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  • War in Angola

    Hi everybody, my knowledge of the war in Angola (1970's) is pretty bleak, why does no one talk about it, was it because no one wanted to see past apartheid?

  • #2
    [Edit-hi Wilpanzer, Are you talking about the Colonial War against the Portugese or the Civil war that ensued after the portugese left? I wrote this post assuming that you were refering to the colonial war]


    I think it was overshadowed by the war in Zimbabwe. The Portugese colonial situation is an interesting one, and the various countries had quite different situations. I think in Angola the war was a military sucess. The Political situation back in Portugal is of particular interest, in particular the events leading up to the collapse of the semi Facist (hope this is not to strong a term) anti democratic, isolationist and quite right wing regieme at home, and the question of whether the colonies collapsed because the insurgents won or because Portugal just didn't need the damn things any more, and after the democratic revolution in Lisbon they went with the tide of history in 1960's europe. My own view is that politics at home trumped military action in theater

    As for the military situation, it was an interesting little war, in many ways parallelling vietnam in some counter insurgency efforts and being wildly diferent in others. My own interest is in cavalry, and portugals use of Dragoons in conjucntion with truck and helicopter mounted infantry is fascinating.

    From the excellent 'Society for the military horse' Forum, this thead has some fascinating photos:

    http://www.militaryhorse.org/forum/v...be3767&start=0

    http://www.militaryhorse.org/uploads...s/dragoon1.jpg

    http://www.militaryhorse.org/img/071/3_PD11.jpg

    There are some good photos in this thread as well, with the usula combination of good, bad and ugly comments by thread posters

    http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums...ar-Photographs.

    Lastly, On post #89 of the military photos forum there is a (hopefully legal) link to a free PDF of the Osprey Mem at arms book on the portugese wars in Africa.
    Last edited by Chukka; 31 Mar 10, 06:08.
    One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions - Admiral Grace Hopper

    "The eunuch should not take pride in his chastity."
    Wu Cheng'en Monkey

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    • #3
      I'm referring to the "border war" where young South African troops were sent to fight against SWAPO.

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      • #4
        We lost it is basically the correct answer and it has become politically incorrect to talk about. Whilst we did not lose the war militarily, we lost it politically here at home. I knew many guys who fought up there, from the air force through to the Buffalo battalion and also Koevoet. I have also met people from the other side.

        It is a sad story really, but nobody really feels comfortable about talking about it because you may be shouted down that you were supporting the apartheid government. Many of these vets have just blocked that part of their lives off and many are still dealing with problems from the war. I knew of a Rhodesian boikie who joined the RLI when he was sixteen, and he still lives up in Zim but he went through some tough times emotionally. I know the same of troops here.

        There are some good books available, but stay away from Peter Stiff's stuff - he is biased in the extreme and should stick to telling tall tales. CNA has some great books and some autobiographical stuff - here anyway, in your neck of the woods not so sure - and go check your local library also.

        It was also brutal, depending on where you served and under who you served - and I know some kids (16yr olds) who were uncomfortable with the hatred and anger they saw - I also know some adults that felt the same.

        These days you only hear people talk about their experiences up there if they are close family members or both vets. When somebody starts talking about it when they are pissed, out of the blue or saying they served with the recces, koevoet or 32 btn, then you should be wary of their tales.

        BTW, we were there until '89, at least in South West, and in '88 we had, possibly, the biggest set piece battle at Cuito Cuanavale, where our forces did extremely well, being so far out of our strongholds and deep in Angola. Also, we were not just fighting SWAPO but regular Cuban forces, Russian advisors and pilots and Angolan regulars.

        As a referral point, wikipedia it and see what comes up, SA Bush War. Look at the links that they usually have at the end of the article and you will get a wealth of information.

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        • #5
          I have respect for those guys at both ends, my Sunday school teacher served there, a whole lot of years service, his best friend was shot a few meters from where he stood and his convoy was almost blown up by mines.
          Thanks, I now have a clear few.

