Events of Thanksgiving week of 1964 in Africa were the direct results of years of political unrest in the Congo, which began within days of Belgium’s declaration of Congolese independence in 1960.An outbreak of fighting in the newly independent country led to United Nations intervention as USAF transports under the control of the 322nd Air Division, U. Air Force Europe (USAFE), airlifted a peacekeeping team made up of military personnel from several nations to Leopoldville.
For a time the whites were treated relatively well.
But later, with additional American-supplied firepower and airlift support, the Congolese army made steady gains against the rebel forces.
While the whites were under a semblance of protection by the rebels, Stanleyville’s black residents were not, and a reign of terror began as the Simbas systematically tortured and killed prominent Congolese. Consul Michael Hoyt was taken into custody, along with other members of the consulate staff, and thrown into the city’s Central Prison. Some were thrown into the prison with the Americans, while others were held in the Victoria Hotel.
Then, evidently realizing that the whites in their territory could serve as bargaining chips, the rebels began taking hostages. Over the next two months, the Simbas arrested foreigners from as many as 20 countries, placing them under custody in hotels, prisons and military bases. Carlson, with the Protestant Relief Agency, was a medical doctor who first went to the Congo on a special six-month mission, then returned in 1963 with his family.
While military forces in the united States worked on the larger plan, the U. military command in Europe came up with a less involved one, calling for the use of a small force of paratroopers begin airlifted to Africa for the rescue. Forman’s command had supported the UN peacekeeping forces in the Congo from 1960 until early 1964.
That plan, formulated jointly by the United States and Belgium, was given the French code name Dragon Rouge (‘red dragon’). During those years, however, the 322nd had undergone some changes.
In 1964, two TAC wings were supporting rotational squadrons at Evreux Fauville Airbase, France, the 317th and 464th Troop Carrier wings from Lockbourne AFB, Ohio, and Pope AFB, N. Rotational Squadron A, or ‘Rote Alpha,’ was made up of Pope personnel who flew the newest version of the already proven Hercules, the C-130E, while Rote Bravo was manned by Lockbourne crews and equipped with the older C-130A.
General Forman called Colonel Burgess Gradwell to Chteauroux to brief him on the upcoming mission.
To combat the rebellion, Congolese President Moise Tshombe recruited a fiery South African soldier, Major Michael Hoare, and gave him authority to raise a mercenary army of white Africans to assist the black Congolese army.
Hoare would become a legend in the world of the professional soldier; during World War II he had fought in Burma with Brig. Orde Wingate, then became a professional soldier after that conflict.
Aside from that, he ‘cared not a whit’ what they did.