Episode 102 – 32 Battalion strikes Menongue Airfield and a Mirage is shot down
These were the T55s of the 3rd Battalion — the commanders and the gunners were Cuban, while the drivers were Angolan. As the SADF had found out earlier on the 14th February 1988, Cubans were also operating as spotters.
Mike Muller of 61 Mech was now trying to capture a Cuban, but the last he’d seen had been shot down right in front of him, while trying to surrender, by UNITA troops who’s blood was up.
When we left off last, it was afternoon - and the SADF had just won a victory over 59 Brigade and 3rd Battalion - the Angolans and their Cuban allies were in full retreat towards the Tumpo Triangle, that y junction in the road south east of Cuito Cuanavale, and just north of the Tumpo River.
This retreat was a rout in many ways, with FAPLA officers only managing to halt the retreating 59th Brigade 120 kilometers north east of Cuito Cuanavale. 21 and 25 Brigades were also pulling back along with the 3rd tank Battalion.
They left behind 14 destroyed T55s, eight armoured cars, one BM-21 Stalin Organ, one mobile radar guided SAM13 missile system, and seven ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns.
400 FAPLA were dead, hundreds more wounded so far on the battle on Valentines’ Day.
Meanwhile, what was called a sideshow had been underway far to the north west of this battle ground.
To coincide with the big attack by 4SAI and 61 Mech against 59 Brigade on Sunday 14 February 1988, Deon Ferreira wanted 32 Battalion to strike the Menongue Airbase.
This was to hamper the Angolans as they dispatched their attack helicopters and ground support MiGs - and the plans had been under way since the 6th February .
It may have been a sideshow, but it was extremely daring - a one-off event in the entire Border War in terms of its conventional style plan. The idea was to launch from a small stream called the Cuma, which was 20 kilometers south east of Menongue.
One Friday 19th February, four Mirage F1AZs took off from Grootfontein in Northern SWA, their target was a FAPLA convoy expected to pass through Cuartir, 40 kilometers east of Menongue.
The last plane out that day was flown by Major Ed Every, known to all at the base as Never Ready because he often forgot things - like his gloves, maps, or flight documents - but on this day he forgot nothing.