336. Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Williams)1


  • Meeting Notes with the President, Secretary Rusk, et al2

Secretary Rusk opened by saying that the Van der Walle column was moving to within short distance of Stanleyville, and that Belgian paratroopers were now in position on Ascension Island and would probably not be called on before November 24, but that in no event would they move further without the decision of the President and Minister Spaak. However, if there were massacres, etc., they might move more quickly.

[Page 485]

Gbenye by radio has offered to negotiate on the safety of American prisoners.3 The Secretary indicated he thought the terms would likely be unacceptable to us. He said the Stanleyville people might be trying for time to get help from Egypt, etc.

Secretary Rusk said that we placed a high value on the hostages, but that we couldn’t give up all of our position and policy because of them.

Secretary Rusk said he thought it was good to accept the offer and that we proposed to send a message today offering to talk and asking when and where.

Our next step would be to get clearance from the Belgians for a program offering amnesty, no prosecution for political crimes, etc., in return for recognition of the authority of the Central Government and release of hostages. The Secretary said it was his personal belief that the rebels would not accept the offer. However, it was important for the record in the United States and in Africa.

This discussion would not put on ice or interfere with military operations.

If this track succeeds, the Secretary continued, we would have difficulties with Kasavubu and Tshombe who want an outright military victory.

The Secretary concluded that he thought this was the best thing to do.

Governor Harriman agreed with what he said was a clear statement by the Secretary. He then added that it was important to take this action in view of world opinion and UN opinion.

Secretary McNamara agreed.

The President said it would put us in a bad light if we didn’t act.

John McCone said this is the thing to do. He said the palaver would increase the safety of Americans in the rest of Africa.

The President then asked how many Americans there were in rebel territories, what they were doing and how many were government employees. He was given the answer.

McGeorge Bundy then pointed out that the missionaries were a very determined people. When they were asked to get out they refused [Page 486] to get out because they wanted to continue their work, and when something happened, they were insistent upon protection.

The President then asked the Vice President for his views and he said he was in accord with what had gone on before. The President then asked Governor Williams if he was as pessimistic as the Secretary as to the chances of success in the negotiations. He said that he agreed with the Secretary’s position except that he thought that there was some chance that if the rebels could be made to see how desperate their position was, that there would be some give. The President then wondered when the decision to move ahead with Dragon Rouge would have to be made. The Secretary indicated that it would be about the 24th, however, Secretary McNamara indicated that it might come earlier. He pointed out that De Kerchove had been delegated the authority by Brussels to decide when to go. McNamara indicated the President might have to make a decision within 48 hours. The President asked if he ought to stay in Washington. Everyone thought that it wasn’t necessary, in fact it would be counter productive as we wanted to keep the matter as low key as possible. The President said he thought it was wise to let Van der Walle go ahead but to hold up the decision on Dragon Rouge.

McGeorge Bundy then raised the question whether the President shouldn’t make a broadcast to Gbenye instead of Godley but again everyone agreed that the matter should not be so accelerated. The President asked if there was any dissenting views on the whole matter and there were none expressed.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Top Secret; Exdis.
  2. Other records of this meeting are in Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of McGeorge Bundy, and Central Intelligence Agency Files, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80B01285, DCI Meetings with the President, 01 October–31 December 1964.
  3. Following Gbenye’s radio announcement, Godley responded on November 19 that his government had instructed him to state that it was ready at any time for discussions to ensure the safety of the U.S. citizens in Stanleyville. He asked Gbenye to name place, time, and representative, and said that a U.S. representative would be prepared for discussions in Nairobi or any other capital. On November 20, Gbenye announced that his “Foreign Minister,” Thomas Kanza, had been charged with carrying out preliminary negotiations in Nairobi and asked the U.S. Government to set a date. See Department of State Bulletin, December 14, 1964, p. 839.