Al Venter’s Hardback, 368 page book on South Africa’s 23-year Border War along the Angolan frontier offers a host of new perspectives. These include details about units like the South African Air Force 44 Squadron which converted Dakota aircraft into flying gun platforms similar to those used in America’s war in South-East Asia. He also has American nuclear specialist David Albright – one of the leading authorities on nuclear proliferation – take a long hard look at Pretoria’s atom bomb program. Elsewhere he deals with the medium-range intercontinental ballistic missile programme that was developed (with Israeli help) in conjunction with building the bomb.
The Soviet Union committed huge amounts of military hardware, and military advisers/trainers for FAPLA ). Cuba made an even more massive military investment. It ultimately dispatched an expeditionary force to Angola which reached a maximum strength of about 55,000, with a total of almost 380,000 Cuban military personnel serving in the country from 1975 through 1991. If SWAPO took over, or destabilized SWA, whether or not Angolan or Cuban troops moved into SWA, the front line would shift south several hundred miles to the border with South Africa proper.
Venter takes a fresh look at the enemies that were ranged against the SADF, and in particular how SWAPO guerrillas fared. They were obviously a gutsy, well-trained and well-motivated guerrilla force to have survived almost a quarter century of hostilities: indeed, as an insurgent force they were streets ahead of other guerrilla groups such as those who fought the Portuguese and the Rhodesians. Combat-wise, South Africa’s ANC military wing does not even begin to compare. A chapter looks at what gave the six-wheeled ‘thin-skinned’ Ratel Infantry Combat Vehicle the ability to tackle Soviet main battle tanks in combat during the course of several Angolan conventional bush war battles and thrash them.