Swedish Major Eric Bonde smokes a cigarette after being ambushed and shot twice, Congo, 1961


Major Erik Bonde was part of the Swedish UN mission in Congo during the Congolese crisis. He was probably shot by Baluba warriors, using many of the old muzzleloader rifles/muskets used at the time (not as powerful as more modern rifles). After first aid he returned to fight the invisible enemy in the jungle bushes.

During the Congo crisis, the Secretary-General of the United Nations was the Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld, who was highly respected both in Sweden and in the international community (among others, JFK and Eisenhower often praised him). Sweden thus took a special interest in the conflict, with Hammarskjöld working tirelessly to end it.

From 1960 to 1964, the Swedish Army sent a total of nine battalions to Congo. In the early stages of the crisis, when white people became targets during riots in the Congo, Dag Hammarskjold assessed that it was important that there were white UN troops in the country.

Therefore, he requested that Sweden and Ireland send one battalion each, with the ulterior motive being that they would win the confidence of the whites more easily than the troops of the African states.

The first Swedish battalion arrived in Congo directly from Gaza on 22 July 1960. The first day the Swedes were patrolling Léopoldville and protecting the Kinshasa airport in the city.

Like other UN troops, the Swedes had difficulty knowing who were actually friends and who were enemies, and the fighting they engaged in did not always have a clear rational reason.

In August, the Swedes moved to Elisabethville in Katanga, where they ended up in their first combat position and suffered their first losses in connection with the escort of rail transport.

Trains carrying Katangan Baluba prisoners were attacked by a nationalist group called the Baluba, who supported the central government against secession from the government. In practice, at the time, Sweden fought in much the same way as the Belgian-led Katangan Gendarmerie, which later became the United Nations' worst enemy.

The Congo crisis became the most serious international engagement ever for the Swedish armed forces during the Cold War, and was the first time in 140 years that Swedish forces were forced into combat. During the years in Congo, 40 Swedish soldiers were wounded and 19 were killed.

As late as 2004, it was alleged that the corpses of two murdered Swedes had been eaten by local people, reportedly because Africans believed that cannibalism was a way of assimilating the victim's strength.

This incident was considered very sensitive by the United Nations and the Congolese government and the incident was covered up. A total of 6,334 Swedes served in the Congo during 1960–1964.

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