Other Operations in the Congo
a. USCINCEUR's Plans. On 21 November USCINCEUR submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff a number of plans for conducting other operations to relieve hostages held by rebel forces in the Congo. On the assumption that it would be at least 48 hours after the assault on Stanleyville before the Belgian paratroopers could be ready to undertake additional operations, the execution of such operations would be contingent on the arrival of Congolese Army forces in Stanleyville during those two days. Since isolated drops of less than company-size forces could not be undertaken and at least one company had to be left at Stanleyville to man and protect the central base for any other missions, the Belgian forces could not conduct more than two additional operations. Moreover, the Belgian battalion needed 400 additional personnel parachutes, 8 armored jeeps, and four radio jeeps, which would have to be shipped from Belgium at least 72 hours before an additional operation could be executed.
USCINCEUR also assumed that the Belgian commander would wish to start such supplementary operations at 0400 hours, to achieve surprise by dropping at this time of day and to take advantage of the good visibility, minimum wind, thermal lifting, and cumulus activity that could be expected then.
USCINCEUR proposed the following supplementary operations:
(1) Operation DRAGON BLANC. The seizure of Bunia, approximately 400 miles east of Stanleyville, was to be considered next because many hostages, including women and children, were reported to be held at Mongwalu just north of Bunia. Bunia had a 6,000-foot, hard-surfaced runway which, although currently obstructed with oil drums, would permit the airlanding of motorized equipment and the rapid evacuation of rescued hostages by air once the field had been seized and secured. If only one company-size attack could be launched from Stanleyville, USCINCEUR recommended that it be executed at Bunia.
An operation at Bunia would involve four C-130E's, to carry 200 personnel parachutes from Leopoldville to Stanleyville before darkness on the day after the Stanleyville drop. One of these aircraft would then remain at Stanleyville to carry reinforcements to Bunia it they should be required. The other three would carry the assault forces to the objective and drop them at 0400 hours on the second day following the Stanleyville drop. This action would involve take-offs from Stanleyville on unlighted runways during the hours of darkness. While not routine, such take-offs would be acceptable under these conditions. Two other C-130E's would have to depart Leopoldville so as to arrive at Bunia 30 minutes after the assault paratroopers had been dropped. They would carry four armored jeeps and two radio-equipped jeeps. After these jeeps had been unloaded, these two planes would remain on the ground—with engines at ground idle—to evacuate hostages released by the Belgian paratroopers. The one C-130E, holding at Stanleyville with the reserve platoon on call, would not be released until the Belgian paratroop battalion commander was assured that one company could hold the objective area. Another C-130E would be needed to resupply the Bunia force on the day following the drop, subsequent support for which could be provided by Belgian DC-6's from Kamina.
(2) Operation DRAGON NOIR. USCINCEUR recommended that Paulis—225 miles northeast of Stanleyville—be considered as a secondary objective for additional operations. Many hostages were held in Paulis and the town had an airfield that would be suitable for airlanding operations. However, the runway was of compacted earth and might not be suitable for use in the event
of rain; therefore, determination of the practicality of using this strip would have to be made by personnel in the Congo. If the planes could not land at Paulis, any hostages who might be rescued would have to be evacuated overland by truck or railroad. In either event they might be subjected to rebel interdiction. If no motorized equipment—similar to that planned for Bunia—could be airlanded, the combat capability of the paratroop elements would be seriously affected. Some other means for air dropping this equipment would therefore have to be devised by personnel in the Congo; otherwise an operation at Paulis would not be feasible. The execution of the operation would be similar to that planned for Bunia.
