Reflections by comrade Fidel
THE BATTLE OF THE TRUTH AND MARTIN BLANDINO’S BOOK
The intensity of the actions by the small group of MiG-21 pilots was related by the author as follows:
“Despite the confidentiality demanded from members of the General Staff and the assistants at the commanding posts it’s impossible to prevent any leaking about a war action lasting more than eight days and keeping an atmosphere of great tension among men and women on both sides of the ocean.
“How can anyone hide, for example, the deafening noise of 239 take offs and landings by fighter jet planes –over 50 a day—even though such a high number of sorties was accomplished by only nine pilots who remained in the air an average of two and a half hours each day during battle, including one who completed almost four sorties every day which means that he spent 3 hours and 45 minutes in one after another of these stressing missions?
“What is the method that can secure the secret movement of the thousands of men that make up the reinforcement armored columns? How is it possible to hide the movement of the approximately 200 vehicles that make up each of these --including tanks, artillery and armored transportation vehicles—along hundreds of miles to Munhango, Tempue, Luena and other places, from Huambo, Menongue and other locations in the extensive Angolan territory?”
The armored column from Huambo on its way to Cangamba, the same that after the lifting of the siege received instructions to turn left in the direction of Luena, reports to the commanding post on the radio “that they have run out of fuel.” As related in the book, “this and the column from Menongue are ordered to stay put and to take the necessary safety measures until they are refueled. The decision is then made to use the helicopters to send them the important supply. As usual, it becomes extremely difficult to locate the column. The aircrafts spend quite some time flying but find nothing. Finally, some sheets extended on trees make it possible to locate them.”
Colonel Calvo reports: “Six helicopters leave from Luena towards Munhango, which is 16 miles south of Luena, taking 42 cans of gasoline --about 10 thousand liters-- to Sotomayor’s column. The blades of the H-08 are busted during landing. Later they leave toward the Tempue region to locate Suarez’s column in order to deliver some documents and fetch three injured.”
Suarez’s armored column that had left from Menongue towards Cangamba was very distant from Luena, the place the helicopters had departed from carrying the fuel. It’s a long trip due Angola’s extensive territory covering an area approximately eleven times that of Cuba. It was the territory where the Soviet advisor suggested launching an offensive using Cuba’s assault brigade; this was the source of the described contradiction.
“A few minutes past midnight, when in Luanda it was already Saturday the 13th, a report is received in Cuba that the order to evacuate every Cuban internationalist from Cangamba had been discharged. The high command of the FAR ratifies the decision that the column from Huambo should continue moving towards Luena while the Menongue column should return to that city” (a major bulwark in the South Front).
“It is also my birthday and early I receive a kiss from my family; telepathically sent. In the afternoon I am presented with one bottle of wine and one of rum, and we celebrate the Commander’s birthday (it was the same day) and mine too.
Then he goes on to explain:
“But the pilots and the members of the armored columns would still see more action. Two helicopters take off carrying 14 cans of gasoline, about 2800 liters, for the Menongue column which is on its way back to that city. Once this first flight is completed, they leave towards the Menongue airport to continue their fuel supplies from there. Four others Mi-8 also take off from Luena towards Munhango carrying an additional 5600 liters of gasoline. Their mission is to refuel the Huambo column which is now headed to Luena to reinforce the troops that are defending that city.
“There are plenty of reasons that justify these measures, since the Cuban command is still worried. Apparently, the Angolan authorities have decided, at least by now, not to evacuate their troops from Cangamba and there is the risk that the enemy attacks again, both the village and the columns still marching through hazardous roads.”
In a detailed description of the events in Cangamba based on testimonies and documents and offered under the epigraph “The assessment is confirmed”, the author takes us to the hours of highest tension in those days:
“It’s still long before sunrise in Angola. It’s Sunday, August 14. It is 04:45 hours in Luanda and the combatants on guard duty at the Communications Center in the headquarters of the Cuban Military Mission are drowsy as it is almost dawn and they have not slept all night. But then a message comes in from Havana, --where it is still 23:45 hours of the previous day-- which rapidly wakes up everybody in the room filled with technical devices.
“Slowly, the coded text is becoming intelligible. Its content, addressed to Division General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, brings precise instructions from the Commander in Chief: ‘Be prepared to give air support to FAPLA in Cangamba; if the Angolans ultimately decide to pull out, help them with the helicopters.’ Fidel warns that the enemy has sustained great losses but our combatants should not be overconfident: ‘We have discharged our duty, and done and advised what’s right.’”
