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Al J. Venter

 

Al J Venter (Albertus Johannes Venter) is a South African war journalist, documentary filmmaker, and author of more than forty books who also served as an Africa and Middle East correspondent for Jane's International Defence Review .

in Wikipedia

 

 

 

O livro (edição inglesa):

 

"Portugal's Guerrilla Wars in Africa: Lisbon's Three Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea 1961-74"

 

 

 

"Portugal's Guerrilla Wars in Africa: Lisbon's Three Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea 1961-74"
author: Al J. Venter

publisher: Helion & Company
1st ed. Birmingham, Dec2013
560 pages (ill. )

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.

Foreword


In 1961, Portugal found itself fighting a war to retain its colonial possessions and preserve the remnants of its empire. The country was totally unprepared, as its leaders never believed that what had happened in other parts of Africa could happen to them.


Portugal had been in Africa for almost five centuries, longer by far than any other colonial power, and its notion of the permanence of its empire drove it to defend its colonies or ultramar at all costs. For this small European nation, the importance of the colonies was captured in an editorial by Marcello Caetano in O Mundo Português (Portuguese World) that appeared in 1935: "Africa is for us a moral justification and a raison d'être as a power. Without it we would be a small nation; with it, we are a great country."


While other European states were granting independence to their African possessions, Portugal chose to stay and fight despite the small odds for success.


When war was thrust upon it by the March 1961 uprisings in the north of Angola, it opened a new chapter in the lives of its citizens and the many others who would become involved in the 13-year conflict – one that would extend to three theaters, Angola, Guinea, and Mozambique, and exhaust the treasure and manpower of the country.


The Portuguese army had virtually no experience or training for this sort of war and little or no experience of any sort in serious fighting. Few had seen a shot fired in anger. On the other hand, they were very brave and had the ability to live and fight under conditions that would have been intolerable to other European troops. They could go for days on a bag of dried beans, some chickpeas and possibly a piece of dried codfish, all to be soaked in any water that could be found – probably infected with bilharzia – then cooked and eaten in the evening. At night they would tie themselves up in trees to sleep. They were capable of covering on foot and through elephant grass and thick bush distances of over a hundred miles over a three-day patrol. They endured heat and humidity that took your breath away. The insects attacked them in "airborne waves" and poisonous snakes were constantly slithering underfoot. They learned how to fight and did so successfully for thirteen years across their three fronts. It was a remarkable achievement for a nation of such modest resources.


Al Venter was attracted to this war during the late 1960s and recorded his first experiences and observations on Angola in his "The Terror Fighters" (1969). Subsequent reporting on the other two theaters produced "Portugal’s War in Guinea-Bissau" (1973) and "The Zambezi Salient" (1975).


He immersed himself in these wars, writing from personal observation at the center of the action. His combat descriptions are riveting and remind the reader of General George Patton’s famous observation, "Compared to war all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance."
This book brings together his earlier experiences and heretofore unrevealed ones in a broad perspective of a war that was overshadowed by the United States involvement in Vietnam and is now largely forgotten by non-Portuguese audiences.


He combines vivid descriptions of the fighting, the daily lives of the soldiers in combat, and the larger campaign perspective through a broad range of interviews and observations as a seasoned war reporter.


He further draws on personal papers and published sources to produce an informative, valuable and readable account of the agonies and successes in the progress of Portugal’s guerrilla wars in Africa.


While not defeated on the field of battle, Portugal ultimately had to recognize the futility of the struggle in 1974.


Its decolonization proceeded at a rapid and ill-considered pace and brought peace to none of its former colonies. No one was happy with the outcome, and Lusophone Africa became a continuing battleground for local and international interests for decades afterward.


Al Venter offers a thoughtful conclusion in this work on a nationally cathartic war that ended in tears both for a nation and its European and African citizens.


John P. Cann, PhD (former US Navy Captain)
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 21 October 2013


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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