Learn about the beta
Office of the Historian
[Page 19]

11. Editorial Note

On August 18, 1960, the National Security Council discussed Congolese Prime Minister Lumumba’s threats to force the United Nations out of the Congo. Saying that this would be a disaster the United States should do everything it could to prevent, Under Secretary of State Douglas Dillon warned that the Soviet Union might be invited to intervene in the Congo after the United Nations was forced out. Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles noted that Lumumba was in Soviet pay. President Eisenhower said that the possibility that the United Nations would be forced out was simply inconceivable, and declared that the United States should keep the United Nations in the Congo, even if it had to ask for European troops or if such action was used by the Soviets to start a fight. Dillon said that the Department of State agreed, but noted that both Secretary General Hammarskjold and Ambassador Lodge doubted whether the United Nations could stay if the Congolese Government were opposed. For a full record of the NSC discussion of the Congo, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, volume XIV, Africa, Document 180.

On June 18, 1975, former NSC staff member Robert H. Johnson testified before the Church Committee that during an NSC meeting in the summer of 1960 President Eisenhower said something that came across to him as an order for the assassination of Lumumba, following which there was no discussion. Johnson testified that, although he could no longer remember the exact words, he remembered clearly that this came as a “great shock” to him. Presumably the meeting referred to was that of August 18, as there were only two NSC meetings that summer—August 18 and September 7—attended by both the President and Johnson, and the notes of the September 7 meeting have no record of any Presidential comment about the Congo. Dillon and NSC Acting Executive Secretary Marion Boggs testified that they had no memory of any clearcut order from the President for the assassination of Lumumba, although Dillon agreed that it was “perfectly possible” that Allen Dulles might have translated strong Presidential language about “getting rid of” Lumumba into authorization for an assassination attempt. See Interim Report, pages 55–60, for a record of the Church Committee’s investigation of whether the subsequent CIA plot to assassinate Lumumba was authorized by the President. In August 2000, the National Archives released a memorandum recording a June 10, 1975, conversation between Johnson and the director of the Church Committee concerning the August 18, 1960, NSC meeting. In this memorandum, Johnson recalled Eisenhower turning to CIA Director Allen Dulles “in the full hearing of all those in attendance and saying something to the effect that Lumumba should be eliminated.” After that [Page 20]“there was a stunned silence for about 15 seconds and the meeting continued.” (National Archives, Testimony of Robert H. Johnson, June 18, 1975; Folder 10-H-02, Box 44, Hearings, RG 46 Records of the United States Senate, Church Committee Records on JFK Assassination; President John F. Kennedy Assassination)