3. Approaches and Methods
a. Secrecy. Initial military planning for the operations was conducted with a maximum of secrecy because the decision concerning the use of military forces to rescue the hostages rested on political considerations at the highest levels of government in the United States and Belgium,1 and also because diplomatic efforts to effect the release of the hostages were being undertaken.2
b. Initial Steps to Select a Belgian Unit. On 10 November Colonel Charles Laurent, Commanding Officer of the Belgian Para Commando Regiment, was called to the Ministry of Defense office in Brussels to ascertain the readiness of his command to undertake active operations in the Congo. At that time the Para Commando Regiment consisted of three battalions: the 1st, with ten months of training; the 2d, with five and one-half months, and the 3d, with two weeks. Because they were at three different locations
1. Cable ECJCA-19978, USCINCEUR to JCS et al., 15 Nov
2. New York Times, 18 Nov 64, p 1 and 20 Nov 64, p. 6.
in Belgium, sufficient information concerning their readiness condition did not become available until the next day.3
c. The U.S. Planners. On 11 November the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed USCINCEUR to begin combined planning with Belgian military representatives. Security considerations limited the number of U.S. planners to four: Brigadier General R. E. Dougherty, Deputy J-3, USEUCOM; Lieutenant Colonel J. L. Gray, from USAFE headquarters; Captain B. F. Brashears, 8th Infantry Division; and Lieutenant Colonel J. E. Dunn, from the U.S. Joint Staff in Washington. This small group, working in civilian clothes in Brussels with their Belgian counterparts at the Ministry of Defense, planned the initial operation.4
d. Restrictions. On 12 and 13 November the planners held further meetings in Brussels, but as yet the two governments had agreed only on the preparation of plans for a paratroop assault on Stanleyville for the purpose of liberating and protecting the hostages there and evacuating them to Leopoldville. The United States intended to use C-130 aircraft, based in Europe, to transport the Belgian paratroop unit from Belgium to Stanleyville and to evacuate the hostages from Stanleyville to Leopoldville. Included in the operation would be an airdrop and airlandings of Belgian troops, to carry out the assault on Stanleyville.
Another intergovernmental agreement would be necessary before the plan could be executed.5
4. Belgian Problems
a. Aircraft Availability. Because only 12 U. S. C-130 aircraft were available for the operation and these were not enough to transport the entire Para Commando regiment, the Belgian commander had to tailor a special task force of carefully selected personnel and equipment.
3. Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.
4. Cable JCS-001745, JCS to USCINCEUR, 11 Nov 64.
5. Cable ECJCA-19978, 15 Nov 64, cited above.
b. Security. It had already been announced that the Para Commando Regiment would parade in Brussels, for the Belgian King's birthday, on 16 November. To prevent public knowledge of the rescue operation, the parade had to be held as scheduled and special plans were prepared to maintain secrecy.
c. Intelligence. Many of the Belgian officers and noncommissioned officers in the Para Commando Regiment had seen previous service in the Congo and were familiar with the Stanleyville area. This knowledge was of value to the planners, but no specific information about the exact location or locations where the hostages were being kept by rebel forces was available. Operational planning therefore had to provide for an extensive search of the area.
d. Political Considerations. The Belgian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense asked that, because of the international and domestic repercussions that might result from the operation, the number of casualties be held to an absolute minimum. Within this policy limitation, the Belgian forces were to liberate the maximum number of white hostages held by rebel forces in Stanleyville and other areas of the Congo.
