320. Memorandum From William H. Brubeck of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Congo-US-Belgian Military Contingency Plan

Belgian and US military yesterday completed a contingency plan under which 12 US C–130s would fly battalion (545) of Belgian paratroops from Brussels to Stanleyville via Spain, Ascencion and Kamina [Page 466] (in Katanga) to seize city and evacuate foreigners (600 Belgians, 200 other Europeans, 30 American). Plan calls for 12 hour warning to alert Belgian paras, departure from Belgium at 1840Z any given day, then following schedule:

Minimum lead time—

Brussels–Stanleyville—57 hrs. 30 mins.

Ascencion–Stanleyville—22 hrs. 30 mins.

Kamina–Stanleyville—3 hrs.

Plan would be used a) if violence began in Stan during next 10–15 days before Congo mercenary (Van der Walle) force can attack, or b) simultaneous with Van der Walle attack in order maximize chance of securing Europeans rapidly so as to prevent reprisal. Such a US-flown Belgian paratroop assault on Stan would cost us heavily in African politics (including Chirep, base rights, etc.), is contemplated only because neither we nor Belgians could afford to stand helplessly enduring slaughter of foreigners in Stan.

Van der Walle now plans tentatively to begin move toward Stan about 17th, final (150 mile straight good road) dash to begin 24th and arrive Stan 25th. This schedule may slip several days. Once it becomes visible moving on Stan, situation there will be very dangerous for hostages, particularly 5 US diplomatic personnel believed in military prison.

Secretary Rusk thinks (Vance and Wheeler concur) that this is primarily Belgian responsibility and Belgian stake, with acute Belgian political consequences for Spaak, difficult for us to refuse or second guess him. Spaak has asked immediate US agreement to launch force Brussels 17th, holding at Ascencion on 18th, with lead time of 22 hours Ascencion to Stan via Kamina if decision made to go. (Obviously, in situation contemplated, lead time may be critical.) We have replied that while disposed to meet his request, would like his comment on several questions (what kind of cover story to maintain security; why not preposition at Kamina instead of Ascencion, with only 4 hours lead time to Stan; why not delay departure from Belgium several days in order to limit period of preposition to shorter, critically important period thus minimizing security risk) but we will probably have to make a decision tomorrow.

The President may therefore be asked tomorrow for a firm decision to move to a preposition base (Kamina or Ascencion) = still deferring the go/no go decision on Stan till need arises.

Addendum—(misc. points and info)

1. With Spanish and French overflight clearances required, local personnel at air bases en route and at Kamina and conspicuous absence [Page 467] of paratroop battalion from Brussels, likelihood of security leak very great.

2. With a security leak, or if Stanleyville actually hit, political repercussions in Africa hard to over emphasize (political contingency planning is underway).

3. If we hit Stanleyville, there is increased danger of reprisal against additional foreigners (perhaps 30 Americans, several hundred Belgians) scattered throughout Northeast Congo as well as (less probably) attacks on US Embassies and nationals in other African countries (problems under study).

4. Existence and movement of this force will generate heavy Belgian and Embassy Leo pressures to use, particularly at time when Van der Walle reaches Stanleyville.

5. We continue to seek better alternatives including these political moves aimed at collapse of Stanleyville without violence:

a. Tshombe has agreed to help persuade Kasavubu to issue “reconciliation manifesto” offering amnesty, participation in elections, etc.

b. We have sent [less than 1 line not declassified] to East Africa to explore with rebel contact there possibility of a deal with the rebel leaders (money and safe conduct to exile).

But these are faint hopes, and a Van der Walle military conquest of Stanleyville in next two weeks is most likely prospect with very real chance US-Belgian intervention will be needed to rescue hostages.

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