The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - Battle of Bridge 14

in #war4 years ago

After the first tangible South African defeat at Ebo, made worse by muddy roads and bogged down armor, Battle Group Foxbat was pulled back and the route along the tar road was reconsidered.

Foxbat had been sent out to try an alternative route via Ebo because the bridge along the Tar road (bridge 14) had been destroyed by retreating MPLA an Cuban forces. The MPLA had taken a beating in the area in November and retreated over the bridge. They blew up after crossing to the other side to slow the South African advance.

The bridge was over the Nhia river, one of the last major obstacles in the march to the Capital Luanda. It was also near to the MPLA headquarters north of Quibala.

Once over that river there were many roads and possible routes to Luanda. It was this that had Fidel Castro in such a state and poring troops into Angola.

The destroyed bridge crossing was well secured with a large force of over 1000 and plenty artillery of various shapes and sizes.

It was this obstacle, that had sent Foxbat off, looking for an alternative route, in the rainy season mud and to their detriment.

They would not make the same mistake twice.

Extra artillery was brought up from the SWA border.

The MPLA and Cuban positions would need to be weakened sufficiently, to allow the rebuilding of a bridge, before the now combined forces of Foxbat and Zulu could progress any further.

Key to this would be the establishment of an observation post, on the high ground nearby, to direct the newly reinforced artillery.

In the meantime, the MPLA and Cubans were also receiving reinforcements.

With the artillery observation post in place by December 9th, the defenders had been forced to withdraw from the immediate vicinity of the bridge, due to the now highly accurate artillery attacks.

The South African Battle groups now took up positions at the bridge and began working on repairing it.

img source

They were in turn hit by artillery rockets and two engineers were killed.

By 11th December the South African artillery had forced the MPLA/Cuban forces sufficiently far back to allow for working on the bridge again.

This was not without incident, but now they were only fired upon using the BM- 21 multiple rocket launcher vehicles.

img source

The observation post would see the rockets being launched and then radio down to the engineers. They would then have 25 seconds of rocket flight time to scramble to nearby trenches and take cover.

img source

After the barrage was over, they then went straight back to work and in this way the bridge was repaired by December 12th, using poles from blue gum trees nearby.

By now, the artillery observation post had mapped out all the opposing artillery firing positions. They had made the mistake of always using the same established firing positions.

At dawn December 12th the SA artillery began their most vicious assault on all of these positions quickly eliminating most of the MPLA and Cuban Artillery.

Thereafter the ground assault could proceed without hindrance.

It was a bit like shooting fish in a barrel and though the MPLA/Cuban Force had been much larger, the SA forces were already consolidating their new positions by noon.

The victory at Bridge 14 was so complete that the CO of Foxbat, Brig. George Kruys, had to restrain his armoured car commanders from chasing even further after the retreating enemy, an order which they accepted with some reluctance. Kruys knew that his force was too small to be able to transform the retreat into a full-scale rout.

During the battle the South Africans lost four men killed. The Cubans and MPLA lost over 400 men, although the exact number was difficult to ascertain since, as the BBC later reported, truckloads of corpses were constantly driving out of the area towards the north. Among the Cuban dead was the commander of the Cuban expeditionary force, Commandant Raul Diaz Arguelles.

Commandant Raul Diaz Arguelles was none other than the one that had masterminded the ambush at Ebo.

As devastatingly effective as this battle had been, almost payback for the losses at Ebo, it would turn out to be a rather hollow victory for the young men involved...

Other posts in this series

The piece of the cold war nobody told you about - Africa's forgotten war

The Air Battles
The SA Fighter Aircraft
The SA Bomber Aircraft
The conflicts deep roots and start
Regional Tensions
Africa's forgotten cold war - Angolan War of Independence.
Africa's forgotten cold war - Mozambican War of Independence.
Africa's forgotten cold war - Rhodesian Bush War
Africa's forgotten cold war - The Angolan War of Independence transitions to the Angolan Civil War
The South African Border War - The start of Operation Savannah and Large scale South African involvement.
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - the wheels start coming off.
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - Battle of Quifangondo
The South African Border War - Operation Savannah - Battle of Ebo


Absolute good read , many people here in the states know very little about the African wars , but that isn't surprising given they do not teach real history anymore , very interesting reads will have to read the others as well .

Sadly in this world that we live in today people don't know the Reality of things.

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

― Adolf Hitler

The world order is deleting real history as we know it.

Most people here in Africa know nothing about the African wars lol

lol kind of like here , war history is always written by the victors , that doesn't mean it's a truthful account because in our case here it for sure wasn't , i'm sure it's no different there

Nice to read about a battle I was part of! Thanks @gavvet

What role were you in?

really u were?????

thanks for sharing @gavvet! this is an interesting read

The MPLA were kind of the whipping boys of that conflict, huh. Didn't help that UNITA under Savimbi had South African and American backing. The MPLA got - ironically - Nigeria.

And then the FNLA just kind of gets lost in the shuffle historically speaking.

I've always been more interested in the political picture of that era (than the military one) from the Nigerian point of view. What can I say, I'm biased and it was our brief but golden Giant-of-Africa-phase :D

Still a damn good read; sobering and informative.

Nigeria gets a mention in the next installment...

Awesome! 😃

Articles about wars that make the heart sliced, allow me to respond to your article.
the conditions of war is very tiring as you have narrated in your article. Until so tired of war so there is a philosophical expression for us Aceh:

Pat ujeun nyang hana pirang, pat prang Nyang hana reuda.

