Chapter 3


8. The Alert

Late on 15 November the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a warning order indicating that Operation DRAGON ROUGE would commence on 17 November in accordance with USCINCEUR OPLAN 319, but that its execution would be subject to further orders.1

On the following day USCINCEUR made several suggestions to the Joint Chiefs. He suggested that, if a political decision to proceed with Operation DRAGON ROUGE was made, it would be prudent, in the face of possible delays and rebel reactions, to deploy the force to Ascension on 17 November, so that it would be readily available for operations in the Congo. He thoroughly agreed, however, that the decision to launch or not to launch the final portion of the operation should rest with the Belgian commander on the scene. USCINCEUR also recognized the possibility that additional operations—such as airdrops on Bunia, Paulis, Watsa, and other areas—might be necessary to rescue white hostages held by the rebels. If such operations became necessary, JTF LEO would be the appropriate agency to plan for them. He noted that the suggestion of the U.S. Embassy in Leopoldville that the assault on Stanleyville

1. Cable JCS-001894, JCS to USCINCEUR, 15 Nov 64.


be launched directly from Ascension Island—without in-Congo staging—could not be carried out, because the C-130E's fuel capacity would not permit such a long flight. To maintain surprise, the assault had to be undertaken without proper weather reconnaissance, preliminary air attack, or the use of normal pathfinder techniques for marking the drop zone. USCINCEUR therefore held that the need for time to coordinate with tactical air support elements, the necessity for loitering in the drop area, the distance to a suitable recovery base, and the possibility of unforeseen contingencies required that the force be staged through Kamina, so that the aircraft would have as much fuel as possible and the aircraft commander could effect direct coordination on the scene.2

9. The Initial Movement

a. Last U.S. Preparations. On the evening of 16 November the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered that the combined U.S./ Belgian task force for Operation DRAGON ROUGE be moved to Ascension Island on the next day. No deployment beyond Ascension was to be made without additional orders.3 USCINCEUR relayed this order to his component commanders, specifying that USAREUR and USAFE were to implement their previously coordinated plans to provide tents and cots for the support of the force on Ascension, and that stable brooms would be taken along to facilitate the clearing of the runway at Stanleyville.

On 17 November the Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized USCINCEUR to deploy refueling units to Kamina, so that they would be readily available at the final staging area. However, no other aircraft or personnel engaged in the operation were authorized to proceed beyond Ascension.5 All U.S. markings were to be removed from the

2. Cable ECJCA-00039, USCINCEUR to JCS, 16 Nov 64.
3. Cable JCS-001903, JCS to USCINCEUR, 16 Nov 64.
4. Cable ECJCL-00041, USCINCEUR to CINCUSAREUR and CINCUSAFE, 16 Nov 64.
5. Cable JCS-001929, JCS to USCINCEUR 17 Nov 64.


refueling units before their departure from Europe. The flights would begin as soon as overflight clearances from Spain and France had been obtained.

As of 0301 hours on 17 November no clearance had been received.6 By 1518 hours still no political clearance for the flights had been received at USEUCOM, but the headquarters had been advised that the U.S. Embassy in Paris was informing the French government of Operation DRAGON ROUGE and that all flights were authorized to proceed.7

b. The Belgian Preparations. While the U.S. participants were making their last preparations, the Belgian Para Commando Regiment paraded in Brussels for the King's birthday. Immediately after the parade all personnel were restricted to barracks and told that they were to participate in an Allied Command-Europe Mobile Force-Land8 exercise. This cover story was accepted by most of the personnel, even though the more knowledgeable officers and noncommissioned officers had ideas of their own.9

c. Air Force Actions. USAFE had assigned the primary airlift mission to Detachment 1, 322d Air Division, Military Air Transport Service, which was stationed at Evreux Airbase, France. The 464th Troop Carrier Wing, on rotation duty at Evreux, was to provide the transport aircraft, and the 52d Troop Carrier Squadron the airlift for en route support. This force had been alerted on

6. ECJCL-00046, USCINCEUR to CINCUSAFE, 17 Nov 64.
7. Cable ECJCL-00064, USCINCEUR to CINCUSAFE, 17 Nov 64.
8. A multinational NATO force directly subordinate to SACEUR.
9. Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.


14 November, and the commander had received his initial briefing on the following day. On 16 November, the commander of Detachment 1 had requested permission to position an airloading team at Kleine-Brogel, but this request was denied for security reasons. Another request for authority to move the support aircraft carrying tents and cots from Rhine-Main to Ascension was also denied. However, permission was granted to load the plane at Rhine-Main, in preparation for the movement.

