Dragon Operations: Hostage Rescues in the Congo, 1964-1965

by Thomas P Odom

Book cover for Dragon Operations: Hostage Rescues in the Congo, 1964-1965

In August 1964, thousands of Simba rebels attacked and captured the city of Stanleyville in the newly independent Republic of the Congo and took more than 1,600 European and American residents as hostages, threatening to kill them if any attempt was made to recapture the city. In November of that year, after months of increasingly tense and complex discussions among the governments whose nationals were being held, an airborne assault by Belgian paracommandos dropped by American Air Force planes, combined with a CIA-piloted air strike against the Stanleyville airport, liberated most of the hostages, but only after a Simba-initiated massacre. "Dragon Operations: Hostage Rescues in the Congo, 1964-1965" provides both the political background to these events and a detailed account of the actual operations: Dragon Rouge, the operations in Stanleyville, and Dragon Noir, focused on the city of Paulis, several hundred miles away. The book highlights the difficulties in organizing an international rescue effort with insufficient joint planning and inadequate command and control among the Belgian and American forces, as well as their differing political ideas and goals. The ad hoc nature of the planning was exemplified by an initial American Special Forces plan to air drop its forces east of Stanleyville and float down the river to Stanleyville. This plan was aborted when it was pointed out that the existence of Stanley Falls between the drop zone and the city was an insuperable obstacle. The operation also suffered from the Belgian commander's colonial-era contempt for the numerical strength of the Simbas and American fears of what was in reality a non-existent Communist element in the rebel movement. "Dragon Operations" demonstrates that, despite the slapdash nature of their planning and communications aspects, as well as the distance involved, the austere support, the large number of hostages, and a lack of intelligence data, they were remarkably successful in rescuing most of the hostages. Although less than ideal, the operations worked better than expected, given the conditions under which they were conducted. This important study of an almost forgotten episode of the Cold War has much to offer to military strategists and tacticians, political scientists and students of contemporary history alike. Orginally published in 1988: 236 p. maps. ill.

Is currently part of: