467. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Minutes of the Meeting of the 303 Committee, 28 March 1966


  • Ambassador Johnson, Mr. Vance, Admiral Raborn, Mr. Richard Helms, and Mr. Peter Jessup
  • Mr. Desmond FitzGerald was present for Items 1 and 2
  • Mr. John Waller was present for Item 1
  • Mr. William Broe was present for Item 2

1. Congo

a. On the question of continued air support to the Congo (see minutes dated 21 February 1966, Item 1),2 Ambassador Johnson kept probing for some method to reduce the seemingly endless assistance, some way in which to shift the burden to the Congolese so that they could do more to help themselves.

b. Mr. FitzGerald reviewed the problem and emphasized that the Ambassador, the Air Attaché, the CINCSTRIKE representative, and the Chief of Station were unanimous that, without air support, the Congolese effort against the rebels would evaporate.

c. He pointed out that although the revolt was not one in which a mobile rebel army was on the rampage seizing cities, the ANC, nevertheless, [Page 685] was not eliminating the rebels and revitalizing the northeast. They were holding the rebels in pockets, but neither mercenaries nor the ANC would budge without the modest umbrella of a dozen or so T–28’s and a handful of B–26K’s. He pointed out that some economies could be effectuated with the withdrawal of the longer range B–28K’s, which were more expensive to maintain, and some economies might be made by cutting the number of sorties. However, he warned that the outlook for even a minimal Congolese air force was at best lugubrious. The Belgians were convinced you couldn’t make the Congolese into pilots, period; the Italians thought they could but were far from proving it with their own flabby program. If we pulled out, it was emphasized, the Congolese just didn’t have the means to achieve results on their own.

d. It became apparent that the current expense was not the main problem but rather the Congolese themselves; [1 line not declassified].

e. Ambassador Johnson wondered about the embarrassment potential, for example in Rhodesia, stemming from the present state of affairs. Mr. FitzGerald pointed out that under present circumstances the USG was in a position of control over these assets.

f. Mr. Vance stated that, in his opinion, the military requirements must continue to be met. He therefore suggested a prompt survey by the JCS on what the minimum military requirements should be. The committee agreed to this. The committee will examine these findings when ready and review the problem late in April.3

[Omitted here is discussion of other subjects.]

Peter Jessup
  1. Source: National Security Council, Intelligence Files, 303 Committee, Minutes 1966. Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared on March 29.
  2. See Document 464. On March 21, Helms approved release of a memorandum to the 303 Committee requesting a reconsideration of the decision to reduce the air program in the Congo. (Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 81–00966R, Box 1, Folder 12, Congo 1966)
  3. At the 303 Committee meeting on April 22, Vance was asked if the JCS had come up with a definitive opinion on necessary air support to the Congo. He replied that they had not and were not able to assess the need largely because the size and status of the rebel threat was thoroughly opaque. It was suggested that two JCS officers in civilian dress, perhaps accompanied by a CIA Headquarters officer, proceed to the field and determine this aspect on the spot. (Extract from the Minutes of the 303 Committee meeting on April 22; ibid., Job 82–00450R, 40 Committee, Congo (K) 1965–)