178. Editorial Note

A memorandum prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency on June 18, 1964, briefed Director of Central Intelligence McCone on U.S. assistance to the Congolese Air Force. The occasion was a meeting the same day of the Special Group (CI) at which the participation of two American pilots in combat missions in the Congo was discussed. According to the memorandum, on June 11, 12, and 13, “under heavy pressures from the hard-pressed Congolese, these men exceeded their authority and flew operational missions in the Kivu area.” On June 8 the field had been “cabled instructions on the limitations on operational involvement of the American pilots, restricting them to reconnaissance.” The pilots were contract employees of CIA and had signed contracts with General Mobutu for the Congolese Government. When first questioned about the matter, the memorandum stated, the Department of State had said it had no knowledge that American personnel were engaged in air operational activity in the Congo, but on June 16 the Department indicated it had checked with the Embassy and had been informed that some American civilian pilots under contract to the Congo Government had flown sorties in the last few days. (Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 82–00450R, 40 Committee, Congo (K), 1960–1964)

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In reviewing authorization for U.S. assistance to the Congolese Air Force, the memorandum noted that on December 7, 1962, the Special Group had approved a proposal presented by CIA, based on recommendations from the U.S. Ambassador in Leopoldville and the Department of State, to increase the capability of the Congolese Air Force to the extent of enabling it to operate with armament in the eastern regions of the Congo for morale and reconnaissance purposes. Then, at its meeting on May 28, 1964, the Special Group approved expansion of that assistance with the operational objective of providing “the CAF with a fighter aircraft capability to render combat air support to the Congolese National Army in suppressing the present insurgencies, as well as any possible future insurgencies which might erupt as a result of the withdrawal of UN forces.” The memorandum also noted that the Special Group authorization of May 28, 1964, included the following statement: “In February 1964, as a result of the Kwilu uprising, the Department of State, at the request of the Government of the Congo, authorized shifting the mission of the air support program from a non-combat, psychological effort to an active combat participation.”

According to the minutes of the Special Group (CI) meeting at 2 p.m. on June 18, the following discussion took place:

Congo (L)—Mr. McCone reported that the two T–28s piloted by Americans had done an excellent job in breaking up the rebel attack on ANC positions in Kamanyola. Without these air strikes, Bukavu would have probably fallen before the rebel advance. He informed the Group that these Americans were hired by the Congolese Government to train [less than 1 line not declassified] the use of the T–28s but that training had not been completed at this time and Mobutu had persuaded them to fly the missions.

“Mr. McCone expressed concern about criticism of US citizens under contractual employment with a foreign government participating in combat operations. Governor Harriman, while praising the practical results of the air attacks in saving Kamanyola, added that US policy, as it now stands, is against the use of such US citizens on combat missions.” (Ibid.)

DCI McCone’s own record of the June 18 Special Group meeting stated that he took exception to the Department of State’s comments to the press, saying that he saw no reason to “stand down” the American pilots, whose missions had been very successful. McCone recorded that during the meeting and afterwards, Harriman had taken “violent exception” to his position, stating that the Americans had acted beyond their authority and were subject to sanctions and possible loss of citizenship. McCone said he had countered by saying that the Americans were in the employ of the Congolese government and could do anything they wanted to, and that he was pleased they had taken the initiative they took as they had saved a deteriorating situation. He noted that [Page 255] he had made the same statements on this issue at the 303 Committee meeting and also privately to McGeorge Bundy. (Ibid.)