120. National Security Action Memorandum No. 971


  • The Secretary of State


  • Use of U.S. Fighter Aircraft in the Congo

The President at 4 p.m. on September 19 authorized the dispatch of U.S. fighter aircraft with the necessary logistical support to the Congo, [Page 232] on a contingency basis. This authorization would become effective only if no fighter aircraft of other nations were made available to the United Nations,2 and the President specifically directed that the mission of U.S. fighter aircraft would be to support and defend U.S. and U.N. transports or other U.N. forces that might come under air attack. There will be no effort to seek out and destroy Fouga Magister jets not attacking U.S. or U.N. forces without further authority from the President.

In the President’s view it is of high importance that U.S. fighter aircraft be understood to intervene only in defense of beleaguered U.N. forces. He is not prepared to authorize their use at this time in offensive activities against Katangan forces.

McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Department of State, NSAM Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 97. Secret. A copy was sent to the Secretary of Defense. A draft with Bundy’s handwritten revisions is filed with a September 19 memorandum to Wallner in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Congo. Additional documentation concerning its background is filed with a September 26 memorandum by Brubeck in Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, Presidential Record of Report on the Congo.
  2. Telegram 823 from USUN, September 19, reported that Bunche had stated that India was going to make jet aircraft available and that the United Nations had decided to request U.S. jet fighters only if it was unable to obtain them from India or Ethiopia. (Ibid., Central Files, 770G.00/9–1961)