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Dag Hammarskjöld* (July 29, 1905-September 18, 1961), was a Swedish diplomat, and the second Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 until his death in a plane crash in 1961. He personally negotiated the release of American soldiers captured by the Chinese in the Korean War, worked to ease the situation in Palestine, and was instrumental in urging the UN to nullify the use of force by Israel, France, and Great Britain during the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. His "preventative diplomacy" in these and other situations helped define the role of the UN Secretary-General as the executive of operations for peace, and strengthened the independence and effectiveness of the position.

When the government of the newly liberated Congo, faced with mutiny in its army, secession of its province of Katanga, and intervention of Belgian troops, asked the UN for help in 1960, Hammarskjöld led the peace-keeping force. The situation was fraught with difficulties, culminating in fighting between Katanga troops and noncombatant UN forces. In an effort to secure a cease-fire, Hammarskjöld boarded a plane headed for a personal conference with President Tshombe of Katanga. During the night of September 17-18, his plane crashed near the border between Katanga and North Rhodesia, killing Hammarskjöld along with fifteen others. A number of inquiries into the crash made by Rhodesian and UN commissions proved inconclusive, and some continue to believe that it was not an accident.

Hammarskjöld received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, having been nominated before his death.

* Pronunciation guide

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