510. Memorandum for the Record1
Mr. Walt Rostow called me this date and said that the President was mulling around in his mind whether or not he should accede to Mobutu’s request for assistance in air transportation to move his troops around, and said the President asked him to ask me the following three questions:
1. Does he need the equipment to move his troops around or not? I said it was my understanding that he’s got in the neighborhood of 7 operational C–47s over there which he could use to move them, except for the fact that he is loath to trust his crews for fear they might defect. Mr. Rostow said that he had the same information. I said that if there is a requirement to move troops around and Mobutu is afraid of his own crews because they might defect, the only way he could move his troops would be to get some aircraft with crews he could trust, in which case I would say he would need the C–130s.
2. Mr. Rostow then asked about the danger involved. I said of course there is always danger involved in a situation as unsettled as that, when you don’t know who has control. Also, there is always the danger of sabotage, and we might be subject, of course, to actual combat and get the equipment or crews shot up. I said, however, we went in there before to pull the refugees out and we were fortunate [Page 747] enough not to suffer any casualties or damage to equipment, except normal operational damage.
3. Mr. Rostow then said he had been told to ask me if the Ambassador would have the competence to determine whether or not the fields that will have to be operated out of are satisfactory for the use of this equipment and whether or not they are secure. I said I couldn’t pass judgment on the capabilities of the Ambassador in that respect, but that he does have an Air Attaché there who, in my opinion, would certainly be qualified to determine if the fields could handle the equipment and, given proper intelligence, determine whether they are secure. He could then give the Ambassador appropriate advice. I said I assumed if we sent aircraft we wouldn’t just send pilots and crews, but would send a task force commander who would be qualified.
Mr. Rostow thanked me and that concluded the conversation.
Chief of Staff