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



  • Restrictions Upon Air Operations

1. On 27 October 1964, the Joint Chiefs of Staff forwarded JCSM–903–642 which expressed the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding restrictions imposed by the United States upon the use of air support in military operations in the Congo. Such restrictions were deemed to be militarily unwise and establish a political precedent in which are inherent dangers to adequate US military support of US policies and objectives world-wide. Except for support of the Van der Walle attack on Stanleyville in November 1964 and Operation Dragon Rouge, the restrictions remain in effect.

2. The situation in the Congo has changed drastically since last October. The state purpose of the restrictions at that time was to protect the rebel-held US hostages. This condition no longer obtains with the rescue of the hostages by the Dragon Rouge/Noir and subsequent operations. [Page 563] Additionally, the provision of Soviet-made weapons through the Sudan and Uganda is strengthening the rebel forces. Continued restrictions on air operations increasingly jeopardize a satisfactory military conclusion in the Congo and could contribute to the escalation of the present rebellion into a major conflict within Africa.

3. The American Ambassador in Leopoldville on 14 January 1965 recommended3 to the Secretary of State that the restrictions be appreciably modified to accord discretionary authority to attack clearly identifiable targets of military importance in all rebel-held territory except where hostages are believed held.

4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff reiterate the views they expressed in JCSM–903–64 and recommend that:

a. Restrictions be modified immediately as proposed by the US Ambassador in Leopoldville on 14 January 1965.

b. The attached proposed State/Defense message be coordinated with the Department of State and approved for dispatch.4

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler5
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, JCS Files, 9111 (25 October 1964). Top Secret.
  2. Enclosure A to JCS 2262/155. [Footnote in the original.] JCSM–903–64 is attached but not printed.
  3. Leopoldville to State msg 2695, DTG 141540Z Jan 65; on file in Joint Secretariat. [Footnote in the original. Regarding telegram 2695, see footnote 2, Document 387.]
  4. Draft telegram, undated, “Use of Aircraft,” is attached but not printed.
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates General Wheeler signed the original.