On the afternoon of 17 November the airlift force departed from Evreux for Kleine-Brogel, where it depended upon the Belgian paratroops for smooth loading operations. At 1858 hours, as soon as its loading was completed, the first aircraft started to depart Kleine-Brogel, but was recalled on orders from USCINCEUR. At that time the maximum permissible hold was 2 hours and 40 minutes, because a later departure would make it impossible to land at Ascension, where the runway was not lighted. However, at 2050 hours—1 hour and 52 minutes later—the hold was lifted and the first aircraft was airborne at 2120 hours. Because of the uncertainty of overflight clearances, two flight plans had been filed: the first by way of Mildenhall, United Kingdom, to Moron, Las Palmas, and Ascension—thus avoiding France—and the second by direct overflight of France to Moron. The second flight plan was used and the first aircraft landed at Ascension at 1505 hours on 18 November. All aircraft had closed except for one that aborted at Moron, where it was unloaded. Its cargo was loaded onto the spare aircraft, which had joined the others by 2125 hours.l0

10. Staging at Ascension

After meeting at Ascension Island the U.S. airlift and Belgian airborne commanders achieved a high degree of mutual understanding. U.S. Air Force personnel instructed the Belgians in jumping techniques from C-130E aircraft and in the operation of the AN/PRC-41 ultrahigh frequency (UHF) and AN/PRC-47 high fidelity (HF) single-side-band (SSB) radios that were to be used during the assault phase of the operation.

10. Hq 322 AD (MATS), After Action Report Operation DRAGON ROUGE, undtd, OI 5-65-4 (in USAFE Hist Sect files).


However, the arrival of the task force at the island was a suprise [sic] to the small Air Force detachment stationed there. The tents and cots had not arrived, although the C-124 aircraft on which they had been loaded had left Rhine-Main six hours before the C-130E's from Kleine-Brogel. The C-124's did arrive 16 hours after the task force.

For the first night the accommodations on the island were limited, but the Belgian troops improvised shelters and the permanent detachment fed all personnel a hot meal. When the tents were being erected on 19 November, it was discovered that only wooden tent pegs were available. They proved to be unsatisfactory when the men tried to drive them into the coral soil of barren, windswept Ascension. Metal tent pegs were therefore dispatched from Europe.

On 19 November a liaison officer from CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA also arrived, and the airlift and airborne commanders continued to discuss their plans in detail. Colonel C. Laurent, the Belgian regimental commander, was not familiar with U.S. Air Force "closelook drop procedures," which used a computed aerial release point (CARP) to determine the place of drop. He was also concerned about the drop zone he had tentatively selected—the golf course—because an airdrop there would require too much time. The airlift commander's suggestion that the Stanleyville Airfield be used as the drop zone did not appeal to Colonel Laurent initially because he—like most paratroopers—did not relish the prospects of dropping onto concrete. However, the close-look drop procedures—involving the visual identification of the drop zone—and the CARP system—whereby the point of release His computed by exacting navigational techniques based on extensive wind data compiled in the cockpit—were explained to him by the airlift commander and the USAFE liaison officer to the 8th Infantry Division who had accompanied the Belgian force. The liaison officer pointed out that the airborne units of the 8th

11. (1) Recorded telephone conversations, 18 Nov 64, Lt Col J. J. Murnane, USAREUR Log Div S&S Br with USEUCOM representatives, in AEAGC-O files. (2) 322d AD After Action Report, undtd, cited above. (3) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above. (4) Inter, Lt Cot Glasgow with Lt Col Murnane, 9 Mar 65.


Infantry Division had used this system extensively and that they kind made a number of jumps on airfields. Since the troops would jump from side doors on the C-130E's, they might be able to steer themselves away from the concrete, so as to land on both sides of the runway. The Stanleyville Airfield was 2,300 meters long. With the aircraft in trail formation at 20-second intervals between planes, 320 men could be dropped in one pass over the strip. A planeload of 64 men, with 32 exiting from each side door, could thus be emptied in the 42 seconds during which the aircraft traveling at 125 knots, would make one pass. Colonel Laurent therefore selected the airfield as the drop zone and determined the altitude of drop—above ground—as 700 feet, to prevent unnecessary dispersion. Tactical integrity was to be maintained by cross-loading. Thus the paratroopers in the company assigned to take Objective 2 would be the first to jump from each aircraft, while those taking Objective 3 would be next. Personnel of the company assigned to take Objective 1 would be the last to exit from each aircraft. The aircraft would approach from west to east, and the CARP would be 150 yards short of the runway. Each plane computed its own CARP because of the trail formation the airlift force was using. Halfway down the runway, the aircraft would make slight left turns to take advantage of the additional cleared area provided by the golf course and thus include it in the drop zone. Previous plans to have an airborne officer in the cockpit of each plane, to determine the release point, were abandoned.12

The sequence of events that would take place during the assault was also reviewed. After having landed and cleared the runway, the paratroopers would radio the planes their clearance to land. If radio communications failed, a T-panel would be displayed on the east end of the runway and two green flares would be fired from the airfield control tower. Dragon 1—the airlift commander's plane—

12. (1) 322d AD After Action Rept, undtd, cited above. (2) Ltr, CINCUSAFE to USCINCEUR, 24 Dec 64, subj: DRAGON ROUGE/NOIR. OI-3-65-126 (in USAFE Hist Sec files). (3) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above. (4) Intvw, Lt Col Glasgow with Capt Brashears, 9 Mar 65.


would be the first to land. Clearance to land would indicate that the airfield was not a target for organized rebel ground fire and that the runway was free of obstacles, including parachutes.

On 21 November, while still at Ascension, the aircrews were briefed on Stanleyville and the full importance of their mission.13

11. Public Affairs Policy and Press Coverage

The Department of Defense public affairs policy for Operation DRAGON ROUGE was published on 18 November. The overall objective in public information would be to minimize visibility of the operation as much as possible and to limit the picture of the United States' role. Every effort would be made to avoid contacts between the participating U.S. military personnel and the press. The responsibility for release of all still and motion pictures of the operation would rest with the U.S. Embassy in Leopoldville, which would also handle all press inquiries. The Department of State would provide the Embassy with public information guidance.14

Notwithstanding the prearranged cover plan and public affairs policy, the New York Times—in a story datelined 20 November at Brussels—announced the presence of U.S. planes and Belgian paratroopers on Ascension and stated that they were so located in order to be readily available to go to the aid of white hostages being held by rebels in the Congo. Secretary General U Thant of the United Nations immediately announced that any movement of Belgian paratroopers to Ascension by U.S. aircraft might be a cause for Security Council action. At approximately the same time India offered her good offices to effect the release of the white hostages, and Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak appealed to the rebel leader, Christophe Gbenye, to order his forces to lay down their arms, in which case they would be granted a general amnesty.15 The

13. 322d AD After Action Report, undid, cited above.
14. Cable STRIO-92/64, CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA to COMUTSJTF Leopoldville, 19 Nov 64.
15. New York Times, 21 Nov 64, p. 1.


rebels postponed the execution of Dr. Carlson, but indications were that they were shifting the hostages to new locations.l6

On 23 November the New York Times followed up with a story from Leopoldville announcing that an airdrop of Belgian forces into the Congo was believed to be near, and that in the meantime U.S. and Belgian representatives were reported to be preparing major actions in the United Nations.l7 On the following day another story from Leopoldville told about Belgian paratroopers having been ferried from Ascension to the Congo.18

12. The Movement to Kamina

At 1830 hours on 21 November the task force on Ascension received orders to move to Kamina. The first aircraft was airborne within one hour 20 minutes. The other planes followed at 10-minute intervals. One aircraft aborted on this leg of the mission and once again the spare, which had rejoined the movement after repair at Moron, was used. The task force arrived at Kamina on 22 November and was ordered to hold until further orders were received from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.19

13. Staging at Kamina

Upon arrival at Kamina the combined U.S./Belgian task force was met by representatives of JTF LEO, who assumed operational control for CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA. The plan for the assault on Stanleyville was completed there. Rendezvous and other procedures were agreed upon with the supporting B-26 pilots, as items of primary concern to the JTF LEO representative.

16. New York Times, 22 Nov 64, p. 1.
17. New York Times, 23 Nov 64, p. 1.
18. New York Times, 24 Nov 64, p. 1.
19. 322d AD After Action Report, undtd, cited above.


During the early afternoon of 22 November the task force was visited by Belgian military and civilian representatives. Both the U.S. and Belgian commanders wanted that the drop at Stanleyville be conducted on 24 November at 0400 hours, so as to allow a joint assault with the Congolese Army forces that were closing on the city from the south. This recommendation was an outgrowth of discussions between Colonel Laurent and Colonel van de Walle. Before leaving Belgium Colonel Laurent had been told that the combined U.S./Belgian operation was to have no connection with the operations of the Congolese Army forces, but his later discussion with Colonel van de Walle convinced him that mutual advantages could result from a coordinated movement on Stanleyville. Obviously, Congolese Army assistance in the search operations to discover where hostages were being held would be useful.

