24. Memorandum From the Military Assistant to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Odom) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Terrorist Hijacking of JAL Aircraft

As you may know, the Japanese Red Army terrorists hijacked JAL in Bombay and forced it down in Dacca.2 At least ten American citizens are reported on board, maybe as many as twenty. The terrorists made [Page 83] demands on the Japanese Government for $6 million cash and the release of eight terrorists from Japanese prisons. The Japanese Cabinet, in crisis session, agreed to $6 million but refused to release the prisoners. The hijackers turned down this offer and reported that John Gabriel, Chairman of the Board of Garfield Bank and reportedly a friend of President Carter, would be executed at the end of an hour and a half if their demands were not met.

The Japanese Cabinet queried the State Department about the President’s reported friendship with Gabriel. I went directly to Jody Powell and Susan Clough who brought back the following information and guidance:

—The White House refused to answer the question about the President’s friendship with Gabriel.

—The Japanese Cabinet should make their decision without allowing this reported information about Gabriel’s relationship with the President to influence their decision.

That information has been reported back to State and presumably relayed to the Japanese Government. This negotiation will probably continue on thru the night. I will handle queries from State and hopefully be able to avoid bothering you or the President.

If in fact they execute one or more American citizens at announced intervals, the situation will almost inevitably require a White House response. A small group, Ben Read, Hay Isham, Matt Nimetz and Harold Saunders has been informed by Christopher to ponder contingencies. We can turn to this group as a starting point for developing White House responses.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Inderfurth and Gates Chron File, Box 4, Gates Chron: 9–10/77. Confidential. Printed from an uninitialed copy.
  2. Telegram 5415 from Dacca, September 28, reported that “Foreign Secretary Tabarak Husain informed Ambassador at 11:40 a.m. Dacca time by telephone that a Japanese Airline aircraft radioed Dacca that it had been hijacked and requested landing rights in Dacca. Tabarak said BDG may request guidance from Embassy on how to handle situation.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770352–0875)