305. Telegram From the Headquarters, U.S. Strike Command to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

STRCC 841/64. Subject is: Conduct of military operations in the Congo (C).


A. STRCC 786/64

B. COMISH Leo 9342 291045Z Oct 64

C. AmEmbassy Leo action SecState 1650, DTG 271847Z2

1. This headquarters remains deeply concerned about the serious restrictions which appear to have been placed on the conduct of military operations in the Congo, and particularly with reference to the employment of air power.

2. While it is most regrettable that five Americans and an unknown number of other foreigners are in rebel custody in Stanleyville, this fact should not be permitted to preclude proper conduct of military operations designed for bringing the rebellion to an early end in the shortest time practicable. The importance of air power in relation to the general undertaking is clearly established in numerous reports received from the Congo.

3. Available information indicates that the rebels are apparently fully aware of their success in countering air power by propaganda. If this continues, the only outcome will be the weakening of the Congolese armed forces to the extent that it is doubtful that they can win over the rebellious elements anytime soon. In other words, this prospects a long drawn-out indecisive undertaking which can lead to future complications that could not be even estimated at this time, but none of them would be good.

4. Information available to me indicates that current policy provides for:

A. No aviation of any kind is permitted to operate closer than 25 miles of Stanleyville.

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B. No combat target can be hit within a belt five miles wide, measured from the outskirts, around any large or sensitive urban area, or within similar belts two miles wide around any other urban area.

C. Combat missions conducted outside the prescribed belts around urban areas are authorized, but are confined to strictly military targets such as troop concentrations, military vehicles, military stores and supplies, highways and bridges, guns and emplacements, fortified positions and roadblocks, communications facilities and vessels being used for military purposes, provided that such targets shall not be attacked where there is danger of hitting significant numbers of noncombatants in the target area, such as wives and children in military barracks area.

D. Air reconnaissance is authorized over urban areas and surrounding belts provided plane maintains minimum altitude of three thousand feet and does not open or return fire.

E. In the case of B–26’s, there must be a five-minute interval between any combat run on targets outside the urban area and surrounding belt, and any reconnaissance run within the area and belt.

5. Military objectives in the Congo primarily consist of towns and cities held by the rebels, with very little combat taking place other than in and around the towns. The policy now in effect permits the rebels to remain in the towns unmolested, control the communication and supplies that exist in the towns, and to have the comfort of urban facilities. Unless the restrictions on the use of air power are lifted, and a return to the Geneva Conventions adopted as a proper guideline, the rebels will have achieved a significant victory. There is no question that this is the chief purpose for which the rebel propaganda campaign is designed.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. VI, Memos & Miscellaneous, 10/64–11/64. Top Secret; Noforn; Limdis. Received at the DOD Message Center at 3:24 a.m. Repeated to DOD and the Secretary of State. A copy was sent to the White House for Bundy. The headquarters of U.S. Strike Command (CINCSTRIKE) was located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
  2. Not found.