23. Memorandum of Discussion at the 335th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, August 22, 19571

Present at the 335th Council meeting were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; Christian A. Herter for the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Acting Attorney General (participating in Items 1, 2 and 3); the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (participating in Item 3); the Federal Civil Defense Administrator (participating in Item 3); the Acting Director, U.S. Information Agency; the Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers (participating in Item 3); the Director, International Cooperation Administration; the Acting Chairman, Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference, and the Chairman, [Page 72] Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security (attending for Items 1 and 2); the Deputy Secretary of Defense; William Leonhart, Department of State; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Acting Director of Central Intelligence; the Deputy Assistant to the President; Special Assistants to the President Cutler and Dearborn; the White House Staff Secretary; the NSC Representative on Internal Security (attending for Items 1 and 2); the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

[Here follows discussion of items 1–4.]

5. U.S. Policy Toward Africa South of the Sahara Prior to Calendar Year 1960 (NIE 72-56;2 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Report to the President on the Vice President’s Visit to Africa”, dated April 22, 1957;3 NSC 5719;4 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated August 20, 19575)

Mr. Cutler briefed the Council in very considerable detail on the highlights of NSC 5719. He noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had concurred in the draft statement of policy, and that the report contained no split views. He then asked the Vice President, as the “father” of this new policy on Africa, to make any comments he wished.

[Here follows discussion of the usefulness of an ongoing intelligence study: “Africa in Transition”.]

The Director of the International Cooperation Administration asked at this point if he might make an observation. Mr. Hollister pointed out that on the economic side, one of the biggest problems confronting the U.S. Government was how to provide effective aid to those areas which were not likely in the near future to emerge from their present colonial status. He expressed the view that it was wasteful for the United States to try, for example, to do much in the Belgian Congo, and recommended that we concentrate our assistance either on the independent countries of Africa or on areas which were emerging into independence.

The Vice President then said that he had no objection to the proposed study on “Africa in Transition” if it was understood that it [Page 73] was not being made to provide the basis for determining specific courses of U.S. political action in this area.

The Vice President then indicated that he had another point to make. He believed that he detected a tendency in the present report (NSC 5719) to underestimate the seriousness of the Communist threat in Africa. After all, we do not have to count only card-bearing Communists as a measure of the Communist threat. In Africa, the Vice President predicted, the Communists will clothe themselves in Islamic, racist, anti-racist, or nationalist clothing. The potential danger of Communist penetration he believed to be very great, because the Communists were always in a position to support and take advantage of extremist elements, where the United States could not do so. The Vice President indicated that he did not mean that his warning required a change in NSC 5719.

Secretary Herter said that he was very glad that the Vice President had brought up this point about the Communist danger, because it was a point which he himself wished to speak of along the same lines.6 Secretary Herter continued by saying that he believed that the statement in paragraph 17 on page 12 of NSC 5719 was too optimistic, and he therefore suggested the addition of language which would indicate that the potential Communist threat to Africa was greater than the actual threat at the present time.7

In support of Secretary Herter’s views, the Vice President cited various instances in different parts of Africa where the Communists had been effective in securing the support of various elements of the population. He went on to speak of the matter of Egyptian influence in Africa South of the Sahara. The Vice President believed that the Egyptians had already acquired tremendous influence in the Sudan and would from that point carry their influence further south. Much the same was true of the widespread Indian influence in Black Africa. Neither the Egyptian nor the Indian influence should be overlooked, because both might be used effectively by the Communists.

The President said he should have thought that the influence of Islam in general would be anti-Communist rather than pro-Communist. General Cabell replied that the President was correct, but that [Page 74] the influence of Islam could be manipulated in favor of Communism, as, for example, in Egypt today.

General Twining indicated that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were inclined to the view that the statement of the military and strategic value of Africa South of the Sahara, as set forth in paragraphs 19 and 20 on page 13, played down somewhat the strategic importance of the area, although the Joint Chiefs were not recommending any precise change in the language of these paragraphs. Mr. Cutler replied by pointing out that the estimate in paragraphs 19 and 20 was a short-range estimate which could be changed in the future. He indicated that the Record of Action might well take note of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on these paragraphs.

The National Security Council:8

Discussed the draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5719, in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon transmitted by the reference memorandum of August 20, 1957, and the comments by the Vice President at the meeting.
Adopted the statement of policy in NSC 5719, subject to the following amendment:

Page 12, paragraph 17, 1st sentence: Add, at the end of the sentence, the words, “but its potential influence is a matter of growing concern.”

Noted the statement by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, relative to paragraphs 19 and 20 on page 13, affirming the desirability of periodically surveying the strategic importance of Africa South of the Sahara.

Note: NSC 5719, as amended, subsequently approved by the President and circulated as NSC 5719/1 for implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, and referred to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency designated by the President.

[Here follows discussion of item 6.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on August 23.
  2. Document 14.
  3. Document 19.
  4. NSC 5719, July 31, was the first NSC paper on Sub-Saharan Africa. The text was the same as NSC 5719/1, infra, except for the change noted in NSC Action No. 1778, below. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5719 Series)
  5. It conveyed a memorandum by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Nathan F. Twining, for the Secretary of Defense, August 16, recommending concurrence in the adoption of NSC 5719. (Ibid.)
  6. Dulles called Herter on August 21 to indicate that the paper needed stiffening in that it was overly optimistic regarding the lack of Communist activities. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations)
  7. At a meeting in Herter’s office on the evening of August 21, attended by George LaMont of NEA, it was suggested, in regard to paragraph 17, that the words: “but its potential influence is a matter of growing concern” be added to the opening sentence: “By and large, Communism has not been a major problem in Africa South of the Sahara up to the present.” (Memorandum from Rountree to Herter, August 22; Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351)
  8. The following paragraphs and Note constitute NSC Action No. 1778. The original language of paragraphs 19 and 20 in NSC 5719 was retained. (Ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95)