387. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


You should know that Ball and Harriman now approve Leoville request to let “our” planes hit truck convoys and arms depots in “villages.”2 We’ve held off on this previously, in order to avoid scare stories of US planes massacring civilians from the air (and also further murders of hostages).

But hostages now apparently mostly gone (except possibly Watsa and Aba, which would still be off limits). Also rebels know our policy so are travelling at night and holing up in village “safehavens” during day. So there is real need to go after them, if we’re to have a decent chance of holding (we can always change back later). Finally, we’re already so damned that any likely increase in anti-US propaganda would be marginal.

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I’m for this, as one of desperate measures to scare off rebels before their counteroffensive starts. But I’ve asked WH clearance so you can see.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. X, Cables, Memos & Miscellaneous. Secret.
  2. In telegram 2695 from Leopoldville, January 14, Godley recommended that the restrictions still in effect on using T–28s and B–26s be modified to permit attacks on clearly identifiable targets of military importance in all rebel-held territory except Watsa and Aba, where the Embassy believed hostages might be held. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)
  3. Komer added a handwritten postscript that reads: “Note also that everybody dives for bush when our planes come over, so field thinks big civilian casualties quite unlikely.” It is followed by the handwritten notation: “OK. McGB.” Telegram 1831 to Leopoldville, January 18, informed the Embassy that permission was granted, but that pilots should be carefully briefed on the need for careful identification of targets so as to avoid indiscriminate damage to civilians or their property. They should also use great care not to strafe villages within 10 miles of the Uganda border. (Ibid.)