History – South African Para Raid on SWAPO

Map of Southern Africa (derived from CIA map)
Map of Southern Africa (derived from CIA map)

In 1978 the South African government conducted a South African para raid against a South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) base in southern Angola. The base was a training and staging area for SWAPO to conduct military operations into Namibia (at the time under South African control). The late 70s was a time that saw a host of hostile conflicts across southern Africa – anti-colonialist movements were prevalent in Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, the Congo, and Namibia.

SWAPO was gearing up to conduct a major offensive in Namibia – striking across the Angolian-Namibia border into Namibia. The South Africans decided to strike first. The large SWAPO base of Cassinga was home to approximately 2,000 insurgents and presented a valuable target for the South Africans. Almost 400 paratroopers were air-dropped in the South African para raid into the battle area – supported by helicopters and Air Force fighters and bombers.

The operation did not go exactly as planned but was a big military success. Unfortunately the information operations machine of SWAPO and the international press painted the operation as a strike against a refugee camp that caused many civilian deaths. In the end the successful parachute operation became a public relations disaster. Read about this airborne operation inĀ South African Paratroopers’ Raid on Cassinga, Warfare History Network, November 3, 2016.

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