347. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Acting Secretary of State Ball 1

B: Mac Bundy is on the line with me. We have had a report now from the meeting that took place at Kamina. The military has recommended that the operation be held up one more night to coordinate with the column.

J: How far are you by air from . . .

B: 3 hours.

J: How many miles?

B: About 1,000.

J: Where is the column?

B: It is at Labutto. It then, by moving all night, can reach there Tuesday morning. It would reach there at the same time that the drop would occur.

J: How many in the column?

B: 600.

J: There are 800 in our outfit?

B: 800 to be dropped and 600 in the column. There is enough force there to take care of the situation. Wheeler is clear on this.

J: What do they have?

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B: It is hard to tell.

J: Then, how does he know he can take care of it?

B: They are finding that the forces have largely left. It has been the experience of coming in and finding the troops on the run when they encounter the column or any kind of air cover. On the basis of all the experiences there would seem to be no likelihood of meeting resistance, and there is no indication that they are likely to meet much. The expectation is, and it seems to be agreed by all, military on both sides, that they will have an easy time of it.

M. Bundy: In military terms either force can win a battle in Stanleyville. The Kamina–Stanleyville distance we have checked is 2 hours in the air. The theory is to get them in Tuesday morning early. That has an advantage of putting the paratroopers in. We have some ease on the scene as to what is going on. In military terms, to do the two things at once seems very clear. This is the Belgian military in Brussels concurring with their own advisors in the field. There is no reason to think that the hostages may be in great danger for one more day.

B: The only new element that will increase the danger is that there has been a leak through London that the planes have left Ascension. We will have to use the fall-back release that we had worked out with the Belgians, confirming the fact that the planes have left Ascension but simply say they have moved up to a point closer to Stanleyville and are not presently en route to Stanleyville. I think this is not a very serious matter but there is always risk in one more day, but there is ability of mobility and seeking out the hostages because the column will have wheels and transport.

J: Had we anticipated that the paratroopers to go in first?

B: We had thought that might be done and we decided on their recommendation to put the two together. There is an advantage in not having this look like a military operation but a humanitarian operation. We were motivated by the fact that the situation in Stanleyville was deteriorating so rapidly that we wanted to get the quickest force in. During the day there has been no evidence that the situation is falling apart any more. There have been no radio intercepts. There is a meeting later tonight between Attwood and Kanza. We may have some further light on the situation when that meeting takes place. I think there is a good deal for arguing for accepting the Belgian view. This is a unanimous consent here by Wheeler, McNamara, Rusk.

J: O.K. Go ahead.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Ball Papers, Congo III, 11/7/64–3/17/66. No classification marking. No drafting information appears. Ball was in Washington; President Johnson was in Texas.