This Day In History: April 7

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By a vote of 57 to 1, Dag Hammarskjöld is elected secretary-general of the United Nations.

The son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, a former prime minister of Sweden, Dag joined Sweden’s foreign ministry in 1947, and in 1951 formally entered the cabinet as deputy foreign minister. The same year, he traveled to the United Nations as vice chairman of the Swedish delegation, and in 1952 was appointed acting chairman. Elected U.N. secretary-general on the recommendation of the Security Council on April 7, 1953, he led missions to China, the Middle East, and elsewhere to become better acquainted with the United Nations’ member states and to arrange peace settlements. In 1957, he was unanimously re-elected secretary-general.

During his second term, he initiated and directed the United Nations’ vigorous role in the Congolese Civil War, which led to criticism of Hammarskjöld's leadership by the Soviet Union. He was on his fourth mission to the Republic of the Congo when he was killed with 15 others in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia on September 18, 1961. U Thant of Myanmar succeeded him as secretary-general. Hammarskjöld was posthumously awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize.