472. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s Military Assistant (Greenleaf) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance)1


  • General Wheeler’s Report on Air Operations in the Congo2

The principal findings of the Report on Air Operations in the Congo are:

(1) Maintenance of air support at present levels to the Congolese military forces is essential for several more years; and

(2) A coordinate, multi-national approach to resolution of many Congolese problems is long overdue and could well provide alternatives to the current U.S. level of effort in that country.

At least two major arguments are advanced for the development and maintenance of an air capability in the Congo. The first concerns the importance of tactical air support (including air transport) to reduce the effectiveness of rebel or insurgent elements (which, in the main, have been supported by the radical African states and the Chinese Communists). The Report also suggests that tactical air support seems to provide a necessary psychological “prop” to the poorly-trained and poorly-led Congolese Army units. The second major argument concerns the importance of an air transport capability to the extension and maintenance of the Central Government’s control and the continued existence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a nation.

Much of the Report is an analysis of the fragmented air operations in the Congo which finds the Congolese, but mainly the Belgians, the Italians, mercenaries, [and CAS] all sharing functions and responsibilities with no effective integration of effort or centralized control.

Three alternative arrangements for continued Congolese air operations are discussed:

(1) Integrate as early as possible Congolese pilots and mercenary pilots, technicians, and aircraft with the [CAS air support] Operation to facilitate the gradual withdrawal [of CAS personnel and aircraft];

(2) Transfer control of mercenary pilots, technicians and aircraft to the Italian Training Mission (ITM) and make the ITM responsible for the combat training of the Congolese Air Force so as to permit the Congolese MOD to assume control of combat air operations; and

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(3) Integrate as early as possible mercenary pilots, technicians and aircraft and Congolese pilots under the Belgian Air Force Mission (BAFM) with limited U.S. MAP support of this effort.

General Wheeler recommends:

(a) Support of alternative (1) above, and

(b) State initiating—as a matter of priority—high level discussions with Italian, Belgian and Congolese officials to obtain agreement on functions, responsibilities, means, and goals for the development of a satisfactory Congolese Air Force.

A copy of General Wheeler’s report already has been forwarded to Admiral Raborn and General Paul D. Adams. Frank Hand believes Des FitzGerald will react negatively (for “NIH” reasons) to the Report’s suggested alternatives to the current program.

I have had three copies of the report reproduced and recommend you make copies available to Mr. Rostow, Ambassador Johnson, and possibly Bill Moyers. It can subsequently be scheduled for 303 discussion. Attached is a memorandum of transmittal as well as two letters commending the OJCS and CIA personnel who developed the Report.3

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71 A 6489, Congo 385 (Sensitive), 4 Jun 66. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Attached, but not printed. The minutes of the 303 Committee meeting on June 9 record that the Committee generally appreciated the JCS report for its thorough examination of the issue. Mr. FitzGerald emphasized that “the Agency was not anxious to get into a long-term nursemaid or MAAG type role with the Congolese.” The Executive Secretary noted that the paper established two points quite clearly: first, the Congolese Government definitely needed some air support and second, there was no short cut for CIA to divest itself of this task in the immediate future. (Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 82–00450R, 40 Committee, Congo (K) 1965–) A CIA memorandum for the record dated June 28 noted that the initiative for further 303 Committee action on the Congo paper was with the Department of State. As for internal project handling for Project [text not declassified] and Project [text not declassified] both projects were due to be renewed on June 30, 1966, and the Africa Division was in the process of writing project renewals for both projects for FY 1967 funds. (Ibid.)