The South African Border War - Operation Savannah the withdrawal.

in #war3 years ago

With the politicians minds finally made up, it was time, for the now around 3000 strong SA forces, to consolidate their gains, hand them over to UNITA and hot foot it out of Angola, hopefully by the end of January.

The 4 battle groups had to retain security, capture what remained to be captured and enable UNITA going forward.

December was however still mostly a consolidation phase and so, after taking the bridge at the battle of bridge 14; and in spite of it now being an unwanted asset, there were still defensive and other preparations to be made.

To prevent a counter offensive and complete the mopping up of the immediate area, the armor and infantry took up forward positions. The artillery had to take up positions in the areas which the MPLA and Cubans had just occupied.

Since the other forces were still busy mopping up pockets of resistance and establishing new lines, the "clean-up" of the area fell to the artillery gunners. "Clean-up" in this instance euphemistically referred to, among other things, the disposal of the dead.

Artillery gunners often experience battle from many kilometers away without being involved in the thick of the fighting and death.

This particular set of artillerymen were teenage conscripts and were normally based at the SWA border. This short excursion into Angola had been anticipated as an adventure by them.

Their adventure was about to turn into a nightmare and their victory, hollow.

Not only did the battle of bridge 14 take place unnecessarily, but it would turn out to be the bloodiest of the whole operation and they would be left with the unenviable task of clearing away the dead.

These were also not just any dead, these were their own handiwork.

Many of the dead in this battle had succumbed to the artillery shells that these teenagers had fired at them. This had been a surprise dawn attack on the opposition artillery positions. Many had been caught out in the open, by the opening barrages, with the resultant explosions and shrapnel, dismembering and shredding many of their targets.

It is one thing to fire explosive ordinances at an enemy from kilometers away. It entirely another thing to pick up bits and pieces one has created. The "enemy" is so easily demonized at a distance, but suddenly, they become all to human, at close range, especially when dealing with their body parts and shredded corpses.

The sights of the day would fill the hours of the night. Since not everything would be recovered and buried in mass graves, the stench of death would be there to remind one in the morning and all the following days, until they were moved out a week later...

img source

Not much was known about PTSD in the 70's, since the war in Vietnam had only just ended. It would be years before this kind of psychological trauma would be better understood.

These teen conscripts would have to process the horrors of war on their own.

The SA Government, still obsessed with secrecy had the withdrawing columns hold up during the day and only cross the border back into SWA at night to avoid the prying eyes of journalists. There would be no heroes welcome.

Many of the returning troops were also segregated, at their bases, from the new intake of conscripts and some were not even allowed to communicate with them until their unceremonious discharge.

This would not be the first or last time a military has turned its back on its fighting men...

Other posts in this series

The piece of the cold war nobody told you about - Africa's forgotten war

The Air Battles
The SA Fighter Aircraft
The SA Bomber Aircraft
The conflicts deep roots and start
Regional Tensions
Africa's forgotten cold war - Angolan War of Independence.
Africa's forgotten cold war - Mozambican War of Independence.
Africa's forgotten cold war - Rhodesian Bush War
Africa's forgotten cold war - The Angolan War of Independence transitions to the Angolan Civil War
The South African Border War - The start of Operation Savannah and Large scale South African involvement.
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - the wheels start coming off.
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - Battle of Quifangondo
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - Battle of Ebo
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - Battle of Bridge 14
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - Battle of Luso
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah comes to an end.


Thank you for sharing

So last time I asked you about the mines, and you sent my prince Harry. Are there areas, that everyone knows to stay out of? Are they close to the towns

They are close to towns and they are pretty much demarcated now, but they weren't for a long time and thousands lost life or limbs.

This photo of mass grave is so disturbing. We are all familiar with the horror and inhumanity which occured during WWI, WWII or Vietnam War, but most of us don't really know the history of african continent, and the crimes and terror which occured on those lands. I am very thankful to you for opening our eyes with your remarkable posts.

You want to see what a country looks like after the white man leaves. Go to Zimbabwe or South Africa.

That mass grave photo is horrific. I've been following these posts. Genuinely suprised I didn't know of this and horrified while learning about it.

There is worse to come...

This would not be the first or last time a military has turned its back on its fighting men...

Sadly, that's exactly what nations do, almost invariably.

Along with this unacknowledged history of its involvement in SA, the US ignores the betrayals of its own veterans.

American troops, led by the "hero" Douglas MacArthur were turned against American Veterans of WWI in Washington D.C. in what was referred to as the Bonus Army. Tear gas & tanks were used against not only veterans, but their wives & children.

