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The War In Angola Remembered - This Month, 31 Years Ago...
 
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PREMIUM CONTENT - FOR PREMIUM MEMBERS ONLY!
 
This month, 24 Years Ago, In South-East Angola...

 

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LAST month, 31 Years Ago, In South-East Angola...

Friday, 1 January 1988: Preparations for the attack on 21 Brigade
At 19h00 4 SAI moved out of its assembly area to its forming-up place for the fire belt action against 21 Brigade. The artillery meanwhile continued to keep Fapla largely pinned down in their positions with harassing fire and fire on targets of opportunity....

Saturday, 2 January 1988: Operation Hooper: First Attack on 21 Brigade
The Attack on 21 Brigade would comprise of three phases: Phase 1 - An attempt to bring 21 Brigade to give up its positions under pressure of shelling, direct fire, and psychological action; Phase 2 - Failing that, Unita was to attack 21 Brigade with indirect fire support from the South Africans; Phase 3 - Should that fail, the two South African combat groups would attack the brigade. After Phase 1 failed to dislodge 21 Brigade, the first attack on 21 Brigade was launched. For an historical account of this encounter, see the Historical Accounts section....

Sunday, 3 January 1988: Air Attack on the Cuito Bridge
3 January brought the next SAAF effort to drop the Cuito bridge, which was critical to Fapla's efforts to replace their losses of 2 January and strengthen their defences east of the Cuito....

Monday, 4 January 1988: Cubans deployed into southern Angola
4 January brought the worrying news that the Cuban 50th Division had begun moving to southern Angola on 14 December, ostensibly to take over the defence of the 6th Military Region from Fapla. By 3 January it had been reported in the press to have already moved through Menongue on the way to the front. In fact, the Cubans were deploying into south-western Angola....

Tuesday, 5 January 1988: A busy and successful day for the SA artillery.
5 January was a busy and successful day for the artillery. Apart from inflicting casualties - particularly in the 21 Brigade area and again at its water point - it destroyed four BM-21s and an SA-9 vehicle. The guns also delivered pamphlets on the destruction of the Cuito bridge....

Wednesday, 6 January 1988: 4 SAI started rehearsals with UNITA
4 SAI moved to a new laager area on 6 January, to begin joint training and rehearsals with Unita's 3rd Regular Battalion. Jan Malan moved with the ARVs of F Squadron, the engineer troop and a mortar group to an area north of the Cuatir to set up a dummy G-5 position for an anti-aircraft ambush....

Thursday, 7 January 1988: MiGs attacked the 4 SAI positions
7 January opened with an 06h45 air attack on 4 SAI's laager area by several Migs dropping parachute-retarded fragmentation bombs, cluster bombs and HE bombs. The first four retarded bombs fell within 400 metres of the unit, the other bombs about 700 metres away. The surprising accuracy of the attack suggested that the pilots had seen some 4 SAI vehicles, but intercepts confirmed that they had merely attacked the last position reported by reconnaissance patrols. 4 SAI shifted its laager area during the night as a precaution, and the rehearsals with Unita continued the next day....

Friday, 8 January 1988: Mirages attacked 8 Brigade convoy
Three Mirages attacked an 8 Brigade convoy on the way to Cuito Cuanavale at 07h50 on 8 January. Three SA-7s were launched after them three minutes after the raid, and the 23 mm guns also opened fire then. Several helicopters flew out to the convoy later to collect wounded, and MiGs flew top cover from 10h00 until last light....

Saturday, 9 January 1988: Activity by the air forces and artillery of both sides
Two MiG-23s dropped a line of eight bombs 1 000 metres south-east of Sierra Battey at 11h35, presenting an excellent target for the Stingers, which again did not engage. At 12h51 it was the turn of the SAAF. Four Mirages attacked an 8 Brigade convoy two kilometres west of the Cuatir bridge en route from Menongue. Forty of the convoy's 170 vehicles remained behind when it moved off again, some burning. At 12h56 several MiG-23s attempted to intercept the Mirages, but they were already well on their way home. The commander of 59 Brigade was killed and three Cuban officers were wounded at 17h15 by the 120 mm mortars of Romeo Battery. The deception team was attacked by two MiGs at 11h00, and rocketed by BM-21s at 13h05 and 13h20, while it was withdrawing from the scene....

