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Synopsis

Battle for Cassinga is written as a firsthand account by an ordinary South African paratrooper who was at the 1978 assault on the Angolan headquarters of PLAN, the armed wing of SWAPO. The book relates why the South African government took the political risk in attacking the fortress in an external operation and examines the SWAPO claims that Cassinga was a refugee camp guarded by a few PLAN soldiers. It also explains why Sam Nujoma the SWAPO leader had no option but to perpetuate this falsehood. The battle, although a resounding success, suffered some setbacks which could have been disastrous to the South African paratroopers had they not maintained the initiative. The improvisations made by the commander Col Jan Breytenbach ensured that a flawed jump and poor intelligence did not adversely affect the outcome. The unforeseen Soviet-made anti-aircraft guns used against both aircraft and ground troops threatened to derail the attack. An appearance of a large column of armor manned by Cubans from the nearby town of Techamutete, when half the South African force had already left the battleground, placed the remaining lightly armed paratroopers in mortal danger. The landmines laid by the South Africans, together with the brave actions of the South African Air Force pilots saved the day, allowing the remaining forces to withdraw safely. Battle for Cassinga looks at all the players in a critical light. SWAPO and PLAN, the SADF and the commanders from both sides, Dimo Amaambo of PLAN and Jan Breytenbach of the SADF as well as the brave soldiers from both sides who fought for their political ideologies but perhaps, more importantly, for their own band of brothers.

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