The Necessity for Humanitarian Action
1. Historical Background, 1960 - 1964
On 1 July 1960 the Republic of the Congo was granted independence from Belgium without the benefit of a transitionary period during which the former colonial power might have educated and trained the Congolese for their future roles. Chaos reigned within a few days, after the lack of effective civil authority became manifest. The soldiers of the Congolese Force Publique—a Belgian-officered security force—mutinied and, aided by civilian mobs, raped the white settlers, especially Belgians, and plundered. As the turmoil intensified, the United States evacuated several hundred missionaries and other American citizens living in the Congo and prepared forces to intervene if necessary. In the meantime, however, the United Nations acted by deploying a task force to the troubled land on 16 July 1960.1 The U.N. force's presence—supported by USAREUR and other U.S. forces—helped the Republic of the Congo to establish some measure of stability, and many of the evacuated missionaries and businessmen returned. But in March 1964, when plans for the withdrawal of the U.N.
1. USAREUR Anl Hist Sum, l960, AG TS 34-1.
force by the end of June were announced, tribal rivalries and the lack of firm central governmental control led to revolts in outlying areas against the duly constituted government.2
2. The 1964 Crisis
a. Developments in the Congo. By early November 1964 Moise Tshombe, who headed the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had begun to reconstruct its armed forces by bolstering them with mercenaries from European and African countries. His next step was to undertake offensive actions against rebel factions, which had in the meantime received Communist—especially Chinese—backing. When his drive gained momentum, the so-called People's Republic of the Congo was threatened by a two-pronged offensive—one along the Uganda border and the other toward the rebel capital of Stanleyville (See Map 1). At this critical time the self-proclaimed President of the People's Republic, Christophe Gbenye, decided to use international blackmail. He announced that he had taken 60 Americans and 800 Belgians as hostages in order to prevent further governmental attacks into areas that he nominally controlled; and on 9 November, he broadcast over the Stanleyville radio that he could no longer guarantee the lives and property of Belgian, and American citizens.3 Shortly afterward, horror stories from the Congo indicated that Gbenye intended to carry out his threats if the Congolese Army continued to advance on Stanleyville.4
On 16 November the rebels announced that Dr. Paul E. Carlson, an American medical missionary on duty in the Congo, would be executed as a spy. The spy charges, which could not be believed by the non-Communist world, tended to drive home the plight of Carlson and of the other hostages held by the rebels.5
2. Time, Vol. 83, No. 10, 6 Mar 64, p. 28; No.
11, 13 Mar 64, pp. 26-35; and No. 13, 27 Mar 64, p. 31.
3. (1) New York Times, 10 Nov 64, p. 9. (2) Time, Vol. 84, No. 20, 13 Nov 64, p. 32.
4. (1) New York Times, 11 Nov 64, p. 6 and 12 Nov 64, p. 1. (2) Time, Vol. 84, No. 21, 20 Nov 64, p. 41.
5. New York Times, 17 Nov 64, p. 3.
b. Reaction in the West. The United States and Belgium had not remained idle in the face of the Congo rebels' provocations. Now preliminary discussions between representatives of the Belgian and U.S. governments led to the preparation of military plans for rescuing the hostages.6
6. Sum of Rmks Made By Col. C. Laurent, 18 Feb 65. In AEAGC-XH files.