The following is a summary of the most important of the issues covered. Parenthetical citations are to numbered documents in the text.

North Africa Region

U.S. policymakers saw North Africa, with its strategic location on the southern flank of Western Europe and its immense oil and gas reserves in Libya and Algeria, as a region of vital strategic and economic importance to the United States. U.S. military leaders also considered the Wheelus Air Base in Libya and the Naval Communications Center at Kenitra in Morocco critically important military assets. Thus, Johnson administration policy in the region focused on strengthening North African ties to the West and on forestalling Soviet attempts to dominate any part of the region by providing sufficient aid to the countries of North Africa so that the alternative of turning to the Soviet bloc would seem less attractive. U.S. leaders hoped that U.S. interests in North Africa could be safeguarded by a relatively modest effort complementary to that of France. (2)

U.S. efforts to promote stability and progress in the region and to maintain friendly relations with all four countries of North Africa was complicated by the intensive Algerian arms buildup, with substantial Soviet aid, that followed the Algerian-Moroccan border clash in 1963. Morocco’s King Hassan and Tunisia’s President Bourguiba responded to the buildup by seeking additional U.S. military assistance as well as a U.S. guarantee of their national security. The United States attempted to reassure Morocco and Tunisia about its commitment to their security and well-being but wanted to avoid becoming caught up in a North African arms race. It argued that arms expenditures should be subordinated to economic and social development, and that U.S. aid funds were better spent on economic programs. In an effort to defuse the arms race and avoid regional polarization, the United States also attempted to find a basis for improved relations with Algeria without prejudicing the friendly relations it enjoyed with Morocco and Tunisia. (2–4) Such efforts were effectively ended by the Six-Day War in June 1967, which led Algeria to break diplomatic relations with the United States and reject calls for compromise with Israel and the West. (5)


The Johnson administration initially sought to maintain a good working relationship with the Algerian Government but objected to Algeria’s stance on Cold War issues such as Cuba, Communist China, and Vietnam. (6–7, 9) In May 1964, a memorandum from the State Department’s Africa Bureau advised Under Secretaries George Ball and Averell Harriman that, because of its size, potential, and location, Algeria was of sufficient importance to the United States to justify efforts to retain a position of influence in the country, even in the face of such Algerian attitudes. It advocated bringing home to President Ben Bella personally and to his government the risks of non-alignment and the importance of the support the United States was giving to Algeria. (8)

In December 1964, Algerian aid to the rebel forces in the Congo led U.S. policymakers to consider cutting off aid. Eventually, they settled for a temporary freeze on any new U.S. aid projects or programs. (14–15) Aid shipments to Algeria were subsequently cut back to the bare minimum needed to keep food programs going but were not terminated. (17–18) In June 1965, the U.S. Government warned Algerian officials that it was prepared to let U.S. aid programs expire over the summer because no Algerian request for continuation of such aid had been received. (19–20)

The situation was altered by the bloodless coup which overthrew Ben Bella on June 19. (21) The new Boumedienne government indicated that it wanted better relations and formally asked the United States to continue its Title III aid program. (24–26) Nevertheless, Algerian criticism of U.S. policies in Vietnam and elsewhere continued under the new regime as did U.S. protests against such statements. (27) In January 1966, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy and his aide, Robert Komer, recommended that the President approve a “modest” new P.L. 480 program for Algeria in order to help establish a good working relationship with the Boumedienne government, despite its criticism of U.S. policy on Vietnam. On February 23, Johnson reluctantly approved the agreement. The following day, the Algerian Government angered the President by releasing a friendly letter to Ho Chi Minh. (28–30)

In December 1966, Secretary Rusk recommended a new P.L. 480 dollar sale of 200,000 tons of wheat to Algeria, which was suffering from a serious drought. Walt Rostow and Ambassador-at-Large Averell Harriman supported Rusk’s recommendation. Harriman argued that Algeria was worth cultivating despite the differences between the two countries. (31–32) Following a further recommendation from Rusk in February 1967, Johnson finally approved the sale on March 2. (33–34) On June 6, 1967, Algeria broke diplomatic relations with the United States, charging it with aiding Israel’s attack on Egyptian airfields which initiated the Six-Day War. (35)


The foremost policy objective of the United States in its relations with Libya was retaining the Wheelus Air Base, which most U.S. military experts considered a vitally important military asset. Early in the Johnson administration, the State Department’s Africa Bureau warned that terminating U.S. aid to Libya, which the Kennedy administration had previously decided would no longer be necessary because of Libya’s growing oil revenues, might have an adverse effect on U.S. base rights at Wheelus. (40)

