415. Memorandum From the Chief of the Africa Division, Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Fields) to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Williams)1

AF 397


  • Phasing Out of [CIA] Air Effort in the Congo

1. During the past two months there has been a considerable reduction of rebel effectiveness in the Congo, particularly the northeast Congo. The Ugandan and Sudanese borders have been cleared of rebel pockets and all major roads leading from Uganda and the Sudan into the northeast Congo have been seized by Congolese Government forces. Even if the Ugandan and Sudanese Governments decide to resume shipments of arms and supplies to the rebels, such shipments will of necessity have to go via circuitous routes and will, in most instances, have to pass through areas now under Congolese Government control. The potential of the rebel forces to foment disorder still remains high but it now appears that these rebel groups are no longer under the effective control of their leaders and their ability to regroup and seriously threaten the security of the northeast is definitely declining. The area of current rebel activity most likely to post a problem for the Congolese government in the next 30–90 days in the western shore of Lake Tanganyika, from Albertville in the south to Uvira in the north.

2. A major contributing factor to the reduction of effective rebel activity in the northeast Congo in recent months has been the employment of aircraft in support of the Congolese Army units, and the mercenaries of the 5th Commando. The aircraft now being used, the B–26’s and the T–28’s, are being utilized and maintained through mechanisms under the control of [CIA]. The tactical deployment of these aircraft in support of ground units is, however, under the operational control of the ANC.

3. As of 27 April 1965, U.S. Government owned aircraft employed in tactical support of ground operations in the northeast Congo and along the western shore of Lake Tanganyika were as follows:

B–26—Five are in the Congo, all of which are based in Stanleyville. These aircraft are manned by [less than 1 line not declassified] crews.

[Page 601]

T–28—Ten of these aircraft are now in the Congo and two more are enroute. These aircraft are based in Bunia, Paulis, and Stanleyville. Except for four Belgian pilots, all of these aircraft are manned [less than 1 line not declassified].

Helicopters—Two enroute to be manned [less than 1 line not declassified].

4. As [Department of State] is aware, the maintenance of these aircraft is carried out by an organization which [CIA] was instrumental in setting up. In addition to the maintenance mechanism, [CIA] has facilitated the assignment of air operations officers to Bunia, Paulis, Stanleyville, and Leopoldville to insure that U.S. aircraft employed in the counter-insurgency program in the Congo are used efficiently, effectively, and within policy limitations established by our government. All of these air operations officers are U.S. citizens.

5. Should the U.S. withdraw the above aircraft, the [less than 1 line not declassified] crews, and the maintenance facility, the ANC would have no effective tactical air capability. However, since it is U.S. Government policy to reduce at the earliest practical date U.S. involvement in the air operations aspect of the counter-insurgency program, particularly the use of the B–26 aircraft and the [less than 1 line not declassified] crews, [CIA] requests that [Department of State] inform [CIA] what course of action [CIA] should follow in the next six months to effect the withdrawal.

6. [CIA] submits for consideration by [Department of State] the following as a general approach to the problem of reducing U.S. presence in the Congo while at the same time maintaining a tactical air capability in the Congo for the next year to 18 months.

A. At the earliest practical date, consistent with the improvement in the general military situation in the Congo, remove the B–26 aircraft and those [less than 1 line not declassified] crews that fly them. We believe, however, that so long as B–26 aircraft are in the Congo [less than 1 line not declassified] crews will be required to fly them. Past experience has indicated that only a small number of third country nationals are available to fly this particular type of aircraft.

B. Retain in the Congo twelve T–28 aircraft, or an acceptable substitute, for the foreseeable future. This will be in addition to the six T–6 aircraft now in the 21st Squadron and the four T–6 now enroute from Italy.

C. Recommend to the Belgian Government and to Col. Bouzin, the Belgian air adviser to the ANC, that Belgian pilots be recruited to take the place of the [less than 1 line not declassified] pilots, and that Belgian air operations officers be recruited to replace U.S. air operations officers. Col. Bouzin has informally stated that Belgian pilots can be recruited for the above purpose. We believe that he should be encouraged to make the attempt.

[Page 602]

D. As Belgian pilots become available from the recruiting effort of Col. Bouzin or the Belgian Government they should be assigned to the 21st Squadron or a new squadron. We feel it unwise to integrate the Belgian pilots into the current U.S. sponsored program.

E. As the Belgian pilots are recruited, increments of three T–28 aircraft to be transferred from the U.S. sponsored unit to the new squadron or the 21st Squadron. With each transfer of T–28 aircraft there will be an equivalent reduction of [less than 1 line not declassified] pilots in the U.S. sponsored program until a point is reached where all T–28 aircraft have been transferred and all [less than 1 line not declassified] pilots have been returned to [less than 1 line not declassified].

F. We believe that the U.S. will have to provide funds to maintain the current aircraft maintenance facility until such time as the Belgians or the Congolese assume this responsibility. We feel that the Belgian Government should pay the salaries and all expenses connected with the recruitment and employment of the Belgian pilots.

If the above program is approved the U.S. will be able to phase out the B–26 aircraft, the [less than 1 line not declassified] crews and the U.S. air operations officers, but a tactical air capability will still exist in the Congo. U.S. involvement in the Congo on completion of the above program would be that of providing aircraft and funds to maintain them.

7. To further reduce U.S. involvement in the Congo these funds for the maintenance facility could be passed to the Belgian or Congolese Government for use in paying for the services of the maintenance facility. It is implicit in the above proposal that with the reduction of U.S. involvement there will be a concomitant reduction of U.S. control over and influence on air operations and deployment of tactical aircraft in the Congo.

8. For planning purposes, [CIA] requires policy guidance on what course of action it should pursue in the next six months in regards to [CIA] phasing out the air effort in support of the counter-insurgency program in the Congo.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 76–00366R, DDO/ISO Files, Box 1, Folder 8, Congo, 1960–1969, Part II. Secret. This memorandum was sent via backchannel.