review Battle for Cassinga: South Africa's Controversial Cross-Border Raid Angola 1978 ([email protected] Book 3) 103

characters Battle for Cassinga: South Africa's Controversial Cross-Border Raid, Angola 1978 ([email protected] Book 3)

review Battle for Cassinga: South Africa's Controversial Cross-Border Raid, Angola 1978 ([email protected] Book 3) 103 Ø ❰Reading❯ ➶ Battle for Cassinga: South Africa's Controversial Cross-Border Raid, Angola 1978 ([email protected] Book 3) Author Mike McWilliams – EyEt made anti aircraft guns used against both aircraft and ground troops threatened to derail the attack An appearance of a large column of armor manned by Cubans from the nearby town of Techamutete when half the South African force had already left the battleground placed the remaining lightly armed paratroopers in mortal danger The landmines laid by the South Africans together with the brave actions of the South African Air Force pilots saved the day allowing the remaining forces to withdraw safely. With „Battle of Cassinga“ Mike McWilliams presents yet another account of South Africa’s cross border raid on the SWAPO PLAN camp South West African People’s Organization People’s Liberation Army of Namibia located at Cassinga in Angola in which he participated as paratrooper with the additional task of collection photographic and videographic intelligence In his opening paragraph McWilliams claims that the „33 years which have passed since the battle of Cassinga“ enable all sides to view with a certain dispassionate perspective“ and he himself writes „from a military historian‘s viewpoint“ He also intends to set the records straight that Col Breytenbach was commanding the air assault on Cassinga rather than Brigadier Du Plessis Very likely Breytenbach was in command I personally never heard that Du Plessis was in command but the South African glorification of Breytenbach amazes me every timeThe author incorporates new sources such as a captured notebook originally belonging to a PLAN fighter killed at Cassinga his private photos illegally taken during the battle and his personal experience of the battle Despite these sources however the book remains fundamentally flawed and biased similar to other South African authored books covering the Border War which I will outline in the following paragraphsThe book starts of with the historical and political background followed by chapters covering political and military decision making planning and preparationThe background provided in the first two chapters is hilarious and horrendous according to McWilliams SWAPO refused a peaceful settlement and democratic elections both offered by South Africa in all honesty because SWAPO wanted to takeover Namibia militarily The SADF however bravely defended Namibia against the PLAN attacks which combined with loss of support after the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc forced SWAPO to the negotiation table resulting in a peaceful settlement and a democratic transition in Namibia hear hear Thereby McWilliams foregoes the legitimate grievances and fails to account for the historical realities ie the systematic economic and political discrimination and marginalization of the majority of the non white population This is indicative of a distinct South African and Rhodesian narrative ie portraying the Border War and the Bush War as part of a worldwide struggle against communism and labeling the enemy „communist“ Despite the support of the communist Eastern Bloc and the Non Aligned Movement however liberation movements in the Third World were primarily nationalist in nature ie focused on liberating their respective countries from colonial rule or minority rule in the case of South Africa’s ANC Namibia’s SWAPO and Rhodesia’s ZANU and ZAPU In the context of the Cold War their natural allies were the Eastern Bloc and the Non Aligned Movement Hint this doesn’t legitimize all of SWAPO’s and the ANC’s actions but their struggle was fundamentally legitimateWithin the historical background he also mentions Fireforce as a successful and innovative military tactic in response to the PLAN’s and MK’s incursions into Namibia However he foregoes its origin in the Rhodesian Bush WarPolitical as well as tactical operational and strategic aspects and considerations important for decision making and planning are scattered throughout the book rather than being systematically listed in order to understand the decisions made by South Africa’s political and military leadershipSix chapters out of ten cover the actual battle for Cassinga which draws in the personal experiences and the personal anecdotes of the author and other soldiers of the Composite Parachute BattalionUnfortunately the chapters covering the planning phase and the actual assault lack maps depicting Cassinga in the overall theater of war and in the area of Operation Reindeer This includes particularly the PLAN camp at Cassinga in relation to the Helicopter Administration Area HAA and the Cuban FAPLA base at Techamutete but also in relation to the PLAN camps at Cheteuera and Dombondola as well as the Omepepa Namuidi Henhombe base complex which were assaulted by 2 South African Infantry Battalion and 32 Battalion as part of Operation Reindeer respectively A map depicting these locations would underline the difficulties and challenges of this daring operation The aerial images lack scales – ironically the lack of scales on aerial images during the actual planning for the assault on Cassinga resulted in the paratroopers landing scattered andor too far from their objectiveFurther these chapters also miss tables of organization and euipment of the task force assaulting Cassinga as well as the command structure in the theater of war and of Operation ReindeerIn the chapter covering the return from Cassinga the McWilliams complains about the orders of South African staff officers to hand over photographic and videographic evidence as well as enemy weapons etc collected by the paratroopers at Cassinga While such material certainly are a nice personal memory these orders are easily legitimated by the need for information exploitation and operational securityThe final chapter focuses on „debunking SWAPO claims“ that the camp at Cassinga actually was a refugee camp rather than a military camps as claimed by the SADF To do so the author resorts to lots of direct uotes from a very limited number of sources albeit mostly Namibian Retrieving and translating the captured notebook of a killed PLAN fighter offers a really interesting insight into the organization of SWAPO and the PLAN and their camp at Cassinga A thorough and well structured analysis with less direct uotes the related articles could feature in the appendix would have served this idea better If possible the author could have accessed and assessed the aerial images of Cassinga taken by the South African Air Force prior to the assault would have underlined his pointThe appendix lists weapons and vehicles used by the SADF the PLAN FAPLA and the Cuban forces at Cassinga While the appendix lists the BTR 50 various versions of the BMP 1 BMP 2 BMP 3 introduced into the Soviet Army only in 1987 BRDM 1 „Irai BRDM 2“ and T 34 the preceding chapters mention the BTR 152 BTR 60 and „tanks“ likely the T 34 The appendix seems to belong to another bookOverall Mike McWilliams’ book is another primarily personal account of another Border War operation Since the parachute assault on Cassinga formed part of Operation Reindeer; I’m still looking for a comprehensive and thorough analysis of Operation Reindeer

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Claims that Cassinga was a refugee camp guarded by a few PLAN soldiers It also explains why Sam Nujoma the SWAPO leader had no option but to perpetuate this falsehood The battle although a resounding success suffered some setbacks which could have been disastrous to the South African paratroopers had they not maintained the initiative The improvisations made by the commander Col Jan Breytenbach ensured that a flawed jump and poor intelligence did not adversely affect the outcome The unforeseen Sovi. Very nice pictures

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