On February 22, 1964, Egyptian President Nasser made a speech declaring that no country could consider itself independent unless the foreign military bases on its territory were liquidated. The Libyan Government subsequently announced that it did not intend to renew the treaties whereby the United States and Britain maintained bases in Libya. Bundy and Komer advised the President to agree to renegotiate the 1954 base agreement and suggested spinning out the negotiations as long as possible with the hope of eventual agreement on a reduced tenure at Wheelus that would buy the United States three to five more years. (43) On March 17, Johnson approved telling the Libyans that the United States was prepared to discuss Wheelus. (44) Three days later, he issued NSAM No. 291 asking the Department of State to prepare an action program for prolonging the U.S. stay at Wheelus, consistent with the longer-term U.S. objective of preserving the independence and stability of Libya. (45)

During U.S.-Libyan talks on Wheelus in April and June 1964, the Libyan delegation at first insisted that ending U.S. tenure at Wheelus had to be the basis for the negotiations, but later accepted a U.S. proposal for increased participation of Libyan military personnel in operation of the base and establishment of a joint U.S.-Libyan subcommittee to study gradual “Libyanization” of the base. (55–56, 59–60) In August 1964, the U.S. Government agreed that the Libyan Government could announce that the United States had accepted the “principle of withdrawal” from Wheelus, with the understanding that Libya would not press for further negotiations or discussion of specific dates for withdrawal before 1965 when the U.S. study of the problem was completed. (63–65)

In subsequent discussions, King Idris told Ambassador Lightner that the United States should not take Libyan demands for early withdrawal from Wheelus seriously, explaining that such demands were necessary because of domestic and external political pressures. The King indicated that he hoped the United States would remain at Wheelus until the base agreement expired in 1971, and perhaps even beyond that date. He also referred to a possible mutual defense pact and asked for assurances that the United States would help Libya defend itself if it were attacked. (66, 69–70, 73) On September 1, 1965, President Johnson sent the King a letter stating that the United States regarded the political independence and territorial integrity of Libya under the King’s sovereignty as highly important. The President assured Idris that the United States could not remain indifferent to an unprovoked and aggressive attack on Libya and would immediately consult with the Libyan Government and other interested governments if such an attack occurred. (74) The King responded with assurances that the United States could stay at Wheelus until 1971. (75)

During U.S.-U.K. defense talks in 1966, the British asked for a firm U.S. commitment regarding the forces the United States would be willing to make available to assist British forces in carrying out the U.K. treaty commitment to defend Libya. The United States, however, remained unwilling to agree to any formal commitment beyond consultations as stated in the President’s letter of September 1. (76–79, 81)

Public outcry in Libya against the United States resulting from the outbreak of the Six-Day War on June 5, 1967, and Cairo’s accusations that the United States was using Wheelus to aid Israel led to a Libyan demand on June 15 that a date be set for U.S. withdrawal from the base. (83–86) The United States agreed to resume discussions leading to U.S. withdrawal, but expressed the hope that these could be considered a continuation of the 1964 discussions rather than the result of the current crisis. (87) In August 1967, U.S. and Libyan negotiating teams agreed to establish a Libyan committee as an observer mechanism at Wheelus in preparation for drawing up a program for U.S. withdrawal from the base. (92) When Lyndon Johnson left office in January 1969, no date for U.S. withdrawal from Wheelus had been established.


In December 1963, King Hassan had requested increased U.S. military assistance to offset the Algerian arms buildup. In response, the U.S. Government reiterated its interest in Moroccan independence and unity but argued that current U.S. and French assistance was adequate to meet the Algerian threat. It promised to reexamine the U.S. position in consultation with other interested governments if the situation changed materially. (99) On May 20, 1964, the President sent King Hassan a letter assuring him of his friendly interest in Morocco’s progress and his desire to strengthen the close and historic ties between their two countries. (104)

In October 1964, Hassan again asked for increased U.S. aid—this time to help bail Morocco out of a new financial crisis. U.S. representatives responded sympathetically, but argued that Morocco needed to get its financial house in order and stressed the importance of an IMF agreement. Following talks in Rabat October 23–28, the Moroccan Government agreed to practice greater austerity and the United States promised to facilitate expenditure of $30 million of Supporting Assistance funds. (106–109)

In January 1965, in response to a new Moroccan request for U.S. military assistance to counter the growing Algerian military threat, Secretaries Rusk and McNamara approved an $11 million grant-credit arrangement so that Morocco could acquire a squadron of 12 F–5s. The United States also agreed to sell certain surplus military stocks to Morocco. (110, 114) On January 29, noting that the Moroccans were justifiably concerned over the events taking place in Algeria, the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred with Ambassador John Ferguson’s recommendation that the United States undertake an increased military assistance program in Morocco in order to counter the growing Algerian threat. (115)

In July 1966, Hassan requested additional U.S. help against a serious drought in Morocco. On August 12, President Johnson sent a letter to the King stating that the United States intended to aid Morocco’s agricultural program wherever it could and was currently financing two studies in Morocco to help it accelerate its long-term agricultural development. He also assured Hassan that the United States would help as much as possible with Morocco’s grain shortage and noted that the U.S. Government had already allotted 100,000 metric tons of wheat to Morocco under P.L. 480 to help meet the present emergency. (125–126)

