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Portugal's Guerrilla Wars in Africa. Lisbon's Three Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea 1961-74 [Hardcover]

Al J. Venter
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Dec 2013
Portugal's three wars in Africa in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea (Guiné-Bissau today) lasted almost 13 years - longer than the United States Army fought in Vietnam. Yet they are among the most underreported conflicts of the modern era. Commonly referred to as Lisbon's Overseas War (Guerra do Ultramar) or in the former colonies, the War of Liberation (Guerra de Libertação), these struggles played a seminal role in ending white rule in Southern Africa. Though hardly on the scale of hostilities being fought in South East Asia, the casualty count by the time a military coup d'état took place in Lisbon in April 1974 was significant. It was certainly enough to cause Portugal to call a halt to violence and pull all its troops back to the Metropolis. Ultimately, Lisbon was to move out of Africa altogether, when hundreds of thousands of Portuguese nationals returned to Europe, the majority having left everything they owned behind. Independence for all the former colonies, including the Atlantic islands, followed soon afterwards. Lisbon ruled its African territories for more than five centuries, not always undisputed by its black and mestizo subjects, but effectively enough to create a lasting Lusitanian tradition. That imprint is indelible and remains engraved in language, social mores and cultural traditions that sometimes have more in common with Europe than with Africa. Today, most of the newspapers in Luanda, Maputo - formerly Lourenco Marques - and Bissau are in Portuguese, as is the language taught in their schools and used by their respective representatives in international bodies to which they all subscribe. Indeed, on a recent visit to Central Mozambique in 2013, a youthful member of the American Peace Corps told this author that despite having been embroiled in conflict with the Portuguese for many years in the 1960s and 1970s, he found the local people with whom he came into contact inordinately fond of their erstwhile 'colonial overlords'. As a foreign correspondent, Al Venter covered all three wars over more than a decade, spending lengthy periods in the territories while going on operations with the Portuguese army, marines and air force. In the process he wrote several books on these conflicts, including a report on the conflict in Portuguese Guinea for the Munger Africana Library of the California Institute of Technology. Portugal's Guerrilla Wars in Africa represents an amalgam of these efforts. At the same time, this book is not an official history, but rather a journalist's perspective of military events as viewed by somebody who has made a career of reporting on overseas wars, Africa's especially. Venter's camera was always at hand; most of the images used between these covers are his. His approach is both intrusive and personal and he would like to believe that he has managed to record for posterity a tiny but vital segment of African history. Nominated for the NYMAS Arthur Goodzeit Book Award 2013.

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Portugal's Guerrilla Wars in Africa. Lisbon's Three Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea 1961-74 + The Flechas. Insurgent Hunting in Eastern Angola, 1965-1974 (AFRICA@WAR Series 11)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Helion and Company (5 Dec 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909384577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909384576
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.9 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 178,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
From the perspective of today it seems barely credible: between 1961-1974 Portugal fought three separate wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. The African countries were possessions of Portugal and put together were more than 20 times the size of the colonial power. At the time, Portugal was an impoverished country - the second poorest in Europe - with a population of just 9 million and a small military that hadn't seen action in generations. Yet it managed to run several military campaigns for a period over twice as long as the American presence in Vietnam and with a reasonable degree of effectiveness for much of the time, despite the huge logistical challenges. By 1974 the military campaigns were consuming nearly half of Portugal's GDP; it was an unsustainable effort and in April 1974 a coup in Lisbon resulted in a change of government and a rapid end to Portugal's empire. The Portuguese armed forces could never have hoped to win, but nor were they defeated in the conventional sense.

This book is a detailed account of those forgotten wars, written by someone who was there. Al Venter is a British journalist who spent a considerable amount of time in Africa with the Portuguese forces, and writes with both passion and objectivity. He was also a keen photographer, and the book is lavishly illustrated with his work. There are few comprehensive works on these campaigns, which did not capture the imagination and interest of the Anglosphere in the way that Vietnam and Rhodesia did. Such that do exist tend to be in Portuguese, making them inaccessible to many historians. But the story deserves to be told; not to glorify or defend the indefensible but to understand the wider context in which White Africa existed and the events that helped lead to its demise. It is essential reading for anyone interested in subsequent events in Rhodesia and South Africa, by providing the background to what was happening 'over the border'.

Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diversified,personally experienced 18 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Reading about my country's african wars from the perspective of someone who travelled there extensively and did not try to take a stand for or against but rather related his contacts and what he experienced there.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unknown history that few Americans ever read about. 7 April 2014
By Rufusfirefly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was a treasure trove of facts and information about a war that the US press covered very minutely if at all. In fact only when the Carnation Revolution came to pass did most Americans realize that Portugal had been fighting 3 Vietnams at one time, and with somewhat better success than the US did. Shame that American political leaders never read books like this, or have advisors who do rather than make policy decisions on partisan politics. This book really details these conflicts and Mr. Venter had the luck to have visited some of the theaters of operation and came back to tell the tale.
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