274. Memorandum From William H. Brubeck of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • US Nationals in Stanleyville

There is a very real possibility that, at any time over the next few weeks, the rebels in Stanleyville may begin to abuse or kill American hostages there—five official Americans, held briefly in prison and now in house arrest, and up to fifteen other Americans (presumably missionary), precise number and whereabouts unknown. If that happens (and we will probably have little advance warning) we will either have to move quickly with pre-planned force to get our people out or tolerate publicly Americans being killed in a situation of primitive anarchy without timely response on our part to try to prevent it. There are [Page 397] 5–800 Europeans also in Stanleyville, mostly Belgian but various others (British, Greeks, Italians, etc.). There will be far less enthusiasm from these countries for contingency planning, both because their people are relatively safe unless and until the US actually uses force to rescue our people, and because they have nationals in other parts of rebel held territory whose danger would be heightened if they intervened militarily in Stanleyville.

While I believe we should consult with Brussels, therefore, and (depending on reactions there) perhaps elsewhere, I do not believe our own, independent contingency planning should wait on consultation. If we delay, we may be caught in a crisis with no capacity to act, or handicapped by Belgian reluctance to act. To be realistic, our planning must include the possible need for quick capture of the city.2

Rebel leadership in Stanleyville has made it clear that the official Americans are hostage against air attacks on Stanleyville (they apparently don’t blame or threaten Europeans). It is also clear that they don’t fully control the Jeunesse guerrillas or the population, and are fearful that air attack on Stanleyville or perhaps even on other towns will cause mob violence they can’t control against Americans in Stanleyville (it is widely believed that US planes bombed Albertville after Europeans were evacuated and this has terrorized rebels and civilians in rebel-held towns). And indeed, the relatively heavily-armed B–26s represent such an escalation of anything ever experienced in this part of Africa that they have caused a profound psychological shock which contributes to this panicky and potentially dangerous state among the Congolese. There is already some indication of abuse of the official Americans (Khartoum’s 138 attached)3 and much evidence of the acute danger of aerial attacks on towns (see Bujumbura’s 333 attached).4 Also an attaché message from Leo regarding last week’s B–26 attack on a military camp at Kindu says that “FBIS intercepts of rebel radio transmissions at Kindu clearly indicate B–26 strikes on Kindu military barracks and attack on military camp at Lofandu had prime effect in shaking up population in and around Kindu. . . . Tone indicates rebels genuinely worried over control of population.” JANAF CS–82. See also FBIS 47 attached.5

This problem is going to get worse as the Congo army’s offensive moves toward Stanleyville and pressure for air attack on towns increases (Tshombe was delighted by the reports of heavy damage and [Page 398] casualties in B–26 raid on Kindu). If we don’t help him, he will shortly be able to use T–6s manned by South Africans, over which we will have no control.

If this analysis is right we should at once start CINCSTRIKE on contingency planning, obviously as discreetly as possible but not waiting for European consultations. At the same time, we can ask State to consider the feasibility of consultations with Belgians and others as appropriate to try to multilateralize planning and to put the total problem before the Secretary, and, if he thinks it necessary, put it before the President at an early date. I am going to a 5:00 PM meeting at State on this problem and would propose to take the above line if you agree.


See me

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of McGeorge Bundy, “B”. Top Secret.
  2. The last sentence of the paragraph is handwritten.
  3. Telegram 138 from Khartoum, October 4, is attached but not printed.
  4. Telegram 333 from Bujumbura, October 5, is attached but not printed. A copy is in National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO.
  5. Both are attached but not printed.
  6. This option is checked, and a handwritten notation reads: “but it should be made very very clear that any such course is last resort. First we must use & re-use warnings & restraints & cooperation with Europeans. CINCSTRIKE is a damned blunt instrument for this—McGB.”