Fighting for Time

Rhodesia's Military and Zimbabwe’s Independence

Charles Melson

An academic discussion of the lessons to be learnt from the series of conflicts involved Rhodesian, South Africa and Portugal in the 1960s and 1970s.
Date Published :
February 2021
Publisher :
Casemate Academic
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781952715068
Pages : 336
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Also available digitally:
Buy From Amazon Amazon
Buy From Apple Apple
Buy From Barnes and Noble Barnes & Noble
Buy From Google Google
Buy From Kobo Kobo

Casemate will earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking a link here


This academic book looks at the conflicts involving Rhodesia, South Africa and Portugal in conflict with the so-called Frontline states.

From the 1960s through 1970s there were a series of conflicts in Africa involving Rhodesia, South Africa, and Portugal in conflict with the so-called Frontline States. There was an international element with the Cold War and saw American interest at the diplomatic, economic, and social level. In the post-Vietnam period there was participation by individual American soldiers and politicians. Most of what has been published to date about this conflict has been fashionable journalism, narrow unit histories, or personal accounts that lack balance or insights beyond the level of experience. In part, this is because Rhodesian senior leaders did not leave memoirs or analysis and because there was a belief that the Rhodesian diplomatic and political situation was too unique to learn from.

This work, drawing on a wealth of primary sources, examines the transition of the Rhodesian armed services from a general-purpose force to a special operations force conducting intelligence-driven operations, and identifies the lessons that can be learned from the study of this low-intensity conflict at the level of ''tactics, techniques, and procedures." Charles Melson offers a detailed examination of the military response to the emerging revolutionary threat, and the evolution of general and special-purpose units. He addresses the critical use of airpower as a force multiplier supporting civil, police, and army efforts ranging from internal security and border control to internal and external combat operations; the requirement for innovative units and full-time joint command structures; and the escalation of cross-border attacks and unconventional responses as the conflict evolved.

About The Author

Charles D. “Chuck” Melson served as the Chief Historian for the U.S. Marine Corps, at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps in Washington, DC, and the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. His military service included 25 years as a U.S. Marine. For some 23 years he wrote, co-authored, or edited official publications and series. Chuck was also a joint historian with the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. He received the General Edwin Simmons-Henry Shaw Award for public historians, the General Leonard Chapman Medal for professional military educators, and the commemorative Rhodesian Independence Medal.


1: Colonial Heritage
2: Border Control To Cross Border Operations
3: A Question Of Supporting Arms
4: Air Power From Internal Security To Counterinsurgency
5: Provisional To Brigade Joint Operations
6: The Killing Machine
7: Cross Border Attacks
8: Unconventional Warfare: Third Forces
Conclusion: To What End: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat


"This is a solid study with a lot of detail (airplanes, ordnance, and a nineteen-page glossary of Rhodesian military and slang terms) that places the Rhodesian air force firmly within the security forces."

- Journal of Military History

"Military officers with a keen interest in tactics will value Fighting for Time for its stimulating coverage of many aspects of combat not typically found in traditional military histories. Readers interested in airpower and its application in low intensity conflict will find the book to be packed with information on the roles of tactical airlift and close air support."

- Michigan War Studies Review

"This is a fascinating, gripping and detailed account of the operations by the Rhodesia’s military forces (together with the South African and Portuguese military) against the insurgencies being waged by the Frontline States to overthrow the White-ruled country."

- Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International

"Charles Melson has written a fine book on the Rhodesian war effort and deserves a wide readership."

- Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies

More from this publisher