2011/01/11 05:36 AM
I had a few 'Close Encounters of the MiG kind', as early as November 1981, during Operation Daisy. I was appointed Battery Captain ("BK") for the 120mm Mortar Battery accompanying 61 Mech into Angola and was responsible for the direct resupply of the battery from the "A Echelon". In the artillery we have an officer doing this job, unlike in other corps where the responsibility usually falls on the Company Sergeant-Major. I was only a young 19 year old "bicycle" (2nd Lieutenant) and I was leading the A Echelon vehicles (mosly Samil-100 10ton trucks - no mine-resistant Kwêvoëls available for us then). Most were loaded to capacity with 120mm mortar ammunition followed by some general supplies (like toilet paper - THE most required personal commodity in the echelon!).
So there I was, despite almost 2 years of gunnery training, stuck in the cab of a 10ton truck, hauling supplies - usually the lot of the youngest PF officer in the battery, although it was supposed to be a Captain's job, hence the title "Battery Captain". Because of the nature of the tasks, all the real Captains got the nicer posts like troop commanders and observers. Nevertheless, I was leading the trucks of the echelon some 350kms into Angola as part of the overall 61 Mech A Echelon supporting the attack on a SWAPO base in the Bambi area.
We had a LOT of practice before the operation doing the "Visgraat" ("Fish-bone"), which is a technique we used to make a convoy of vehicles disappear from the road into the bush in various directions in a VERY RAPID way (as you would probably know!), hidden by surrounding bush and often very well camouflaged, especially those reflective windshields, side windows and mirrors! We were very confident that we had this mastered to a fine degree. Because there were Recce-operators deployed close to the Fapla airfields, we were always warned in time with an "Victor-Victor" (stands for "Vyandelike Vliegtuie" - Enemy Planes), which is a code word given over the radio to all stations that enemy aircraft were in the vicinity. Then, immediately, all vehicles would follow the Visgraat drill and simply disappear from the routes they were on. We had no one on "overwatch" as each vehicle only had two occupants, a driver and the co-driver, both in the cab. Besides, we always received "Victor-Victor" well in advance and never even once spotted any enemy planes.
At some stage during that November I was following another supply convoy which had Samil-100 trucks carrying "Olifant-Balle" ("Elephant-balls" - gigantic 10ton rubber bladders filled with 100% helicopter fuel). The convoy ahead was stopping and the trucks were simply bunching up behind each other. Concerned but not alarmed, I halted my convoy and had my driver drive closer to the rearmost truck ahead to find out what was going on. Not every truck had radios, mostly only the commander of the group would have a portable A-53 or A-55 radio, so I obvioulsy had no comms with the guys ahead. I climbed out of my truck, moving forward to speak to the drivers of the vehicles in front who were all gathering together. As I approached them, two fighter planes streaked high over us, and someone shouted "Look - Mirages!" Everyone started waving at the passing planes who were completely unaware of the convoy bunching up like that, not to mention our waving. At that moment, I heard the clear - (too little too late!!) - "VICTOR-VICTOR" come over my radio in the truck and went ice cold! These fighter planes we are all so happily waving at - were enemy MiGs!!!! I shouted "VICTOR-VICTOR" as loud as I could to the convoy in front and ran to my truck, having a hard time to catch up with it as my driver were already performing a panicky visgraat maneuvre. That was the fastest visgraat I have EVER seen up to that point, I must confess, as even the convoy in front, although bunched up, did a brilliantly executed maneuvre. At the time the Migs passed over us, there must have been at least 4 Samils with Olifant-balle and at least two of mine with mortar ammo within 100m of me!
Turned out those were the same two MiGs (MiG-21s I believe) that were engaged by Mirages somewhere to the south of us and one was shot down and one got away, although damaged.
I didn't encounter any more MiGs during that operation, but they sure as hell made up for that lack in 1988 during Operations Hooper and Packer. But thats another long story...
Taken from my posting on the War In Angola Forums at : http://www.warinangola.com/default.aspx?tabid=590&forumid=32&postid=164&view=topic
2 comment(s) so far...
By Phillip Vietri on
2011/01/18 11:48 PM
Re: "Close Encounters of the MiG kind"
That, Johan, is the sort of classic situation where you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh, rather – much later, when you're safe! But it must have been really scary at the time when you heard the Victor-Victor. No MiGs in my case, but I remember once when my sammajoor had removed his brass badges of rank from his overall to brasso them. While he was thus rankless, a kop-toe 2-striper from A Group came in, mistook him for a Section 10 and started ordering us [I was a lance-jack] to carry rifle cases. Herbie did so without a word. Then he slipped into the office and replaced his rank. "Corporal, could you just come and look at this," he called. The corporal entered, saw that it was a sammajoor he had been ordering about, and fled. It's nowhere near as exciting as your story, only that I suspect the kop-toe corporal moved faster even than your visgraat manoeuvre. How the two of us laughed! But thanks; I really love your MiG story.
By Johan Schoeman on
2011/01/20 06:45 AM
Re: "Close Encounters of the MiG kind"
Ha,ha,ha, Phillip, I enjoyed that....This is the whole idea: that we can share our stories and comment on each other's experiences. Thanks, man!