Operation Dragon Rouge
|Operation Dragon Rouge|
|Part of the Simba Rebellion and the Congo Crisis|
A Belgian paratrooper taking cover near the bodies of massacred hostages
|Commanders and leaders|
|Charles Laurent||Christophe Gbenye|
| 1st Parachute Battalion
322nd Air Division
|350 Belgian paratroopers||300-500 Simbas|
|c.1,800 Belgian and other European hostages|
|Casualties and losses|
|2 killed, 12 wounded||Unknown|
|24 hostages killed|
Operation Dragon Rouge (French: Opération Dragon rouge, Dutch: Operatie Rode Draak) was a hostage rescue operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo conducted by Belgium and the United States in 1964. The operation, relying heavily on paratroopers from the Belgian Paracommando Regiment, aimed to retrieve hostages held by Communist Simba rebels in Stanleyville (modern-day Kisangani).
Background and operation
By 1964, the Léopoldville government, supported by western powers, was gradually defeating the communist-backed Simba rebellion through the use of mercenaries and extreme brutality. Fearing defeat, the rebels started taking hostages of the local white population in areas under their control. Several hundred hostages were taken to Stanleyville and placed under guard in the Victoria Hotel.
The Léopoldville government turned to Belgium and the United States for help. In response, the Belgian army sent a task force to Léopoldville, airlifted by the 322nd Air Division of the United States Air Force (USAF). Washington and Brussels tried to come up with a rescue plan. Several ideas were considered and discarded, while attempts at negotiating with the Simbas failed.
The task force was led by the Belgian colonel Charles Laurent. On 24 November 1964, five American C-130 Hercules transports dropped 350 Belgian paratroopers of the Paracommando Regiment onto the airfield at Stanleyville. Once the paratroopers had secured the airfield and cleared the runway they made their way to the Victoria Hotel, prevented Simbas from killing all but some 60 of the hostages, and evacuated them via the airfield. Over the next two days over 1,800 American, Belgian and other European civilians were evacuated as well as around 400 Congolese civilians. Almost 200 foreigners and thousands of Congolese were executed by the Simbas before and after the raid.
An American medical missionary, Dr. Paul Carlson, was among those killed during the raid.
Aftermath and legacy
The operation coincided with the arrival of Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC) and other mercenary units (seemingly including the hurriedly-formed 5th Mechanised Brigade and Mike Hoare's 5 Commando ANC) at Stanleyville which was quickly captured. It took until the end of the year to completely put down the remaining areas of the Simba rebellion.
Despite the success of the raid, Moise Tshombe's prestige was damaged by the joint Belgian-US operation which saw white mercenaries and western forces intervene once again in the Congo. In particular, Tshombe had lost the support of President Joseph Kasa Vubu and Chief of the Army Joseph-Desiré Mobutu and was dismissed from his post as prime minister in October 1965.
- "Congo Crisis: Operation Dragon Rouge". Historynet.com. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Dragon Operations: Hostage Rescues in the Congo, 1964–1965, Maj. T. Odom, Combat Studies Institute, accessed January 2009
- The Responsibility to Protect, International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, December 2001
- Colonel BEM Hre André Closset, Les Compagnons de l’Ommegang, 1995, Editions de l’Aronde.
- Colonel E. R. Vandewalle, Odyssée et reconquête de Stanleyville , Brussels 1970, 459 pp
- Patrick Nothomb, Dans Stanleyville, journal d'une prise d'otage, Duculot, 1993
- Documentary series: Ce jour là episode 8, Nos paras sautent sur Stanleyville, RTBF, 2011, 90 minutes
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