362. Memorandum for President Kennedy1



General Rationale

1. The State of Affairs

The UN Reconciliation Plan has not resulted in the necessary progress toward reintegration of the Katanga into the Congo. Although some forward movement has resulted, the latest being Tshombe’s proposal regarding change in UMHK payments to the Central Government, even this proposal appears to involve certain conditions which may delay or prevent its being carried out. There still remain, moreover, other difficult aspects of the Plan as yet unresolved—standstill, amnesty, cease-fire, the Constitution, and integration of forces—on which there is no assurance of either the desire or ability of the two parties to reach early agreement.

We wish to give Tshombe’s latest proposal every benefit of the doubt. We are therefore urging all concerned that it be accepted at face value and that UMHK cease payments to the GOK, initiate payments to the GOC, and that the GOC, perhaps with assistance of the IMF, work out practical arrangements both with UMHK and Tshombe. We are at the same time urging both Tshombe and the Central Government to resume negotiations on the other aspects of the Plan. But if our approach to parties concerned is limited to the kinds of arguments and leverage we have used in the past, success is not at all likely within the time limits required by the state of affairs in the Congo and in the UN.

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For there is growing evidence of serious deterioration in the Congo—the danger of flare-ups in local fighting, the growing Afro-Asian pressure for forceful UN measures, the Secretary-General’s strong desire for a minerals embargo, the continuing financial drain on the UN, the almost certain withdrawal of a big Indian contingent at the end of March, the instability and administrative flabbiness of the Adoula Government, and the latent threat of Soviet bloc military assistance to the Central Government if a continuation of Katanga’s secession were to make moderate politics impossible in Léopoldville.

These factors all underline the urgency of injecting a new element into the Congo situation to avert the failure and withdrawal of the UN—which would result in either a massive US unilateral effort, or failing that, the emergence of an extremist or Communist-dominated government in Léopoldville.

2. New Proposals: US and SYG’s

We believe, therefore, that a new element should be injected into the situation. There are two possibilities:

We have indicated on a most confidential basis to the Secretary-General our willingness to consider dispatching to the Congo an American squadron of fighter aircraft, with accompanying reconnaissance aircraft and ground support personnel;
The Secretary-General has suggested as an alternative that the United States help the UN in a show of force in order to bring about reintegration by supplying the UN with six US armored cars airlifted by US transport to Elisabethville; by providing thirty-two US half-ton trucks airlifted by the United States to Elisabethville; by providing ten US fighters (6 F–86’s, 4 Mustangs) to be flown to Léopoldville or Kamina by US personnel and turned over to the UN thereafter, to be flown by non-American pilots (Swedes, Ethiopians and others); and that the US provide US ground crews which would be considered by the UN as technicians; that the US provide a small engineering unit for bridging operations which would also be considered technical rather than combat; that the US airlift in US transports UK bridging material; and that the US transport six Philippine aircraft from Manila to the Congo.

Our objectives in either case would be: to show US determination to do whatever necessary to secure integration, bolster Adoula and get him to negotiate seriously with Tshombe, to preempt the present fighter aircraft vacuum in the Congo, and to convince Tshombe of our resolve to use more forceful measures if necessary to get him to carry out the UN Plan and reintegrate.

3. Mission of the US Force Elements in Support of UNOC

The basic mission of the US forces would be to exploit their own psychological and deterrent value: [Page 745]

As a symbol of support for the Adoula Government and for the United Nations in carrying out its mandate in the UN Reconciliation Plan;
As a symbol to Tshombe of our determination to see that the Plan is carried out, and as a deterrent to the use of the Katanga Air Force and to the initiation of hostilities by the GOK as well as to any other elements of the population who might initiate retaliation against European personnel or damage to plants.

The more direct US involvement, and the strengthened UN position which it makes possible, should be adjusted to a rapidly graduated scale of possible pressure. For example:

The first step taken would be an announcement by the UN that the UN will not tolerate Tshombe’s use of his Air Force. It would be made very clear that if any such aggression occurs, Katanga planes will be attacked not only in the air but on the ground wherever they are. Once a US air squadron was in Kamina Base, the Katanga Air Force would either be pinned down or, if it attempted to fly, would be destroyed. This in itself would have a strong psychological effect on Tshombe, since either result would achieve a major shift in the balance of military power in the Congo.

If this action did not bring about sufficient progress toward ending the secession, the UN would stop all rail traffic within the Elisabethville perimeter. It would be made clear that any attacks against the UN action would be supported both by the UNOC Air Force and the US squadron.

If this did not achieve the desired result, the UN would, in accordance with its mandate covering freedom of movement, move to extend its perimeter to include Jadotville and Kolwezi so as to bring about control of Katangese exports so payments required under Congolese law would be paid to the GOC. It would be made clear that, in the event the UN encountered road blocks or other obstacles in taking Jadotville and Kolwezi, the UNOC Air Force and the US squadron would clear the way.

If any local actions of retaliation occurred in the Katanga against Belgians or others, or damage or destruction of plants, the UNOC Air Force, and the US squadron, would over-fly such areas. If this did not assure the necessary results, they would attack, seeking to minimize the loss of life, particularly of those threatened.

For details of the US military unit proposed to be placed in the Congo in support of the UN operation there, see the Department of Defense annex at Tab A.2

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4. Preconditions

The following necessary preconditions will be complied with:

A clear request or approval on the part of the Adoula Government;
Approval or acceptance by the UN, and a clear understanding that our squadron remains under US control, but will be used only on missions requested by the UN;
A clear public indication that we do not have in mind the initiation of unprovoked aggressive action merely for the purpose of conquering the Katanga or of eliminating or capturing the present Katanga leaders. Indeed, the force is as much for their protection as for anyone else;
A clear indication that we will withdraw US force elements if requested to do so by the Congolese Government or the UN or when the end of the Katangese secession is assured.

5. Command Relationships

Under our proposal to supply US aircraft, we would do so under existing State –JCS arrangements for USAF transport aircraft flying internally in support of UNOC. Under this arrangement, the CINCEUR Representative retains operational control, air missions are flown at the request of UNOC, but the United States (CINCEUR Representative) decides whether to fly each mission and has the authority to suspend operations if necessary.

Under the proposal of the Secretary-General, the units we are supplying are considered to be in a support category. We presently have ground crews servicing our transports which are not under UNOC but under CINCEUR. The only part of the Secretary-General’s request that directly involves the question of operational control might be the engineering unit which would be expected to undertake bridge-building functions. We assume such an engineering unit should be considered technical and, therefore, be in the Congo on the basis of the same arrangements as the US transport planes and servicing ground crews. It would be clearly understood that these units could not and would not be ordered into combat, though they have obviously the right of self-defense in the event of attack. This would help the Secretary-General defend the UN against charges of accepting offers from outside powers.

[Here follows Part II, “Congo Scenario,” which set forth the consultations and arrangements that would be made before the President ordered a U.S. military unit into the Congo in response to a request by the Secretary-General, as proposed in Part I.]

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Congo Security, 1962(B). Top Secret; Eyes Only. The memorandum bears no drafting information. Bundy’s copy of this memorandum bears a notation that it was received from the Department of State on December 17. (Ibid., National Security Files, Congo)
  2. Tab A was not attached to the source text. It consisted of a paper headed “Military Implementation of the U.S. Plan,” with an annex headed “Composite Air Strike Unit in Support of UNOC,” and three technical appendices. A copy is ibid. with Bundy’s copy of the “Operating Plan for the Congo.” Another copy of the “Operating Plan for the Congo” including Tab A is also in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 533, CF 2215.