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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.
Dragon Rouge, as the Americans would come to know the mission, would involve a 14-plane airlift of 600 Belgian paratroopers to Africa.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.For three years, the UN peacekeeping force remained in the Congo, supported by American C-130 and Fairchild C-124 cargo planes.Within weeks of the withdrawal of the UN force in the summer of 1964, fighting again broke out in the Congo.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.
The rebels began making threats that the hostages would be killed if the United States did not withdraw its support for the Congolese government. Less than a year later, after having sent his wife and four children to safety in the Central African Republic, Carlson was seized by the Simbas because (1) he owned a radio, (2) he was an American and (3) the rebels wanted hostages. Paul Carlson’s name would be featured in the world’s headlines.
In late October the rebels accused an American medical missionary, Dr. With the fate of the white hostages in doubt, the United States and Belgium tried to negotiate with the rebels.
Fla., as well as the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House. The Congolese air force consisted primarily of World War II-vintage North American T-6 trainers, which like the Cuban-flown T-28s, had been converted into attack planes.
In August, the Simbas captured the city of Stanleyville with its large concentration of Europeans and Americans.
Christophe Gbenye, a Marxist who declared himself ‘President of the Congo,’ led a rebellion of fierce tribesmen calling themselves Simbas-‘lions’ in Swahili.