In the meantime, however, several messages were received from CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA that indicated that the operation might be conducted on 23 November. The task force personnel were therefore loaded into the aircraft in the evening of the 22d, where they remained until 0130 hours on the 23d, when they were unloaded because no execution order was received.20

14. The Assault on Stanleyville

a. Air Force Actions. The recommendations of the two commanders that the assault be held in conjunction with the Congolese Army forces on 24 November was accepted and appropriate orders were issued. At 0045 hours the first five aircraft—carrying the 320 paratroopers to be dropped—were airborne. The task force arrived at the drop zone on schedule at 0400 hours, ten minutes before daylight. When rifle and machinegun fire, including tracer ammunition, was directed at the aircraft, several were hit, but without effect upon the execution of their mission. Intelligence reports indicated that the airfield at Stanleyville was littered with gas drums, cars, and trucks.

20. (1) 322d AD After Action Rept, undtd, cited above. (2) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.


While the paratroopers were clearing the airfield of obstacles, the aircraft that had delivered the assault force continued to circle the objective area. Low hanging ground fog was prevalent during most of this period; the ceiling was approximately 300 to 400 feet. The airlift commander orbited at treetop level to maintain better control of later airlanding activities. At 0450 hours the first aircraft was cleared to land, but in the meantime the airlift commander's plane had been hit by groundfire, and he was forced to fly to Leopoldville, after having supervised the initial landings.

b. Belgian Actions.

(1) The Landings. The 320 Belgian paratroopers had secured the airfield within 32 minutes, and within 45 minutes after jumping, they had cleared the airfield of all obstacles. This achievement required much manual effort. During the course of moving some of the wreckage, for example, Colonel Laurent was assisting a lance corporal in pushing a heavy truck part. The corporal turned to him and said, "The next time I count three, push." It was in this fine spirit that the dirty job was accomplished so rapidly.

The main opposition to the airborne landing came from one quadruple caliber .50 machinegun, of Chinese manufacture, located to the east end of the runway and from small arms fire from other positions. The Belgian paratroopers had suffered four casualties during the jump, but to their delight none of them had landed on the concrete. The U.S. aircraft had dropped them so precisely that they could land on each side of the runway. In line with the Belgian policy to keep native casualties to a minimum, no tactical aircraft were employed to provide cover for the operation.

(2) The Seizure of the First Objectives. During operations to secure Objective 3, a ringing telephone was promptly answered by a Belgian paratroop captain. The voice on the other end of the line urged rebel leaders to hurry to the Victoria Hotel, where the hostages were being held. As soon as the Belgians received this information they moved rapidly toward the town. As they approached a bend in the

21. 322d AD After Action Rept, undtd, cited above.


main route (Point X on Sketch 1) they encountered machinegun and other small arms fire that delayed their advance. Up to this time, resistance had been limited to occasional sniping from side, front, and rear as the force moved through the builtup outskirts of Stanleyville. The arrival of the first armored jeeps spread panic in the rebel ranks. Some of the rebels jumped into a yellow truck. Belgian paratroopers, mounted on jeeps and motorized tricycles, followed in hot pursuit, and both sides fired wildly as they moved.

When one block from the Victoria Hotel, the Belgians heard scattered shooting ahead As they turned a corner from which they could view the hotel, they saw 400 to 600 civilians huddled together in the square. A minute before, a rebel major had given the order to gun them down, and machine pistols had opened fire on the defenseless hostages. Twenty-eight hostages, including one American—Dr. Carlson—lay dead. The rebels ran away.

The civilian casualties were immediately treated by Belgian aid men. Two and one-half hours after the jump, the first of the rescued hostages were moved to the airfield for air evacuation to safehavens in Leopoldville, where they were turned over to their country representatives.

While the operation was being conducted, rebels attacked the airfield from the west, covering their advance with mortar fire, but their attack was rapidly repulsed. Sporadic small arms fire was also received from the woods to the north of the airfield. Much of this fire was directed at aircraft on final approaches during the night of 24 and 25 November.

After clearing Stanleyville of all the hostages they could find, the Belgians turned the city over to Congolese Army forces that had arrived meanwhile, and withdrew to a stream west of Stanleyville in order to defend the airfield until the evacuation was completed.22

22. (1) Tape Recording. Message from Det 1, 322d AD to JTF LEO, in AEAGC-O files. Recorded 24 Nov 64. (2) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.


15. The Evacuation

Aircraft Numbers 6 and 12 took the first 100 rescued hostages from Stanleyville. While this evacuation was being accomplished, the JTF LEO C-130 landed with rations for the refugees.

The second outgoing movement of refugees included 28 severely wounded liberated hostages and Belgian paratroopers. One of the Belgian paratroopers died while being evacuated.

The evacuation phase of the operation continued for two days, during which 2,000 rescued hostages were moved.23

23. (1) 322d AD After Action Rept, undtd, cited above. (2) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.