          My dad was born in Rhodesia, he lived there until the 80's, They always had to drive in convoys because the two terrorist groups ZANLA and ZIPRA were fighting there, my grandfather rode on the back of a bakkie while manning a browning 30 CAL, they also almost died in some occasions, but that's another story.
          Last edited by Wilpanzer; 31 Mar 10, 09:28.

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          • #6
            Wil,
            If your eagerness to find out more is such that it would compel you to travel, you may wish to visit Pomfret at the edge of the Kalahari desert.
            Here you can find veterans who are a treasure trove of oral history on this and other not so distant conflicts.
            They do not strike me as people who'll write their memoirs, let alone history books
            Last edited by Colonel Sennef; 31 Mar 10, 09:44.
            BoRG

            You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Wilpanzer View Post
              I have respect for those guys at both ends, my Sunday school teacher served there, a whole lot of years service, his best friend was shot a few meters from where he stood and his convoy was almost blown up by mines.
              Thanks, I now have a clear few.

              My dad was born in Rhodesia, he lived there until the 80's, They always had to drive in convoys because the two terrorist groups ZANLA and ZIPRA were fighting there, my grandfather rode on the back of a bakkie while manning a browning 30 CAL, they also almost died in some occasions, but that's another story.
              I remember those convoys well and I had chance to speak to some of those guys. The guys on the back of the bakkie with the browning were target number 1, so your grandad is lucky he made it through. Some convoys were run with real efficiency, but others, well, not so much.

              One I recall, the convoy leader came through to all of us, asked what speed we could maintain, some of us with full families and caravans being towed, so some could not keep up too well. Anyway, this commander came and did his walkabout and telling us what speed we would go and what to do if we got hit etc etc. All good, set everything up and off we went, but not at the speeds he said we would. We flew and the convoy got so scattered I remember one family being completely left behind and having to make their way to Beit Bridge on their own and in the dark - they missed the next convoy they were supposed to use, so they spent a few anxious hours driving through hostile terrain at night, which we just never did.

              We had an old Chev Caprice 6 liter V8 with a great big van at the back, and we just managed to keep up, with big swearing being the order of the day at the next stop. The commander was not in the least perturbed and basically ignored us all as he rounded up his guys and got ready for the convoy back. Very sad really. I recall the feeling of pride we used to get when the bakkies would run up and down the line with the browning swinging around looking for terrs, and the sense of relief we had when we got to the border. Yes, brings back some old memories this.

              Our rooms had rocket screens over all the windows, the drills we used to have in the middle of the night to make sure we knew where to hide and what to do when we got revved, and never mind the farmers. Ah well.

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              • #8
                Interesting story! My grandfather was twice in situations where terrorists almost killed them. Once they were approaching a bridge, the convoy slowed down, because there was a bridge ahead, he noticed that there was grass moving, it then occurred to him that there was almost no wind. He fired a few shots, the terrorists then attacked, the convoy stopped and the gunners returned fire. He said that it lasted a few minutes until the terrorists withdrew, just as they approached the bridge, it blew up!
                In a similar situation, as they went, there were a few buildings, one stood out and it was the nearest to the road. My grandfather again opened fire and JACKPOT, a group of terrorists appeared and they withdrew after a few minutes of conflict.
                My grandfather had an angel beside him, I don't doubt that, and he's German.

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                • #9
                  MajSennefs avatar sketch reminded me of this mid 1980's magazine cover.

                  http://i425.photobucket.com/albums/p...g?t=1272008488

                  Magazine edition details Pathfinders of the 44th Para Brigade operating in Angola.

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                  • #10
                    The only thing I can recall is in some South African expedition circa 1975 the Cubans appeared with rocket artillery that outweighed & out ranged the old 25lbr cannons the SA brought to the party. Ayone here recall anything o that?

