Cover of Chopper Boys by Al J Venter in association with Neall Ellis and Richard Wood

Chopper Boys

Helicopter Warfare in Africa
Al J Venter in association with Neall Ellis and Richard Wood
A study of helicopter warfare in Africa, including Dr Wood's examination of Fire Force and the use of helicopters in Rhodesia.
1994, Southern Book Publishers
240 pages
From the book's jacket

It was the French who began to use the helicopter as a 'gunship' in the mid-1950s in Algeria. Until then helicopters had been employed mainly for the evacuation of casualties, search and rescue, observation and troop transport.

They first deployed armed helicopters during a battle with Muslim rebel forces in the Atala Mountains. During that action a French commander strapped a man with an automatic rifle in each litter and sent the helicopter up against the rebels, apparently with good success.

Since then helicopters have become the mainstay of most governments engaged in counter-insurgency or semi-conventional conflicts, notably in Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America and Asia. After Vietnam it was Africa that commanded the most interest among helicopter enthusiasts: first with the French in Algeria, then later in Chad and afterwards with Portugal fighting a succession of guerilla campaigns in Angola, Portuguese Guinea and Moçambique. Then came the Rhodesian war, where the use of helicopters in combat became a fine art; and, most recently, the South African border war and the conflict in Angola.

There were other events in which helicopters were used in Africa, and this books deals with many of them: the succession of army mutinies that plagued East Africa after independence, the civil war in Nigeria, the perennial war against drugs, seen here in the mountains adjacent to Lesotho; helicopters at sea in both operational and lifesaving functions; the search for poachers and the use of helicopters by the South African Police in the dreadful carnage caused by black-on-black tribal faction-fighting in South Africa.

Somalia features prominently in this work. Who has not seen pictures or images on TV of American gunships hovering over Mgadishu? Or the more tragic shots of shattered Blackhawks, shot down by recalcitrant Somali warriors? Al Venter spent time in the Horn of Africa to compile a complete portrait of helicopter operations in that sad country.

To give a farily complete picture, a variety of other uses of helicopters are also dealt with, including joint American-Egyptian military exercises in the desert and the rescue of hundreds of passengers from the sinking passenger liner Oceanos, which went down in the Indian Ocean in August 1991 without loss of life.

© 2001 - 2024 Dr JRT Wood