The battle of Cuito Cuanavale was the final major clash in the long Border War, a clash between South Africa on one side and the Angolans, Cubans and SWAPO on the other. The war was largely fought in southern Angola, where the South Africans were attempting to stop SWAPO getting into Namibia and to prop up the UNITA movement.
The battle is covered in the same author’s book on the SADF in the Border War. The two books share the same maps, but this book benefits from the large selection of photographs that illustrate the action. This demonstrate how difficult much of the terrain was, dominated by thick bush, which the pictures show to have been a regular forest in much of the battlefield.
The majority of the evidence comes from the South African side, mainly because the author feels there is a lack of trustworthy material from the Angolan or Cuban side (or indeed any real access to archives in the case of Cuba). However he does make an effort to be fair to the other players in the war, even if it isn’t always possible to give a detailed account of their decisions.
The author is a little too concerned with who ‘won’ the battle, especially as it comes across as a draw, with the Angolans failing to achieve their initial objectives and the SADF failing to achieve their final objectives, while the entire battle was overshadowed by the peace talks that soon ended the war, with South Africa withdrawing from Angola and South West Africa, which became independent as Namibia, with SWAPO, the organisation South Africa was attempting to defeat, as the elected government ever since.
Apart from that, this is a solid account of a battle that was part of several different conflicts, and that ended as a draw that perhaps helped make a reasonable peace more likely.
1 - Background
2 - Into the fray
3 - Counteroffensive
4 - Stormclouds arise
5 - Into the cauldron
6 - End-game
7 - So, who won?
Author: Leopold Scholtz