Following a visit to Rabat, Ambassador at Large Averell Harriman reported in November 1966 that King Hassan was unhappy that the United States had refused to sell him the tank and anti-tank weapons which he felt were necessary to enable Morocco to hold out against a possible Algerian attack. (127) On January 25, 1967, the Moroccan Ambassador in Washington, Ahmed Laraki, complained to Rusk that Assistant Secretary Joseph Palmer had responded negatively in Rabat when the King had asked whether the United States would discuss reactivating the U.S. bases in Morocco or working out an alliance. (128) On January 28, the State Department instructed Ambassador Henry Tasca to tell the King that Palmer’s negative response had referred only to a possible security guarantee. Tasca was to inform Hassan that the African Interdepartmental Regional Group (IRG) had approved in principle a credit sale of arms to Morocco within a range of $5–14 million. (129)

When King Hassan visited Washington in February, the King stressed that he would prefer to concentrate only on economic development but that he had to worry about the security of his country. Morocco did not want to enter an arms race with Algeria; all it wanted was enough weapons to hold out for three days after an attack until the Security Council could act. Johnson responded that the United States understood Morocco’s concern and that he had approved the sale of $14 million of military equipment to Morocco. The President also noted that the United States was prepared to help Morocco overcome the effects of the drought by providing further P.L. 480 sales of 167,000 tons of wheat. The King assured Johnson that U.S. use of the Kenitra naval communications center and the Voice of America facilities at Tangier could continue. (132–133)

At the outbreak of the Six-Day War in June 1967, the United States suspended delivery of all military supplies to the Middle East and North Africa. Concerned about an Algerian attack on Morocco following the war, the Moroccan Government insisted that it needed additional arms urgently, since its strategy of holding out for 3–4 days after an attack had gone up in smoke. If the United States could not provide the arms it needed, Morocco would have to make other provisions. In July, the President approved proceeding with negotiating and programming the $14 million credit agreement, although delivery remained suspended. (136–138)

In October 1967, the U.S. Government resumed limited and selective arms shipments to Israel and moderate Arab states. Rabat was informed that the United States was resuming all existing military assistance and grant and sales programs, but that implementation of the $14 million credit sales program awaited Congressional action. (140) In December, the U.S. Embassy in Rabat was instructed to tell the Moroccan Government that the United States was prepared to move forward on the credit sale. A $40 million Congressional ceiling on grants and sales to Africa, however, would severely limit the U.S. ability to meet all of its African requirements. (141)

In February 1968, Tasca reported his concern at the King’s reaction to the continued delay in U.S. military assistance. The Ambassador also expressed disappointment at the total amount of FY-1969 aid for Morocco and asked the Department of State to reconsider this. On March 26, the President approved a $16.2 million P.L. 480 agreement for Morocco and on June 6, he approved an $8 million agricultural loan. That same day, the U.S. Embassy in Rabat was instructed to negotiate the $14 million credit package, which was signed later that month. (142–144)


During the Johnson administration, the United States enjoyed excellent relations with Tunisia. As a good friend, however, Tunisia expected a sympathetic response to its requests for U.S. economic and military assistance. In March 1965, NSC Staff aide Robert Komer argued that U.S. refusal to make a new long-term commitment to Tunisia’s Four-Year Plan would be political folly, especially right after Tunisia had called for negotiations on Palestine. He suggested developing a formula which would reassure Tunisia that U.S. aid to Tunisia would continue at a substantial level. (147) In April, Komer told Tunisian Ambassador Driss that it might not be possible to make a long-term commitment of U.S. aid, but that there was no question regarding the continuation of substantial U.S. aid for Tunisian development. (148) When President Johnson met with Foreign Minister Habib Bourguiba, Jr., on April 29, he assured him that Tunisia was important to the United States, which wanted to do all it could to help. Bourguiba noted that national security was a growing problem for the Tunisian Government, which hoped the United States could help it to improve its army’s efficiency. (151)

In June 1965, U.S. policymakers approved an additional $2 million in grant aid funds for the FY 1966 Tunisian Military Assistance Program (MAP). (154–155) In September 1965, Bourguiba returned to Washington with a “shopping list” for a five-year, $100 million military assistance program. On September 18, Rusk told the Foreign Minister that the military solution his Government envisaged against a possible threat to Tunisian security would create very grave problems for that country by diverting resources that should go to economic development. The U.S. Government would have to review the situation before determining the extent to which it might be of help. (157–158) In late November 1965, the Department of Defense sent a Military Survey Team to Tunisia to assess its military needs. (159)

In February 1966, the Survey Team recommended a $26 million, five-year military assistance program in order to provide Tunisia with a minimum deterrent against external attack. In August 1966, however, administration officials decided to request MAP funds for FY-1967 only on the grounds that it would be too dangerous to try for a five-year commitment in Congress. (163–164) On August 25, Ambassador Driss told Rusk that President Bourguiba was disheartened and wanted to know why there had been so many difficulties and delays if the U.S. Government genuinely thought Tunisia was worthy of help. (165) In December 1966, President Johnson authorized a one-year $5.2 million MAP program for Tunisia. (168) Tunisian feelers regarding some sort of U.S.-Tunisian alliance or security gurantee, however, continued to elicit discouraging responses from the U.S. Government, which noted that the U.S. public was hostile to new commitments. (169)

