In 1947, Daniel Dennett was sent to Saudi Arabia to study the route of the proposed trans-Arabian pipeline before heading to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to meet with Ethiopian and oil officials to discuss energy opportunities and airspace rights. The Cairo-based US petroleum attache and a communications specialist were also on board the ill-fated flight, which was also carrying 2,000lbs of secret radio equipment as well as an aerial camera.
The emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, had a strong anti-British sentiment and the United States was trying to increase its influence in the country. The passengers on board were due to meet officials in Addis Ababa from US-based Sinclair Oil, which had just been granted an exclusive mandate by the emperor to explore oil opportunities in Ethiopia. But before it could land, the plane crashed in mountains near the Ethiopian city of Dessie, killing all six Americans board.
The circumstances around the crash have been shrouded in secrecy ever since. In her new book, The Crash of Flight 3804: a Lost Spy, a Daughter’s Quest, and the Deadly Politics of the Great Game of Oil, Dennett looks into the mysterious circumstances surrounding her father’s death. Although Dennett was too young to remember spending time with her father, she found a connection with him through his line of work. Both of them have strong ties to the Middle East. Daniel Dennett was America’s top spy in the region for four years during the Second World War, while in the 1970s she worked as an investigative journalist in Beirut, covering Lebanon’s Civil war.
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