Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961

Following on from yesterday’s post about Dag Hammarskjöld, this is how my late father Desmond Fisher reported the fatal plane crash in the Congo in 1961. His report was filed from Leopoldville and appeared in The Irish Press on September 21st 1961. He was London Editor at the time and on assignment in the Congo to report on the Irish contingent serving with the United Nations).

DAG SHOT DOWN, SAY EXPERTS (From Desmond Fisher)

LEOPOLDVILLE, Wednesday —  The plane in which United Nations Secretary General Mr. Dag Hammarskjoeld and 14 others — including an Irishman, Mr. Francis Eivers, U.N. Security Guard — lost their lives on Monday night, was almost certainly shot down by long-distance rocket fire from a Katanga Fouga jet fighter.

This conviction is growing among leading U.N. experts here but they say the world will never be told the true story. Fill disclosures of the facts might, they think, act as a spark to touch off a major world explosion.

The experts quote, as grounds for their belief, three pieces of evidence: 

1–The report from Ndola Airport control tower that an unidentified aircraft circled the field shortly before the crash.

2–Eyewitness accounts of seeing two or three explosions in the sky.

3–Reports from the lone survivior, U.N. Security Officer, Harold Julien, who is still seriously ill but reported to be “holding his own”.

Sergeant Julien is reported to have said that the plane was rocked by several explosions just before the crash.

Three Swedish experts are on their way to the scene of the crash to conduct the official investigation. The Northern Rhodesian Government, I understand, has refused to let any other investigators in.

Jet bitterness 

Meanwhile, I learned authoritatively tonight that the three Ethiopian jet fighters held up in Kano, Nigeria, for the past four days, will fly to the Congo tomorrow. There is bitter indignation in U.N. circles here at what is regarded as deliberate British stalling tactics in refusing to give the jets clearance.

Many U.N. officials believe that if the jets had been allowed to leave Kano when they were first due to take off, Mr. Hammarskjoeld would be alive today.

The new jets are expected to give the U.N. force air superiority in Katanga. They are far faster and more heavily armed than the two Fouga jets which operate from Kolwezi and which are believed to be flown against U.N. targets by a pilot of Rhodesian nationality.

If the Katangan fighting is resumed, and the Fougas take to the air, the U.N. jets will attack. They will probably be flown by Swedish pilots of the U.N. air command.

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961