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In 1978 the SADF carried out an airborne assault on Cassinga in Southern Angola. The South Africans claimed that Cassinga was a key SWAPO military headquarters, training camp and logistic base. SWAPO claimed it was a refugee camp and that the approximately 600 people who died in the attack were innocent civilians. The SADF said it had dealt SWAPO a significant military blow; SWAPO said the SADF had carried out a brutal massacre of old people, women and children. This dissertation focuses on the military dimensions of the raid, examining first the military situation in southern Angola and northern Namibia at the time, then looking at Cassinga itself before reviewing the airborne capability of the SADF, considering the decision that was made to launch the attack, describing the planning and preparations, the actual assault, a Cuban counter-attack and the extraction of the South African paratroopers. It concludes with the propaganda claims of both sides before assessing the military significance of the action.

Author: Brig-Gen McGill Alexander SM MMM ORB SAStC

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This academic paper was submitted in July 2003 by EGM Alexander in fullfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the subject History at the University of South Africa.