In May 1968, when President Bourguiba met with President Johnson in Washington, he stated that Tunisia needed continuing reassurance regarding its security and economic development. Johnson declared that the United States intended to do whatever could be done to aid Tunisa, but pointed to serious difficulties at home, especially with Congress over foreign aid. Bourguiba said he was aware of U.S. difficulties and knew that the U.S. Government gave fair consideration to Tunisia’s needs. He assured the President that the United States could always count on Tunisia as a true friend. (176–177) On May 24, the President approved a $10 million program loan for Tunisian development and on June 28, he authorized an additional $2.7 million in military aid. (178–179)

Africa Region

The Johnson administration continued the Kennedy policy of support for Africa’s newly independent countries and self-determination for those not yet independent. The primary U.S. objective in sub-Saharan Africa, however, remained preventing the countries of the region from falling under Communist domination and minimizing Communist influence over them. Thus, U.S. policymakers focused on strengthening African ties to the West and on providing sufficient U.S. aid to the countries of Africa, coordinated with aid from the former colonial powers, so that the alternative of turning to the Soviet bloc would seem less attractive. (181–182, 184, 188, 195)

In May 1965, the President asked the Department of State to review U.S policy and come up with a “new policy for Africa.” After extensive consultations, Rusk sent the President the Department’s recommendations for a strengthened Africa program including a major Presidential speech on Africa, more high-level visits, and increased aid, information, and exchange programs. (196–202)

On May 26, 1966, the President gave a speech announcing a revitalized U.S. initiative in Africa at a White House reception for Organization of African Unity (OAU) ambassadors in Washington. (206, 209, 211) A task force headed by U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Edward Korry was set up to review African development policies and programs. The 150-page Korry Report of July 22 contained 42 recommendations; the two central ones were a much broader and more central role for the World Bank in Africa and realignment of bilateral U.S. aid programs to concentrate on regional development. (214–217) On October 5, the President issued NSAM No. 356 asking the Department of State to develop an action program to implement the recommendations in the Korry Report. (220–222) By April 1967, plans and programs stemming from the Korry Report recommendations were moving forward and had become integrated with the regular Department of State, Agency for International Development (AID), and other agency programs for Africa. (224) Development of the regional approach to aid was slow in occurring, however, and by July 1967, U.S. AID and other economic programs for Africa were under fire from critics both in Congress and in Africa, where a number of African leaders were dismayed by the phasing out of U.S. bilateral assistance in some 25 countries. (225–226)

Following a 2-week trip to Africa, Vice President Humphrey reported to the President on January 12, 1968 that Africans desperately wanted U.S. friendship, support, and help. Humphrey recommended that the administration continue to stress the regional approach in the U.S. AID program but not “throw overboard” U.S. bilateral programs. He argued that, despite limited U.S. means, more help should be sought for Africa and pointed out that U.S. aid to Africa had been running well below 10 percent of total U.S. economic assistance funds. (231)


The United States made a concerted and extensive effort during the first half of 1964 to change Ghana’s authoritarian President Kwame Nkrumah’s unfriendly views and halt his government-inspired anti-U.S. campaign, which included hostile demonstrations and press accusations. On March 2, U.S. Ambassador William P. Mahoney, Jr. told Nkrumah that U.S.-Ghana relations were in “grave condition” and that both sides had to make an “honest effort” to better them. (244) Other individuals whom Nkrumah liked and respected, including Edgar Kaiser, the prime promoter and developer of a major construction project in Ghana, visited him and tried to persuade him to reestablish friendly relations with the United States. The culmination of these efforts was the March 23 meeting of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs W. Averell Harriman and Nkrumah in Accra. Harriman reported that the Ghanaian leader gave him “complete assurances” that he would assume personal responsibility for establishing a more positive atmosphere for friendly relations with the United States. However, Harriman thought there had been no fundamental change in Nkrumah’s beliefs and recommended keeping his “feet to the fire.” (247–249)

Despite this campaign, U.S. efforts to wean Nkrumah from his left-leaning and anti-Western proclivities did not succeed. In March 1965 there were more anti-American actions, including attacks on the U.S. Embassy and library, press accusations, and a hostile speech by Nkrumah himself on March 22 in which he used epithets such as “racist” and “fascist” in referring to the United States. (252) By this time, U.S. policymakers knew of coup plots against Nkrumah and resolved not to give him any further aid. (250) The records indicate that although the U.S. government was informed of the coup plots, it was not otherwise involved in them. (251, 257)

