Leopoldville Airport - The Congo - 1960

The Congo - Leopoldville Airport - if you were White and Belgian, you were in big trouble.

July 14, 1960 – Inching Towards A Nomination In Los Angeles – Itching To Escape The Congo.

Leopoldville Airport - The Congo - 1960
The Congo – Leopoldville Airport – if you were White and Belgian, you were in big trouble.
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July 14, 1960 – NBC Radio News On The Hour – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

July 14, 1960 – While political wrangling, glad-handing and arm-twisting was going on at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, a crisis was boiling over in the recently independent and formerly Belgian Congo. A state of emergency was declared as White Belgians scrambled to leave the country and came under attack by rebels who had swarmed the capitol of Leopoldville. Appeals were made to the UN to send a peacekeeping force to establish some semblance of order, but the events were moving so quickly, government troops were having difficulty containing the rebel militias springing up throughout the country.

In the months leading up to independence, the Congolese elected a president, Joseph Kasavubu, prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, a senate and assembly, and similar bodies in the Congo’s numerous provinces. The Eisenhower administration had high hopes that the Republic of the Congo would form a stable, pro-Western, central government. Those hopes vanished in a matter of days as the newly independent nation descended into chaos. On July 5, Congolese soldiers in the Force Publique mutinied against their white Belgian commanders at the Thysville military base, seeking higher pay as well as greater opportunity and authority. The mutiny quickly spread to other bases and violence soon broke out across the nation. Thousands of Europeans (primarily Belgians) fled, and stories of atrocities against whites surfaced in newspapers around the globe. Unable to control the indigenous army (renamed the Congolese National Army), the Belgians brought in troops to restore order without seeking permission to do so from either Kasavubu or Lumumba. In response, the Congolese government appealed directly to the United Nations to provide troops and demanded the removal of Belgian troops. On July 13, the United Nations approved a resolution which authorized the creation of an intervention force, the Organisations des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC), and called for the withdrawal of all Belgian troops. Two days earlier, the wealthy Katanga province had declared its independence from the Republic of the Congo, followed in August by South Kasai province.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles – JFK secured the Democratic nomination on the first ballot the day before. The this day, over the objection of his brother Bobby, organized labor and others, he selected Lyndon Johnson to be his running mate, and the Convention approved. Kennedy would need Texas to win, and that fact above all else, meant Johnson was the best choice. Closing out the convention at the Los Angeles Coliseum with his “New Frontier” speech before TV cameras and a live stadium audience of 50,000 plus, Kennedy and his party went forward, energized for the fall campaign ahead.

And that’s what happened, this July 14, 1960 as reported by NBC Radio News On The Hour.

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