Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Randall B. Woods

Committee Member

Todd Cleveland

Second Committee Member

Alessandro Brogi


Angola, Cold War, Congo, decolonization, FNLA, Holden Roberto, IAFEATURE


This dissertation is an international history of the role of the United States in the process of decolonization in Angola, a former colony of Portugal. I argue that the United States embraced Portugal, Angola, and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo as irreplaceable Cold War allies. Decolonization in Africa challenged America’s relationship with all three countries, as competing forces within the American public called for Washington to adopt an anti-colonial, anti- racist ideology, while others demanded their government to support white supremacy at home and abroad. Decolonization in Angola, a protracted liberation struggle that started in 1961 and lasted until 1974, became a major foreign policy crisis that spanned five presidencies and ultimately led to the CIA’s IAFEATURE operation in 1975, a secret war to secure an independent anti-communist Angola.

Since World War II, psychological warfare and covert operations were at the center of America’s relationship with Angola. The “Truman Doctrine” of providing military and economic aid to allies in order to prevent foreign publics from embracing communism succeeded in winning Portuguese, Angolan, and Congolese allies. Ironically, Holden Roberto, president of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), as well as his scourge, the Portuguese Estado Novo (New State) dictatorship, both envisioned Angola as an integral part of an American led global economy. I argue that both Roberto’s nationalists and his Portuguese foes believed they alone could “save” Angola from communism, and they used public relations tactics to convince Washington to embrace their cause. Ultimately, the United States rebuffed both sides during the independence war for fear of endangering NASA installations in nearby South Africa, exacerbating race relations in America, and upsetting anticommunist allies across Africa. These entanglements during the anticolonial struggle directly led to the CIA’s disastrous 1975 covert action in Angola which ended in failure.