"That is the sound of Aceh's philosophy of optimism that a rain will surely stop and war will end, and that optimism is proved in the Aceh conflict, war with the Dutch, along with the Japanese occupation of Aceh at that time and long vertical conflict that left victims everywhere but ended, that was the war between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government at that time for a very long time
thanks for adding insight to us

Thanks for opening my eyes to this battle, this is stuff we never hear about. How crazy it must have been to know rockets were coming your way and you have 25 seconds to jump in a hole to try to survive the attack, then immediately get back to work!

@gavvet another great post that's generating some "interesting" comments, sadly some spam as well.

I've recently begun to view these smaller (although not insignificant by any means) glimpses of history in a larger context. Considering them against the backdrop of human history as a whole.

I think I need to include South Africa in an evaluation I'm working on in terms of where it falls in the cycle of empires.

Think of it as an assessment of the available life boat stations if you were to find yourself on the Titanic, knowing what was coming.

I might ask for some input from you in terms of first hand observations, if you'd be willing.

Another really interesting post about the forgotten war in Africa
It is great to see at this moment the South African forces are pushing back the Cuban forces while having the somewhat upper ground in the battle despite the large Cuban resistance.
I can't wait for more @gavvet

War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace!!

Reading this, my friend is like watching a real war movie :) I've hardly heard anything about this war. Actually, I knew that it happened but absolutely no details...

Very good article however like so many wars there are always more scars inflicted than victories.
My family was involved in both South Africa and Rhodesian wars.

Wars are never good to country. It only brings poverty and hunger to a country btw good post.

Africa is such a rich continent but such poor countrys do to exploitation and corruption. Sad really.

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When will it come to an end?

I had never heard of this battle. I think I found it most interesting the Cubans had sent people over to fight in the area. I never knew that. Fascinating stuff and thanks @gavvet for a great recap of what sounds to have been a brutal fight.

That's why I hate international media so much! they didn't publish that this was happen.

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Great info I did not know as South African and SADF member. Thank you for sharing this great info.

This happened well before my time. I was at 9 SAI, Mechanised Infantry Upington 1991 and 1992.

Intelligence 1990 for me.

Cool. :)

This post recieved a 3% upvote from me.

Interesting information. As I never knew such war ever existing in Africa. I hear about war in many other places of the world, but never Africa.

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Much respect to the Cubans and Fidel Castro. The only nation on earth that actually sent troops to help the Africans kick out the European invaders.

It isn't much of a surprise that he was demonized for his bravery for the rest of his life by the west. Cubans are still suffering till today because their leader actually valued the life of Africans.

It makes you think, doesn't it?

I don't know if you know this, but the only reason he and the soviets sent soldiers and equipment to Africa was to gain control over it and turn it into part of the soviet regime. The South Africans, or European invaders as you call us did not wish for communism to spread to the southern parts of Africa and thus fought to keep it out.

There's another train of thought that says perhaps it is up to Africans to figure out which systems they prefer...

Wow never knew this happened. Very eye opening! Thanks!

yes,you are so right.

It's all about the money...

!!! Never knew thankx for sharing @gavvet

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You do a great job @gavvet ,thanks a Lott.

Well researched and presented . I see why its hot .


This is Big

Thank you for the news!

Thank you for this post. The world needs to know more about the history of Africa.

Nice to read about a battle ....Nice post @gavvet

it seems like world war. thanks for this.

I am learning about Mandela and also the Mandela Effect. I learn a bit about what some white people did when they came to some African countries. It is good when African countries can gain more democracy and freedoms.

do one on Dunkirk . Love the movie and i really want to know more about it

Interesting but, I do not like war, because the people ingenous is who go dead and the people who give the orders live it

I've never even heard of this before.

As you get older you realise how selective textbooks actually are and the significant events that are just completely left out or relegated to a few sentences.

Nice post thanks for you imformasion

I think south africa is a safe country, it turns out I was wrong but now I already know a little cause you @gavvet

Thankx for your information ... I upvoted and followed..Please Follow me back..

Is it true? I just found out that :D

Your article is very special to me.

I've forgotten in what order all events occurred, have to reread it again.
Thanks for sharing.

Interesting post. Was not aware about this war.

"During the battle the South Africans lost four men killed. The Cubans and MPLA lost over 400 men." - Nice ratio.

Absolute good rea

Absolute good read

Never knew about this. Good post

A lot information @gavvet. It´s sad people destroy each other on wars, no matter which place it is. People deserve a peace planet where all of us could tolerate and learn from one another. Hope there will be a better tomorrow.

You know During the Cold War, thousands of Cuban doctors, teachers, and construction workers went to Africa, while almost 30,000 Africans studied in Cuba on full scholarships funded by the Cuban government.


Great information my friend!


How harsh the battles are.. spread peace everywhere..

God bless everyone.

War is always an essential evil. No matter how important it is, but it is always an evil, it is never good that we will learn to read the lesson of killing one another and living peacefully together.

It is extremely disgusting to see such things happening around the world.. Thanks for sharing and reminding us that there is a need for change in the world.

its sad that those who brought up
a country and economy to flourish
are now under attack by those who
have profited from it.

only ungratful uneducated people behave like that.
Such people never die out !

Informative and detailed post try to read all related posts about south African war,thanks for sharing @gavvet

Good job bringing history to life! South Africa fascinates me.

Very informative piece @gavvet. A piece of history. Although I detest wars. Hope there's a future for humanity where violence doesn't exist.

Titles, photos and vidios are perfect

Titles, photos vidios are perfect @gavvet

Oh my God.Really scary

Thank you for providing great content on steemit.we always enjoy every reading of your article @gavvet

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