198. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Lang) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance)1
- Evacuation of US Consulate Representatives at Stanleyville
Late last night, a message was received from our Consulate at Stanleyville that four of its staff members were in the communications [Page 285] vault of the Consulate and a fifth was in an apartment building about one mile away (Tab A).2 The message indicated that in the early hours of the morning the rebels had cut off the Consulate power supply and tried to enter the communications vault. Shortly afterwards, the rebels departed and the Consulate reported that the city seemed quiet before the Consulate staff returned to the communications vault after turning on the power again.
Shortly before midnight, Bill Brubeck asked us to examine whether it would be feasible to evacuate the Consulate personnel by airlift from Stanleyville. After informally alerting CINCSTRIKE of this request, we examined the problem based on information available here. We concluded that no operations involving resources in the Congo could be carried out today. The airport is in rebel hands, and H–21 helicopters could not be flown to the area in sufficient time to carry out rescue operations while daylight remained. More importantly, we could not find any airfield sufficiently close to Stanleyville, from which the H–21s could mount a round trip to Stanleyville. (This also applied to any T–28s that might be used for air cover.)
By Tab B, Embassy Leopoldville reported that it planned to carry out a rescue operation involving T–28s and H–21 helicopters along the lines that we had considered impracticable. As a result, we sent the message at Tab C asking for further details from Leopoldville. We have not yet had a response. Tab D outlines CINCSTRIKE’s proposed course of action. It involves bringing in between a platoon and a company of US troops by helicopter, presumably to secure the area around the Consulate while the rescue is carried out. The STRIKE plan would involve three or four days of preparation.
We informed Bill Brubeck this morning of the foregoing. We also raised with him the possibility that the rebels might retaliate against the remaining white population in Stanleyville which is substantial in number if the rescue operation involved any hostilities. We suggested that a more feasible course would be an attempt, through negotiations with the rebels, to arrange for the safe passage of all members of the white population who might wish to leave Stanleyville. The rebels permitted such a safe passage after Albertville fell. Brubeck thought this idea had considerable merit, as did representatives of the State Department with whom we discussed it last evening.