CHAPTER ONE: THE FIRST
A Case History
Regret your odious lie
constituted by statement that UNO mercenaries do not fire at Red Cross
ambulances and others--stop--You would be authorised to speak after
spending night with us in hospital bombarded by your shameless and
Telegram to U Thant from the
forty-six civilian doctors of Elisabethville, the Congo
CHAPTER ONE: THE FIRST SPADE
It was December 12, 1961. Christmas was coming to Katanga.
Smith Hempstone, African correspondent for the Chicago News,
reported from Elisabethville:
The United Nations jets next turned their
attention to the center of the city. Screaming in at treetop level while
excited soldiers and white civilians popped away at them with anything
from 22 pistols to submachine guns, they blasted the post office and
radio station, severing Katanga's communications with the outside world
. . .. One came to the conclusion that the United Nations' action was
intended to make it more difficult for correspondents to let the world
know what was going on in Katanga, since the only way press dispatches
could be filed was to drive them 150 miles to Northern Rhodesia over a
road studded with tribal roadblocks and subject to United Nations air
attacks . . .. By December 12, 1961 . . . mortar shells hailed down on
the center of the city as the softening up process began . . .. Among
the "military objectives" hit: a beauty shop, the apartment of
the French consul, Sabena Airways office, the Roman Catholic Cathedral,
the Elisabethville museum.
A car pulled up in front of the Grand Hotel
Leopold II where all of us were staying. "Look at the work of the
American criminals," sobbed the Belgian driver. "Take a
picture and send it to Kennedy!" In the back seat, his eyes glazed
with shock, sat a wounded African man cradling in his arms the body of
his ten year old son. The child's face and belly had been smashed to
jelly by mortar fragments.1
The forty-six civilian doctors of Elisabethville
unanimously issued a joint report on the United Nations actions against Katanga
which included the following account of the December 12, 1961, bombing of the
The Shinkolobwe hospital is visibly marked with an
enormous red cross on the roof of the administrative pavilion. . . .
At about 8 a.m. . . . two aeroplanes flew over the
hospital twice at very low altitude; at about 9:30 a.m. the aeroplanes
started machine-gunning . . . the market square, and then the school and
the hospital in which there were about 300 patients and their families.
. . .
The administrative building, the left wing of the
four pavilions and the household buildings . . . were bombed and show
hundreds of points of impact made by the machine-gun bullets.
In the maternity, roof, ceilings, walls, beds,
tables and chairs are riddled with bullets; a bomb exploded in another
pavilion which was luckily unoccupied; the roof, the ceiling, half of
the walls and the furniture have been blasted and shattered. . . . The
blood from the wounded makes the buildings look like a battlefield. . .
In the maternity, four Katangan women who had just
been delivered and one newborn child are wounded, a visiting child of
four years old is killed; two men and one child are killed. . . .
Out of the 300 patients, 240 fled into the bush,
refusing to be evacuated to any other hospital, for they say . . .
"the UNO prefers to aim at the hospitals and we would henceforth no
longer feel safe there."2
Professor Ernest van den Haag3 made a personal visit to the Congo to
witness firsthand the events and conditions there. In commenting on the United
Nations statement that the only civilians wounded in Katanga were combatants in
the resistance, he said:
||It is hard to speak, as I did, with a mother whose
husband was killed at home in her presence with bayonets by UN soldiers.4 She was in the hospital to help
take care of her six year old child, severely wounded by United Nations
bayonets. A child's bayonet wounds are hardly due to having been
suspected of being mercenary or combatant.5
The doctors of Elisabethville reported the "triple
and particularly heinous assassination of three elderly people" on December
16, 1961, as follows:
The . . . "boy" of Mr. Derriks, Mr.
André Kapenga, a witness, relates that nothing special occurred until
1:45 p.m. At this moment, the old cook, Mr. Jean Fimbo, has just brought
coffee into the drawing room, and Mr. Guillaume Derriks (60-year-old
Belgian) and his elderly mother (aged 87) who lives with him, are about
to drink it.
At that moment, an armored car of the UNO takes up
position on the path . . . and is machine-gunning the other side of the
valley. . . . When the firing has ceased, [United Nations] mercenaries
enter the garden . . . and machine-gun the two cars parked in the
The "boy" André Kapenga, is
panic-stricken; he locks himself in the food-store next to the kitchen.
The [soldiers] climb the stairs leading from the garage to the kitchen
and with a burst of machine-gun fire shoot Mr. Jean Fimbo, who has
sought refuge under the sink . . . enter the drawing-room where Mr.
Derriks who cries out in English: "Not me," is shot down by a
bullet . . . and is finished off by a burst which blows off half of his
face and skull.
