339. Draft Message From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 1

Our only very hot spot at the moment is the Congo. Here is where we are:

1. Van der Walle mercenary column is on its way with little opposition so far and could reach Stanleyville in two or three days with luck.

2. Rebels have broadcast another threat to American hostages using the name of U.S. Consul Hoyt who is held in Stanleyville.

3. At the same time rebels have agreed to discuss with a U.S. representative in Nairobi. We are publicly accepting this offer and proposing talks at noon tomorrow (3 a.m. Washington time) with Ambassador Attwood speaking for us.2

4. The Belgians are resistant to any concessions that Tshombe and Co. might find unacceptable, and accordingly Attwood’s instructions will be quite general and directed at maintaining the palaver while warning strongly of consequences of any hostile act. Attwood is a skillful negotiator and we hope very much that these talks will help protect hostages while the Van der Walle column advances.

5. Very weak security has now forced the Belgian Government to announce that the troops with air support are at Ascension Island as a precautionary measure. We have confirmed this announcement.3

6. Tomorrow, Saturday, we shall need to consider whether it is wise to advance paratroopers to Kamina or to execute against Stanleyville. George Ball and I are both very cautious at this point and would probably recommend against action when what we face is threat, not [Page 491] open act of violence. Harriman may be marginally more activist.4 All of us will be much affected by Spaak’s judgment at the time. Belgium Government alarm appears to be increasing.

Bromley Smith and George Ball are here and fully informed, and can tell you more by telephone if you wish.

I will also be fully informed and participate by telephone in discussions tomorrow and Sunday as needed.

The talks in Nairobi, and the unobstructed course of the Van der Walle column so far give me considerable hope that we can avoid the hazards of actual execution of paratroop drop, but this situation is subject to change at very short notice.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 7. Top Secret. The message, headed “To the President From Bundy,” is an unsigned draft with handwritten insertions. The text was presumably sent to the President at the LBJ Ranch, where he was November 19–29.
  2. Telegram 1916 to Nairobi, November 20, instructed Attwood to inform Kenyatta immediately that, in response to the rebel request to fix a date for negotiations in Nairobi, he was requesting a meeting at noon on November 21, and to ask him to arrange for participation by Kanza and any other participants decided upon by himself or by the rebels. (Ibid.)
  3. On November 20, a Belgian Government spokesman announced that the First Paratroop Battalion had been transported to Ascension Island with the aid of U.S. planes, and that, in view of the danger to their nationals in Stanleyville, both governments considered it their duty to take preparatory measures in order to be able to effect, if necessary, a humanitarian rescue operation. (Department of State Bulletin, December 14, 1964, p. 840)
  4. The sentence originally began: “Rusk and Harriman;” the first two words were crossed out.