322. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Congo Situation

1. The question: Do we concur in the Belgians’ desire to pre-position Belgian paratroopers at British Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, 22 hours from Stanleyville?

2. Recommendation: State, Defense, and Bundy recommend concurrence.2

3. The situation: Mercenary advance on Stanleyville begins tomorrow and should drive rebels out within 3 or 4 days. In this period the safety of 30 Americans and 800 other foreigners, mostly Belgian, will be endangered. Spaak and Prime Minister LeFevre wish to reduce our reaction time from three days to one.

4. As we agreed at the Ranch, it seems best to let Belgians take the lead on this and to be guided by their judgment. They know the Congolese better, and their nationals outnumber ours by 30 to 1. Nevertheless, it is our officials who have been directly threatened, and all the transport will be U.S. Air Force. So it is an important decision.

5. We can still hope that the rescue operation will not be necessary, because any action of this kind will have real political costs in the [Page 470] Congo and may involve the death of innocent Americans by panicky rebel reaction. Nevertheless, the possible cost of opposing the Belgian recommendation seems clearly greater than the cost of concurrence.

6. The requirement for your consent to further movement of this force will remain. It is probable that the next recommendation will be to move the paratroops to Kamina in the Katanga Province of the Congo. This will put them only 4 hours from Stanleyville, and while it increases risk of rebel panic, it will also increase the warning signal that we are ready to act if necessary. This decision may come tomorrow, and Secretary Rusk will bring it to you directly if necessary.

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. VII, Memos & Miscellaneous, 11/64. Top Secret.
  2. A handwritten notation reads: “BKS: P agreed to this & told Brubeck. McGB.” Telegram JCS 001903 to CINCEUR, November 16, authorized execution on November 17 of that portion of OPLAN 319/64 (Dragon Rouge) necessary to position forces at Ascension Island but stipulated that no deployment beyond Ascension was authorized except as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)