308. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Lang) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance)1



  • Palmer Talks at Brussels and Leopoldville

1. Ambassador Palmer gave a debriefing this morning on his trip last week with Bill Brubeck. He described his talks with Tshombe as being “of only limited utility”.2 On the plus side, Tshombe agreed to dismiss all South African and Rhodesian pilots; to publish his letters to the OAU and ICRC; to issue orders to Congolese military commanders not to call for air strikes against towns; and to invite the OAU Commission to visit Leopoldville. On the negative side, Tshombe proved adamant against negotiating with the rebels for a political solution and against broadening the political base of his present government.

2. At Brussels, Ambassador Palmer found that there were differing views between Spaak and the Foreign Office on how to handle Tshombe.3 The Foreign Office argued against pushing Tshombe too far, for fear of pushing him into the hands of the South Africans and the Portuguese. Spaak, on the other hand, questioned whether Tshombe has any alternative other than to continue to rely on Belgium and the US over the long term. Spaak reportedly favors a hard line with Tshombe and fears that, unless he is controlled now, Tshombe will develop an authoritarian regime (a view shared by Palmer). The Foreign Office favors letting Tshombe achieve a quick military victory, followed by a broadening of the government which, argues the Foreign Office, Tshombe would recognize as a necessary step in the interests of his own political survival.

3. Ambassador Palmer also discussed the difference of opinion between himself and Mac Godley on how better to safeguard the Americans at Stanleyville. Mac strongly advocates keeping the pressure on the rebels. Palmer fears that the closer the Congolese forces get to Stanleyville, the greater will be the danger to the hostages. He recognizes, however, that a continued adamant stand by Tshombe against a negotiated [Page 448] political settlement, coupled with a military slowdown, could have dangerous consequences.

4. Palmer gave no clues about what recommendations or suggestions he would make as the result of his trip (although he had spent the preceding hour with George Ball).

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 7425, Congo 381 (12 Aug. 64). Top Secret. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “Mr. Vance has seen.” A copy was sent to McNaughton.
  2. Palmer, Brubeck, and Godley met with Tshombe in Leopoldville on October 28.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 300.