379. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Appraisal of the Congo Situation (U)

1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed an appraisal of the Congo situation which was provided by CINCSTRIKE/USCINC-MEAFSA by letter, dated 18 December 1964, and supplemented by message STRCC 1294/64, 25 December 1964. A copy of the letter and the appraisal are attached as Appendix C hereto.2 His principal recommendations are as follows:

a. Joint US-Belgian agreement on programs to be developed, responsibilities of each country, and the assistance they will press for from other Western-oriented countries, primarily NATO.

b. Western support of improved and expanded Congolese Armed Forces to include an increased mercenary force.

c. Strongest possible diplomatic, political, and economic measures against nations providing support to the rebels.

d. [1½ lines not declassified]

e. [1½ lines not declassified]

f. Initiation of large scale social, economic, and cultural programs in the Congo.

2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that actions such as those proposed by CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA would be required to attain US objectives of insuring the Congo’s pro-Western orientation, preventing communist infiltration and maintaining Congolese unity. At the same time, they recognize that these proposals are inconsistent with stated US desires of limiting US involvement in the Congo, keeping the cold war out of Africa, and placing principal reliance on former metropole countries. In effect, CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA has formulated his proposals in a manner which leads to the following important questions concerning US cold war strategy and US policies toward all of Africa:

a. Should the United States concentrate resources in support of pro-Western governments and in opposition to forces attempting to destroy or subvert such governments?

b. With respect to key countries, such as Egypt, Algeria, Ghana, and South Africa, what changes in US policy and courses of action [Page 549] should be initiated to protect US interests in Africa generally and the Congo in particular?

3. Faced with such important policy questions, the serious threat to the Congo’s security, and the aggressive anti-American actions of radical African states, the Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude that two action programs should be initiated without delay:

a. An intensive high-level State/Defense reappraisal of US cold war strategy and US policies toward Africa should be accomplished to include a political assessment of the Congo problem and of the threat this poses to US interests. It should be initialed [initiated] and completed urgently because of the rapid deterioration of Western influence in Africa and because events in the Congo are leading toward deepening US involvement in a difficult politico-military situation. Additional views on such a reappraisal are contained in Appendix A hereto and in JCSM–775–64, dated 5 September 1964, subject: “US Policy Toward Africa.”

b. If this reappraisal results in a firm policy decision to take positive political and military action in support of the Congolese Government, the United States and Belgium should consider, in conjunction with the Congo and other Western nations, appropriate steps to strengthen the military base of the Tshombe Government. Supporting rationale and specific views are contained in Appendix B hereto and in JCSM–756–64, dated 1 September 1964, subject: “Internal Security of the Congo.”3 Meanwhile, current efforts should be continued to assist the Congo to counter the communist-supported rebel threat.

4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have also reviewed a letter, dated 18 November 1964, from CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA in which he recommended that early consideration be given to establishing negotiations with Belgium, Italy, and the Congo to define an appropriate program for providing air support for the Congolese Army. A copy of his letter, including a study entitled “Concept for the Employment of Congolese Air Capability,” is attached as Appendix D hereto. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that:

a. Decisions resulting from the aforementioned reappraisal should be reached before long-range plans for the Congolese Air Force are completed.

b. Action should be taken, however, to arrest the deterioration of present Congolese air capabilities and to improve effectiveness. To this end, discussions should be initiated with the Belgians, Italians, and Congolese along these lines. Such discussions should not prejudice courses of action which might result from the reappraisal outlined in subparagraph 3 a, above. Appropriate US military personnel should be included as participants in these discussions.

[Page 550]

5. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend early initiation of the actions suggested in paragraphs 3 and 4, above. In this connection, the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 5 September 1964 advised that they considered it timely and prudent to reappraise our objectives and policy in Africa in the light of developing communist strategy and tactics. While the Joint Chiefs of Staff are aware that studies treating aspects of this problem have been initiated, it does not appear that these will constitute the concentrated interdepartmental effort to conduct a substantive reappraisal of US objectives toward Africa which they believe to be required. They continue to be seriously concerned over the deterioration of US national security interests and the lack of a common policy with regard to Africa and accordingly request your personal support in initiating the reappraisal, which should be characterized by such stature and authority that it can, if necessary, lead to major and prompt changes in US cold war strategy and US policies toward Africa.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler 4
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 7425, Congo 381 (12 Aug. 64). Secret.
  2. None of the attachments is printed.
  3. Document 245.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates General Wheeler signed the original.