That's not exactly good for military recruitment.

Sad and tragic.

Battle field always a messy place. And no one wants a war. Instead of sending young man to die, why not there leaders go to ring and fight to death. No casualty, only two lives will lost.

I m agree with you!

Bring back champions...

I love this "Their adventure was about to turn into a nightmare and their victory, hollow." Because most soldiers who go to war for heroic indulgence often think it's an adventure until things get real. I recently read a post, where a guy was recommending that the US should go to war with North Korea without further delays. if he had read any of your war series he wouldn't be so fired up! @gavvet Thanks for sharing! and creating awareness about the horrific tragedy behind wars!

Sickening stuff. 'Unnecessary' battles with that much carnage are just horrible. A real 'eye-opener' though to say the least.

Thank you for sharing the history of the war in Africa. I am still very little aware of the history of war on the African continent. Following each of your posts has added knowledge to me. Especially regarding the war in Africa. I will be waiting for each of your posts.

Thank you @gavvet.

Thanks for his imformation. Today I begin to understand what your condition is like in Africa. I wish you well there. You should never be affected by the incitement of people outside of Africa so battle against your own brother. Create an everlasting peace there, lest there be any more blood flowing, and there should never be a futile death. Peace greetings from indonesia

Every time I come to your blog, you give me a good post @gavvet
I hope we can be friends

Thanks for sharing this African war history with us. We should never forget the horrors of war, and find peaceful solutions to our disagreements.

A great adventurer, a very interesting post
thanks for sharing

I hope that our civilization will raise the level of collective consciousness as fast as possible in order to prevent wars like this one. It is so sad to see people hurting each other, hurting animals, the nature, the world we live in. Instead doing this, we should SPREAD LOVE!

Thanks for the information.

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Sad to see this post is talking about more bloodshed in some battles against the Cuban forces. The mass graves are really sickening to see and it really does hurt me to realise how many lives were lost just so South African and other colonies can gain their independence under the oppressive ruling or Portugal and Cuba.
Another really enthralling post @gavvet

waw.... nice pos friend I LIKE IT

Thanks for sharing these unknown stories from history. Wars are really shit, so much loss of precious lives....

Ohhh... So sad

Nobody like war, and nobody wants to be died. I hope the war will be end soon.

its sad that in some regions of world is always wars , and there is always this kind of photos like this last one with mass graves, i just hope in future there will be more peaceful times around the world.

oh my God,, It s awful @gavvet

fascinating history... can not imagine the life back then.. thanks for sharing

Good postings pack, you have provided a post like this so that people know what has happened in the state, thanks for the information @gavvet

It's an incredible slaughter field mr. @gavvet. very terrible,,,!!!

To prevent a counter offensive and complete the mopping up of the immediate area, the armor and infantry took up forward positions. @naz722

Leats pray for peaceful and greater Africa ! God bless Africa !!

Big saga brand struggle, thank goodness we are not like them, we just stay enjoy it, may they be protected by god @gavvet

why don't this war stop . every time a war occure and thousand of people dies. :(

Thanks for your work man, I am feeling like travelling in time!


Thank you for sharing. Someone actually referred you to me. Please visit my blog to check this: and drop a comment. Following you already. Thanks

Thank you for your post and the provided links in the end of it. Not something we might happen to come across to most history books in our schools ;)

All kinds of battles will leave only dark memories. Unless war defends religion and belief, not war for power

Hopeful tha war finish soon:0

this is a really great read. thanks for sharing @gavvet. i always without fail enjoy your work

Africa isnt poor its just being robbed of its resources. Shout out to colonialism for exploiting on a massive scale. Thanks for talking about it bro.
Enjoyed gaining knowledge!

Yours Truly,

#Theeillgloryfactory 🙏

Heavy. Great content @gavvet

Have you read Douw Steyn's Iron Fist From The Sea - South Africa's Seaborne Raiders?

A mate of mine's dad wrote it, definitely worth checking out imo. Anyway, thanks for the brilliantly put together posts - I am going to spend quite a lot of time with it.

Thanks for sharing!

damn so many dead bodies its just like holocaust.

Thank you for sharing

Thanku 4 sharing

I do not know much about this, but now getting interested.

Nice post, follow me

Good post with lots on interesting facts to know.

An interesting story. War only sacrifices many innocent human lives. I hate war, but I like history. Thank for sharing @gavvet

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That's exactly what nations do, almost invariably.

brutality intention increased that time...