289. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between Director of Central Intelligence McCone and the Under Secretary of State (Ball)1

McCone called to say that he was terribly troubled over this 72 hour timing in the Congo. This could spell the undoing of Tshombe’s success. Mr. Ball said that he had talked to Mac Bundy this morning and it seems to him this is a situation where the President has got to have a look. The reason for the 72 hours is to give him a chance to personally review it. They are trying to get some ground rules out. One of our people came back from talking with the Belgians who agree that the five people, apart from the other Americans, are in very serious jeopardy with the use of the planes. What Mr. Ball wants to do and what Bundy agreed to today was that they would try to get the matter to the President and then go ahead and do what they have to.

Mr. McCone said that the only thing that has held those Congolese forces together has been the air support. They would have disintegrated in the absence of same. He said he realized the danger to the 30 people. On the other hand we brought great pressure on the Belgians to do what they have done even though Spaak felt he was putting several thousand Belgians at risk. There is a big stake and while he has every feeling for the 26 people if we establish a Communist cancer in the middle of dark Africa the consequences are going to be many times more serious than 26 people.

Mr. Ball said that he thought the problem is that he (Ball) would feel very reluctant to see this operation go much further until the President knows. He said that we had had word today that the whole story [Page 419] of the hostages has been filed. The Department is going to try to get somebody out to Chicago to squelch the story—Chicago Daily News.

Mr. Ball said that our people back from Brussels say that the Belgians have a somewhat different appraisal of the situation. He said that Godley had a date with Tshombe today and we were waiting for the telegram. Mr. Ball said he appreciated McCone’s feelings and said that there were some different views over here.

McCone mentioned that when he had wanted to get the 130’s out and put some covert C 54’s in Harriman raised hell.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Ball Papers, Congo II. Confidential. Transcribed by Helen M. Hennessey.