356. Memorandum From Samuel E. Belk of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Dungan)0


  • Portuguese Africa

With the end of Portuguese rule in Goa, Diu and Damao and the annexation of Fort Ajuda in August by Dahomey, the image of Portugal in Africa has been severely damaged. Although until recently regarded by the Angolans, Mozambiques and the Portuguese Guineans as a hard and invincible overlord, Portugal will now be regarded as vulnerable; as a nation rapidly in decline. The activities of the insurgents almost certainly will be stepped up, and there is abundant reason to believe their activities will be more successful this year than last.

  • First, Tanganyika is now independent and Nyerere will be willing to provide safe haven for guerrillas operating in Mozambique—the first time that this will be possible. You may recall that we expected an explosion in Mozambique during the Angolan disturbances last summer; one reason it didn’t occur was that Mozambique was surrounded by totally unsympathetic neighbors—the two Rhodesias, South Africa and the then U.K. trust territory of Tanganyika.
  • Second, if we ever achieve a situation in the Congo even bordering on calm, the Congolese will most certainly aid and encourage the Angolan insurgents operating from and living in the Congo. This has been the insurgents base for mounting their operations in Angola. It should be a more effective one in the future.
  • Third, there are now considerably more trained Angolan guerrilla fighters than there were a year ago. Training has continued in the Congo. Training has taken place in Tunisia and Algeria and possibly in Guinea and Ghana. Holden Roberto—the most promising leader among the Angolan nationalists—told the State people last month that active guerrilla operations would soon be resumed inside Angola. The rainy season has only just begun and, according to Roberto, “the elephant grass is not yet high enough and there is need for more arms.” The rainy season is ideal for guerrilla warfare in Angola because the roads—which are vital to the Portuguese—are impassable and the guerrillas can operate from the bush. The New York Times has reported that Roberto, while in New York, said his movement would accept humanitarian support from any country, but went on to emphasize that direct military aid would be [Page 554] accepted only from African countries. There is no doubt in my mind that the arms can and will be acquired in ever-increasing amounts.

I point all of this out because I think that the Portuguese colonies possibly will present one of the toughest problems in all of Africa. We should plan constantly, utilizing the best brains in town, in order to make sure that we are in the strongest possible position if and when great trouble comes. The Angola Task Force was a small forward step, but its conclusions and recommendations need to be reexamined, up-dated and fortified if the demands of U.S. policy in the forth-coming period are to be met.

Ever since the Task Force exercise, I have felt that a small group of carefully chosen high-level people could accomplish more than by any other means. The group should be chaired by someone like George Ball, Alexis Johnson or someone from the White House. I think this is the next step we should take.

The best man at State on this problem is Olcott Deming. Ken Hansen also has a strong background on the problem and played a vigorous role during the Task Force exercise.

I have attached a memorandum to the President which I wrote in September1 that might be of immediate interest. State is now engaged in preparing for me a detailed report on the activities of the Selvage and Lee public relations firm. I will shoot it to you as soon as it arrives.

I suggest that you keep the folder I have enclosed.2 It contains the essential materials on the Angolan problem.

Samuel E. Belk 3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Africa. Secret.
  2. Presumably September 14, 1961; see Document 354.
  3. Not attached to the source text.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.