That Sunday, at dawn, eight South African bombers dropped their deadly load on the positions where the Angolan and Cuban forces had been deployed in Cangamba. Again the apartheid regime was taking direct action in Angola. The Yankees and their South African allies did not accept their devastating defeat. The MiGs-21 and the closer radars were 250 miles away.
“Colonel N’Gongo (Deputy Chief of the FAPLA General Staff):
“Once the puppets had been defeated, the South Africans found themselves forced to get directly involved in combat. That’s how the South African racist forces completely destroy the population of Cangamba using four Canberra aircraft and four Impala MK-2 planes.”
“Lieutenant Colonel Henry:
“…we had won the battle in Cangamba; we, the pilots, had even thought of an air parade, quite a show, flying over the place and all, and then Fidel says: ‘…I don’t want anybody there, neither Cubans nor FAPLA.’ I must admit that we acted on this order out of discipline and confidence in the Commander in Chief but at that moment we did not understand…”
“…truly, the Commander in Chief is either a magician or he has a crystal ball. He orders the urgent evacuation from Cangamba and little after that a squadron of Impalas and another of Canberra come up with a carpet bombing! He anticipated that in view of the defeat suffered by UNITA the South Africans would come to bomb the area. At the Mission we said: ‘Damn it, the truth is the Commander in Chief made quite a decision!”
“Division General Leopoldo Cintra Frias:
“Sometimes we think that the Chief is a fortune teller. If the Cubans had been there, we would have again been involved in a still longer combat and under more difficult conditions for us because refueling would have been more difficult.”
These opinions were expressed at a time when the tension had decreased, after the uncertain and dramatic days of the battle. However, none of those chiefs failed to discharge the instructions received with absolute discipline, efficiency and seriousness. It is absolutely true that when the times are hard confidence in the leaders is what makes things work.
Amels Escalante, who is also an astute and zealous researcher, was strictly rigorous in his description of the Jigue battle 20 years after the event. In that place, 45 years back in the month of July 1958, some 120 men --most of them draftees from the Minas del Frio school— commanded by ten or twelve chiefs who were veterans of our war in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, fought for ten days and caused the enemy and its reinforcements three casualties for every one of them involved in the action; and they seized hundreds of weapons. Amels, following the same method as Jorge Martin Blandino, had compiled more details than I had of that battle.
In his book Cangamba, Martin Blandino offers some details:
“Between August 18 and 23, 1983, just a few days after the evacuation of the Cuban advisors from Cangamba, the ships Donato Marmol, Ignacio Agramonte and Pepito Tey left for Angola from the ports of Santiago de Cuba, Matanzas and Mariel. Thus the exploit of 1975 was repeated under different circumstances. Three battalions of tanks and one mechanized infantry battalion are making their journey to the African country in the hold of these merchant ships protected from the enemy intelligence means. That first step is soon followed by many others in the military, political and diplomatic arena until the FAPLA and the Cuban internationalist contingent are in a position to defeat the new thrust by the foreign aggressor and its local allies.
“All of this happens at a time when Cuba is facing the possibility of a large direct military aggression by the United States armed forces, at a time when the country is involved in a great effort to implement the all-out people’s war doctrine in the light of constant threats from Ronald Reagan’s administration…”
How did the events describe by the author come to happen?
As the combats unfolded, a basic logic enabled us to perceive from Cuba the enemy’s intentions, thus we adopted the corresponding measures in response. The first of them, as we got news that the 32nd brigade and its advisors were under siege, was to decide the immediate return to Angola of the Chief of the Military Mission, Division General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, a veteran of the Sierra Maestra and a devoted supporter of FAPLA, who was in Cuba at the time. The order issued to him was: “Those forces must be rescued at all costs.”
“The Landing and Assault Brigade (as it was then called) was sent by air to the country systematically attacked by South Africa.
I have already said that we had been suffering for years the consequences of the impunity enjoyed by the fascist apartheid regime, which had been defeated in its aggression to the People’s Republic of Angola. I also explained to the Soviet leadership the rational and viewpoints sustained by Cuba.
I shall continue tomorrow Tuesday.
Fidel Castro Ruz
October 12, 2008