On February 24, 1966, after a year of hesitation, army and police officers led a successful coup while Nkrumah was en route to Peking, and proclaimed a National Liberation Council (NLC) to govern the country until a new constitution and government could be established. They overcame minimal resistance from forces loyal to Nkrumah and were cheered by large, enthusiastic masses. Within a week of this almost bloodless coup, the new American ambassador, Franklin H. Williams, met NLC Chairman Lt. General J. A. Ankrah, and invited him to have the NLC identify the kinds of economic aid it needed. (258–259)

On April 1, 1966, the United States signed a P.L. 480 food aid agreement with Ghana. In 1967, Ghana was provided with $15 million in P.L. 480 commodity aid and a $20 million program loan. Nevertheless, Ghana faced a difficult situation, since Nkrumah had made a shambles of its economic foundations by squandering its reserves, running up its foreign debt, and producing a variety of unsound state enterprises. When General Ankrah visited Washington in October 1967, U.S. policymakers sought to encourage Ghana in its program of economic austerity, international aid requests, and negotiations for a reasonable cocoa agreement. General Ankrah emphasized in return that high unemployment and low cocoa prices were serious problems for Ghana, and that they needed concrete development assistance for the former and a commodities agreement for the latter. (271–272)

Despite the attention given the cocoa problem, the negotiations did not bear fruit. During Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s visit to Ghana in early January 1968, General Ankrah complained that this was because of “pressures of U.S. manufacturers.” (273) However, the United States did supply more aid to Ghana in 1968. A $12 million P.L. 480 assistance agreement in January, which included textile cloth, was augmented by a $15 million program loan in April and a further $7 million in P.L. 480 assistance in October. (274) (Additional documentation on U.S. negotiations with Ghana and other cocoa-producing countries on cocoa prices and quotas is in the compilation on Commodities and Strategic Materials, Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, Volume IX.)

Horn of Africa

In the strategically important Horn of Africa, the close U.S. relationship with Ethiopia, with its important U.S. communications facility at Kagnew Station and the largest MAP program in Africa, came into conflict with U.S. efforts to maintain good relations with Somalia and to keep Somalia from aligning with the Soviet Union. The U.S. objective of achieving peace and stability in the Horn was endangered by Somalia’s goal of uniting the Somalis living in Ethiopia and Kenya into a greater Somalia. Ethiopia—pleading its fear of Somali nationalism and Somalia’s military build-up—repeatedly asked Washington for increased U.S. military assistance. (275–276, 290, 292)

Recurring border clashes in January and February 1964 greatly exacerbated tensions in the region and spurred U.S. policymakers to express deep concern to both countries as well as hope for an early end to the hostilities. On February 21, President Johnson sent personal letters to Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and Somali President Aden Abdullah stating that the United States would fully support peaceful and mutually satisfactory solutions to the problems currently disturbing the Horn, but could not condone the use of force in territorial disputes. (277–282, 284–286)

The April 1 cease-fire did not end Ethiopia’s urgent pleas for more U.S. military assistance. During consultations in Washington in early June, Ambassador Korry pointed out that the current U.S. aid program was based solely on assuring continued use of Kagnew, and that the Ethiopians, who recognized this, would continue to press for more assistance—especially if the United States raised the ante every time the Ethiopians asked. He recommended that the U.S. program be based on developing an effective Ethiopian military force. On June 18, Korry was authorized to inform the Emperor that the U.S. Government was prepared to accelerate military assistance funds for the Ethiopian army and to provide the Ethiopian air force with an additional squadron of 12 F–5 jet aircraft over the next several years. (293–294) Such U.S. moves did not allay Ethiopian fears, however. In March 1965, Korry reported to Secretary McNamara the Ethiopian Government’s concern over recent substantial deliveries of Soviet military equipment to Somalia and its urgent request for more military aid. (301, 303)

In the meantime, U.S. policymakers were also becoming increasingly concerned over how long the aging Emperor would remain in power, what sort of regime would succeed him if he died or were overthrown, and whether the United States would be able to retain Kagnew Station. U.S. military leaders warned that relocation of the missions assigned to Kagnew would seriously harm U.S. security interests and reduce U.S. military capability in the Middle East, South Asia, and Indian Ocean areas. (309–312, 322–323, 334, 337–338, 350)

For its part, Somalia complained that the United States was helping Ethiopia to maintain its grip on the Ogaden and expressed concern over the U.S.-supplied military build-up of Ethiopia, which it called a grave threat to the security and sovereignty of the Somali republic. The United States responded that U.S. aid to Ethiopia predated Somali independence and had never been directed against Somalia. It also pointed out that public Somali statements on the status of the Ogaden and Somalia’s acceptance of Soviet military assistance had given rise to strong fears in Ethiopia and Kenya. (306, 313, 320)

In February 1967, Emperor Haile Selassie came to Washington. (316–319) Before his arrival, the Ethiopian Government presented the United States with a list of military equipment requests totalling more than $150 million. The President’s advisers were opposed to any major increase in the current $14 million level of U.S. military aid, but agreed that the Emperor should not go home empty-handed. (325–327) When the two leaders met on February 14, the Emperor outlined at length the security problems confronting Ethiopia, while the President assured him that the United States stood firm in its recognition of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and shared his concerns. He pointed out that substantial U.S. economic and military assistance totalling more than a quarter of a billion dollars confirmed U.S. interest in Ethiopia. After mentioning his current difficulties with the Congress over military aid, Johnson said that the U.S. Government was prepared to offer some additional modest aid to help Ethiopia with its internal security problem. (328–330)

