Lessons Learned and Summary
20. Lessons Learned
a. Insufficiency of Planning Staffs. Restrictions imposed on the number of airlift staff personnel had caused delays in communications while the 322d Air Division was developing its plans. In addition, USAREUR stated that it had not been sufficiently represented in the planning for Operation DRAGON ROUGE.1
b. Command and Control. USEUCOM had prepared the basic operations plans, and coordination with STRICOM/USMEAFSA and other U.S. agencies was used to resolve support problems that could have been handled by the task force. The 322d Air Division therefore stated that for greater operational efficiency USCINCEUR should have retained control of the operation.2 CINCUSAFE agreed.3
1. (1) 322d AD After Action Report, undtd, cited above.
(2) Cable SX-7926, CINCUSAREUR to USCINCEUR, 23 Dec 64.
2. 322 AD After Action Rept, undtd, cited above.
3. Ltr, CINCUSAFE to USCINCEUR, 24 Dec 64, cited above.
CINCUSAREUR, in his after-action report, held that, since the operation had taken place in the MEAFSA area, it should have been logistically supported by CINCSTRIKE/USCINCMEAFSA.4
c. Other Lessons. Intelligence information had been lacking at Ascension and the "talking bird's" performance had not been completely satisfactory. While the operation could not be considered classic, CINCUSAFE was of the opinion that as a combined performance it had been outstanding.
An old military problem came to light in the after action report of the 322d Air Division. This unit stated that it had received too much harassment during operations, in the form of radio instructions and counterinstructions from many sources. Typical of this kind of traffic was the question "How many Americans are being loaded on such and such aircraft?" The necessity of relaying such messages to Belgians who were not only in the midst of fighting, but experiencing linguistic difficulties of communication, was described as "maddening." The transmittal of such messages could also lead to more serious problems. At Paulis a weak message was received to the effect that only Belgians should be evacuated on U.S. aircraft—that other aircraft would come for the liberated hostages of other nationalities. The officer receiving this message replied that compliance with this directive would mean turning back hysterical women and children in the face of fighting that was then in progress in the immediate vicinity of the airfield. It was discovered later that the order was intended for Stanleyville and had been mistakenly transmitted to Paulis.5
The commander of the airlift force praised the devotion to duty shown by all participants. He commended especially the the [sic] discipline and efficiency displayed by Belgian paratroopers. He also stressed that the close-look drop procedures had been used for the first time in an actual operation, and that they had been a success.6
4. Cable SX-7926, 23 Dec 64, cited above.
5. (1) 322d AD After Action Rept, undtd, cited above. (2) Ltr, CINCUSAFE to USCINCEUR, 24 Dec 64, cited above.
6. Ltr, CINCUSAFE to USCINCEUR, 24 Dec 64, cited above.
Estimates of the number of hostages rescued by Operations DRAGON ROUGE and DRAGON NOIR varied. Colonel Laurent stated that 2,000 had been rescued at Stanleyville and 355 at Paulis; the New York Times indicated that only 211 were freed at Paulis; and Time magazine estimated that of 1,300 white hostages held at Stanleyville, all but 60 were rescued.7 When it is considered that the rescued hostages were evacuated by aircraft from different sources, and that upon their arrival at Leopoldville they were received by the diplomatic representatives of their respective countries, the difficulties in making an accurate count of the number of hostages rescued can be understood. However, as Colonel Laurent had been responsible for loading the aircraft and caring for the liberated hostages until their evacuation, his figures are perhaps more accurate.
The two operations, saving the lives of such a great number of human beings, were conducted at a cost of two Belgian soldiers killed in action and eleven wounded. Airlift personnel suffered no casualties. Nine aircraft of the airlift force were hit by rebel small arms ground fire—each of them from two to seven times—but none were permanently disabled. It was estimated that, if the final approach to the drop zone had been in a V formation instead of in trail, the vulnerability of the aircraft to ground fire would have been reduced. However, an approach in V formation over the limited drop zone available in this instance would have been impossible.8
Operations DRAGON ROUGE and DRAGON NOIR demonstrated the ability of hurriedly improvised combined forces to conduct rescue operations in distant areas under adverse conditions. The well-trained Belgian troops engaged in these operations lived up to the motto of their regiment, Nec Iactantia Nec Metu—Neither Boasting Nor Fearing.9
7. (1) Sum of Rmks, 18 Feb 6p, cited above. (2) New York Times,
27 Nov 64. (3) Time, Vol. 84, No 23, 4 Dec 64.
8. 322d AD After Action Rept, undid, cited above.
9. Time, 4 Dec 64, cited above.
Number of Copies
Department of the Army
Chief of Military History 2
Chief of Research and Development (ATTN: U.S. Army R&D
Operations Research Advisory Group) 1
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe (Historian) 2
U.S. European Command (Historian) 2
U.S. Air Force, Europe (Historian) 2
U.S. Navy, Europe (Historian) 2
U.S. Army, Europe
Political Adviser 5
Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations (Historical Section) 29
Combat Developments Command Liaison Officer 5
Continental Army Command Liaison Officer 3
DAD Liaison Officer 2
U.S. Seventh Army (Historian--for distribution to corps and divisions) 10
U.S. Army Communications Zone, Europe 2
U.S. Army, Berlin 1
U.S. Army Southern European Task Force 1
10th Special Forces Group 1
s/Paul R. Steckla
PAUL R. STECKLA
Executive Officer, Operations Division