275. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Belgium1

636. For Ambassador:

You requested communicate following orally to Spaak in Gov. Harriman’s name leaving summary memorandum if you consider desirable.

We appreciate continuing efforts which your government has made in furthering our common aims in the Congo in pursuance SpaakHarriman August talks. Belgian response has been major factor in stiffening internal security of Congo, affording hope that rebellion can be contained and, hopefully, beginning made in rolling it back. Such a posture of strength, coupled with a Congolese attitude of reasonableness [Page 399] and flexibility, may make it possible for progress on political negotiations which would insure a continued moderate, pro-Western government and at same time reduce to a minimum bloodshed and economic and social dislocation arising from rebellion.

We have been particularly encouraged by steps you have recently taken to supply “equipes Polyvalentes” which could ensure a stable administration and development of Congo in future. We have also been pleased at your action in sending Rothschild to Leopoldville which will, we are confident, help greatly in assuring that Tshombe receives sound advice both in dealing with his internal problems and in adopting a cooperative and flexible relationship with OAU Commission.

As you know, we sent C–130’s to Congo to meet special emergency. Therefore, because the original purpose for sending them to the Congo no longer obtains, because they have received an inordinate amount of publicity and because of urgent needs to discharge our heavy worldwide commitments elsewhere, we are planning at an early date to begin withdrawal of our C–130’s and joint task force which accompanies it. We must be sure therefore that GOC has sufficient logistic support airlift capability to maintain its military effort, including additional responsibilities which will be placed upon it when Van der Walle plan goes into action. It is considered opinion our civilian and military officials in Congo that after necessary positioning of troops and equipment to implement plan, sufficient airlift capability exists in FAC and Air Congo to meet anticipated needs except for possible special heavy hauls. Problem, however, is to assure that existing Congolese airlift capability is operational. We understand problems that you have been having in providing air crews and maintenance and supply personnel for C–47’s and H–21 helicopters. We greatly hope that letter which we now understand Tshombe has sent you will make it possible for you to supply required personnel to put these Congolese planes in the air, thereby relieving us of temporary responsibilities we have assumed and which have continued much longer than we had anticipated. This step would make it possible for U.S. to withdraw on a phased basis four C–130’s and cease using one or two other aircraft with U.S. markings for unusual missions such as C–47 which has been performing reconnaissance and other functions in defense of Bukavu because of unavailability of FAC aircraft.

A further problem relates to supply of rockets and ammunition. As you know, airlift of such items from Belgium to Congo is expensive, hazardous, and politically delicate in terms of transit through Wheelus Air Base and at Kano, as well as overflight rights other African countries. We are most pleased that our respective representatives have now made progress in determining recurring needs for ammunition in the [Page 400] Congo and that you are instituting necessary arrangements to supply ammo on a regular basis by sea which would eliminate further emergency airlifts. We strongly hope that it will be possible to continue to proceed on this basis and thereby to eliminate any need for further emergency airlifts.

From recent communications we gather that continued supply of ammo is posing some financial problems for you. We sincerely hope in this regard that you will find it possible to overcome these difficulties in order that flow of rockets and ammunition so necessary for GOC military effort will not be interrupted. In this connection, I would appreciate your thoughts on possibilities of approaching other Western European countries again for possible assistance which they might be able to render both in form of ammunition and otherwise. We realize that our talks with representatives these countries in August were largely inconclusive, but I believe we must continue to impress on them importance of stability in Central Africa and urge them do their part. In this connection, we would most willingly support such approaches as you would find it possible to make in other Western European capitals. As I have said, I would greatly appreciate your views on best way to go about this as matter high priority.

Please be assured that we will continue to accept and discharge our obligations in Congo in closest harmony and consultation with you and your Government. It would greatly assist us in our planning both with respect to Congo and our worldwide obligations, if you could let me have your earliest possible views on foregoing problems, including your estimate as to when we can expect air personnel for C–47’s to arrive in the Congo.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential. Drafted by Palmer and Schaufele in AF/CWG, cleared by Lang and Appling, and approved by Harriman. Repeated to Leopoldville.