"I think the best way to handle this, gentlemen," Felter began, "is to give you a quick recap of what's going on in the Congo, specifically in Stanleyville, and then to tell you what we intend to try to do to set it right.
"There are 1,600 people, Europeans, white people, held captive by Olenga's Simbas in Stanleyville. A four-column relief force - in other words, four different columns - under the overall command of Colonel Frederick Van de Waele of the Belgian Army has been charged with suppressing the rebellion, which includes, of course, the recapture of Stanleyville.
"There have been some successes, as you probably know from your own sources, but there is no way that Van de Waele can make it to Stanleyville before the end of the month. That poses two problems. The first is the rebels' announced intention to kill the hostages, a threat we consider bona fide, before Van de Waele can get to them.
"The second is that we have hard intelligence that since 20 October, at least two, and probably as many as four, unmarked Ilyushin-18 turboprop aircraft have been flying arms and ammunition into the Arau airbase in northern Uganda, from Algeria. Should they decide to do so, it would be easy for them to move the arms and ammunition to Olenga's forces. The possibility of their doing so, it is believed, increases as Van de Waele's mercenaries and ANC troops approach Stanleyville.
"The President has decided, in consultation with the Belgian premier, Spaak, that the first priority is to keep those 1,600 people alive. The Belgians have made available the First Parachutist Battalion of their Paracommando Regiment. I'm familiar with it. The First Battalion was trained by the British Special Air Service people in World War II, and they pride themselves now on being just as good. The regiment is commanded by Colonel Charles Laurent, who is a fine officer, and who I suspect will lead the First Battalion himself.
"They will be carried to Stanleyville in USAF C-130 aircraft. After the airfield is softened up with some B-26s, they will make a parachute landing and seize the airport. Part of the force will remain at the airport to make the airport ready to receive the C-130s, and the balance will enter Stanleyville, find the Europeans, and bring them to the airport. They will be loaded aboard the C-130s and then everybody leaves. No attempt will be made to hold Stanleyville. I don't want any questions right now. I just wanted to give the rough idea."
"These gentlemen," Felter went on, turning to indicate the men he had brought with him, "are Lieutenant Colonel Lowell, Captain Stacey, Lieutenant Foster, and Sergeant Portet. They're Green Berets. Colonel Lowell is on the Strike staff, and wrote Dragon Rouge. Captain Stacey and the others have been practicing a somewhat smaller operation intended for Stanleyville, now called off. But they know the town, and rebel dispositions and the probable location of the Europeans, and I brought them along to share their expertise."
The light colonel, Lowell, General McCord thought, looks like a bright guy, if not much like a Green Beret. Stacey looks like a typical young Green Beret captain, a hard charger, tough, mean, and lean. The black lieutenant, Foster, looks as if he could chew railroad spikes and spit tacks. The sergeant . . . there's something wrong with him: His face is scratched and blotchy and swollen. He can hardly see out of his eyes. And whatever's wrong with his face is also wrong with his hands.
"Colonel Lowell," Felter went on, "as soon as we wind it up here, will be available to explain any questions you might have about the OPPLAN for Dragon Rouge. Stacey and Foster are going to go liaise with the Belgians."
Felter looked at General McCord.
"I'm going to give Sergeant Portet, to you, General. He's a former airlines pilot, with extensive experience in the Congo-including, of course, Kamina and Stanleyville-and equally important, because he was involved in getting the B-26-Ks to the Congo, he knows most, if not all, the Cubans who will be flying them."
Reprinted from Special Ops by W.E.B. Griffin by permission of Putnam Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by W.E.B. Griffin. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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