Episode 87 –Crocodiles attack Recces and the Lomba River heavy metal clash looms
The Apartheid government was also facing an internal uprising and new organisations had been developed to deal with these.
In this episode we hear about Colonel Piet Muller who commanded Sector 20 in SWA.
He had considered the threat posed by FAPLA which was now attacking UNITA head-on at Mavinga and the Angolan rebel movement led by Jonas Savimbi was wilting.
Muller had a plan involving a Brigade-sized force and a three pronged attack. First he thought that FAPLA should be hit behind the lines so to speak, by ignoring their advance east of the Cuito River and focus on the West, hitting the Cubans and Russian support at Menongue.
That would halt the supply of heavy weapons streaming eastwards.
This implied something else. Quito Cuanavale needed to be attacked and subdued, even further north west because it was the fulcrum, a point through which everything heading towards UNITA was now moving. It was a strategic target that was also juicy.
And third, was to create some kind of direct head-on clash further east of the Quito River at some point after the supply lines had bee cut, which would give the Angolans a bloody nose.
Colonel Jock Harris who commanded 32 Battalion thought this an excellent idea. It conformed to SADF tactical doctrine, using the mechanised brigades, punching first, using the troops directly to take on the Cubans and FAPLA driving their armoured vehicles and tanks towards UNITA forces.
We are moving inexorably towards the battle for Quito Cuanavale, and this period has been debated particularly hotly by military historians so I’m going to tread very carefully indeed.
I also have some excellent source material from the Russians - so unlike some of the other battles, I’ll be able to tell you what was going on day to day from both sides.
One of the Russians is Vyacheslave Aleksandrovich Mityaev, who was in Angola between 1986 and 1989, advising FAPLA reconnaissance units. He was stationed in the 6th Military district in Manongue and Quito Cuanavale and had a great deal of experience facing 32 Battalion, the Recces and 61 Mech.