This Day in History

The world in many ways was much like now. The geo-political landscape was constantly changing. Then, there was the threat from the USSR because Joseph Stalin died March 5 leaving an obviously struggle inside the Kremlin. Then, it was the Korean Conflict and the multiple events, sometimes called brushfire incidents, the Kremlin and Washington DC acted out their ideological differences at a local level.  Then, we had just elected Dwight David Eisenhower as president and the build up of the military industrial complex was coming on line. And, then, we had the roiling of America over McCarthyism, the House Committee investigating supposed un-American activities, a rampage by  Joe McCarthy to purge the country of any echo of free speech that might damage his idea of what was America.

In the world organization that was chartered to find a way to ‘end the scourge of war for succeeding generations’ the United Nations Secretary-General was the lamest of ducks having alienated both of the super powers.

The search for a new Secretary-General was months long, protracted by the need to find someone who was acceptable to both the eastern countries and the western powers. ‘The darkest of dark horses’ was a Swede, born in 1905, scion of an aristocratic family that served no political party, only King and Country.

Into this world-wide maelstrom, unassuming and brilliant, neutral and idealistic, stepped Dag Hammarskjöld.  Nominated on March 31, 1953 and accepted by both the US and the USSR. In the pre-dawn hours of April 1,  Hammarskjöld cabled his acceptance. “With a strong feeling of personal insufficiency, I hesitate to accept candidature, but do not feel I can refuse the task imposed upon me.”

Biographer Brian Urquhart stated  in an oral history from the 1980s: ” By pure accident, they picked somebody who was exactly the opposite to what everybody wanted. They thought they’d got a safe, bureaucratic civil servant, non-political, and they got Hammarskjöld. It will never happen again; nobody’s ever going to make that mistake twice.”

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