e. Selection of Drop Zones. Normally Belgian paratroop forces—like their U.S. counterparts—used pathfinders, panels, and other means to mark their drop zones (DZ's), but in an operation in which rapid ground exploitation of surprise airborne landings would be a vital factor in saving the lives of hostages, the use of such devices would obviously be impractical. The Belgians felt that a golf course on the east end of the Stanleyville airfield (See Sketch 1) offered the best cleared area for a drop zone in close proximity to the objective. The 8th Infantry Division representative suggested that the airfield itself be the drop zone and that close-look drop procedures—including the computing of serial release points in the cockpit—be used. Such procedures were standard for all airborne jumps practiced by USAFE and the 8th Infantry Division's airborne brigade in Europe. However, this suggestion did not meet with Belgian concepts
f. Division of Planning Responsibilities. In general, the U.S. planners deferred to Belgian wishes in all matters concerning the timing of the operation and the airdrop. They took the attitude that they were primarily concerned with providing the aircraft required for the operation, delivering the Belgian
paratroopers to Stanleyville, and supporting them wherever possible. The actual planning of the ground operation—including the—drop was left to the Belgians.
This approach undoubtedly contributed to the success of the operation.
5. The Combined Operations Plan
a. Mission. The U.S. and Belgian officers had to plan a bilateral military operation without the assistance of any existing international staff. The detailed plan was for U.S. assault and evacuation airlift operations in support of a Belgian paratroop attack, on rebel forces in Stanleyville, which would secure the airfield, locate and liberate the hostages held by rebel forces, escort to the airfield those liberated hostages who wanted to be evacuated, and evacuate them by air to Leopoldville for further disposition by their diplomatic representatives.
b. The Enemy Situation. According to the available intelligence information, the town of Stanleyville was in rebel hands and about 800 non-Congolese persons, including approximately 20 U.S. civilians and 5 U.S. Consular officials, were being held as hostages against Congolese Army attacks on the city. The rebels, who had threatened to take the lives of certain or of all of these hostages if an attack was mounted against Stanleyville, were abusing them and inflicting barbaric cruelties upon them.7
c. Friendly Forces.
(1) Congolese Army Forces. In the face of these rebel threats and actions, Congolese Army forces were mounting ground attacks against Stanleyville from both the south and the west. If the hostages were to survive their ordeal in the face of the Congolese Army advance, the need for extraordinary measures by
6. (1) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above. (2) Intvw,
Lt Col W. M. Glasgow, 9th Mil Hist Det, with Capt B. F. Brashears, 8th
Inf Div Asst G-3, 9 Mar 65.
7. (1) New York Times, 12 Nov 64, p. 1. (2) Cable ECJCA-19978, 15 Nov 64, cited above.
mobile external forces would become more and more urgent. The primary avenue of the Congolese Army advance on Stanleyville was from the south, where a force commanded by Colonel Frederick van de Walle, a former Belgian Consul General in Elizabethville,8 was expected to move north from Punia, on 17 or 18 November, in an effort to reach Stanleyville about 22 November. Following Jungle trails, the Congolese Army forces usually advanced with about 20 personnel of European extraction in the lead, followed by native troops—who could not leave the trails because of the heavy undergrowth—and by another small force of Europeans forming the rear guard. Whenever the Congolese Army forces reached open areas, they would deploy to give the impression of large numbers.9
(2) The State Department. The U.S. State Department was to be responsible for obtaining en route staging and overflight rights, assuming responsibility for the U.S. civilian evacuees from Stanleyville upon their arrival at Leopoldville, and arranging for appropriate diplomatic representatives to assume responsibility for non-U.S. evacuees arriving at Leopoldville.
(3) The Joint Chiefs of Staff. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff would issue the execution order for the operation and direct that most recent intelligence information on the objective area be made available.
(4) The Air Force. The U.S. Air Force was to provide air-sea rescue facilities to support the operation; position search and rescue aircraft at Ascension Island during deployment operations; provide en route weather briefings and other weather informational support as required; and arrange for en route airbase support for operations planned through Ascension Island, including the best available messing and billeting facilities for the U.S. aircrews and Belgian paratroopers.
(5) CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA. CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA would provide assistance to the force in the Congo through the facilities and within the capabilities of the U.S. Military Mission
8. (1) Cable ECJCA-19978, cited above. (2) New York
Times, p. 26. Both 15 Nov 64.
9. Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.
and Joint Task Force (JTF) LEO in the Republic of Congo; facilitate the success of the operation; direct the redeployment of the combined task force to Kamina for emergency spare part support during the assault phase; provide U.S. current intelligence briefings for the airlift and airborne commanders at Kamina before the assault phase; provide one JTF LEO C-130E for D-day evacuations; provide JTF LEO support for recovery and redeployment of assault transport aircraft at Leopoldville; provide flash precedence reports to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USEUCOM, USAREUR, and USAFE upon the arrival of the combined task force at Kamina; launch the assault operation from Kamina; and submit progress reports on the operation.
(6) CINCUSAFE. CINCUSAFE was charged with the initial overall responsibility for executing the U.S. mission and designating the airlift force commander; conducting en route airlift support; providing aircraft and crews for deploying the Belgian paratroops conducting the airborne assault, and redeploying the force; adjusting intercommand airlift requirements and expediting maintenance schedules, as necessary, for all C-130E's within the European theater, so as to guarantee that the maximum number would be available for the operation; providing a minimum of one spare aircraft to back up the airlift force; deploying refueling units and operating personnel to Kamina so that they would arrive in advance of the combined task force; transporting C-rations for rescued hostages from Europe to Stanleyville; loaning the Belgian paratroopers two airdropable radios, thus providing them with air-ground communications; providing an aeromedical team, including an emergency kit; and providing the most current intelligence information concerning the Stanleyville area.
(7) CINCUSAREUR. Initially, CINCUSAREUR was asked to provide only C-rations for the rescued hostages at Stanleyville.
d. Concept of Operations. The concept of operations evolved by Belgian and U.S. planners was based on four operational phases: the movement to the Congo, the assault on Stanleyville, the evacuation of the hostages, and the after-action measures.
(1) Phase I—The Movement to the Congo. For the movement to the Congo USAGE would employ 12 C-130E aircraft to transport 545 paratroopers, 8 jeeps, and 12 motorized tricycles
from Kleine-Brogel Airbase (Belgium) to Stanleyville, by way of Torrejon/Moron (Spain), Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Ascension Island, and Kamina (Republic of the Congo). On takeoff from Kleine-Brogel, aircraft would depart at 15-minute intervals and maintain the same interval during flight, to provide for expeditious loading and refueling at en route stops. Two-hour intervals would be allowed for refueling at the stops in Spain and the Canary Islands. Ascension, a British possession, would be used as a rest stop and for staging for at least 12 hours. The arrival of all aircraft at Ascension had to be timed for daylight hours. The initial briefing of aircrews and
paratroopers for the assault operation would take place at Ascension. Because the accommodations at Ascension were limited, personnel would sleep in improvised shelters in the immediate vicinity of the airfield. The planes would depart from Ascension for Kamina at 30-minute intervals and land at their destinations during the hours of darkness, to insure security for the movement. USAFE would position refueling tankers at both Ascension and Kamina, to augment the limited POL stocks at these locations. C-rations, furnished by USAREUR, would be airlifted to provide the liberated hostages with food. CINCSTRIKE would arrange for additional fuel at Kamina, but if more fuel was needed, the Belgian paratroopers would be offloaded at Kamina and the airlifting planes would fly to Elizabethville for refueling and then return to Kamina. Belgian officials would provide for the security of the Kamina area, to keep the presence of regular Belgian forces in the Congo from becoming known.
(2) Phase II—The Assault on Stanleyville.
(a) Airdrop/Airlanding Operations. The final briefing for the aerial assault force would take place at Kamina. Each aircraft would be assigned "chalk" numbers and would depart Kamina in numerical order. Chalk Numbers 1 through 5, carrying the 320 Belgian paratroopers to be dropped at Stanleyville, would depart at minimum intervals and fly in an in-trail formation to the objective. Motorized equipment loaded in Numbers 6 and 7 would depart Kamina 30 minutes after the first five aircraft, so that the radio-equipped armored jeeps would be available in the objective area immediately after the troops on the ground had signaled—by radio or green pyrotechnics—that the Stanleyville Airfield had been cleared for airlandings. The next five aircraft would depart one hour after the initial assault elements. The
troops loaded in Numbers 8, 9, and 11 would be prepared to airland at Stanleyville or to airdrop on the golf course or the airfield if the field had not been cleared for landing at the time of their arrival. Aircraft Numbers 10 and 12—carrying motorized tricycles, drivers, medical supplies, rations, and ammunition—would circle in the immediate objective area until airfield clearance operations would permit landings.
