Battle for Cassinga

South Africa's Controversial Cross-Border Raid, Angola 1978

Mike McWilliams

Date Published :
October 2019
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Illustration :
8 pages color photos, many b/w photos, maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781907677397
Pages : 80
Dimensions : 11.75 X 8 inches
Stock Status : Available
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781912866847
Pages : 72
Dimensions : 11.75 X 8.25 inches
Stock Status : Available
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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.

About The Author

Mike McWilliams works in the Renewable Energy and Climate Change field. He has been a television cameraman and the owner of a design consultancy. He did military service in 1970, starting as an infantryman at 6 South African Infantry but immediately volunteered to train as a Paratrooper at 1 Parachute Battalion in Bloemfontein. He served in 1 Para Bn, 2 Para Bn and 3 Para Bn completing many 3 month stints as Fire Force in Owamboland South West Africa until 1978. The Battle for Cassinga was his last operation. Mike was a skydiver and won the South African National Championships five years in succession from 1980 to 1984 and also competed at World Parachuting Championships and World Cups in both Free Fall Relative Work as well as Canopy Relative Work. In 1983 he captained the South African 8 Way Team to a Bronze Medal at the World Championships. Mike is married to Frances and has three sons. His interests are classical music, chess, hunting, motorcycles and reading.


"One of the most successful, daring airborne operations of all times"

- Lt-Col Robert Brown, Soldier of Fortune

"Africa@War is a ground-breaking series concept, studying Africa’s conflicts and military players in an informative and entertaining manner, examining some of the lesser-known campaigns and shedding new light on some of the better-known operations ... Both titles are great models of what the combination of authors and publishers can produce by way of useable case studies for the market place in a concise illustrated format. They are recommended as professional military education references."

- Charles D. Melson, Chief Historian, U.S. Marine Corps

Each of the books in this series is a well-documented and researched synopsis of the events that they are focused upon. They layouts and presentation are logical and of a very high quality ... As an introduction to this field of operation, this series is outstanding. A definite asset for those wishing to improve their knowledge and understanding of the development of successful, multi-faceted doctrine in the fight against insurgent/assymetric war."

- Major Chris Buckham, Royal Canadian Air Force

"This book is just tailor-made for a tabletop scenario: small, mobile elite paratroopers with air support on the attack against better-than-average militants with armor in the wings. Well-written, too. Enjoyed it."

- Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

"Mike McWilliams is a good writer and his impassioned perspective led me to read this tome in one night...The contemporary photographs support the text, and they certainly give you a good perspective of the events described."


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