The President Says Thank You, 1963: U.S. Policy Regarding The Congo

By David Langbart.

Working in a large bureaucracy, such as the U.S. Government, one’s accomplishments are often overlooked by the most senior leadership. On occasion, however, the big boss notices and recognizes the work being done. In some cases, the biggest boss in the bureaucracy – the President – notices. One such instance occurred in early 1963.

During the first 24 months of the Kennedy Administration, one of the major foreign policy issues facing the United States was the situation in The Congo. There was independence, civil war, supposed communist subversion, foreign intervention, etc. Dealing with the situation was a major headache for the United States. A selection of documents on U.S. policy and action regarding The Congo is found in two volumes of the Department of State’s venerable series Foreign Relations of the United States:

?FRUS, 1961-1963, volume XX: Congo Crisis
?FRUS, 1964-1968, volume XXIII: Congo, 1960-1968

In late January 1963, after the crisis had passed, President John F. Kennedy sent letters of thanks to the three senior officials in the Department of State who had been most heavily involved in dealing with Congo matters: George C. McGhee, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; G. Mennen Williams, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; and Harlan Cleveland, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. The President sent copies of the three letters to Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

To Secretary of State Rusk
To George C. McGhee, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
To G. Mennen Williams, Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs
To Harlan Cleveland, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs

The dispatch of these letters did not signal an end to the issue of The Congo in U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, it became an intractable problem over the next several decades and the fallout in that country, known for many years as Zaire, continues to this day.

Source: President John F. Kennedy to Secretary of State Dean Rusk (with attachments), January 21, 1963, file 770G.00/1-2163, 1960-63 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.