Sunday, 10 January 1988: Fapla struck at the SA guns
After several sorties directed at the Tactical Headquartes, two MiGs attempted to attack Sierra Battery at 15h52, dropping bombs 3000 metres east and south of the gun positions. Fapla artillery also tried to hit the South African guns that day, firing a coordinated but inaccurate bombardment at 09h30. Three BM-21s and six D-30s from two mixed positions carried out the shoot. The G-5s fired counter-bombardments and both Fapla positions ceased fire....

Monday, 11 January 1988: Fapla artillery tried again
The Fapla artillery tried again on 11 January to hit the South African artillery, and the G-5s in particular. They carried out several shoots with D-30s, a BM-21 and a 130mm M-46 during the day with no success. Each Fapla shoot drew G-5 counter-bombardment, and the offending site was quickly silenced....

Tuesday, 12 January 1988: Second attack on 21 Brigade postponed
The Tactical Headquarters and the EW teams arrived at General Demosthenes' headquarters at 01h15 on 12 January, and were ready to operate by 03h30. 61 Mech and 4 SAI were both in their forward assembly areas by 05h00 as planned. Unfavourable weather - now too good, allowing the MiGs to fly! - caused the ground attack to be put back two hours. When it became clear that the weather was not gong to improve - i.e. cloud cover - the attack was postponed until 08h00 on 13 January....

Wednesday, 13 January 1988: Second Attack on 21 Brigade
The two attacking forces - 61 Mech and 4 SAI with Unita's 3rd Regular Battalion - began their approach to contact as 12h15. For an historical account of this encounter, see the Historical Accounts section....

Thursday, 14 January 1988: Castro took control of the situation at Cuito Cuanavale
After the collapse of 21 Brigade, Castro told Luanda that he and his generals in Angola were taking control of the situation at Cuito Cuanavale. He ordered General Ochoa to send a tactical group and a tank battalion from Menongue to Cuito Cuanavale to reinforce the Cuban elements already deployed there. After he and his staff in Havana had considered the situation, he ordered that the forces east of the Cuito should be pulled back into a small bridgehead that could be strongly supported by artillery safely deployed behind the high ground on the west bank. Nothing was done in response to this order....

Friday, 15 January 1988: Generally quiet
15 January was generally quiet. Exceptions were three sorties by Angolan fighters, including two inaccurate attacks on the South Africans, and continued shelling by the South African artillery....

Saturday, 16 January 1988: PTSM ferry brought into operation at the Cuito bridge
On 16 January, Lieutenant Piet Koen, the observer monitoring the Cuito bridge area, reported that Fapla had a PTSM self-propelled ferry in operation. They were therefore quite capable of supplying and reinforcing the brigades east of the river....

Sunday, 17 January 1988: A Fapla force assembled south of the Dala
At 11h55, Unita reported contact with Fapla infantry in the area of the Dala source. This Fapla element fell back after a brief clash, but the Fapla artillery had meanwhile begun to shell the former 21 Brigade positions heavily. The Fapla force, which the elements in contact had been screening when they clashed with Unita, now assembled south of the Dala. The artillery observers reported that this force consisted of two battalions with tanks, BTR60s and BRDM-2s....

Monday, 18 January 1988: Fapla drove away Unita from north of the Dala
At 14h00 on 18 January, the artillery observer reported that this Fapla force had driven Unita away from the north of the Dala, and had deployed along an east-west line on the high ground north-east of the Dala source. The 4 SAI combat team on the 21 Brigade position was ordered not to take any action, the intention being to let Fapla reoccupy what was now known terrain, and then to deal this force in isolation and destroy it....

Tuesday, 19 January 1988: Unita attacked 25 Brigade
At 22h00 on 19 January Unita attacked 25 Brigade, supported by the 120mm mortars of Romeo Battery. this attack also failed, convincing the South Africans that Unita was not yet capable of either taking or holding terrain against conventional forces....