A few seconds later, a third burst hits Mrs.
Derriks in the right breast . . . and in the neck. . . .
At about 5 p.m. the "boy" Kapenga hears
the soldiers once more entering the villa, where they run about looting
to a slight extent before leaving. Soon after, Mr. Kapenga ventures out
of his hiding place and horrified at the sight of the three bodies, runs
away and hides himself in a loft.6
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs G. Mennen
Williams, speaking in Detroit, accused the Katangese government of fabricating
what he called "horrendous tales of indiscriminate mayhem by United Nations
troops" during their December attack on Katanga. Millions of Americans read
Williams' assurances in their newspapers and were relieved. Practically no one
has read Smith Hempstone's reply:
||Unquestionably, the Katanga Information Service had
played up United Nations atrocities, real and imagined, for all they
were worth. Williams might have been in a better position to judge,
however, had he spent some time in Elisabethville's Leo Deux while UN
mortar shells rained down during those last days before Christmas. Every
newsman there had seen civilians shelled with his own eyes. Each of us
had seen Red Cross vehicles destroyed by United Nations fire. Or were
all of us lying? Georges Alavet, the Swedish Red Cross representative,
lay in his shallow grave in testimony that we were not. Sanché de
Gramont of the New York Herald Tribune might well have sent
Williams a few pieces of the shrapnel picked from his body after United
Nations troops shot up the civilian car in which he was leaving
Much has happened since December 12, 1961. Like any point
along the infinite corridor of time, it is neither the beginning nor the end.
But it is a reference point, a handhold on an otherwise glass-smooth sphere too
large to grasp in its entirety. The story of Katanga, its tragic struggle for
freedom against the United Nations and the part that this story plays in the
overall view of the United Nations itself, is so vast, so huge and overpowering
that it seems impossible to find a place to begin. But, like most seemingly
overwhelming tasks, it is not as important where one begins as it is that one does
begin. To move a mountain, one must dig. December 12, 1961, is the first
1. Smith Hempstone, Rebels, Mercenaries
and Dividends (New York, Frederic A. Praeger, Inc., 1962), pp.
190-193. Smith Hempstone, as already noted, is the African correspondent for the
Chicago News. He has been a working journalist ever since his graduation
from the University of the South (Sewanee), except for his military
service in Korea. He has worked in Africa since 1956, and in 1960 was awarded
the Sigma Delta Chi award for foreign correspondence. Mr. Hempstone's personal
views relating to the United Nations have already been discussed in the Foreword
of this book.
2. 46 Angry Men (Belmont, Mass.,
American Opinion, 1962), pp. 60-63; originally published by T. Vleurinck, 96
Avenue de Broqueville, Bruxelles 15, 1962. The majority of the forty-six
civilian doctors are Belgian, but they also include Swiss, Hungarian, Brazilian,
and Spanish. They practice medicine in the Congo, not for profit, but for the
benefit of the underdeveloped populations. The political questions did not
concern them. Being doctors, they had no position to take regarding matters
which they felt were solely the responsibility of the Katangese government and
UN authorities. What was their concern, however, was the health and
well-being of the population in their care. The prevention of wounds was of
equal concern to them as the prevention of sickness. Consequently, they were
well within their role of physicians when they issued their protest and
declared: "It is not as active partisans of an independent Katanga that the
civilian doctors of Elisabethville have thought it their duty to warn the world
conscience, but strictly as citizens of the world, besides being bound by the
Hippocratic oath which compels them to fight against death wherever it may come
3. After teaching at City College and the
University of Minnesota, Professor Ernest van den Haag became (and still is) a
member of the faculty of New York University and the New School for Social
Research. He lectures widely and is the author of Education as an Industry
and of The Fabric of Society (with Ralph Ross), the latter a widely used
textbook in the social sciences. He has published many articles in American and
foreign learned journals. Professor van den Haag is a fellow of the American
Sociological Association and of the Royal Economic Society.
4. In the original source material, the
nationality of the particular soldiers involved was given. It would seem unfair,
however, to implicate a whole nationality when the soldiers were completely
subject to UN directives. The United Nations has never apologized for the action
of these men or implied that it was not responsible for their acts. In fact, it
has widely praised their performance. It will be our practice, therefore, to
substitute the name United Nations for all future references to troops of
specific nationalities serving under UN command.
5. Ernest van den Haag, The War in Katanga
(New York, American Committee for Aid to Katanga Freedom Fighters, 1962), p.
6. 46 Angry Men, pp. 27-29.
7. Hempstone, pp. 221-222. For Williams'
statement see "Those Angelic UN Soldiers,"
Chicago Tribune (December 28, 1961).