360. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Meeting with the President, December 14, 1962 10:00 A.M., on the Congo2

George Ball opened the meeting by presenting the paper attached, entitled “New Policy on the Congo.”3 The repetition of past patterns of events and indications that Tshombe was growing stronger and Adoula weaker all called for some new decisions in the Congo. Despite Adoula’s limitations, he was the best available leader in Léopoldville from our point of view. He needs both strengthening and direction. Our aim in the Congo should be a degree of reintegration which preserves some measure of autonomy for Tshombe. Tshombe himself, it should be noted, is an alternative superior to others available to us in Katanga. At the minimum we had to reduce the Katanga military forces considerably, require Tshombe to give up his pretense to sovereignty and achieve a fair division of the revenues in Katanga and the Central Government. The course of events makes it clear that such a solution cannot be achieved by further negotiation, since Tshombe has no incentive to move in this direction. Accordingly, it must be imposed. This will require the UN to make a more impressive show of force than it has yet done. This, in turn, will best be accomplished by adding U.S. military power in the shape of an air squadron to the UN force. It would be our expectation that the force would not be used, but we must be prepared to use it if necessary. ANC ground forces, with some bolstering up in accordance with the Greene Plan, plus the present UN ground forces, are sufficient.

The President asked about the significance of the UMHK’s decision to pay its revenues to the Central Government, and also about the constitutional problem.

Mr. Ball replied that, while we had to play out the UMHK move, there was every indication that it was another Tshombe dodge, and that it would result in no more progress than previous similar starts. Accordingly, [Page 735] we must decide now on a show of force. On the constitution, he said that the present document was extremely complicated, and negotiation on it might take years. What was needed was a simple understanding between Tshombe and Adoula on the essentials of the Katanga-Congo relations.

The President then raised the question of how we could deal with American public opinion, with the Congress, and with the views of our European allies. Tshombe’s reputation in the U.S. was on the whole favorable. The sense that the alternatives to Tshombe and Adoula were sufficiently adverse to U.S. interests to justify American military intervention did not exist. What could we do to create it?

The President also asked Secretary Ball about UN cover versus direct U.S. military assistance to Adoula. The President was concerned about putting U.S. military units under UN control. Mr. Bundy noted that units would be under U.S. control, in fact. The President, however, was concerned with the question of form. Various analogies were made, including South Korea, the present Globemaster arrangement in the Congo, and the relations between our forces and the Government of South Vietnam. Secretary Ball pointed out that originally Hammarskjöld and later U Thant had the view that it was undesirable to have great power participation in UN peace-keeping operations. It was his judgment now that the Secretary General’s investment of his personal prestige in the success of the Congo operation and the strong sentiments of African and Asian nations would permit the UN to accept American forces. Mr. Cleveland pointed out that we could arrange it so that the force was not formally part of UNOC although it was used in close consultation with UNOC and the Secretary General.

Governor Williams raised the point that the Kamina base was the desirable place at which to put the squadron. Secretary Gilpatric agreed, and said they could be flown in by transports from Adana and Tripoli, and that the whole squadron and the ground security forces necessary for it could be in place in 48 to 72 hours from the time of decision, using some 20 sorties of large transport planes.

The President asked whether we would make this move in response to a request by U Thant. He also raised the question of how we make it into an anti-Communist effort since this was the only way we could justify these movements publicly in the U.S. Messrs. Bundy and Kaysen pointed out the importance of the use of U.S. force in providing us with an influence on both the UN and Adoula. It was important that we make the UN and Adoula realize that our force was to be applied for limited objectives and what we were doing involved in essence a certain guarantee of Tshombe, as well as a guarantee of Congo integration.

Admiral Anderson observed that what we had was a political, rather than a military, problem in the use of force, and this must be understood. [Page 736] The military part of the job could be done by any force. It was the political part that required U.S. force. Mr. Bowles spoke about the Communist threat if integration failed and Adoula failed. He also spoke of the strong feeling against Tshombe of the Africans. Secretary Ball agreed with Anderson’s characterization of the situation of the use of the U.S. force. One of its central features was to show U.S. determination to come to a solution of the problems, a determination which had been suspect in New York and Léopoldville, as well as in Elisabethville. He went on to repeat our aims with respect to Tshombe: to force him to give up the bulk of his military forces; to secure an equitable division of the revenues between Katanga and the Central Government; to give up the pretense of independent Katanga sovereignty. To do this, we need a UN force and guarantee for Tshombe that structure of the Congo would be a loose federation, and that the ANC will not overrun Katanga. Accordingly, Adoula must guarantee that there will be a loose federation according to certain agreed constitutional principles, and that he will prorogue parliament shortly in order to be able to carry through the required measures, and that he will accept Tshombe’s position as head in Katanga in a Congo Federation. To bring these results about we will probably need to get increased economic assistance to the Central Congo Government. In response to the President’s question, Mr. Williams said that we could produce in 48 hours a draft set of constitutional principles and modifications in the present document which would embody these principles.

Secretary Gilpatric raised the question of whether we should put our squadron at Wheelus. The President felt that if we put in force at all, it is better to put it into the Congo and get the maximum results from it.

The President asked whether we didn’t need a paper defining our goals for Adoula and Tshombe. Mr. Bundy responded that, while it was easy to produce a paper, it might not be useful since we were obviously dealing with a moving negotiation.

The President gave Mr. Ball the responsibility for producing by Monday a paper describing the elements of the agreed program. The President again asked whether U Thant would agree to U.S. forces, and Mr. Cleveland responded in the affirmative.

The President then decided that we should undertake to put in an air squadron, but that it should be at Adoula’s request, in cooperation with the UN, rather than under UN command. Mr. Cleveland agreed that this was legally possible, and the President repeated his view that this would be more desirable domestically. Mr. Cleveland suggested that we remind the public of the speed with which the Soviets provided military assistance in August and September of 1960 when Lumumba was head of the Congo Government.

[Page 737]

The President returned to the question of steps to be taken. These included:

discuss the proposal with U Thant;
discuss it with Adoula;
if satisfactory conclusions arose from these discussions, put the squadron in;
reserve for a later time Congressional presentation;
Bowles to include in his speech tonight4 our concern with the Communist threat in the Congo and the need to protect the interests of both sides in the Congo-Katanga dispute;
McGhee to do a backgrounder at the State Department explaining the present state of the situation. He also was to approach Senator Dodd and get whatever help from Senator Humphrey he could;
George Ball was to look into the usefulness of bringing up to date and issuing the Congo “White Paper,” which was drafted in the fall.5

Carl Kaysen6
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Brubeck Series, Congo, 12/14/62. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Kaysen.
  2. The participants in the meeting, in addition to the President, were Ball, McGhee, Bowles, Williams, Hilsman, Gilpatric, Davis, Cleveland, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George W. Anderson, Colonel Greene, Bronson Tweedy of the Central Intelligence Agency, McGeorge Bundy, and Kaysen. Kaysen’s handwritten notes of the meeting are ibid.
  3. Document 359.
  4. The text of an address that Bowles made in New York on December 14 is printed in Department of State Bulletin, December 31, 1962, pp. 1002–1007.
  5. Not found.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.