My awareness of the Rhodesian Bush War goes back to my impressionable years of puberty. On trips to Walmart, I would immediately go to the magazine section where they sold Soldier of Fortune magazine. ( oh how times have changed and dates me ). Some months there would be articles on the wars being fought in Southern Africa, usually concentrating on American ‘mercenaries’ who made the trip and joined the Armies of Rhodesia and South Africa.
One major contributor was a Captain Bob Mackenzie of the Rhodesian SAS. I didn’t know what that was but the stories were extremely scary and interesting to a 12 year old. I also remember the old recruiting poster of Be a Mann among Men with a Troopie and his trusted FN FAL and distinctive head gear. Though I can’t say that I remember the content of the articles, I knew how they made me feel as described above. Rambo was in the movie theaters and I imagined this guy was similar to him. The truth was not far off.
I eventually joined the US Navy at 17 and tried out for UDT/BUDS but failed the physical. The dreams faltered but I served my time on board the storied USS Enterprise which still retained the graffiti from the Vietnam Air War and learned the lessons that all young men should learn during their stint and after 25 years+, if I heard Attention On Deck, I would pop up out of my chair wondering what Officer graced us with his presence and often, what I had done to deserve a visit. 🙂
Fast forward a BA degree in Ancient History and some attempts to write a historical novel centered around the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD and the Romans consequently crushing it and destroying the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem. It had started with my Senior Thesis on the subject. During this time, Band of Brothers was raging and I loved it and spent a few years studying WW2 and my Grandfathers war and discovered facts about his job as a Reconnaissance ‘Shore Party’ during the Solomon Islands Campaign. I then became interested in studying the Vietnam War. I grew up with a father and uncle who served in the Marine Corps during that time. My uncle became a member of 3rd Marine Recon Battalion Company A.
My mind drifted back to the Soldier of Fortune magazine and at the time, it was still published in paper form and was on news racks. I came across a story about an American and his experience in Rhodesia, a country I had not heard of in years. My curious mind began to research this topic. The internet was in it’s infancy and little to nothing came of my hard work. Over the years, more internet material became available and as memoirs and histories became available I gorged as much as was available. I found a book seller in South Africa who had a library on the subject. I spent alot of time and money to learn about the war.
I had taken up writing and was 100k words into a WW2 novel when an opportunity to write about the Rhodesian war randomly came up through a contact with the editor of a new website. SOFREP.com…It was a website written by ‘Operators’ for Operators and curious onlookers. I told the editor that I wanted to submit an article to him on FIRE FORCE tactics and techniques used in Rhodesia. He broke his rule, in that I was not a veteran of any special operations force. He loved the article, admitting that he didn’t expect it to make the cut and I ended up writing close to 20 articles for them as well as publishing a book with MacMillan called Africa Lost-Rhodesia’s COIN Killing Machine.
Published in 2013, it still sells and has close to 150 reviews at 4.5 stars. I ventured into writing novels. My first, Task Force Intrepid: The Gold of Katanga earned some nice reviews and initially sold well. It follows an American run PMC who is contracted to take back a newly discovered vein of Gold in the Copper belt of Katanga. The villains are taken from the headlines, history and conjecture. I quickly followed with a novella called Highway to Hell. It was hurried but it provided some back story to my main Protagonist- Willem Kruger. His background may seem impossible to people but he is based on a composite of many many men, alot of which are still in the warfighting business all over the world.
Willem Kruger, of South African Boer heritage although his father went north for opportunity to farm, began his military career in 1979 by joining the elite Rhodesian Light Infantry after his farm had been destroyed and his mother, father and siblings had been killed by ‘freedom fighters’. He missed the execution through sheer providence as he visited his uncle and cousin who were professional hunters in South Africa. He excelled as a soldier in some of the most vicious battles and camp attacks towards the coming end of the nation.
His adventures take him on to South Africa’s Para’s for a short time and 5 Recce Commando which specialized in psuedo operations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. After the end of Apartheid and the closing down of many Special Force elements, opportunities came about to work as a private contractor. Forthcoming books will examine his experiences as well as a planned series on an American who came to Rhodesia and fought in a war he believed, rightly so, against communist expansion.
He now leads a multinational team of specialists in Africa on missions of importance to Governments and Industry.
Back to the title of this article, if you have no knowledge of the war or very little, you can pick up my guidebook for a primer on Amazon- Africa Lost-Rhodesia’s COIN Killing Machine.
For more in depth stories a man of immense talent has put out three books and a series of YouTube interviews which are spell binding and which I consider a Magnum Opus over anything put out currently. His name is Hannes Wessels.
The titles of his books are ‘A Handful of Hard men’, ‘We Dared to Win’ with Andre Scheepers and ‘The Fighting Men of Rhodesia’. For video interviews that helped inform his books, simply type in You Tube’s search bar, The Fighting Men of Rhodesia and sit back and be prepared to gain an understanding not just of the history and tactics of a counter insurgency war but an insight into men who often spent a decade or more DEPLOYED six weeks in the bush and 10 days home, year after year.
His material is simply the finest material out on Rhodesia’s war.
As for me, after several years of parenting and consuming work, I am about halfway through my sequel to The Gold of Katanga. It’s title is Task Force Intrepid: Kivu Crisis. It is much broader in plot and action. I have learned alot over the years and decided it’s now or never. With the books and articles mentioned here, you have at least a couple of months worth of reading.
Look for more updates as things progress. As I stated, I attempt to take the readers on journeys into the past and present and potential future. I hope you will join me.