Dragon Operations: Hostage Rescues in the Congo, 1964-1965 by Thomas Odom
Leavenworth Paper No. 14, Dragon Operations: Hostage Rescues in the Congo, 1964-1965 is a useful historical analysis of a cold war crisis, the resolution of which depended upon the planning and execution of joint and combined military operations. It shows how combatants react to the pressures and uncertainties associated with a rapidly changing situation in a highly politicized arena. Major Thomas P. Odom examines the Congo rescue missions at each level of United States military involvement. As a working group of diplomats, intelligence personnel, and military officers' managed the crisis from Washington, their representatives in the field planned and executed the airborne operations. Odom traces the evolution of planning from what was to have been a joint United States Army-Air Force operation to a combined venture in which the major American cotntribution was to airlift Belgian paratroopers into the Congo and to evacuate the surviving hostages. Based on recently declassified documents and interviews with key American, Belgian, and French participants, Dragon Operations combines detailed analysis and a narrative to provide fresh insight into one of the first hostage rescue missions of the cold war. Odom's account shows how the fluidity of an extremely complex situation can defy even the most comprehensive plans. Where planning was defective or the plans proved outdated, the combined team taking part in the mission relied on flexibility and adaptability to see them through. Dragon Operations, besides chronicling a successful operation, clearly demonstrates the relevance of military history for today's professional soldier. Although the circumstances and considerations of the Congo crisis are unique to that situation, the case study reveals broader interoperability patterns that continually must be addressed in joint and combined operations.