Captive in the Congo

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Captive in the Congo: A Consul’s Return to the Heart of Darkness

“Hoyt’s book is a gripping and well-documented tale of U.S. relations with the remnants of the Belgian Congo during the 1964 Simba rebellion in Stanleyville. A deftly written account of an American diplomat’s experiences while held hostage by rebels through truly harrowing times, it reads like a fast-paced thriller.”   ––BRANDON GROVE, Ambassador to Zaire (1984–1987)

As one of those taken hostage by Congolese rebels at the U.S. Consulate he headed in Stanleyville (now Kisangani), Michael Hoyt provides the first inside account of the 1964 seizure of the American consulate staff and their 111 days of captivity. Their struggle to stay alive and their dramatic rescue offer a gripping story of courage, frustration, and survival. The first time Americans had been held hostage since the Barbary pirate days of the 1800s, the incident described here presents valuable lessons both for the future conduct of hostages and the policies that deal with this type of terrorism.

Hoyt chronicles the hostages’ day-by-day ordeal as anti-West rebels held them in confinement at the central prison in Stanleyville and elsewhere, including the women’s toilet at the airport terminal. Throughout this period they were brutalized and several times led to what they believed would be their execution. Ultimately, they managed to survive the rebels’ final desperate attempt to gun them down when Belgian paratroopers, flown in by American C-130s, arrived to rescue them. While helping readers appreciate the intensity of the drama as it unfolded, Hoyt remains remarkably objective as he reports what happened. His description of those final moments of terror before rescue is nevertheless certain to have an impact on every reader.

Michael Hoyt served in the U.S. Foreign Service for twenty-five years, heading four diplomatic and consular posts. For his courage during the 1964 hostage situation, he was awarded the U.S. Department of State’s highest honor — the Secretary’s Award. His assignments took him to posts in Pakistan, Switzerland, and Africa. His last assignment was as counselor of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva to promote human rights. He now consults, writes, and lectures on international affairs and teaches college-level African history courses.

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by Michael P. E. Hoyt
Foreword by Monteagle Stearns
Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2000
275 pp, 13 illustrations, 2 maps, bibliographic notes, appendix, index
Cloth $34.95 (members' price $29)

"'Captive in the Congo' casts light on the diplomatic perspectives of the cold war and the first genuine peacemaking operation undertaken by the United Nations. It shows once again that foreign policy decisions have human consequences, not only for the objects of the policy but for those who implement it . . . [and] that the Foreign Service is staffed by courageous and disciplined men and women."
MONTEAGLE STEARNS, political section head at U.S. Embassy in the Congo (1963-1965), and former Ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire and Greece