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The War In Angola Remembered - This Month, 32 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, 32 Years Ago, In South-East Angola...

Tuesday, 1 December 1987: Fapla's Third Defence Line
13 Brigade, reinforced with a Cuban battalion, was responsible for the defence of Cuito Cuanavale itself. The Divisional Air Defence Brigade was now also deployed in and around the town. A company of 13 Brigade was deployed at Baixa Longa as a screen....

Wednesday, 2 December 1987: G-5s continued interdiction
The G-5s continued their interdiction of Fapla movement on and to their positions, while the Unita screen hampered them in their efforts to drive off the observers....

Thursday, 3 December 1987: G-6s left Rundu for South Africa
The G-6 troop left Rundu for the return journey back to Potchefstroom on 3 December....

Friday, 4 December 1987: Change-over of troops started
61 Mech was in the Mavinga area, changing over its troops and maintaining its equipment. The new troops were drawn from 1 SAI, which had completed its training programme. Commandant Koos Liebenberg relieved Mike Muller and most of the regular 61 Mech officers went on leave and were replaced by the officers who had accompanied the 1 SAI troop from Bloemfontein. Commandant Jan Malan took command of 4 SAI, which was also changing over its troops....

Saturday, 5 December 1987: 20 SA Brigade started planning Operation Hooper
20 SA Bde settled down to plan for the period between 5 and 20 December, when the change-over of troops would be completed. ...

Sunday, 6 December 1987: The G-6s back in Potchfstroom
The G-6 troop were back in Potchefstroom on the 6th, having suffered the indignity of a puncture just outside Rundu on a perfectly adequate gravel road, after they had covered hundreds of kilometres of bush with no tyre problems....

Monday, 7 December 1987: F Squadron arrived
Major Tim Rudman's F Squadron of the School of Armour arrived at Mavinga by air on 7 December, to take over the tanks and vehicles of Major Andre Retief's E Squadron....

Tuesday, 8 December 1987: Orders for Operation Hooper issued
20 SA Bde issued orders for the start of Operation Hooper on 8 December...

Tuesday, 8 December 1987: First 'Smart Bomb' attack on the Cuito bridge aborted
The SAAF launched the first H-2 'smart bomb' attack on the Cuito bridge at 17h25, but technical problems caused it to be cancelled. The Buccaneer that carried it was accompanied by 5 Mirage F-1AZs to act as decoys and give protection....

Wednesday, 9 December 1987: South Africans noticed by Fapla
A reconnaissance patrol of 25 Brigade appears to have noticed and reported the arrival of the South Africans, as the morning of the 9th brought an attack by four MiG-23s at 11h20. The attack was well off-target, but did persuade everyone to dig in a little deeper. At 15h00 Fapla artillery shelled an area five to ten kilometres to the north-west, approximately where the MiG attack had gone in. F Squadron spent the 9th preparing their tanks. ...

Thursday, 10 December 1987: Tank-infantry co-operation drills practiced
A Company of 4SAI joined up on 10 December, to go over tank-infantry co-operation drills on sand models. The two leader groups and the Olifant and Ratel commanders and section leaders then walked the drills, using manpack radios to simulate their vehicle systems....

Friday, 11 December 1987: Artillery shells Tumpo
The artillery shelled various targets during the day, and had carried out two bombardments of the Tumpo logistics base in the early hours, beginning at 05h00. According to signal intercepts, this shelling destroyed forty-one vehicles in the base. The guns and the gunners had been worked very hard for some time now, and Quebec Battery was instructed to move back to the BAA to rest. It was to hand over its serviceable guns to Sierra Battery, giving it a total of six shooting guns, and take seven guns of both batteries back for maintenance, six for new barrels and one to have a new elevation gear fitted....

