From the family of UN officer Peter J. Hazou, I am proud to share their contribution of photos and memories from 1961, and a letter from the former Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, that was written on this day, 55 years ago.
Dag Hammarskjold, center, in white suit, his bodyguard William Ranallo at far left, and Peter J. Hazou at right in dark suit with lapel pin.
From reverse of UN photo: “SECRETARY-GENERAL LEAVES FOR CONFERENCE WITH CONGO PREMIER. UN 72653 -United Nations, Leopoldville, September, 1961. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold leaves UN Headquarters in Leopoldville on his way to meet Congolese Premier, Cyrille Adoula. The Secretary-General was consulting with Premier Adoula on the Katanga dispute.”
Friday, September 15, 1961
Dear Abboud and family,
We are still here in Congo and still enjoying ourselves. Peter has decided to stay a while longer as it is to our advantage financially, and so we will remain here in Congo until the end of November, 1961. At that time we are planning to take a three week cruise from Point Noir in French Congo and go up West Africa, stopping at a different port each day and ending up in Casablanca and then going to Marseille, where we will take a plane home. It will be a very interesting trip. It will get us home in cold Winter weather, though. We would stay longer but we have our house empty at home and that is a responsibility. We have registered Linda at Sacre Coeure school where they speak only French. She doesn’t know any yet but will learn quickly. In two months she won’t speak it perfectly but it will be better than nothing.
Sunday we all went on another boat ride up the Congo River. We stopped at a few islands and on one was a small African village. The children were interested in seeing how the people live. It was on the French Congo side. It is fun to go on these sandy islands. People swim from there but we don’t because the Congo River is brown and has strong currents which would pull one downstream quickly. Someone saw a crocodile once but we never did.
I take the children to the pool often because they love it. Linda swims a bit now, and Petey uses the tube. Tennis is available but I haven’t been able to get Peter to play much. He is still gaining weight but this week he intends to go on a diet. Linda has gotten very tall, and Petey is maturing nicely. I am happy that you are all well. We received your letter and it was good to get all your news. It is good Marcos is still globe-trotting, and I am glad it has been a good tourist season. I hope the weather remains pleasant for you. Over here it is still pleasantly cool, and we have rainy days now and then. The heavy rains will be coming soon and also the warm weather. Yesterday I taught our house boy to cook stuffed cabbage and Peter loved it. Also, I cook spaghetti occasionally because the family loves it. Sunday nights we sit at the outdoor gelateria and have Italian ice cream. Sometimes we go to the football matches (the Nigerians are good players) and sometimes we go to the movies, and so the time goes. There are still many cocktail parties, and the enclosed picture was taken at an Indian Officers’ one under a huge tent.
Wednesday [13 September 1961], Dag [Hammarskjold] came in and Peter was the protocol officer for the government at the airport. He greeted Adoula, Gizenga, Mobutu and Momboko[?-TB] when they arrived and then he made all the arrangements. When the S-G’s plane arrived he went up to meet him with Linner and Gen.[McKeown]. The Congolese and Nigerian bands played and it was a very nice welcome.
Tonight we will attend a big reception given by the Sec. General. This is a very crucial week here in the Congo. There is heavy fighting in Katanga, and at the huge UN army base. Last night the planes of UN personnel arrived from there as they were evacuated for safety. Don’t worry about us, though, as we are quite safe in Leopoldville as the fighting is far away. Peter is taking care of settling the refugees comfortably. If there is any big job Peter is asked to do it because they know it will get done properly. Because of this, Peter is working hard and practically running the big UN operation here but feels he doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves from headquarters, who do not realize he is working so hard because some of the other men are not capable of handling their jobs and so it falls on Peter. But it is a satisfaction to handle jobs well. He set up the whole Lovanium operation, which was tremendous and cost a million dollars. He used to have a private radio connection with it when it was locked in session, although he was one of the few people who had complete access to it. Too bad he didn’t take pictures there. We all hope the Katanga situation resolves itself quickly without civil war breaking out.
Well, Linda will start school Monday and we are glad about it. Tomorrow we will take a trip across the river to Brazzaville and look the town over. It is much smaller than Leopoldville. The past few days were warm and the hot season is starting to come in. It isn’t uncomfortable yet, though. I guess it is getting cooler in Bethlehem and the tourists are fewer. It is amazing to think that we will be having another great trip next Summer and will be with you again. I guess we can never complain about the United Nations! The children send kisses to each one of you and they are constantly drawing pictures which they say are for you. They are too bulky to send, though. Take good care of yourselves and keep in good spirits and health.
[At end of letter, Peter Hazou writes in pen:]
I am sorry I have not been able to write more often since I have not been able to find the time. Thank you for your letters which arrive here via New York much quicker than in the past. As soon as we return to New York (about 17 December 1961) I shall resume a more regular correspondence. I am tired but healthy and I am sure the boat trip from the Congo to Marseille will do me a lot of good. My love to Mother, Victoria, Jamil and Mary and of course to yourself. I shall take a few days off and will write you a more detailed letter. The S-G will return to New York after tomorrow. The news from Katanga this evening is quite bad. I hope things improve. Love, Peter
Boat rides on the Congo River, Peter Hazou and family, 1961
Peter Hazou, Congo, 1961
First page of Lovanium Operation report from Hazou, who did tremendous work to organize all the details for the Lovanium conference to happen, dated 23 August 1961, with photo and ONUC Lovanium pass. Hazou worked for the United Nations for over three decades, from 1947 until 1978.
Peter and Winnie Hazou at left, with Sergeant Harold Julien second from right. This is likely the photo of the Indian Officer’s cocktail party mentioned in the letter, it is undated. The son of Winnie Hazou recalls: “She told me that she told Harry [Julien] at the reception how very lucky he was to be going on the mission to Katanga with the S-G”.
Hazou with unidentified person, possibly at same Indian Officer’s Party.
Invitation to the reception for Dag Hammarskjold, at La Deviniere, 15 September 1961
At reception for Hammarskjold, on the terrace at La Deviniere, Peter and Winnie with unidentified person.
La Deviniere terrace, Peter and Winnie Hazou, Joseph Kasa-Vubu, and S. Habib Ahmed
Here is the reverse of the last photo, which is dated in arabic 16 September 1961. Though she writes in the letter to Abboud that the reception for Hammarskjold was on the 15th, Winnie Hazou told her family later on that the reception was the night before the flight, the 16th, which also contradicts the date on the invitation, but the days leading up to the flight were intense with fighting, so it’s very possible that the date was moved at the last minute.
Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, far left, with Peter Hazou on right, at Ndjili airport, Leopoldville, to transfer the 16 fallen to the Pan-Am plane.
Leopoldville, Pan-Am transport of fallen
The son of Peter and Winnie was only four years old at the time of the crash, but he remembers how he heard the news about Hammarskjold. He was at a luncheon for wives of diplomats with his mother, when the news came that Hammarskjold’s plane was announced missing, and the luncheon ended abruptly. He knew that something was wrong when his father came home in the middle of the day, which was very unusual for him. And then he saw his parents crying together. When the bodies of the fallen arrived in Leopoldville, he was on the observation deck at Ndjili airport with his family, and still recalls the intense sadness and solemnity of the people around him.
It took many people to run the United Nations Operation in the Congo, and I am glad to pay tribute to the memory of a colleague of Vlado, who no doubt grieved his death as well.