255. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Evacuation of US Personnel (U)

1. Reference is made to a memorandum by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, dated 4 September 1964,2 subject as above, requesting the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as to appropriate US military courses of action which could be pursued to rescue the 25 Americans presently held by the rebel forces in Stanleyville, Republic of the Congo, and an evaluation of the probability of securing the rescue of the individuals unharmed.

2. Basically, two courses of action are available:

a. The overt use of a joint task force in a parachute/air-landed assault operation, utilizing multiple drop zones and supported by tactical air, to seize and secure the Stanleyville airfield, rescue the US personnel, and withdraw the entire force. Additional details are contained in the Annex hereto.

b. The covert use of military forces to effect a clandestine night parachute landing west of Stanleyville, infiltrate by rubber boat or foot to the US Consulate and/or other known locations of US personnel, [Page 370] overpower the guards, and move with the rescued personnel to a prearranged exfiltration area for pickup by helicopter or C–46 air commando aircraft.

3. Modifications to either course of action would be required dependent upon the latest enemy intelligence, the location and surveillance/guarding of the personnel to be rescued, US force availability, and the decision as to whether all or only part of the US personnel were to be rescued.

4. Either an overt or covert operation has a reasonable chance of successfully rescuing the personnel unharmed, providing:

a. The precise location of the personnel to be rescued can be determined PRIOR to initiation of the operation.

b. The plan is NOT compromised and complete surprise is obtained.

c. The commander is authorized to use such force as is necessary to accomplish the mission.

5. Both of the courses of action in paragraph 2, above, might prove to be infeasible because locations of US personnel may not be known, because of the opposition of the Belgian Government due to anticipated reprisals against foreigners in the Stanleyville area, or because the element of surprise may be lost. Accordingly a third course of action might be required which would provide for the capture of Stanleyville and its control long enough to transfer control to Congolese security forces and/or evacuate all foreign personnel. This course of action would probably require additional force.

6. From a military viewpoint, if a decision is made to employ US military forces to rescue the US personnel in Stanleyville:

a. The covert operation offers the best chance of successfully rescuing the US personnel unharmed.

b. The covert operation should be backed up by the pre-positioning of the overt force for contingency employment, if required.

7. To preclude undue delay in implementation, if directed, immediate authorization to initiate detailed planning and dispatch of covert planners to the Congo is required.

8. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend:

a. The broad course of action, envisioning the initial effort being conducted by covert means with the back-up overt force being pre-positioned and ready for contingency employment if required, be selected as the appropriate course of action, if US intervention is directed.

b. Authority be granted for the immediate dispatch of the covert planners to the Congo, if detailed planning is desired.

c. Political coordination be accomplished with Government of Belgium officials and authorization be granted for on-the-scene military [Page 371] coordination between appropriate US and Belgian military personnel, if US intervention is directed.

d. The above views be transmitted to the Department of State substantially as in the Appendix and Annex hereto.3

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler4
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 4023, 510 Congo 12 Sep 64. Top Secret.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates General Wheeler signed the original.