476. Memorandum for the White House Chief of Staff (Moyers)1


  • Contingency Air Support to Mobutu in Case of Coup in Congo

The 303 Committee, at the request of Alexis Johnson, held a telephonic vote on Tuesday, 19 July, in favor of contingency air support should a coup be mounted against Mobutu in the Congo. The principals all voted yea.

Nobody was very enthusiastic but felt we had to be ready. Secretary Rusk is preparing a brief memo to the President on this subject.

The CIA made the following reservations on the enclosed sheet.2

The general feeling is that nothing could be worse than a Belgian-backed and mercenary-reinforced coup by Moise Tshombe at this time due to the political climate in Black Africa. The British soft line on Rhodesia and the recent unwelcome decision of the World Court have exacerbated sensitive African neighbours’ feelings.

Although Mobutu is somewhat inept and his chances of pulling the Congo up by its own bootstraps are indeed remote, the Department and others feel that we have no other choice than to go along with this Congolese for the time being.

I call this matter to your attention because of a possible future embarrassment potential should the CIA-backed air force ever actually go into action against South African and other white mercenaries. Although unlikely, the strafing and killing of a Major Hoare or so would make a big story and an unfavorable one, depending on the journalist’s slant.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Intelligence Files, Congo, 1966–1968. Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by Jessup on July 21.
  2. Attached but not printed.