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The War In Angola Remembered - This Month, 29 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, 28 Years Ago, In South-East Angola...

Monday, 1 February 1988: No notable activity
1 February passed without any notable activity on either side....

Tuesday, 2 February 1988: MiGs back over the area
2 February saw the MiGs back over the area, but no attacks were flown....

Wednesday, 3 February 1988: An ominously quiet situation
By 3 Februry the Fapla Forward Command Post was worried about the ominously quiet situation, and warned the forward brigades to be prepared for something to happen. In Cuito Cuanavale casualties were beginning to affect the morale of the Cubans, perhaps twenty had been killed by the G-5s over the past few days alone....

Thursday, 4 February 1988: Fapla and Cuban convoys on the way
The next Fapla logistics convoy reached Luasingua on 4 February, and was seen to include eleven tanks. This further confirmed the feeling that Fapla intended to make a strong stand east of the river. Following a few kilometres behind, at Cuatir, there was a Cuban convoy of a hundred trucks and gun tractors - towing artillery and anti-aircraft guns, nine tanks, three BTR-60s, one BTR-152 and two BRDM-2s....

Friday, 5 February 1988: Tanks east of the Cuito River
By 5 February there were some forty-four tanks with the Fapla brigades and Tactical Group 2 east of the river. Twenty were with the tactical group, fourteen with 21 Brigade, and five each with 59 and 25 Brigades....

Saturday, 6 February 1988: Fapla used a crane on the Cuito bridge
On the morning of 6 February Fapla was seen to be using a crane on the Cuito bridge, perhaps to help move vehicles over a damaged section. Several SAAF aircraft attacked the bridge during the day, but no result could be observed....

Sunday, 7 February 1988: Cuban convoy struck by SAAF
The Cuban convoy, having had been engaged by the rocket launchers of 32 Battalion on 6 February, was then attacked by the SAAF during the morning of 7 February. The air strike was followed by secondary explosions which went on for some twenty minutes. Smoke was still over the target area at 11h00....

Monday, 8 February 1988: SAAF Air Defence Group arrived
On 8 February an element of the SAAF Air Defence Group arrived at Mavinga on a two-week deployment, with two Cactus launcher vehicles and six 23 mm guns....

Tuesday, 9 February 1988: SAAF air-defence element deployed
The gun section and its protection element would deploy in the shona opposite the south-eastern corner of the 21 Brigade position while 61 Mech moved up and remained there during the main attack on 59 Brigade. The air defence element would deploy on high ground just north of 59 Brigades's outer positions. The SA-7 detachment would deal with aircraft flying north-south overhead....

Wednesday, 10 February 1988: Additional strengthening measures by Fapla
By 10 February, close reconnaissance of the Fapla positions had revealed additional strengthening measures, and some BM-21s with 59 Brigade, and additional troops - mainly recruits - with 21 Brigade....

Thursday, 11 February 1988: 61 Mech combat team sent to the Chambinga source
61 Mech sent a combat team to the Chambinga source area on 11 February to clear Fapla from there. Before it arrived there, however, the Fapla reconnaissance patrol in that area had clashed with elements of Unita's 5th Regular Battalion and had pulled back....

Friday, 12 February 1988: 61 Mech combat team ready to intervene
A second contact between Fapla and Unita followed on 12 February. The 61 Mech combat team moved to an area just west of the Chambinga source during the night, and deployed there to wait for the situation to stabilise, ready to intervene if necessary....

Saturday, 13 February 1988: Unwelcome welcome of SAAF air defence elements
The SAAF air defence element's deployment in a hide east of the Chambinga source was apparently noticed by Fapla, who welcomed the airmen with a BM-21 shoot at 17h05, the rockets landed some 300 metres away from their positions. At 18h05 they fired their first SAM - unsuccessfully - at a MiG-23 flying at 14 000 feet nine kilometres away. Pierre Franken treated the Monongue air base with two ripples of 127 mm rockets, causing some damage to aircraft, air defence systems and installations. Seven Cubans and thirty-seven Angolan Air Force personnel were reported killed....

Sunday, 14 February 1988: The Attack on 59 Brigade
The original concept had provided for an attack by 4 SAI on the main 21 Brigade positions, preceded by probing attacks against its eastern positions. 4 SAI would then attack 59 Brigade's main positions from the north-east, after Unita had attacked its eastern positions. 59 Brigade was regarded as the key to the Fapla defensive system on the Chambinga high ground. With it and the mobile reserve - essentially 3 Tank Battalion - destroyed, it was felt that 21 and 25 Brigades would have no option but to fall back. Should 25 Brigade remain in its positions, it would be attacked by 4 SAI and 61 Mech after they had dealt with 59 and the reserve. The loss of men to hepatitis and malaria, however, decided the South Africans to change this plan, and leave the attack on 21 Brigade to Unita. 4 SAI would now make a feint towards 21 Brigade before swinging around to attack 59 Brigade. 61 Mech would deploy south of 21 Brigade as a mobile reserve for4 SAI's attack on 59 Brigade. It would also cover against interference by 21...

Monday, 15 February 1988: More Fapla battalions driven back
During the afternoon three Fapla battalions sortied from Tumpo towards the 59 Brigade positions. They were quickly met by the South African and Unita forces, however, and driven back....

Tuesday, 16 February 1988: Situation stabilised
By 16 February the situation had stabilised; the South Africans and Unita were busy with replenishment and maintenance while the artillery went on harassing Fapla. The Regiment Molopo squadron, reinforced with a mechanised infantry platoon, an anti-tank platoon, a mortar group and an engineer section, deployed in the former 59 Brigade positions with a forward observer to hold them and over the clearing up of the battlefield. The rocket launchers deployed north-east of the 59 Brigade position to support this force as necessary....