Wednesday, 20 January 1988: More Cubans and Soviets arrived from Luanda
Another contingent of Cubans and Soviets had arrived from Luanda on 20 January. Piet Koen and the G-5s scored a particular success when one round landed on the PTSM ferry, causing it to go out of control and hit the bridge. A series of explosions followed as its cargo 'cooked off'. Two MiG-23s flew yet another inaccurate attack against the G-5s. At 14h00 the 'groundshout' team deployed opposite 59 Brigade....

Thursday, 21 January 1988: 4 SAI moved to a new laager
21 January also passed quietly; 4 SAI moved to a new laager in the Cunzumbia source area during the night, to carry out maintenance and replenishment....

Friday, 22 January 1988: Another Fapla convoy arrived in Cuito Cuanavale
On 22 January another logistics convoy, under 36 Brigade, arrived in Cuito Cuanavale. The main body of 21 Brigade was now reported deployed south of the Dala and west of the road....

Saturday, 23 January 1988: A new convoy were on the way
Early on 23 January the Angolan Minister of Defence ordered the withdrawal of all forces and 'structures' from Cuito Cuanavale to be prepared, and bunkers to be constructed at Menongue. A new convoy with seventeen tanks and assorted supplies was, however, already on the way, confirming that this was merely contingency planning....

Sunday, 24 January 1988: The convoy was spotted
The convoy was spotted between Luasinga and Catumbela on 24 January. It included 114 trucks, eight T-34/85s, six T-54s and three T-62s, two BM-21s, three BM-14s and two M-46s. This was the fourth convoy since 24 December. A Cuban tactical group was also reported to be accompanying the convoy....

Monday, 25 January 1988: 21 Brigade reoccupied its old positions
8 Brigade had helped 21 Brigade to reorganise and had accompanied its first elements to establish the position at the Dala source. Once the old 21 Brigade positions had been reconnoitred and found clear of Unita - who had withdrawn eastward to be out of artillery range - 8 Brigade passed its heavy equipment over to 21 Brigade, which reoccupied its old positions. 8 Brigade then crossed back to the west bank to resume its escort work. 36 Brigade was being moved across the river to reinforce the brigades on the east bank....

Tuesday, 26 January 1988: MTU-20 mobile bridge placed over gap in Cuito bridge
During the night of 25 to 26 January, Fapla brought up an MTU-20 mobile bridge to place over the gap in the Cuito bridge. This meant that Fapla could again move heavy equipment across the river, while the ferry continued to move supplies across. Fapla troops and vehicles moved over the repaired Cuito bridge throughout the night of 25 to 26 January. There was also considerable vehicle movement between Tumpo and 21 Brigade. When the mist lifted at 07h30 on the morning of 26 January, Piet Koen reported that a large number of vehicles were moving slowly over the bridge, and that large numbers of vehicles had concentrated on both banks....

Wednesday, 27 January 1988: Attack on 59 Brigade postponed
The original D-Day for the attack on 59 Brigade was postponed on 27 January, to allow for the change-over of some men from the 1st Battalion Regiment Northern Transvaal, who had been called up to work with the brigade headquarters, and to bring up additional stocks of diesel fuel....

Thursday, 28 January 1988: MiGs circled Mavinga air field
Two MiGs circled the Mavinga air field on 28 January, suggesting that air attacks on it or the BAA might be intended....

Friday, 29 January 1988: Attack postponed again
29 January dawned cloudless, forcing another postponement of the attack. The time was used to move up badly needed spares for the Ratels. Fapla were meanwhile kept under pressure by the artillery and the SAAF. A supply point on the high ground north of the Dala source was attacked by the SAAF. The artillery went on engaging targets of opportunity....

Saturday, 30 January 1988: Additional troops and equipment for 21 Brigade
On 30 January the artillery observers reported additional troops and equipment moving into the 21 Brigade positions during the morning, among them four 23 mm anti-aircraft guns, which deployed in the western part of the Brigade area, near the headquarters....

Sunday, 31 January 1988: MTU bridge over the Cuito in use
Just after first light on 31 January Piet Koen reported that the bridge over the Cuito was in use. As he reported, an M-46, a BRDM-2 and a tanker were crossing from west to east. The guns later shelled the bridge, and one round scored a direct hit....

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Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET

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