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Thread: MERCENARIES

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
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    I now live in Spokane, WA, my wife's hometown. We have 2 children
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    319

    MERCENARIES

    About MAR/APR67 2 of my platoon members returned from their R&R [Rest and Relaxation or Recreation; often called I&I - Intercoarse and Intoxication] in Manila, Phillipines. After telling their stories of drinking and debauchery, they told us about an encounter they had in a Manila bar one night.

    As they were sitting in the bar with some other Americans that they had met, a guy walks upto them and asks if any of them are American infantry on R&R. My buddies and a couple of others say they are. In a thick German or Belgian accent, he asks if he can talk to them. He tells them that he is a recruiter for the exiled president of the Belgian Congo [can't recall his name now] who already has a private army of mercenaries fighting in that country on his behalf, trying to regain his office from the mutinous dictator that took it from him. He says that most of them are Germans, Belgians, Brits, French, Spanish, etc., that have been professional mercenaries since the end of WWII. He said that they are just now starting to look at the Americans now because of their newly acquired experience in jungle warfare from the fighting in Vietnam.

    He goes on to tell them that, if they join, they will be paid $1800/mo., big money in 1967, with half of it being deposited into a Swiss bank account in their names. Of course, he was most interested in guys who were close to the end of thier enlistments, but didn't see the war in the Congo ending anytime soon. He ended by passing around an address and telephone number in Leopoldville. These guys swore up and down that this was a true story, but didn't keep the address and phone number because they weren't interested.

    I always wondered if this guy ever got any takers. Was he the only recruiter? Were there others in the other R&R destinations? I never paid any attention to the war in the Belgian Congo, but I seem to remember it being in the news, off and on, for a few years. I don't recall if the exiled president ever got his office back. Anyone have any memories of this?
    TOM
    PROUD TO BE A U.S. PARATROOPER!



    502nd Parachute Infantry****STRIKE FORCE!

  2. #2
    The Congo Republic

    Heres some info that might help Frisco. It would seem that the Merc who spoke with you was talking sense.

    Formerly the Belgian Congo, this territory was inhabited by ancient Negrito peoples (Pygmies), who were pushed into the mountains by Bantu and Nilotic invaders. The American correspondent Henry M. Stanley navigated the Congo River in 1877 and opened the interior to exploration. Commissioned by King Leopold II of the Belgians, Stanley made treaties with native chiefs that enabled the king to obtain personal title to the territory at the Berlin Conference of 1885.

    Leopold accumulated a vast personal fortune from ivory and rubber through Congolese slave labor; 10 million people are estimated to have died from forced labor, starvation, and outright extermination during Leopold's colonial rule. His brutal exploitation of the Congo eventually became an international cause célèbre, prompting Belgium to take over administration of the Congo, which remained a colony until agitation for independence forced Brussels to grant freedom on June 30, 1960. In elections that month, two prominent nationalists won: Patrice Lumumba of the leftist Mouvement National Congolais became prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu of the ABAKO party became head of state. But within weeks of independence, the Katanga Province, led by Moise Tshombe, seceded from the new republic, and another mining province, South Kasai, followed. Belgium sent paratroopers to quell the civil war, and with Kasavubu and Lumumba of the national government in conflict, the United Nations flew in a peacekeeping force.

    Kasavubu staged an army coup in 1960 and handed Lumumba over to the Katangan forces. A UN investigating commission found that Lumumba had been killed by a Belgian mercenary in the presence of Tshombe, who was then the president of Katanga. U.S. and Belgian involvement in the assassination have been alleged. Dag Hammarskjold, UN secretary-general, died in a plane crash en route to a peace conference with Tshombe on Sept. 17, 1961.

    Tshombe rejected a national reconciliation plan submitted by the UN in 1962. Tshombe's troops fired on the UN force in Dec., and in the ensuing conflict Tshombe capitulated on Jan. 14, 1963. The peacekeeping force withdrew, and, in a complete about-face, Kasavubu named Tshombe premier in order to fight a spreading rebellion. Tshombe used foreign mercenaries, and with the help of Belgian paratroops airlifted by U.S. planes, defeated the most serious opposition, a Communist-backed regime in the northeast.

    Kasavubu abruptly dismissed Tshombe in 1965, but was then himself ousted by Gen. Joseph-Desiré Mobutu, army chief of staff. The new president nationalized the Union Minière, the Belgian copper mining enterprise that had been a dominant force in the Congo since colonial days. Mobutu eliminated opposition to win the election in 1970. In 1975, he nationalized much of the economy, barred religious instruction in schools, and decreed the adoption of African names. He changed the country's name to Zaire and his own to Mobuto Sese Seko, which means “the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake.” In 1977, invaders from Angola calling themselves the Congolese National Liberation Front pushed into Shaba and threatened the important mining center of Kolwezi. France and Belgium provided military aid to defeat the rebels.

