220. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Congo

Soundings which Mr. Spaak and I have taken through Ambassadors in Brussels and Washington indicate an adverse reaction to a European force to intervene in the Congo.

The Government of Nigeria has informed Mr. Tshombe that it would be willing to make a battalion available for Leopoldville only in December after the Nigerian elections, although other African participation could speed up this action. Prime Minister Balewa does not wish the troop question to become a Nigerian election issue unless he is sure of African support. Despite our efforts, the Congolese Government has not so far asked any other African country for military forces save South Africa which fortunately refused. Governor Williams is now in the Congo to press as a matter of highest priority the Congolese Government to make such requests. Belgian Ambassador has been taking parallel initiative. If GOC requests to friendly Africans are forthcoming, he2 will visit the capitals concerned on his return trip.

The Belgian Government appears to be doing more to help the Congolese Government militarily than anticipated. In addition to supplying weapons and some items of personal equipment, Col. Van der Walle, sent by Spaak to Leopoldville as Mr. Tshombe’s military adviser, is developing a plan which involves the use of some additional Belgian military personnel in command positions coupled with military technicians (mercenaries) to stiffen ANC and Gendarme units. Col. Van der Walle’s plans call for retaining the eastern Congolese air fields to minimize the possibility of air support to the rebels from unfriendly [Page 322] powers and the recapture of rebel held territory from Bukavu and Kamina.

Col. Van der Walle’s recommendations, if rebels can be contained long enough to implement them, offer the best present solution to the security problem. The American Ambassador in Brussels is being instructed to urge Mr. Spaak’s concurrence.

The use of military technicians poses problems for Mr. Tshombe in gaining acceptance in Africa. If the mercenaries come solely from South Africa, the risk of Bloc recognition and possibly support of the rebel government will increase.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. III. Confidential. The memorandum is attached to a transmittal memorandum from Brubeck to the President which reads: “You asked for the attached progress report from State for today on efforts to get European and other African military help for the Congo. Prospects for help from either source are very dim. However, Belgians are working on a plan for a white mercenary-Congolese force with Belgian officers and we are supporting. Also Tshombe seems to be getting 100 or so South African white mercenaries in next few days. We hope to add some other nationalities to avoid the political problem in Africa of conspicuous South African involvement. We will give you a further report on Monday.” See Document 226.
  2. A handwritten note next to this word reads: “Gov. Williams.”