Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War - Ian Pringle

Title: Dingo Firestorm: The Greatest Battle of the Rhodesian Bush War
Author: Ian Pringle
Publisher: Helion, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-909384-12-5
Pages: 266
Photographs: 25 b/w, 33 colour
Maps: 5 b/w        

                Ian Pringle has written a fast-paced, engaging book about one of the most successful Rhodesian “fireforce” operations in history. Conceived out of a requirement to deal a major blow to the rebel ZANLA forces of Robert Mugabe (operating out of Mozambique), Op Dingo has come to represent the standard from which to measure special force joint operations. An unmitigated success, in Nov, 1977, 184 Rhodesian soldiers and 61 Rhodesian fixed and rotary wing aircraft struck two ZANLA camps deep within Mozambique. Two distinct operations undertaken concurrently within a period of 72 hrs resulted in a total of approximately 3000 ZANLA deaths, many thousands wounded and tons of equipment lost for a price of two Rhodesian dead, a handful wounded and one aircraft lost; a success that sent reverberations throughout the world.

                Pringle sets the stage for the reader by providing throughout the first half of the book a synopsis of the conditions that led up to Op Dingo. Relaying in a manner easily followed by the casual historian (but with more than sufficient detail for the armchair general), he succinctly traces the international situation that led to the Rhodesian isolation, its reluctant reliance upon South Africa and its (mainly successful) efforts to develop and maintain capabilities ensuring freedom of action. Additionally, Pringle sheds light upon the activities of the regional powers surrounding Rhodesia, their support for the rebel faction ZANLA and the impact that this had on the ultimate fate of the Rhodesians. All of this sets an outstanding base from which to segue into the unfolding of Operation Dingo.

                The second half of the book is a detailed rendition of the planning and execution at the tactical level of Op Dingo itself. Drawing upon first person as well as official documentation Pringle provides depth and breadth to his narrative; including not just recollections from the Rhodesian side, but also the ZANLA. His style is such that the reader feels intimately the tension, pressure and speed of the execution.

                Two observations that I would make is that while Pringle explains in detail a number of the Rhodesian technical innovations such as the flechette and golf bombs, he does not describe the alpha bomb. This is a significant oversight as this ordnance was a completely unique Rhodesian design and key to the success of the operation. Additionally, the maps provided could have been improved had the tracks of the different ingress and egress routes of the various airframes been provided. Pringle discusses these routes in detail in the narrative and I feel that the complexity (and, by extension) the professionalism of the operation would have been further enhanced by coloured maps tracing the routing. These are; however, minor comments that are not detrimental to Pringle’s success with this rendition.

                Overall, this is an excellent read and a thoroughly engaging book. I highly recommend it for those interested in a regional conflict that has largely been lost in the shadows of history.

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