Tensions were reduced in the Horn after Mohamed Ibrahim Egal became Prime Minister of Somalia in July 1967. Egal replaced Prime Minister Abdirazak, whose policies had been a source of U.S. concern despite the fact that his government had received modest U.S. support since September 1964 as an inducement to follow pro-Western policies. To the surprise and delight of U.S. policymakers, the new Prime Minister, who had not been supported by the United States, promptly embarked upon a policy of detente with Ethiopia and Kenya. When President Johnson met with Egal in Washington in March 1968, he expressed U.S. support for the Prime Minister’s detente efforts and discussed the possibility of more U.S. aid for regional projects in the Horn. (333, 340–343, 345–349, 352–353)


The U.S. Government expected and encouraged Nigeria, as the most populous and perhaps the most important African country, to be a positive force and leader for the continent. (384) Nigeria expected and requested the United States to back its words of friendship and respect with commitments of support. Both governments were somewhat frustrated and disappointed by the perceived failures of the other, especially by actions relating to the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War in July 1967.

Tensions between the Moslem Hausas of the North and the Catholic Ibos of the East were exacerbated by an Ibo-led military coup in January of 1966 and a Northern-led July 1966 military countercoup. After the latter, Nigeria found itself divided into two camps. The Federal Military Government (FMG) led by Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Yakubu Gowon wanted a united Nigeria with strong federal powers. The Eastern Region, led by its Military Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, was determined to gain a strong measure of autonomy and protection, if not outright independence, for the Ibos and other minorities of the East, especially after thousands of Ibos in the North were killed in late September, 1966.

The U.S. position in this dispute was summarized in an October 1966 cable from Rusk in which he supported efforts to persuade the East to stay in the federation but opposed the use of threats or sanctions. Rusk concluded that it was “up to Gowon and Ojukwu to get together” and that if anyone was to go beyond persuasion into actual measures, “the British and their fellow Commonwealth members should be way out in front.” (368)

In line with this foreign policy outlook, Ambassador Elbert Mathews told Ojukwu that the East could not expect either recognition or support in case of secession. (370, 376, 378) At the same time, he advised Gowon against the use of force against the East. (370, 375, 380, 384) As the likelihood of civil war grew, the United States refused FMG requests for arms sales (374, 387, 390) and encouraged other African governments to try to mediate the dispute, especially Ghana (373, 375, 381–382) and Ethiopia. (382, 398)

Underlying the U.S. Government’s policy was the belief that Nigeria could not be held together by force (381, 385–386), and that negotiation and compromise rather than arms should be used to solve its problems. This U.S. policy of basic non-intervention in the dispute caused General Gowon and most others who supported a united Nigeria to feel “let down” by their “friend.” (389, 396) Further friction arose between the two governments over U.S. attempts to continue economic aid to the East after it seceded under the name Biafra (391, 396), Communist arms sales to the FMG (390, 392, 397), and the suffering and deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the East (399–402), which greatly aroused U.S. public opinion and led to calls from members of Congress and the public for humanitarian aid. The end of 1968 found U.S. analysts pessimistic about the prospects for Nigeria (402), while neither side responded to outside appeals for diplomacy and humanitarian aid to end the tragic situation.

Portuguese Africa

In Portuguese Africa, the conflict between U.S. support for self-determination in Angola and Mozambique and the U.S. need to retain the Azores base, which military advisers considered vital to U.S. security, created a serious dilemma for U.S. policymakers. Department of State representatives continued unsuccessfully to press Portugal to undertake adequate reforms in its African territories and to enter into a dialogue with African representatives at the United Nations. In the absence of any progress toward peaceful resolution, U.S. policymakers became increasingly concerned that the independent states emerging from this struggle would experience turbulent beginnings and have an anti-Western orientation jeopardizing the future stability of southern Africa. This led to an intense debate between those who argued that it was essential that the United States cultivate good relations with African nationalists such as Angolan leader Holden Roberto and Mozambican leader Eduardo Mondlane, and those who feared that such contacts would damage U.S. relations with an important NATO ally, Portugal. (414, 416, 420, 423, 429–430, 432)

On March 12, 1964, the Special Group discussed a proposal to provide covert non-military support to Roberto and other selected Angolan nationalist leaders. The State Department’s African Bureau (AF) supported the proposal on the grounds that it was only a question of time before the Angolan people exercised the right of self-determination and that the United States needed to prevent the Angolan nationalists from becoming oriented towards the Communists, but Under Secretary Ball, supported by the Department’s European Bureau (EUR), argued that the U.S. Government should not support revolt against an ally. On May 4, a Cabinet-level meeting decided to try to persuade Congo Prime Minister Adoula and Tanganyika President Nyerere to support a non-violent political program for Angola. On August 6, the 303 Committee (formerly the Special Group) deferred action on a new proposal to authorize covert support for selected Angolan nationalist leaders. U.S. Embassy officials continued to meet occasionally with Roberto in Leopoldville/Kinshasa, but the Angola proposal was not revived in the 303 Committee. (415, 417–419, 421, 425, 442, 444–445, 448)