The lead C-130E's would proceed to an initial point (IP) approximately 100 miles down the Congo River west of Stanleyville. At this point either one or two B-26's would rendezvous with them, to provide a last-minute weather report on conditions in the Stanleyville area. This report would be based on a wide peripheral reconnaissance made well out of earshot of the city. The B-26's would escort the lead C-130E to the drop zone and remain in the immediate vicinity of the objective area throughout the airdrop operation, to render fire support on call. Aerial fire support would be delivered only if enemy weapons on the ground posed a threat to transports or paratroopers. In such a case it would be delivered for effect on the source of rebel fires or, if the exact location of the source could not be determined, on suspected areas from which the fire might be coming. To guarantee surprise and to safeguard the hostages, the B-26's would avoid the immediate Stanleyville area until the assault was under way. Preliminary arrangements for B-26 support would be made by Belgian Air Force representatives in the Congo, but the details would be coordinated at Kamina before the takeoff.
The Belgian paratroop commander planned to drop on the golf course just east of the Stanleyville Airfield. Approaching the drop zone from the west, the aircraft would fly in the order of assigned chalk numbers, in an in-trail formation, at 1-minute intervals. Although the airdrop was to be accomplished at 1,200 feet, under emergency conditions a drop altitude of 700 feet would be acceptable to the Belgian paratroopers. Airspeed at the time of drop would be 120 knots. It was estimated that the drop zone would accommodate a 10- to 12-man stick through each C-130E door, and that each aircraft carrying the initial airdrop force would make three passes over the drop zone.
The airlift commander, flying in Number 1, would remain airborne in the immediate objective area throughout the airborne and air-landing operations.
(b) Ground Operations. Airdrop assault elements would form into three groups—approximately company-size units—to accomplish three initial tasks: block and control the road leading to the airfield; clear and occupy the airfield tower and the Sabena Guest House; and clear the airfield. The assault elements would be provided with two U.S. radio sets and bilingual Belgian personnel would be trained in their use, so that the paratroop commander could communicate with the airlift commander concerning airfield conditions and transmit special requests.l0
After the airdrop the Belgian paratroopers would clear the runway of obstacles placed there by the rebels. They would then seize Objectives 1, 2, and 3 (See Sketch 1), to provide security for the airfield. At Objective 3—the Sabena Guest House, which was the former governor's palace—the Belgian commander believed that he might find rebel leaders who could revel the places where hostages were being held.
After these objectives had been seized, each company-size force would leave a platoon behind for security. The first company-size unit to complete this stage of the mission would be ordered into the town, with the other units following as soon as possible.
The next stage of the operation envisaged a rapid movement through Stanleyville, in an effort to flush out the hiding places where hostages were being held and to seize Objectives 4, 5, and 6 (See Sketch l), thus blocking rebel reinforcements that might attempt to enter the town. Security forces would be left to hold these objectives, while the bulk of the paratroopers, reinforced by airlanded troops, would conduct a detailed search of the town, to release all hostages held in the area.l1
(3) Phase III—Evacuation of the Hostages. Aircraft Numbers 2 through 5 would remain in the vicinity of the objective area until the airlift commander ordered them to proceed
10. Cable ECJCA-19978, 15 Nov 64, cited above.
11. Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.
to Leopoldville for refueling and crew rest. Since it was believed that no more than three C-130E's could be parked on the Stanleyville airfield at any one time, Numbers 8, 9, and 11—carrying troops to be airlanded—would expedite their offloading and departure in order to permit maximum time on the ground for offloading the equipment on Numbers 6, 7, 10, and 12. Evacuation of rescued hostages by Numbers 8, 9, and 11 would therefore be on a random basis, whereas Numbers 6, 7, and 10 would be used as the primary aircraft for evacuating the first hostages arriving at the airfield. Following their offloading, the latter three aircraft would keep their engines running at ground-idle speed for 1 to 11 hours if fuel loads permitted; if not, they would proceed to Leopoldville for refueling. Each aircraft could transport up to 96 rescued hostages.
