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"Battle for Cassinga - South Africa´s Controversial..." Topic

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2017 3:41 p.m. PST


"Battle for Cassinga is the first-hand account by a South African paratrooper who was involved in the 1978 assault on the Angolan headquarters of PLAN, SWAPO's armed wing. The battle, although a resounding success, suffered setbacks which could have proved disastrous to the South Africans had they not maintained the initiative. The improvisations made by Colonel Jan Breytenbach ensured that a flawed jump and inadequate intelligence did not adversely affect the outcome. The unforeseen Soviet-supplied SWAPO anti-aircraft guns used devastatingly in a ground role also threatened to derail the attack. A late appearance by a large Cuban/FAPLA (Angolan regulars) armoured column, from the nearby town of Techamutete, threatened to engulf the lightly armed paratrooper force still on the ground. A fierce rearguard action, together with the almost suicidal actions of the South African Air Force pilots, ultimately saved the day.

McWilliams examines why the South African government took the political risk in attacking ‘Fortress Cassinga' in a cross-border operation that would clearly attract the ire of the world. He studies SWAPO claims that Cassinga was a refugee camp guarded by only a few PLAN soldiers, explaining why Sam Nujoma, the SWAPO leader, had no option but to perpetuate this falsehood. He looks dispassionately at all the players involved: SWAPO/PLAN and their commander Dimo Amaambo who fled the field of battle; the Cuban and FAPLA intervention; and the South African paratroopers, led by Breytenbach, who not only had to combat a determined enemy but also senior South African staff officers. Above all, it is a soldier's tale which pays homage in equal parts to the bravery of the paratroopers and the determination of the PLAN fighters who stood to their guns until annihilated…"
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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2017 8:22 p.m. PST

How many troops were involved in all these "battles"?


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Nov 2017 10:49 a.m. PST

"…The two independent rifle platoons, No.9 and No.11, were dropped quite accurately to the north. They immediately went into action, moving through a tented camp to the north-west of Cassinga, beyond the bombed areas. Resistance was fierce but short-lived, and a total of 54 bodies were counted by the platoons before they took up their position along the northern end of the base to seal off that escape route….

…In the end, Colonel Breytenbach ordered the commander of D-Company to take some men and work up towards the guns by attacking the trenches to the west of Cassinga. He also ordered the mortar platoon to begin attacking the guns.

Upon entering the trenches, the men from D-Company were surprised to find a number of civilians, being used as human shields by the guerrillas hiding inside. The guerrillas opened fire on the paratroopers, leading the paratroopers to enter what they described later as a mode of "kill or be killed", in which preventing the deaths of the civilians in the trenches was impossible. Though a number of civilians were killed in those trenches, as the paratroopers moved forward encountered less and less civilians until nearer the guns all those in the trenches, male and female, were wearing SWAPO's Cuban-style uniforms. In the meantime, 9 Platoon had entered the trenches from the north, though were making slow progress as they came under the attention of the gunners.

After a combination of the attack through the trenches and the mortar fire, the guns were silenced. The toll was an acceptable one for the South Africans; there were at least 95 SWAPO fighters dead inside the trenches and around the guns. Two paratroopers had been killed….

…Meanwhile, apparently under the false impression from the helicopter departures that the paratroopers had all extracted, the Cuban column advanced directly into the ambush that the paratroopers had set for them. The lead T-34 tank was destroyed by one of the anti-tank mines, while the paratroopers destroyed four of the BTR-152s using their RPG-7s. They also killed approximately 40 of the Cuban troops before making their 'fighting retreat' back along the road towards the Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ) east of Cassinga where Breytenbach was organising the remaining paratroopers for final extraction. In the face of the oncoming armoured column, Breytenbach ordered a thin defensive line, but realised the lightly armed paratroopers stood little chance against the armoured vehicles and prepared to fall-back into the bush to an emergency LZ while calling urgently for air support…."
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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP29 Nov 2017 8:30 p.m. PST

Ahh, small clashes with very few units. Lots of skirmishes.

The Wild Geese (1978), Dark Of the Sun (1968) and Dogs Of War (1980) come to mind, without the "mercenaries".



shaun from s and s models Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2017 6:42 a.m. PST

excellent book

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2017 11:02 p.m. PST

And movie!!….


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