The Rouge Scarf

By Thomas O’Hare





In 1964 African Simba tribes, backed by Russia and China, came down from the Congolese hills and began taking hostages as they attempted to reclaim their country.  The body count of those killed was rapidly climbing.  Immense international pressure forced a response.  A combined rescue armada of 18 CIA assets, 12 US Air Force C-130E transports, 520 Belgian Red Beret para-commandos, 300 hardened Mercenaries and 1,000 Congolese Soldiers took part.  This story is about the human drama behind the largest civilian rescue operation since WWII.  The mission became known internationally as:

 Operation Dragon Rouge


First Draft: September 08, 2020 – November 18, 2020

Chapter 1 – Congo Bound


Illuminated by cloud to cloud lightning in the night sky, a lone unmarked C-130E Hercules transport approaches from a distance.  The low pitch whine of the aircraft’s 4 turbo-prop engines grows louder as the craft navigates between rising thunderheads.  On it’s way to a secret destination the aircraft’s silhouette only briefly appears in the blackness during lightning pulses as it makes it’s way void of running lights.


Inside the aircraft a battle weary Rip Robertson sits close to the cockpit in olive drab fatigues lacking insignia of any kind.  Rip has fought in conflicts scattered around the world for over 20 years and he is determined to win this one.  He sits separate from the group of 17 heavily armed Cuban exiles whom he previously led onto the beaches of Cuba.  With a distant stare on his face, his head fills with visions of when Grayston Lynch and he led the secret CIA backed invasion into Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.  A force of 1500 expatriates stormed the beaches with the sole purpose of toppling the Castro regime.  The reality is the operation was doomed for failure when U.S. authorities suddenly denied the promised air and naval support as they landed.  Grayston and Rip lost a lot of good men because of that betrayal.  The guilt he feels from that broken promise eats away at his soul.  He is an honest dedicated patriot but on that day his own country abandoned his brigade and left them to be slaughtered on the sands of Cuban beaches they had sworn to liberate.


His mind becomes fixated on the world as it is and what could of have been if they were not denied the support they were promised.  The simple chain of events rolls through his mind like an endless procession from an old black and white newsreel.  A straight-forward operation that should have changed the political global landscape towards democracy for decades to come failed because of politics.


The chain of global events keep spinning around inside his head:


“January 1, 1959 – Castro’s revolutionaries take over Cuba from Batista – Communism would soon gain a foothold in the Americas.”


“April 17, 1961 – CIA trains and supports 1,500 Cuban exiles for an invasion of Cuba at Bay of Pigs.  It fails when at the last minute critical Air and Naval support was withdrawn.  The result is 118 Cuban exiles and 4 Americans lay dead on Cuban soil.  1,202 survivors are captured and held for 20 months in a Cuban prison.”


“August 13, 1961 – Construction of the wall that would divide Berlin, Germany into Soviet East and Allied West sectors commences.”


“October 1962 – As a direct result of the failed invasion, the Soviet Union installs nuclear missiles in Cuba to insure Castro and Communism remain.  The Cuban missile crisis lasts two weeks and is the closest the United States ever came to nuclear war.”


“November 22, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as the 36th President of the United States.”


“February 28, 1964 – Thousands of Simba tribesmen, backed by the Soviet Union and Chinese Communists, descend from the hills to fight the Congolese National Army (ANC).  The Simba Rebellion is underway in the Congo.  Communism is gaining a foothold on the African continent.”


“August 5, 1964 – The U.S. Consul in Stanleyville; Michael Hoyt, and four of his staff, are taken hostage – two of which are hidden CIA assets.  Stanleyville has fallen to the Simba Rebels.  Upwards of two-thousand European, Canadian and American citizens are taken hostage by Rebels.  A number of hostages are soon executed.”


“November 22, 1964 – a lone C-130E will land in the Congo with an 18-man CIA rescue team for ‘Operation Low Beam’.  Their sole mission: Rescue 5 American diplomats being held hostage by Simba Rebels.”


Rip suddenly composes himself and looks around the aircraft.  Seventeen Cuban exiles, 2 International Harvester (IH) 80’s and one Chevy pickup truck, each with a small utility trailer, make up his rescue force.  It won’t be easy but they are all combat veterans who are ready for a fight.  And this time they will be fully backed by the powers to be in Washington.


The lone C-130E slowly fades into the distance dodging thunderheads while the sound of thunder echoes and the whine of the turbo-props grows silent.


This is where our story begins…