Wednesday, 17 February 1988: Crossing of the Cuito to be simulated again
It was again decided to simulate a crossing of the Cuito, in the hope that Fapla might withdraw its remaining forces from the east bank to prevent them from being cut off by a force coming up from the south. 4 SAI was ordered to detach its armoured car squadron less one troop, two mechanised infantry platoons, an engineer troop less one section, an armoured recovery vehicle to do the earthmoving work, a single tank to recover the ARV if it should break down, and a forward observer for that purpose....

Thursday, 18 February 1988: Shelling and probes by Unita, SAAF strikes
A 'groundshout' team went into action against the Fapla forces at Tumpo during the night of 17 to 18 February, followed by intense shelling at 01h00 and a series of probes by Unita elements in the area from 02h00. At 08h00 SAAF Mirages attacked a Cuban convoy stopped at Cuatir. The fighters attacked the convoy again at 12h00. Secondary explosions followed both attacks. Angolan fighters flew top cover for the convoy after the first strike which required careful planning of the second....

Friday, 19 February 1988: Attack on Fapla Elements on the Dala
On 19 February it was discovered that a Fapla battalion and three tanks were deployed north of the Dala. Mike Muller quickly formed a combat group from the Regiment Molopo squadron, his armoured car squadron, a mechanised infantry company and a mortar fire group under his personal command to clear up this Fapla force....

Saturday, 20 February 1988: First SAAF loss of the campaign
On 20 February Major Ed Every's Mirage F-1AZ of 1 Squadron was shot down after an attack on a Fapla logistics convoy at Cuatir. Its wreckage was found by a Special Forces team looking for the pilot in case he had been able to eject....

Saturday, 20 February 1988: SAAF Mirage wreckage rocketed
The Special Forces team covering the area where the Mirage wreckage was located, reported a large number of Fapla and Air Force intelligence personnel picking through the wreckage. It was within range, so Pierre Franken hit the spot with a half-ripple from his rocket-launcher troop. Two trucks were needed to collect the bodies. According to some sources, as many as 143 Cubans and Fapla may have been killed by that half ripple....

Sunday, 21 February 1988: Angolan fighters struck
Angolan fighters appeared over the area again on 21 February. A number of aircraft attacked Unita's 5th Regular Battalion, the Tactical EW (Electronic Warfare) Team and the psychological warfare team with cluster bombs at 14h00. The attack was actually flown against a moving column, but the aircraft missed that target and hit the laager instead. Several bomblets fell near and in foxholes. Three South Africans were killed and one wounded....

Monday, 22 February 1988: Plan for the attack on Tumpo approved
Fresh intelligence reports indicated that Fapla had moved additional 23 mm guns forward and was placing even more than the usual emphasis on them. The plan for the attack on Tumpo was approved on 22 February, and an operations order was issued. 20 SA Brigade was to co-operate with Unita to either destroy the Fapla forces in the Tumpo area or drive them across the Cuito River. A troop of tanks had been alloted to the flanking force for the attack. The 23 mm guns - very familiar to the soldiers - were to be dealt with by a fire belt action, mortar fire or, if necessary, artillery fire....

Tuesday, 23 February 1988: "All Fapla forces to withdraw from Cuito Cuanavale"
On 23 February a signal was intercepted from the Angolan Ministry of Defence, instructing the commander of the 6th Military Region to withdraw “all forces and structures” from Cuito Cuanavale, and to prepare bunkers at Menongue, As no Fapla action followed the receipt of this signal, it was interpreted as an attempt at deception....

Wednesday, 24 February 1988: Preparations for the attack
At 11h00 on 24 February Unita's 4th Regular Battalion attacked Fapla elements at Capamba, supported by the G-5s. The forces allocated for the attack on Tumpo moved into their forward assembly areas from 20h20....

Thursday, 25 February 1988: First Attack on Tumpo
The main force comprised 61 Mech with both its Regiment Molopo tank squadron and F Squadron, minus one troop detached to the flanking force. It thus had two tank squadrons less one troop, one mechanised infantry company, one 81 mm mortar group, two anti-tank groups, one assault pioneer platoon, one anti-aircraft group (20mm and SA-7), and an engineer troop. It was to carry out the attack in close conjunction with 32 Battalion and Unita's 3rd, 4th and 5th Regular Battalions. For an historical account of this encounter, see the Historical Accounts section....

Friday, 26 February 1988: Planning for a renewed attack
Considering the details of the failed attack, the South Africans came to the conclusion that any renewed attack would an engineer-intensive operation. It would also require a detailed, deliberate appreciation. A debriefing conference was held on 26 February, attended by General Demosthenes, and this meeting also set out the initial guidelines for a renewed attack....

Saturday, 27 February 1988: Operations order for the attack issued
The operations order detailing the renewed attack on Tumpo was issued on 27 February....

Sunday, 28 February 1988: Tank attack to be launched
A final co-ordinating conference was held on 28 February, with General Demosthenes again present. It had been decided to launch a tank attack during the night of 29 February to 1 March....

Sunday, 28 February 1988: The Second Attack on Tumpo
The South Africans were not really ready for the attack. Eleven of their tanks, four Ratel-90s, five G-5s and one of the rocket launchers were still unserviceable, awaiting spare parts. Colonel McLoughlin decided to go ahead with the attack despite that; the weather was favourable, and he still had seventeen tanks and twelve G-5s to fight with. He did, however, shift the H-hour for the move to the assembly area forward to 15h00....

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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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