342. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Summarizing discussions at meeting at 10:30, Saturday morning, 21 November, presided over by Secretary Ball


  • Ball, Vance, Wheeler, McCone, Harriman, Williams, Palmer, Cleveland and a number of others
  • Also a meeting at 9:00 Saturday evening, presided over by Rusk, with all of the above in attendance

1. The morning’s meeting was devoted to the question of moving the Belgian paratroopers from Ascension to Kamina. There were divergent views with Williams favoring not moving them until the last minute and then staging through Kamina in order to give maximum element of surprise. Cleveland, while not taking a strong position either way, expressed greatest concern over the fact that the paratroopers would move without a written invitation and request from Kasavubu and Tshombe, and also some recognition at the U.N. that the movement was humanitarian. All others favored the move. As a matter of record, I took a very strong position that we should move up to a point nearest to Stanleyville but reserved as to whether we should move immediately from Kamina to Stanleyville, should coordinate the move with the Van der Walle column which would involve a delay at Kamina or alternatively should hold at Kamina permitting the column to take Stanleyville.

2. There was no decision made concerning operations from Kamina onward, however, the decision was reached that the column should be moved from Ascension to Kamina and orders were given to that effect after clearing with President Johnson by telephone.

3. The evening meeting was called to make the decision concerning an immediate move on Stanleyville from Kamina. Information was presented to show that the stopover time at Kamina could be as little as three hours and if the entire operation went without hitch or interruption, then it was possible to drop at Stanleyville at 4:00 o’clock Stanleyville time. This would give three hours of daylight for the paratrooper operation. It was decided that this would be unsatisfactory as it would be impossible to organize the paratroopers in the three hours and to effectively [Page 495] rescue the hostages. Hence, it would give the rebels a full night for their reprisal operations which in all probability would be disastrous.

4. It was noted that a final decision to move for the drop at the first hour of daylight on Monday would have to be taken by 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. The decision for the Sunday afternoon drop would have to be taken by 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning, e.s.t.

5. Rusk questioned Wheeler at length about the backup. He expressed concern that if the Belgian paratroopers get into trouble, then we have answered nothing and we will have a real problem on our hands. Also he was concerned about the incoming transports meeting ground fire with disastrous consequences. Wheeler noted that there was no backup for the paratroopers. It would be impossible to deploy the U.S. brigade in less than 66 hours. There was no further Belgian resources as the one paratrooper battalion was all that they had and no approach had been made to the French, Germans, etc. With respect to this problem, it was agreed to deploy a squadron of C–130’s to a base in Spain so this could be available to move in any one of several directions. An effort should be made to secure French, Italian or Belgian battalion in position as a backup.

6. With respect to the danger of running into ground fire, Wheeler assured Rusk the B–26’s and the T–28’s would ferret out any ground fire or anti-aircraft equipment which was in position and, hence, the paratrooper operation would be reasonably safe. Wheeler pointed out there had been severe limitations on operation of B–26’s and T–28’s and also in the use of two American pilots who were working with [less than 1 line not declassified] in the operation of these planes. Rusk ordered that all inhibitions on the use of these planes be immediately removed and that they be authorized to support the battalion. This included the use of the two American pilots on the T–28’s.

7. With respect to the drop, Wheeler expressed very positive views that we must have, at best, a full day of daylight and he therefore recommended the brigade be held until early Monday morning and the drop take place on Monday unless information that developed on Sunday indicated it wise to hold for another day.

8. This view coincided with the unanimous view of those present and also with Spaak’s very strongly expressed view.

10. Throughout the day I carefully advanced DDP’s position that while any course of action was dangerous, the least dangerous course of action would be to have the Van der Walle brigade take Stanleyville and to hold the paratroopers to support them if they got into trouble or if a massacre started.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80B01285A, DCI (McCone) Memos for the Record, 01 Nov.–31 Dec. 64. Secret; Eyes Only. Dictated by McCone on November 23.