34. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Rowan) to President Johnson1


  • USIA Policy and Operations in Congo Airdrop

In view of the widespread African hostility to the Stanleyville rescue mission, I thought you might be interested in USIA’s efforts to generate understanding and sympathy for the operation.

USIA policy from the start was to rely heavily on rebel brutality as a means of influencing world opinion in support of the humanitarian aspects of the rescue mission. Before the paratroop drop, the USIA mission in Leopoldville had instructions on the press, motion picture, still picture, and radio coverage required to document this brutality. At the time of the drop, the Agency instructed its posts throughout the world to establish the essential facts and to “play up evidence of rebel atrocities, callous disregard for lives of Congolese and other noncombatants, defiance of worldwide condemnation.”

Radio: From November 24 to December 11, the Voice of America broadcast 360 newscasts in 36 languages describing the rescue operation and rebel brutality. Additionally, there were more than a dozen commentaries on all major language services. USIA correspondents flew to the Congo for first-hand reports and interviews.

Press: USIA teletype servicing to all areas was heavy. The Africa File carried 98 stories on the Congo crisis, of which 27 dealt directly with rebel outrages. The other files carried a total of 60 atrocity stories.

Pictures: The Agency was able to obtain 23 good photographs of the rescue operation2 and the results of rebel brutality. Five thousand prints of these pictures were distributed to posts in all countries.

Publications: USIA Leopoldville helped the Congolese produce a 40-page booklet, attributed to the Congolese Ministry of Information, describing the atrocities and carrying pictures of many of the victims and some of the escapees. Twelve thousand copies of the booklet are being distributed in the Congo and, if our plans succeed, it will be [Page 99] distributed in other countries through non-American means. (A copy of the pamphlet is attached.)3

Other media output: The Agency produced a 15-minute television program based on the rescue mission and highlighting rebel atrocities. A rescue sequence with pictures of rebel brutality was included in the most recent issue of an unattributed newsreel distributed in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Carl T. Rowan4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, DIRCTR Subj. Files, 1963–69, Bx 6–29 63–69: Acc: #72A5121, Entry UD WW 257, Box 16, Field—Africa (IAA), 1964. Secret. Drafted by Edmond and Anderson. There is no indication that the President saw this memorandum. Under a December 21 covering memorandum, Rowan sent to Harriman a version of the memorandum, dated December 18, signed by Anderson, and sent to Richard Kover of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 33.
  3. Not attached and not further identified.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.