In September 1965, Ambassador Anderson conveyed to Portuguese Foreign Minister Nogueira a U.S. proposal that the Portuguese Government publicly accept the principle of self-determination for its African territories on the basis of a definite timetable. In exchange, all nationalist-inspired, anti-Portuguese subversion and violence would cease, and the United States would provide economic and technical support for Portuguese efforts to develop its African territories. On October 23, Prime Minister Salazar told Anderson that his Government would give serious consideration to the U.S. proposal, but argued that modernization and preparation for self-government of native peoples took much longer that the U.S. Government appeared to believe. Nogueira told Ambassador Goldberg at the United Nations on October 27 that independence would mean the end of Portuguese and Western influence in Angola and Mozambique, and that no Portuguese Government could remain in power for 30 days if it accepted self-determination leading to the kind of results Africans were seeking. Neither U.S. pressure nor United Nations resolutions were able to induce the Portuguese Government to change its policy, and the military stalemate between the Angolan and Mozambican rebels and Portuguese forces continued for the rest of the Johnson administration. (433, 435–438, 441, 453–454)


The question of self-determination for the British colony of Rhodesia presented no such problem for the United States, since there was little disagreement with its NATO ally, the United Kingdom, over policy. Rhodesia, which had a large population of white settlers, had been granted self-government under purely white leadership in 1923. That leadership now wanted full independence, but was unwilling to allow more than token African participation in the government. On the other hand, the British were prepared to grant Rhodesia full independence only after the Rhodesian Government demonstrated its intention to move toward eventual universal adult suffrage. For its part, the United States continued to support British efforts to bring about full political participation of Rhodesia’s African population in the governing process.

As the danger of a Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) became more apparent in 1965, the United States made it clear that it was adamantly opposed to such a move, and consulted with the British on how to protect Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) from the consequences. In the United Nations, it consistently supported the British position of (a) no independence without majority rule; (b) economic sanctions in the event of UDI; and (c) continued British-Rhodesian negotiations. It supported the United Kingdom in abstaining on a May 6 Security Council Resolution opposing UDI, however, on the grounds that the resolution called for action exclusively by the British. (459–461, 464–468)

During October 1965, as British Prime Minister Harold Wilson tried desperately to negotiate a last-minute solution to the crisis with Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, the U.S. Government weighed in with oral messages on October 2 and 7 to Smith reiterating U.S. support for British efforts to achieve a solution satisfactory to all sides and warning of the grave consequences of UDI. On October 29, after receiving a message from Wilson asking for a personal plea from the President to Smith, President Johnson sent a message to the Rhodesian Prime Minister warning that UDI would be a tragic mistake which would serve the interests of no one and that the United States would not change its course of firm support for the British Government after any such declaration. (469, 471, 473–479, 485–486)

Following Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence on November 11, the United States immediately announced that it would not recognize the illegal regime and withdrew its Consul General from Salisbury. In the following months, the U.S. Government strongly supported the British policy of trying to bring about the fall of the Rhodesian Government though economic and financial pressure rather than by use of force, in the face of harsh criticism from African states that more forceful measures were necessary. On November 20, the United States voted for a UN Security Council Resolution calling upon all states to break economic relations with Rhodesia, including an embargo on oil and petroleum products. The U.S. Government, which had already suspended the 1965 and 1966 U.S. sugar quotas for Rhodesia, asked U.S. companies to institute voluntary controls against exports to and imports from Rhodesia. (491–492, 497–498, 501–504, 506, 509, 514, 516)

During meetings between the President and Prime Minister Wilson in Washington December 16–17, the two countries agreed upon an oil embargo against Rhodesia and an emergency airlift of petroleum products to Zambia, which was in a precarious position because of its dependence on Rhodesian trade and communications. (508, 510, 513) The United States also joined the British in trying to dissuade Zambia from cutting all of its economic links with Rhodesia, arguing that this would harm the Zambian economy far more than the Rhodesian. (517–519, 526)

During 1966, as it became apparent that sanctions, weakened by South Africa’s and Portugual’s refusals to cooperate, would not bring about the rapid downfall of the Rhodesian regime the British had predicted, African and UN criticism of the British (and U.S.) policy of relying on economic pressure alone intensified. U.S. officials made it clear that the United States would not join in any use of force against Rhodesia and continued to encourage a negotiated settlement. (529, 531–533) Wilson attempted several times during the year to negotiate an agreement with Smith, but each effort ended in failure. A series of messages from the Prime Minister to the President and U.S.-British consultations kept the U.S. Government closely informed regarding these attempts, but U.S. policy, although supportive, was primarily passive. (522–524, 526, 528, 534, 536, 539, 542–549)

