520. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Congo Situation Report

1. Contrary to ticker reports out of Brussels, no U.S. plane has flown to Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville) to attempt to rescue hostages held by the rebel mercenaries. Such an operation had been planned, but was scrubbed by Secretary Rusk last night because of the risks that the landing of our plane might stimulate or get our people involved in a blood bath.

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2. We have queried McBride about: (i) paratrooping a single negotiator (perhaps an American) into Kisangani to try to work out an evacuation deal with the mercenaries, and (ii) if successful, bussing the hostages 40 miles to an airport the Congolese army controls and where our aircraft could land safely.

3. We have made a strong pitch to the International Red Cross to take over the hostage problem. They are now deliberating. We are giving them all the communication and transport help we can. You should know, however, that our African experience with this organization is not encouraging.

4. The Secretary is now considering two further moves:

—a Mobutu-ordered and highly publicized mercy drop of food and supplies to Kisangani.

—an approach to Mobutu to suggest a private offer of a deal to the mercenaries for their immediate departure from the Congo in return for a safe passage.

5. We still have no hard information on the situation in Kisangani. The mercenaries remain in control of at least the airport and perhaps the city. Mobutu has not ordered the Congolese army to advance on the airport, but has indicated that he will have to do so soon.

6. As you know, Secretary Rusk will appear at a closed session of the Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon. We are trying to do some ground work on the Hill; Wayne Fredericks has already talked to Senators Moss and Muskie, who have been friendly to our Congo policy, as well as Representatives Brademas, Adair, and others.

7. An additional thought which has occurred to us is that the Vice President has in the past been a solid and effective advocate of the Congo policy. If it is agreeable to you, it might do some good if he could make some phone calls. I will await your guidance on this one.

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XIII, Memos & Miscellaneous, 11/66–8/67. Secret.