Saturday, 12 December 1987: Sierra Battery continued to harass Fapla
Sierra Battery continued to harass Fapla with the serviceable guns. A little after 10h00 Captain Eckard saw a radar scanner just north of Cuito Cuanavale, glinting in the sun as it revolved. He engaged it with the G-5s of Sierra battery, producing fire, white smoke and eight loud secondary explosions. Intelligence later confirmed that the radar had been destroyed, together with an ammunition point, a fuel point and 42 vehicles. Forty men were killed in the shelling and the resulting explosions. Another 'smart bomb' attack on the Cuito bridge failed because the bomb malfunctioned....

Sunday, 13 December 1987: More shelling of the Tumpo logistics base
The artillery began firing at the Tumpo logistics base at 07h50. It followed up by shelling the hangar on the air base, and, at 12h00, several 21 Brigade positions. Fapla had moved a BM-21 to a position some twelve kilometres south of Cuito Cuanavale to engage the guns, but this was quickly silenced by Sierra Battery. Another strike was flown against the Cuito bridge at 14h35, but the bomb again malfunctioned an fell into the river just short of the bridge....

Monday, 14 December 1987: Reconnaissance
A Company of 61 Mech was carrying out terrain and trafficability reconnaissance until it joined up with its parent unit. A Squadron and Romeo Battery were to move to just south of the Hube-Chambinga confluence, to place direct and indirect fire on a Fapla tank park south of the Cuito-Chambinga road, and on the Chambinga bridg area....

Tuesday, 15 December 1987: Fapla located a SAA observer
Fapla had meanwhile continued with its efforts to locate either the guns or the observers. 15 December at last brought them some success. At 22h40 the forward observer on the high ground to the north-east of 59 Brigade, Captain Rendo Nell, reported that his party was in contact. The Fapla elements withdrew after a brief firefight, but Fapla had not given up. At 23h00 a 76 mm ZIS-3 gun began shelling the observation post, rather inaccurately. Other Fapla reconnaissance patrols were seen east of 59 Brigade....

Wednesday, 16 December 1987: Air attack on 25 Brigade
16 December was quiet except for an air attack on 25 Brigade. At 22h00 the A Company combat team of 61 Mech fired at possible enemy positions west of the Cuito with 90 mm guns and 81 mm mortars. The G-5s shelled 59 Brigade and the Cuito bridge....

Thursday, 17 December 1987: SAAF attacked 25 Brigade again
17 December also passed quietly with only the G-5s busy as usual against various targets, particularly at the Cuito bridge and in the Tumpo area. At 18h50, two Mirage F-1AZs - two others turned back with technical problems - struck 25 Brigade, causing several secondary explosions. Three SA-13s were launched to no effect, and the pilots also noted an SA-8 and a Flat Face radar in the positions, indicating that 25 Brigade's air defence elements had been brought back on line....

Friday, 18 December 1987: Fapla buildup
Fapla were meanwhile continuing to build up their forces in the 6th Military Region and to reinforce the brigades east of the Cuito. The Angolan Air Force had by now deployed eighteen MiG-23s and thirteen MiG-21s to Menongue, to cover and support their ground forces in the 6th Military Region....

Saturday, 19 December 1987: 61 Mech moved up from Mavinga
61 Mech were ordered to move up to their assembly areas. First cases of malaria reported. Four Mirages attacked 21 Brigade at 06h10. There were still secondary explosions two hours after the attack, although only six Fapla soldiers were killed. 21 Brigade went off the air after, suggesting that its communications vehicles had been hit. Its SA-13s attempted to engage, but appear to have suffered a malfunction....

Sunday, 20 December 1987: 4 SAI moved up from Mavinga
4 SAI, also still at Mavinga, was also ordered to move up to its assembly area....

Monday, 21 December 1987: Fapla attempted to drive away the SAA observers
At 11h22 Fapla launched its most ambitious effort yet to drive away the South African artillery observers. Several 122 mm D-30s shelled Captain Nell's observation post on the Chambinga high ground north-east of 59 Brigade, followed by an attack by a force of about battalion strength. The D-30s were quickly silenced by G-5 fire, and the attack was fended off by the Unita protection elements deployed along the FEBA, a roughly north-south line, supported by the G-5s....