Following the failure of a last-ditch effort at compromise by Wilson and Smith in December 1966, the British asked the UN Security Council to impose selective mandatory economic sanctions against Rhodesia. With U.S. support, the Security Council adopted a resolution imposing certain mandatory economic sanctions upon Rhodesia, including a comprehensive embargo on oil and oil products, on December 16—the first time it had ever adopted mandatory sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. (551–552)

In the months that followed, despite growing doubts about their effectiveness, U.S. policymakers continued to support sanctions as a means of inducing the Rhodesians to negotiate, and to oppose any use of force. (553–557, 559) On May 29, 1968, the United States and Britain supported a unanimous Security Council Resolution imposing more comprehensive mandatory sanctions against Rhodesia by extending the existing sanctions to all commodities except medical, educational, and humanitarian supplies. A June 1968 CIA estimate that the new sanctions without South African and Portuguese participation would not be much more effective than the old ones proved accurate, however. Despite another round of Wilson negotiations with Smith in October, no Rhodesian settlement was reached. (563–566, 568, 570, 572)

South Africa

South Africa, which had already severed its ties with the British Commonwealth and become a republic in May 1961, was an even more intractable problem for U.S. policymakers. The Johnson administration continued Kennedy’s policy of public and private condemnation of South African apartheid. A U.S. ban on all sales of military equipment to South Africa had been announced by Ambassador Stevenson in August 1963, but the United States had reserved the right to reinterpret this policy if necessary. Therefore, U.S. officials continued to be faced with decisions regarding the sale of such items. In January 1964, South Africa linked the purchase of three U.S. submarines (under consideration since September 1963) to continuation of the agreement whereby the United States maintained a missile and satellite tracking station on South African territory. In April, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended proceeding with the sale of the submarines and other appropriate military equipment to South Africa, arguing that the United States needed to safeguard important military objectives in the country. NSAM No. 295 on April 24, however, stated that the existing policy of suspending military sales to South Africa should continue, and ordered the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense to begin contingency planning for alternate tracking station sites if the United States were forced to give up its South African facilities. In November 1964, the President decided against a proposed sale of 16 Lockheed P–3A aircraft to South Africa. Despite continuing Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) concern over the adverse effect of such restrictions on U.S. security interests in South Africa, the U.S. Government continued to uphold the arms embargo policy. (574–576, 578, 582–583, 586, 588, 595–598, 617–618, 677, 681–682)

Another serious bone of contention between the two governments was South West Africa, a former German colony which South Africa had administered as a League of Nations Mandate from 1920 to 1945, and subsequently on its own authority. In 1960, Ethiopia and Liberia had brought an action charging South Africa with violating the Mandate before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which had previously advised that South Africa remained bound by the Mandate and had to accept UN supervision. Both the U.S. and British Governments tried to persuade South Africa to postpone implementation of its plan to establish 10 separate “homelands” for non-white groups in South West Africa pending the ICJ decision. (577, 579–581, 584, 586) At the United Nations, the U.S. delegation continued to support general resolutions condemning apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa, but opposed mandatory economic sanctions. (587, 590, 592, 614)

The conflict between the official U.S. policy of racial integration and South Africa’s official policy of apartheid also contributed to tensions between diplomatic and military officials on the personal level. South African officials repeatedly criticized the U.S. Embassy for holding multi-racial functions. In May 1965, the United States cancelled a planned port visit by the USS Independence because South Africa’s apartheid policy prevented its integrated crew from participating in shore activities together. In June, Prime Minister Hendrik Vorwoerd said in a speech that he would not permit American Negroes to work at the U.S. tracking stations in his country, although the South African Government subsequently told the U.S. Ambassador that it did not intend such public statements to lead to an official confrontation. In June 1966, the President decided to send the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt from Vietnam to Rio de Janeiro for refueling and shore leave, rather than to Cape Town, which was closer. A similar Department of Defense decision in February 1967 ordered the Sword Knot to refuel in Mombasa, Kenya, rather than Durban in South Africa as previously scheduled. The U.S. Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff subsequently agreed that South African ports were extremely useful, but not indispensable. (602, 605, 607, 609, 620, 630–635)

Following the unexpected ICJ rejection of the Ethiopian/Liberian complaint on technical grounds in July 1966, the U.S. Government issued a statement declaring that the ruling in no way diminished the legal authority of earlier ICJ advisory opinions on South West Africa. The United States strongly supported an October 1966 UN General Assembly Resolution revoking South Africa’s mandate over South West Africa. The U.S. delegation made clear the U.S. view that South Africa had forfeited any right to administer the territory, but abstained on a May 1967 UN General Assembly Resolution establishing an 11-member UN Council to administer the territory until its independence. For the time being, however, outside pressure and criticism had no discernable impact on South African policy toward South West Africa or on apartheid. (621–622, 626, 628–629, 636, 638, 644)

Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
July 1999