    Laurent Kabila and his long-standing but little-known guerrilla movement launched a seven-month campaign that ousted Mobutu in May 1997, ending one of the world's most corrupt and megalomaniacal regimes. The last of the CIA-nurtured cold war despots, Mobutu deftly courted France and the U.S., which used Zaire as a launching pad for covert operations against bordering countries, particularly Marxist Angola. Mobutu's disastrous policies drove his country to economic collapse while he siphoned off millions of dollars for himself. Mobutu fled in exile to Morocco on May 16, 1997, where he died of cancer in September.

    The country was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo, its name before Mobutu changed it to Zaire in 1971. But elation over Mobutu's downfall faded as Kabila's own autocratic style emerged, and he seemed devoid of a clear plan for reconstructing the country. He stymied UN human rights investigations and continued to depend on foreign troops for border skirmishes rather than establish a strong national army. Many Congolese dismissed him as a puppet ruler who allowed his country to be overrun by outsiders, particularly the Rwandans. At the same time, he alienated many of his former supporters who helped him establish power, including Rwanda and Uganda.

    In Aug. 1998, Congolese rebel forces, led by ethnic Tutsi in eastern Congo who were backed by Rwanda and Uganda, began attacking Kabila's forces. The rebels gained control of a large portion of the country until Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops came to Kabila's aid and pushed the rebels back. In 1999, the Lusaka Accord was signed by all six of the countries involved, as well as by most, but not all, of the various rebel groups.

    In Jan. 2001, Kabila was assassinated, allegedly by one of his bodyguards. His young and inexperienced son Joseph became the new president, and demonstrated a willingness to engage in talks to end the civil war. In April 2002, the government agreed to a power-sharing arrangement with Ugandan-supported rebels, and in July, the presidents of the Congo and Rwanda signed an accord: Rwanda promised to withdraw its 35,000 troops from the eastern Congolese border; the Congo would in turn disarm the thousands of Hutu militiamen in its territory, who threatened Rwandan security—many of them supported or participated in the 1994 genocide against Rwandan Tutsis. In Sept. 2002, Uganda also signed a peace accord with the nation. But the warring parties were slow to depart; most had been looting the Congo of its natural resources and had little incentive to end the war. More than 2.5 million people are estimated to have died in the Congo's complex four-year civil war, which has involved 7 foreign armies and numerous rebel groups that often fought among themselves.

    Despite the peace agreement and power-sharing plan signed between the main parties in the four-year Congolese war, the fighting and killing continued into 2003. In April 2003, hundreds of civilians were massacred in the eastern province of Ituri in an ethnic conflict. In June a French force with a UN mandate was deployed to defend the population from further tribal fighting. Joseph Kabila signed a new constitution in April, and on July 17, 2003, Congo's new power-sharing government was inaugurated. The new government includes 4 vice presidents and 36 ministers, 16 of which are former rebels

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    I now live in Spokane, WA, my wife's hometown. We have 2 children
    Posts
    319
    Thanks for the thumb nail history lesson, Andy. So I guess it was Mobutu that was paying the mercs to fight the opposition so he could win the election in '70. So I guess my platoon buddies were telling the truth.
    TOM
    PROUD TO BE A U.S. PARATROOPER!



    502nd Parachute Infantry****STRIKE FORCE!

  4. #4
    It would seem that way mate. :mrgreen:

  5. #5
    Some ex-SF I knew were involved. The minimum requirement was airborne qualification, stipends over and above base were paid for special skills. It was severely frowned upon by the U.S. gov't and some of these guys experienced some difficult questioning when they passed customs returning to the states. In one case, one of these guy's sons was questioned about where was his dad, what was he doing, etc.

    Many of the Oriental non-Vietnamese (Nungs, Cambodes) that worked with the SF in Vietnam had mercenary status although they always had U.S. leadership.

    "In my many years on this earth, I have concluded that one worthless man is a shame, two are a lawfirm and three or more are a congress." President John Adams

  6. Mercs

    I had heard the same offer about the Congo in 67/ 68 The price quoted was the same and the conditions (50/50) were the same. One of the guys on the R&R flight had a contact.
    We all thought it was a bad idea since the wounded had to be brought out by train. A long slow ride through a jungle on an obsolete train. I didn't even like fighting in Nam where we had a treaty obligation let alone Africa.

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