526. Report Prepared in the Department of Defense1


Steps Taken

—Ambassador McBride was instructed Sunday2 to arrange with Mobutu for the departure of the C–130s on July 24th—two weeks after the planes’ arrival on July 10th. (See Tab A for details.)3

Mobutu reacted strongly and negatively, stating that the planes should stay for one month (his original request). (See Tab B for details.)


—The original tasks of the C–130s are largely done: the intense anti-white feeling in the Congo has abated; Kisangani has been evacuated; Congolese Army forces and logistics support are being positioned to contain the mercenary threat.

—The Congo has adequate air transport resources (C–46s, C–47s, and C–54s) in the Congolese Air Force, Air Congo, and other commercial air activities. The Congolese Air Force aircraft are grounded, however, since they were manned by Belgian crews which were expelled by Mobutu on grounds of conspiring with the mercenaries. (See Tab C for list of available aircraft and crews.)

—There are two probable consequences if Mobutu continues to force out Belgian military assistance: (1) he will turn to the U.S. to fill the gap; and (2) he will feed the fears of the European population (largely Belgian) who are vital to the Congo’s economy.

—The foregoing points argue for the immediate or early withdrawal of the C–130s. However, there are several points to consider on the other side. Mobutu is not completely rational on the subject of C–130s. He views them as tangible evidence of US support. He could well react emotionally and unpredictably if he felt that the withdrawal of the C–130s meant that the U.S. was withdrawing its support. It is not inconceivable that he would lash out by whipping up again anti-white reaction in the Congo. Just as conceivably, he could decide to cast his [Page 769] lot with the radical Africans (and their Communist supporters) and turn to Algeria and East Europeans for support.4

—There are several options we should consider.

Option 1— Withdrawal of all three C–130s on July 24th (our original deadline).

Option 2— Withdrawal of all three C–130s on August 7th (giving Mobutu his month).

Option 3— Withdrawing one C–130 on July 24th, and one C–130 each succeeding week (or withdraw both remaining C–130s simultaneously during the second two-week period).

Option 3 probably gives us the best chance to start withdrawing the C–130s without engendering a violent reaction by Mobutu.5

—Regardless of which option is chosen, we should press Mobutu not to foreclose Belgian military assistance (which he will need over the long term) and to assure the safety (and hence continued presence) of the European population which is essential to the Congo’s economic future.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Congo 1967. Secret. No drafting information appears on the original, which is attached to a July 18 transmittal memorandum from Acting Assistant Secretary Townsend Hoopes to Secretary McNamara stating that the paper had been prepared for McNamara’s meeting with the President and Secretary Rusk that afternoon.
  2. July 16.
  3. The tabs are attached but not printed.
  4. A handwritten notation in the margin reads: “I doubt this. T. Hoopes.”
  5. The first two C–130s left the Congo on July 24 and August 3. The third remained until December 10.