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Battle for Angola

Author Rating:
5/5,
Average User Rating:
4.75/5,
  • Author:
    AL J. VENTER.
    Following the publication of Al Venter's successful Portugal's Guerrilla Wars in Africa - shortlisted by the New York Military Affairs Symposium's 'Arthur Goodzeit Book Award for 2013' - his Battle for Angola delves still further into the troubled history of this former Portuguese African colony.

    This is a completely fresh work running to almost 600 pages including 32 pages of colour photos, with the main thrust on events before and after the civil war that followed Lisbon's over-hasty departure back to the metropole. There are also several sections that detail the role of South African mercenaries in defeating the rebel leader Dr Jonas Savimbi (considered by some as the most accomplished guerrilla leader to emerge in Africa in the past century). There are many chapters that deal with Pretoria's reaction to the deteriorating political and military situation in Angola, the role of the Soviets and mercenaries in the political transition, as well as the civil war that followed. With the assistance of several notable military authorities he elaborates in considerable detail on South Africa's 23-year Border War, from the first guerrilla incursions to the last. In this regard he received solid help from the former head of 4 Reconnaissance Regiment, Colonel Douw Steyn, who details several cross-border Recce strikes, including the sinking by frogmen of two Soviet ships and a Cuban freighter in an Angolan deep-water port.

    Throughout, the author was helped by a variety of notable authorities, including the French historian Dr Rene Pelissier and the American academic and former naval aviator Dr John (Jack) Cann. With their assistance, he covers several ancillary uprisings and invasions, including the Herero revolt of the early 20th century; the equally-troubled Ovambo insurrection, as well as the invasion of Angola by the Imperial German Army in the First World War. Former deputy head of the South African Army Major General Roland de Vries played a seminal role. It was he - dubbed ‘South Africa's Rommel' by his fellow commanders - who successfully nurtured the concept of ‘mobile warfare' where, in a succession of armoured onslaughts ‘thin-skinned' Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicles tackled Soviet main battle tanks and thrashed them. There is a major section on South African Airborne - the ‘Parabats' -by Brigadier-General McGill Alexander, one of the architects of that kind of warfare under Third World conditions. Finally, the role of Cuban Revolutionary Army receives the attention it deserves: officially there were almost 50,000 Cuban troops deployed in the Angolan war, though subsequent disclosures in Havana suggest that the final total was much higher.

    This is a heavy tome in more ways than one , the book weighs in at two kilograms loaded with photographs and detailed text . Al Venter is a leading documentor of the African wars he has been there and got the tee shirt so you can be sure that this is a person who knows what he is talking about especially as his profile gained him access to some of the key players in the wars . The book is broken down into easily readable chapters themselves the basis for a small book. He breaks down the complex political and military situations in to language which the Common Man on the Clapham Omnibus can understand .Without a doubt this will be the leading reference on the proxy cold wars fought in Africa and will be a best seller . An easy read about an uneasy set of political values; well worth five mushroom heads.
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  1. gam47
    From November 1975 to 27th May, 1991, some 377,000 individual Cuban military personnel, and 70,000 civilians served in Angola, many having multiple tours, the last returning to Havana on Flight 435 of Cubana de Aviacion from Luanda. Cuba admitted to having 2,077 deaths from all causes during the 13 year campaign, in 2011 admission made by the Cuban Government that the actual total was in fact far in excess of that number, but, no actual figure given! The only admission (in Granma) being 39% were killed in combat, 26% died of disease and 35% accidentally killed! There was a unknown number wounded, injured or evacuated due to disease, nor is there any factual information of the number of Cuban soldiers infected with HIV, from the number infected in the size of the force is known to be extremely high, being well in excess of the admitted 10% of the total force. The death rate from AIDS and associated illnesses of these veterans, who received totally inadequate treatment in a facility described by General del Pinto as a “jail”, at Los Cocos on the Isle of Pines, being truly appalling.

    The Russian Union of Veterans of Angola in 2012 gave a authoritative statement that nearly 300,000 Soviet military and 50,000 civilian personnel had served in Angola between 1975-91, with at least 11,000 plus Soviets in country yearly. Smaller numbers of personnel from Hungary and North Korea were also in direct support of the Angolans and SWAPO, with smaller numbers from other Warsaw Bloc nations. As well there were very substantial numbers of personnel from all the Soviet Bloc countries providing logistic support, running the railways (Soviet Army Railway Troops), providing maintenance to military equipment and aircraft, and generally running the Angolan infrastructure.
  2. gam47
    A very high percentage of the so called Cuban “volunteers” were of Negro or mixed race origin. Clive Foss writing in History Today (Volume 60, Issue 3, March 2010) “Cuba's African Adventure”, states that between 1976-91, some 450,000 individual Cuban military personnel and civilian foreign aid volunteers served in Angola (and the Cabinda Enclave)(this not including the multiple tours served by many), at one time 80% of health professionals in Angola were Cuban. An incredible number of men returned to Cuba HIV positive infected, a very conservative estimate being at least some 10%, the vast majority of whom died of AIDS and related illness. The Cuban Ministry of Defence admitted figure of 2,077 who died in Angola, was in fact claimed by many as being far greater?
    The Russian Union of Veterans of Angola in 2012 gave a authoritative statement that nearly 300,000 Soviet military and 50,000 civilian personnel had served in Angola between 1975-91, with at least 11,000 plus Soviets in country yearly. Smaller numbers of personnel from Hungary and North Korea were also in direct support of the Angolans and SWAPO, with smaller numbers from other Warsaw Bloc nations. As well there were very substantial numbers of personnel from all the Soviet Bloc countries providing logistic support, running the railways (Soviet Army Railway Troops), providing maintenance to military equipment and aircraft, and generally running the Angolan infrastructure. At one stage there were 3,000 East German military in country.
  3. combatintman
    I've got Ventner's War Dog which funnily enough is 598 pages before the notes (eg equally huge) and contains some good stuff but I got the feel that it was padded for no other reason that people or stories were repeated across the chapters. Has he cured this tendency or is this a another poorly structured 600 page book that could have achieved the same effect in 300 pages?