Aircraft Number 12 would also stay on the ground, for the same time, and would be used as the primary aircraft for evacuating any casualties resulting from the airdrop or from initial enemy actions on the ground. USAFE would furnish a doctor and basic medical equipment to be carried in this plane, which could also evacuate refugees on a space-available basis.
After the airfield had been secured and the initial evacuation capabilities of the C-130E's carrying the assault force had been used, additional C-130E's—part of the in-country resources of JTF LEO—would be used for evacuation purposes. One JTF LEO C-130E, carrying C-rations furnished by USAREUR, would depart Kamina at 0600 hours12 on D-day, deposit its load at Stanleyville, and evacuate the maximum number of the liberated hostages to Leopoldville. The commander of this plane would be responsible for establishing contact with the Belgian forces in order to ascertain the status of their communications capabilities with Kamina or Kindu, to determine the number of liberated hostages remaining to be evacuated, and to schedule the onloading of aircraft needed to complete the evacuation. This information would be relayed to the JTF LEO commander and U.S. Embassy officials in Leopoldville, so that they could plan additional evacuation missions. Any non-Congolese nationals who did not want to be evacuated would be referred to their respective diplomatic representatives
12. All times given in this document are based on Greenwich Mean Time.
(4) Phase IV—Subsequent Actions.
(a) Initial Reports. The airlift commander, upon landing at Leopoldville on his first return from the objective area, would render a narrative report—flash precedence—13 concerning the conduct of the assault and evacuation phases of the operation.
(b) Redeployment. After the arrival of all USAFE C-130E's at Leopoldville and the necessary crew rest, the airlift commander would prepare to return to Europe by way of Wheelus Airfield, Libya. A separate order to execute the redeployment phase of the operation would be issued.
e. Designation of Responsibilities. Because authority to exercise control over the entire operation was not vested in a single commander, it was necessary to assign specific responsibilities to each of the two nations' representatives, in order to guarantee success. Responsibility for refueling and security at Kamina rested with a Belgian Air Force detachment permanently stationed in the Congo. En route decisions concerning the mission were a responsibility of the airlift commander, but the decision concerning the actual drop rested with the Belgian commander of the Para Commando Regiment. When possible, decisions affecting the mission would be made through mutual discussions and agreements between the two commanders. However, the Belgian commander would provide an experienced paratroop officer in the cockpit of each aircraft to Make individual decisions concerning the drop zone, greenlight,14 and similar matters. Thus the Belgians were responsible for the drop and the U.S. airlift commander was responsible for the airlift operations from Kleine-Brogel to the drop zone. The responsibility for predrop reconnaissance of the objective area and arrangements for close air support, if required, was upon the Belgian Air Force's representative in the Congo. He would arrange the details with the Congolese Air Force at Kamina. A Belgian Air Force officer, who would participate in the operation, would brief the Congolese pilots.
13. The highest priority for electrically transmitted
14. The signal for the paratroopers to drop.
f. Abort Procedures. If the task force found, after departing from Kamina, that the airdrop could not be conducted because of bad weather or other circumstances, it would return to Kamina and await orders to execute the mission later.
g. Cover Plan. The cover plan—admittedly weak—to be released by Belgian sources if the operation was compromised, would be that a joint U.S.-Belgian long-range airborne training exercise was taking place.
