401. Memorandum for the Record1

Struelens came in urgently at 2:00 p.m., having just talked to Tshombe on the phone. Tshombe had just returned to Leopoldville from the political conference at Luluabourg full of what he considered his great success there in wrapping up extensive political support for the coming election.

Tshombe called Struelens “as soon as he returned” to ask whether we’d answered his request through Struelens for money to bolster his election campaign. Struelens then launched into a real pitch to the effect that now is the crucial time for Tshombe; a big election victory would give us a unified Congo by spring and win respect for Tshombe in other African capitals. He urged that help in the “next 20 days:” would really pay off for us.

I reassured him that Komer had put his request into the right hands and simply promised to find out where we stand. I said I would give him an idea before day’s end (he’ll be calling Tshombe again tonight) when he might expect an answer one way or the other. I did not say anything about what the answer might be, though he said he’d like to give Tshombe some notion of whether it would be favorable.

The second point Tshombe had raised—definitely secondary to the first in Struelens’ pitch—was the need to replace the two T–28’s downed last week. I said we were still searching for them and were keenly aware of the need for aircraft but would have to wait until we concluded our search before we thought any further about replacements.

Third, Struelens mentioned again that Tshombe’s “comptroller” had verified Chargé Cardoso’s “embezzlement” of funds here. He said Tshombe would probably recall Cardoso. He said, as he had last week, that he wanted us to know this simply so we wouldn’t misinterpret Cardoso’s recall.

At one point, in an aside, Struelens intimated that I probably had seen the tape of their conversation. I shook my head negatively, but he was already off to his next point.

He left with another quick plug for help and my agreement to call him.

[Page 585]

After talking with Twining/Fields and McIlvaine, at 5:10 p.m. I phoned Struelens this message: “I have thoroughly checked progress on your request. I’m satisfied that the people working on it fully understand its urgency. However, they are not quite ready to make a decision. I don’t have any indication what the decision will be, but I do expect we will have an answer one way or the other by the first of next week.” He said he’d tell Tshombe, and I reiterated that we don’t know yet what the answer will be. He thanked me for checking.

McIlvaine and Twining had arranged to send the gist of Struelens’ pitch to Leoville for Godley’s recommendation. All agree that, if we do anything, we’ll do it in Leoville, not through Struelens. However, we thought that mentioning Leoville now would only put Ambassador Godley on the spot if we decided negatively.

Harold H. Saunders2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XI, Memos & Miscellaneous, 1/65–9/65. Top Secret. Prepared by Harold Saunders. Copies were sent to McGeorge Bundy and Fredericks.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.