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                    • #11
                      No Mean Soldier by Peter McAleese is a good read. McAleese was Brit SAS before a long mercenary career starting in 1976 Angola, Rhodesian SAS, SADF .
                      The 1976 Angolan mercenary episode was a total cluster. The mercenary head honchos being a cable of ex-Brit para privates who had been discharged for robbery. In Angola theex-Brit para privates gave themselves serious rank, the most famous being 'Colonel Callan' along with 'Shotgun Charley' and Sammy Copeland.
                      McAleese describes the scene;

                      "acting on Callan's order, two mercenaries murdered a black FNLA officer called Zefferino for stealing tins of pilchards. By the end of January, Callan and the other lunatics with him had probably murdered more than 200 blacks, excluding those they claimed to have killed in action. They were murdered on 'suspicion' of being spies, for infringements of discipline, for fun and to see what certain weapons did to the human body. Callan decided to test Charley's shotgun for himself. He called over a FNLA soldier, stuck the barrel in the terrified black man's mouth and blew off the top of his head, leaving nothing but his jawbone."

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                      • #12
                        From most of the sources it's best to take a pinch of salt with what they say, try and put it in the bigger contexts of South Africa's situation. In my experience many of the writers will try and play this off as a political failure to take control of the circumstances. Not to say that wasn't a factor, but there was little South Africa could've done to really redeem itself unless it dropped apartheid (which wouldn't happen until 5 years or so after the Border War ended).

                        In regards to rocket artillery, Breytenbach mentions it in his books about TF Zulu when they were in Angola. Outranged yes but it seems SA skill with artillery compensated until the SADF bought G5 guns and engineered the Valke MLRS.
                        For despite the silly sayings about violence never settling anything, history IS changed on the battlefield: ask the National Socialist German Workers' Party.
                        -Jerry Pournelle-
                        Introduction to 'Hammer's Slammers'

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by eddie3rar View Post
                          MajSennefs avatar sketch reminded me of this mid 1980's magazine cover.

                          http://i425.photobucket.com/albums/p...g?t=1272008488

                          Magazine edition details Pathfinders of the 44th Para Brigade operating in Angola.
                          Good find
                          I'm sure the artist was inspired by this picture when working on the painting which is now my avatar.
                          BoRG

                          You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

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                          • #14
                            That 1985 magazine details the activities of the Pathfinder Coy 44 Parachute Brigade 'The Philistines'.
                            'No Mean Soldier' by Peter McAleese details his role in the creation and deployment of the Pathfinders. McAleese was ex-Brit SAS, Ex-Rhodesian SAS (Chimoio vet), his word on SWAPO;

                            "The problem was SWAPO were a tougher enemy than ZANLA and ZIPRA had been in Rhodesia, and the South Africans could not afford the political and social criticism of losing too many men in one day. They had to pursue their aims with a very wary eye on casualties, however committed the white population may have been to fighting terrorism."

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by eddie3rar View Post
                              That 1985 magazine details the activities of the Pathfinder Coy 44 Parachute Brigade 'The Philistines'.
                              'No Mean Soldier' by Peter McAleese details his role in the creation and deployment of the Pathfinders. McAleese was ex-Brit SAS, Ex-Rhodesian SAS (Chimoio vet), his word on SWAPO;

                              "The problem was SWAPO were a tougher enemy than ZANLA and ZIPRA had been in Rhodesia, and the South Africans could not afford the political and social criticism of losing too many men in one day. They had to pursue their aims with a very wary eye on casualties, however committed the white population may have been to fighting terrorism."
                              Funny thing about the White population - we wanted to have this white haven in Africa, but were not prepared to die for it. Rhodesia proved that when the going got tough, the whites got running - we did it, so I think I speak from some experience here - and then we came to SA and we had our backs to the wall, except those that had Brit passports or connections overseas and they bailed on us again. That left the SA govt with scant choice, really, but to try and maintain us in a position where we could negotiate from power, instead of plead mercy with the liberators, which, IMO, thanks to Pik and FW, no thanks to old krokodil, they managed to make happen.

                              Also, as it wore on, a troopie on the border or on duty wherever he was, was worrying about the safety at home of his wife, girlfriend or family, and it was just tiring. It was a personal toll that cannot be calculated or measured, but we were all exposed, and that drains you, no matter how tough you think you are.

                              Also, apart from anything else, what we were fighting for, ultimately?

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