1905 - 1961

"The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned."

- Dag Hammarskjold

Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld entered the world-stage in 1946 when he helped craft the Marshall Plan for Europe’s reconstruction in the wake of World War II. In March of 1953 he was elected U.N. Secretary General. During his tenure he personally negotiated the release of American soldiers captured by the Chinese in the Korean War; intervened in the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956, and the on-going Middle East crises of Lebanon and Jordan in 1958; and he sent a personal representative to Southeast Asia when Cambodia and Thailand broke off diplomatic relations, and another to Laos when problems arose there in 1959. Out of these crises came a steadily growing tendency to employ a U.N. presence in world trouble spots – “preventive diplomacy" – which established Hammarskjöld as one of the most proactive Secretary Generals in history. Intensely private about his personal life, rumors of his homosexuality emerged soon after being elected to his first term, though he is only known to have had a relationship with one man. His deep religious devotion, penchant for intense self-criticism, and self-imposed isolation have contributed to an aura of mystery that has only in recent times been pierced. Given the Cold War political climate in which he worked, historians have speculated that remaining closeted was probably viewed as a small sacrifice; for Hammarskjöld believed that “we are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny… [but] what we put into it is ours.”  Hammarskjöld was killed when his plane went down while on an emergency diplomatic mission to the Belgian Congo in 1961 – a death which has held the fascination of conspiracy theorists for decades. Upon hearing of the tragedy, President John F. Kennedy declared him to be “the greatest statesman of our century.” Dag Hammarskjöld remains the only U.N. Secretary-General to die in office and is the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. He has been an inspiration to social justice advocates of all sexual orientations and gender identities for generations.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Protestant

Nations Affiliated Sweden

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Great Depression (1929-1939) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution




Commemorations & Honors

Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza Public Park Near UN Headquarters

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Calendar of Saints Annual Commemoration on September 18

Posthumous Nobel Peace Prize (1961)

UN Headquarters Dag Hammarskjöld Library Dedicated (1961)

United Nations Postal Administration Stamps (1962)

Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation Created by Sweden (1962)

UN Security Council Established Dag Hammarskjöld Medal (1997)

Dag Hammarskjöld Image Featured on the Swedish 1000 Kronor Banknote (2015)


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Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell