanity and peace, yet high places are sometimes very lonely, demanding the impression of aloofness in order to appear impartial. To complete this impression, some of your close friends might do well to remain obscure. I would like to be a silent friend now and in your riper years after your work is done and you retire to ‘pasture’. And if I might someday in some small way be of any help to you, I would be very happy to make an effort to comply.

I plan to leave New York on Tuesday September 22nd and return to my home in Houston, Texas. I have been here since September 11th and trust that I will not have to wait much longer to meet you.

Please do not be embarrassed by my directness. My manner of writing is usually to the point as you can tell by a letter that I am enclosing here in reference to food surplus.

I realize that in polite society revelations such as I have made here are out of order and are kept more demurely, but time and circumstances do not permit this subtle cultivation of friendship. However, you may rest assured that at our meeting I shall conduct myself in the quiet, controlled dignity that becomes a respectable woman. Personally, I am much meeker and much more at loss for words.

With sincere esteem

The Montreal Star, 19 September 1961

Here is another brief article about Alice Lalande, who died with Dag Hammarskjold, which was sent on to me by Susan Williams. Because there is so little information about the 15 others who died with the Secretary General, I would like to use this blog as a place to share their stories, too. I encourage people to please contact me, if you have news clippings or anything else you are willing to share about these brave people. I would be glad to honor them here.

Alice pic from Montreal Star-1 (5)
City Woman Served UN 15 Years

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 19–
Alice Lalande, a bilingual Montrealer who served the UN for 15 years, died in a Northern Rhodesia plane crash with UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold yesterday because he placed such high value on her services.

The 48-year-old Montrealer was a favorite of the late Mr. Hammarskjold. Every time he went abroad and was able to borrow Miss Lalande from his own overseas officers Mr. Hammarskjold did so.

For a brief period Miss Lalande was secretary to Canadian General E. L. M. Burns, now Canadian disarmament adviser here, then commander of United Nations emergency forces on the Gaza strip. She went directly from the Gaza strip to Leopoldville in the former Belgian Congo when the UN first became involved late in the summer of 1960.

Miss Lalande, whom Mr. Hammarskjold seconded for his personal staff shortly before the fatal flight from Leopoldville, was personal secretary to the chief of the UN’s Congo operations, Sture Linner.

Miss Lalande joined the UN secretariat on June 24, 1946.

Born in Joliette, Que., Feb. 6, 1913, Miss Lalande worked at the University of Montreal after graduating as a secretary from a Montreal business school. She was a stenographer in French and English in the languages division of the UN department of conference and general services from June 24, 1946 to May 21, 1948, when she became a bilingual secretary in the office of the assistant secretary general in that department.

In June 1948 she was transferred to the UN Palestine secretariat as a secretary, and in January 1951 she became a secretary with the UN conciliation commission for Palestine in Jerusalem. In 1954 she returned to UN Headquarters as a secretary in the office of the assistant secretary general for social affairs.

In 1956 she served as a bilingual secretary with the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization, in Paris, for three months. Later in 1956 she returned to UN Headquarters and served with the department of economic and social affairs.

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?

Vlado’s Final Rest in Geneva

Just recently, I purchased the book WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJOLD?: THE UN, THE COLD WAR AND WHITE SUPREMACY IN AFRICA, written by Susan Williams, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and reading it has left me disturbed. It was a shock to open the book to the back page and see, for the very first time, the drawing of the wreckage plan of the Albertina. There was Vlado’s body, indicated by a circled “B 7”, not far from Dag Hammarskjold (“B 8”) and Sgt. Harold Julien (“B 16” – the only survivor of the crash, who died six days later). This book is an incredible help for my research, and I want to thank Williams for writing it. I hope the U.N. does not ignore the evidence she has presented in her book – Dag Hammarskjold’s death was not an accident, and there should be a new inquiry. Like so many good men that dared to live out their philosophy on this planet, he had to pay for it with his life.
From the family photo archive, here is Vlado’s body being delivered to Geneva on the Pan Am DC8 that carried the body of Hammarskjold and the other 14 victims, the first stop of many around the world. The UN flag that drapes his coffin was later given to Madame Fabry-Palka and her daughter Olga, and is now in our home. (click images to enlarge)
Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva1

In this photo, Madame Fabry-Palka is consoled by a UN staff member as Olga Fabry (Vlado’s only sibling) stands nearby. I wish I knew who the other people in the photograph were – especially the man with the reflective glasses and the baton at the foot of the stairs.
Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva2

Vlado is buried in the Cimetière du Petit-Saconnex in Geneva, next to his father – they died within 9 months of each other. Madame Olga Fabry-Palka died in 1974, and is buried there with them, also. Whenever I am in Geneva, I pay my respects to this good family, and thank them for their example of courage.
Fabry Grave Petit-Saconnex