315. Memorandum From William H. Brubeck of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1


  • Congo Situation Report

Last week Tshombe’s Belgian-led (Van der Walle) mercenary force took Kindu, the most important rebel city short of Stanleyville. Within two or three weeks it will take Stanleyville, 250 miles away, and the present rebellion will be ended.

Our biggest immediate problem is how to protect the foreign hostages in Stanleyville (5 official and 20 unofficial Americans, 6–800 Europeans) both during this several weeks and when the mercenaries attack. We have gotten Tshombe to agree and to announce publicly that his airplanes will not hit towns, in order to minimize the risk that the rebels will kill the Stanleyville hostages in retaliation for air attacks. However, the hostages are in acute danger—first, because there is a squadron of T–6 aircraft, flown by mercenaries, which we do not control and which is a real threat to attack Stanleyville in the next several weeks; second, because the rebels may well slaughter hostages at the time Van der Walle actually attacks Stanleyville.

The military move on Stanleyville is a calculated risk and a real one. To minimize it, we are trying to compel Tshombe to withdraw the mercenary T–6s and may need a tough Presidential message to Tshombe for this purpose. We are working with the Belgians on a contingency plan to drop Belgian paratroops in Stanleyville on short notice, to evacuate foreigners, if the situation gets out of control. And we are working with the Belgians on a program of political pressures and covert negotiations to try to get the rebels to capitulate and surrender Stanleyville without a fight. Realistically, however, this will be a dangerous two or three weeks, it will probably end in the military conquest of Stanleyville, and there is a real chance that some Americans and Europeans will be killed.

Looking beyond the immediate military problem and the problem of our hostages, our aim is to avoid the US again being involved so deeply in the Congo. We are trying to get the other Africans to take over the Congo problem politically; we are trying to get the Belgians to take responsibility, with the US limited to a supporting role, in helping [Page 460] the Congo; we want to withdraw our military assistance and leave it to the Belgians; we want to pressure Tshombe to make a sensible political compromise among the forces in the Congo, and not get stuck propping up Tshombe in an authoritarian regime without any power base in the realities of the Congo.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. VI. Top Secret.