The climactic death-throes of Soviet Communism during the 1980s included a last-gasp attempt at strategic franchise expansion in Southern Africa. Channeled through Castro’s Cuba, oil-rich Angolan armed forces (FAPLA) received billions of dollars of advanced weaponry including MiG 23 and Sukhoi fighter jets, SAM 8 missile systems and thousands of armored vehicles. Their intent – to eradicate the US-backed Angolan opposition (UNITA), then push southwards into South Africa’s protectorate SWA/Namibia, ostensibly as liberators.
1985 saw the first large-scale mechanized offensive in Southern African history. Russian Generals planned and oversaw the offensive but without properly accounting for the tenacity of UNITA (supported by the South African Defense Forces – SADF) or the treacherous terrain typical in the rainy season. The ’85 offensive floundered in the mud and FAPLA returned to their capital Luanda. The South Africans stood down, confident their ‘covert’ support for UNITA had demonstrated the folly of prosecuting war so far from home against Africa’s military Superpower.
The South Africans were mistaken. Fidel and FAPLA immediately redoubled their efforts, strengthening fifteen battalions with even more Soviet hardware while Russian and Cuban specialists oversaw troop training.
As Cuban and Angola fighter pilots honed their skills over the skies of Northern Angola, David Mannall, a normal 17-year old kid completing High School, was preparing for two years of compulsory military service before beginning Tertiary education. Through a series of fateful twists he found himself leading soldiers in a number of full-scale armored clashes including the largest and most decisive battle on African soil since World War II.
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