Opération des Nations unies au Congo (ONUC) - MALLARD

International Information

International Operation Name: Opération des Nations unies au Congo

International Mission Name: Opération des Nations unies au Congo (ONUC)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Africa

Location: Congo

Mission Date: 14 July 1960 - 30 June 1964

Mission Mandate: United Nations Security Council Resolution 143, 14 July 1960; United Nations Security Council Resolution 161, 21 February 1961; United Nations Security Council Resolution 169, 24 November 1961.

Mission/Operation Notes: The Republic of the Congo had been a Belgian colony from 1885 until 30 June 1960 and was ill prepared for its independence. Belgium had not cultivated leadership cadres in the economic, military, or political realms; an indigenous middle or merchant class scarcely existed; and of a population of over twelve million, only 25,000 Congolese had any secondary school education. In essence, the 120,000 Belgians who lived in the Congo had run the colony, but few of them would retain their positions after independence.

Compounding this lack of societal, economic, and political infrastructure, regional and tribal rivalries weakened the moral (and practical) authority of the central government, as did its reliance on the former colonial power to provide the majority of its army officers - at least until Congolese officers were trained to replace them. Katanga province, moreover, remained practically an entity unto itself: it was the richest region of the new country, while its leader, Moise Tshombe, had close contacts with Belgian economic interests there and was prepared to employ Belgian troops to maintain order.

The situation fell apart very quickly. Tribal-related disorders broke out on 2 July 1960, two days after independence. The Congolese Army mutinied against its Belgian officers three days later; with nearly 100,000 Belgians now the object of attack, Belgium dispatched troops to protect its citizens shortly thereafter, worsening the crisis through the introduction of white troops; Katanga and the central province of Kasia under Albert Kalonji declared their independence on 11 July; and on July 12th, Congolese President Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba called on the United States for help in removing foreign (i.e. Belgian) troops who they said “were threatening the peace.”

Armed with evidence that the Congolese might ask the Soviet Union for unilateral help in achieving the same objectives - and worried that this could introduce Cold War divisions into the heart of Africa -- UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold brought the matter before the Security Council on 13 July. The Security Council authorized the Secretary-General to assist the Congo in restoring order. Over the next weeks, Hammarskjold developed the ground rules for the force.

By 15 July, the first 1500 troops were on the ground, coming from Ghana and Tunisia. They quickly took over the task of maintaining order in Léopoldville, replacing the Belgian troops still there. Swedish Major-General Carl Von Horn , who had been head of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization, was transferred to the Congo to become force commander, and under his leadership the Opération des Nations unies au Congo (ONUC) grew rapidly, with 14,000 personnel from 24 countries arriving within a month.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (MALLARD)


Date: 28 July 1960 - 31 August 1960

Canadian Task Force Name Mission Statement: To airlift the Canadian ONUC contingent from Trenton to Léopoldville.

CF Mission/Operation Notes: Named Operation MALLARD, the RCAF airlift to the Congo was put together within a period of three weeks. The first 426 Squadron North Star left Trenton on 9 August 1960, carrying two jeeps and nine signallers along with miscellaneous stores. Other aircraft would follow on a near-daily basis for the next three weeks, the last departing Trenton on 27 August. The twenty-two flights undertaken as part of MALLARD normally took about forty-one hours, thirty-four of them in the air, and altogether they carried 194 Army and six RCAF personnel, 87 tons of stores and equipment, six jeeps and three trailers.

Because of the length of the trip, additional aircrew (slip crews) were stationed along the flight path at Dakar and Lajes. A North Star would leave Trenton and fly to Lajes in the Azores via Gander. In Lajes, the crew would be replaced by another who would fly the aircraft to Dakar. A third crew would take over and fly to Léopoldville via Accra. A round trip for an aircraft was four days, while for the aircrew it was six to eight days. A special North Star flight on 6 August prepositioned the slip crews at Lajes in preparation for the operation. The last Op Mallard flight picked up the slip crews on its return flight to Canada, arriving back in Trenton on 31 August.

There was also an American contribution to Op Mallard. The Canadian contingent required large trucks and vehicles that were beyond the capability of the North Stars to carry. The normal means of shipment would have been by merchant vessel, but this would have taken too long. The United States Air Force Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was approached and agreed to carry the trucks and trailers, but only if the request came through the United Nations. This part of the operation was called MATS Mallard. It started on 18 August with the last flight leaving Trenton on 30 August, arriving in the Congo on 2 September. In all, the USAF C-124 Globemasters made thirteen flights carrying 202 tons of cargo, mainly forty vehicles and trailers, and the remainder of the Canadian contingent personnel.


Canadians troops in Congo. Personnel from the 57th Field Squadron unload cargo from an RCAF North Star that landed in the civilian airport at Leopoldville.

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