h. Command and Control. Any substantial changes to the basic operations plan would have to be the subject of agreement between representatives of the United States and Belgium. Insofar as U.S. participation was concerned, execution would be on order of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. and Belgian forces would remain under their respective national commands throughout the operation. USCINCEUR would exercise operational control of the assault airlift force until it arrived at Kamina. At that time operational control would pass to CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA who, in turn, would return it to USCINCEUR upon redeployment of the force from Kamina.l5 USCINCEUR would also provide a "talking bird" communications package to establish cryptographically secure circuits.16
6. U.S. Unilateral Planning
a. The Cover Plan. The Stanleyville relief operation, designated DRAGON ROUGE or USCINCEUR Operations Plan (OPLAN) 319/64, provided for air movements in and over populated areas, to be made during the hours of darkness to reduce Chances of compromise. However, if the operation was uncovered, the United States would announce that a no-notice strategic mobility exercise was in progress, the details of which remained classified. Only if Belgian involvement was discovered would the United States admit that the Belgians were participating. All further requests for information would be referred to USEUCOM headquarters. American
15. (1) Cable ECJCA-19978, 15 Nov 64, cited above. (2)
Cable ECJCA-00161, USCINCEUR to CINCUSAFE, 19 Nov 64.
16. A "talking bird" consists of a C-130 aircraft with installed radios capable of long-range secure communications. (Intvw, Lt Col Glasgow with Col W. L. Hogan, 7th Wea Sqdn (MATS), 1 Mar 65.
military personnel participating in the operation would not be told its true purpose unless they needed to know it, and then only after they had departed Ascension Island. The stay at Ascension, if uncovered, would be described as an exercise in bare base existence after a long overwater flight.
If an aircraft was diverted in flight, the commander would disclose only his next destination and then state that he was on a classified mission. At regular stops troops and aircrews would be restricted to an area over which control could be exercised to prevent knowledge of the operation by unauthorized persons.17
b. Additional USAREUR Tasks. On 15 November it appeared that the period during which the forces executing Operation DRAGON ROUGE would have to stay on Ascension might be extended by four to five days. In this event it was doubtful that facilities at Ascension could accommodate approximately 550 Belgian troops plus 100 U.S. aircrewmen and other Air Force maintenance personnel. USEUCOM therefore requested USAFE to determine that facilities severe available at Ascension; what additional equipment and supplies would be needed to support the DRAGON ROUGE task force for up to five days; hour much additional airlift would be required to transport the supplies to Ascension; and which supply source—U.S. or Belgian—was the most desirable. If water and shelter—hangars, warehouses, etc.—were available for the force, it would appear that only sleeping bags, C-rations, and facilities for heating the rations would be required. If USAFE determined that the United States should provide the supplies, USAREUR would have to assist in planning and satisfying the requirements.18
USAFE determined that Ascension had sufficient rations and mess capability to feed the deploying force for five days. However, it had no shelter, of any type, that could be used for billeting. Water supplies would be adequate but would require rationing. Austere billeting would require 40 tents and 750 cots. It appeared more advantageous to use U.S. resources because they were readily available and time was of the essence. USAREUR could deliver the necessary tents and cots to Rhine-Main Airbase, Germany within 24 hours. Eight C-124's would transport them to Ascension.19
17. Cable ECJCA-00040, USCINCEUR to JCS, 16 Nov 64.
18. Cable ECJC-L-19982, USCINCEUR to CINCUSAREUR and CINCUSAFE, 15 Nov 64.
19. Cable MDC-40818, CINCUSAFE to USCINCEUR, 16 Nov 64.
7. Approval of the Operations Plan.
On 17 November the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved USEUCOM's plan for the conduct of Operation DRAGON ROUGE, subject to a separate order of execution for the operation from Ascension to Kamina. Once the combined task force was in the Congo, a final go or no-go decision to proceed from Kamina would be made by the commander of the Belgian Para Commando Regiment. The Joint Chiefs added that withdrawal from the Congo would be accomplished by way of Ascension and that Wheelus could not be used without their specific approval.20
20. Cable JCS-001930, JCS to USCINCEUR, 17 Nov 64.