Operation Dragon Rouge

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Operation Dragon Rouge
Part of the Simba rebellion during the Congo Crisis
Congo Crisis dead hostages.jpg
Belgian paratrooper with hostages killed minutes before their arrival
Date24 November 1964 (1964-11-24)
Stanleyville, Congo-Léopoldville
Result Most hostages rescued
Simba rebels
Commanders and leaders
  • Charles Laurent
  • Frédéric Vandewalle
  • Burgess Gradwell
  • 320 paratroopers
  • 128 commandos
300–500 rebels
Casualties and losses
2 killed, 12 wounded Unknown
24 hostages killed

Operation Dragon Rouge was led by the Belgian Paracommando Regiment to rescue hostages held by Simba rebels in the town of Stanleyville, Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1964.


By 1964, the Léopoldville government, supported by Western powers, was gaining a foothold in its fight to suppress the communist-backed Simba rebellion. Fearing an inevitable defeat, the rebels resorted to 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 U.S. 322nd Air Division. Washington and Brussels worked jointly on a rescue plan. Several ideas were considered and discarded, and all attempts at negotiating with the Simbas had failed.


The Belgian task force was led by Colonel Charles Laurent.[1] On 24 November 1964, five American C-130 Hercules planes dropped 320 Belgian paratroopers of the Paracommando Regiment onto the airfield at Stanleyville.[2] Once the paratroopers had secured the airfield and cleared the runway they made their way to the Victoria Hotel, prevented Simbas from killing most of the 60 hostages, and evacuated them via the airfield.

Around 1,600 European and North American civilians were evacuated.[3] Almost 200 foreigners and thousands of Congolese were executed by the Simbas a month after the raid.[4] American missionary doctor Paul Carlson was also killed during the massacre.[5]


The operation coincided with the arrival of Armée nationale congolaise (ANC) and other foreign mercenary units—which likely included the hastely-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–U.S. 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.


  1. ^ Odom 1988, p. 46.
  2. ^ Odom 1988, p. 51.
  3. ^ Odom 1988, p. 180.
  4. ^ Wagoner 1980, p. 198.
  5. ^ Odom 1988, pp. 101–102.


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