(3) Operation DRAGON VERT. Another place considered for a relief operation was Watsa, some 375 miles northeast of Stanleyville and known as a holding area for male hostages whose families had been evacuated to Bunia. It was not suitable for airlanding operations because the runway was of compact earth and its length was only 2,400 feet. An assault on this objective would therefore require the airdropping of both personnel and equipment—a feat that would not be easy but could be accomplished. An alternative course of action would be to augment the company landed at Bunia with a platoon from Stanleyville and equip it with sufficient vehicles to conduct an overland movement to Watsa—a distance of approximately 125 miles. A personnel airdrop could be conducted on Watsa in connection with this operation, and trucks could be used to evacuate released hostages to Bunia. The Belgian planners with whom USCINCEUR had consulted had indicated that a minimum of 18 trucks—each carrying 18 fully equipped personnel—would have to be dispatched from Belgium for this purpose. Aerial resupply for the force would have to be established from Kamina.1
b. CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA's Operations Plan. On 22 November CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA published OPLAN 319E, which was essentially a summary of USCINCEUR's proposals. He assumed that the execution of supplementary operations to rescue hostages held by rebel forces in the Congo would be ordered at a time when the Belgian paratroopers would have completed the evacuation phase at Stanleyville and would have the use of its airport for further
1. Cable ECJCA-00340, USCINCEUR to JCS et al., 21 Nov 64.
operations. However, if Stanleyville was not available, either Kamina or Leopoldville, or both, could be used for staging. Additional equipment would have to be airlifted from Belgium to support the rescue operations envisaged by USCINCEUR. Within the capabilities of the Belgian paratroop commander, two relief and evacuation missions—each involving one company—would be launched, in order of priority, against Bunia, Paulis, and Watsa. One company of Belgians would have to remain at Stanleyville to protect the base and furnish an "on-call" reserve platoon to reinforce either company-size operation. The operations at Bunia, Paulis, and Watsa would take place at 2-day intervals after the Stanleyville assault. Preparations for the airdrop of motorized equipment would have to be made to support the Paulis operation, and the attack on Watsa would have to be conducted overland from Bunia.
With his proposals for the conduct of supplementary operations in the Congo completed, USCINCEUR directed CINCUSAFE to airlift the additional motorized equipment to Leopoldville and CINCUSAREUR to provide the necessary heavy-drop rigging. However, the execution of additional operations awaited agreement between Belgium and the United States.2
c. Belgian Plans. While at Stanleyville Colonel Laurent had planned for Operation DRAGON NOIR at Paulis, using the airfield as the drop zone. The field was 1,100 meters long and the edge of its runway was close to the town. However, high trees concealed the runway on both sides, so that it would be difficult to find from the air. The force selected to take Paulis would consist of 240 men, 2 radio jeeps, and 4 armored jeeps. It would be carried in seven C-130E's. Once again little information was available on the whereabouts of the hostages.3
17. Execution of Operation DRAGON NOIR
Apparently the Belgian commander considered that only one additional operation was within the capabilities of his force.
2. (1) Cable ECJCL-00353, USCINCEUR to CINCUSAFE and CINCUSAREUR.
(2) Cable 1091/64, CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA to COMJTFLEO. Both 22 Nov 64.
(3) Cable STRJ-5A-1125.64, CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA to JCS et al., 23 Nov
3. Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65, cited above.
At any rate Operation DRAGON NOIR—the assault on Paulis—was the only supplementary operation to be conducted.
On 25 November the task force received word that the assault on Paulis would take place at 0400 hours on 26 November. The troops and equipment for the operation were picked up by the airlift commander at Stanleyville during the early morning hours. The arrival of the aircraft and their loading at Stanleyville proceeded without incident, and the task force arrived at its objective on schedule. However, a low-hanging fog covered the area, so that it was necessary to make two passes to establish the location of the drop zone, finally seen through the haze as a red glow in the first morning light. Once again the rebel fire was directed at the aircraft; one paratrooper was wounded as he exited from the Number 1 plane. The airfield was secured within 30 minutes of the drop, but landings were delayed for an additional 15 minutes while the sources of fire from the east end of the runway were eliminated.
Again the Belgian forces were lucky in discovering quickly where the hostages were held. The first person whom they met was a Dutch consul, who was subsequently wounded while leading Belgian patrols in their search for hostages. In 3 days motorized patrols liberated 355 hostages at scattered locations in the Paulis area. One Belgian paratrooper was killed in action and several others were wounded.
The spare aircraft designated to participate in this operation was used to evacuate liberated hostages. Thus a total of eight aircraft was employed.
4. (1) 322d AD After Action Rept, undtd. (2) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 65. Both cited above.