Tuesday, 22 December 1987: SAAF airstrike on Baixa Longa
At 08h55 four Mirages attacked the runway at Baixa Longa, which reported twelve minutes later that six men had been killed and three wounded. A BM-21 was also damaged. For their part, Angolan fighters were back in the air covering a large convoy of 318 vehicles moving from Menongue to Cuito Cuanavale, from early in the morning....

Wednesday, 23 December 1987: General Liebenberg visited the Tactical Headquarters
General Liebenberg visited the Tactical Headquarters during the night of 23 to 24 December to be briefed on the operational planning for Operation Hooper. He felt that Colonel Fouché was being too aggressive, and that the risk of high casualties was too great. He therefore set additional guidelines. The brigade staff immediately began replanning, with emphasis on taking the 21 Brigade position....

Thursday, 24 December 1987: Fapla convoy included more tanks
While this planning was in progress, reconnaissance teams to the west of the Cuito reported that the convoy from Menongue included twenty T-34/85s and fifteen T-55s. The Cuito bridge had by now been so weakened by shelling and air attack that it had to be closed to vehicles....

Friday, 25 December 1987: "A Very Dull Christmas Day"
25 December passed very quietly. Nothing much happened, and the helicopters had not been able to fly in the previous evening to deliver canteen goods to allow even a very modest celebration....

Saturday, 26 December 1987: SAAF attacked 21 Brigade
SAAF aircraft attacked the 21 Brigade positions at 06h30 on 26 December, drawing remarkably prompt 23 mm anti-aircraft fire. The bombs fell mainly in the brigade headquarters and reserve area, destroying an SA-8 launcher vehicle. The air strike was followed by shelling....

Sunday, 27 December 1987: Fapla repaired the Cuito bridge
On 27 December came the bad news that Fapla had at last been able to repair the Cuito bridge sufficiently to allow heavy trucks and tanks to use it again. That meant that Fapla would be able to carry on rebuilding and reinforcing the brigades east of the Cuito. No fewer than four logistics convoys had arrived from Menongue in the meantime, delivering stores and equipment....

Monday, 28 December 1987: Fapla threatened the artillery
Two battalions of 25 and 59 Brigades were seen in the area of the Chambinga source on 28 December. There they presented a threat to the artillery south of the Hube, so Colonel Fouché ordered Commandant Koos Liebenberg to deploy his armoured car squadron, a mechanised infantry company and his mortars west of the gun positions to protect them....

Tuesday, 29 December 1987: SA Artillery continued to strike
At 14h10 Robert Trautmann directed some G-5 air-bursts at Fapla infantry seen at a crossing over the Cuatir, killing sixty-seven of them. The guns also continued to strike at traffic using the Cuito bridge, blowing a truck off it into the river in one of the strikes....

Wednesday, 30 December 1987: Fapla tried crossing the Cuatir again
Another battalion-strength Fapla reconnaissance patrol moved along the north bank of the Cuatir towards its source. At 05h00 on 30 December, they began crossing the Cuatir next to the water point that Trautmann had been shelling daily at 06h00 for the past few days, and only 5 000 metres from the previous day's slaughter. He waited until most of the battalion was in the open flood-plain before he brought down G-5 airburst and 127 mm rockets; The Unita team that had been shadowing them counted 78 dead and wounded. Only twenty men made it to the south bank; the rest of the battalion took cover in the bush on the north bank. Robbed of vision by a brief shower of rain, Trautmann wondered at a battalion commander who would cross a registered target in daylight. When the rain lifted, he found the rest of the battalion attempting to cross. Another forty or so were killed....

Thursday, 31 December 1987: "A quiet New Year's Eve"
New Year's Eve was, like Christmas, quiet. The G-5s fired a hundred rounds at the Cuito bridge to harass movement over it. The 'groundshout' team spent the evening irritating 21 Brigade. The South African artillery celebrated the arrival of 1988 with 10 rounds per gun fired into the Fapla positions at one second past midnight....

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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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