The United States, and NATO member nations, and the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact armies were all appropriating all the economic resources each empire would need to prevail in the middle of the twentieth century. Not wanting to openly presume upon the land and mines and minerals of indigenous people, the purloining was executed under the purview of large manufacturing firms that promised riches and jobs and other perks to the locals who were cooperative. The receiving party of the money and perks began at the top with Prime Minister Moise Tshombe, who was almost a perfect satirical well coiffed and well dressed and well remunerated Mission Impossible type African dictators. From the absolute poverty of tribal life in emerging industrial economies, to a chauffeured leader was a process that Tshombe did not want to reverse.
Mercenary and militia like Katangee locals began fighting with government troops under Tshombe. Under and order to be a neutral party in the fight, Irish UN troops were sent to a compound in Jadotville and were soon thereafter attacked by other militia groups and mercenaries fighting for Tshombe. These troops were supplied by Russians and thusly stood as a military counter point in Africa to the western NATO troops.
Oddly, French and Belgians were shooting at Irish at a time when anywhere else in the world they would have been on the same side.
Director Ritchie Smith’s movie The Siege Of Jadotville grandly portrays the massive waves of 5000 Katangese troops against the 150 outnumber Irish. The five-day battle pitted 5000 rebels versus about 150 Irish fighters. Mortar fire and automatic weapons fire from the ubiquitous FN FAL comprised most of the arms exchanges. There’s an Fouga Magister counter insurgency plane in the flick. The cinematography is lush and the battle scenes are reasonably realistic given that few combat scenes were ever filmed with more snap and push and panic than in Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.
That said, it is sort of an old war movie, made in the look and feel of the 1960s and 1960s than in the hyper realism in today’s war flicks. The movie portrays the Irish Commander Patrick Quinlan and the French representative for the mining companies Guillaume Canet as friends.
The battle was over when the rebels over ran the Irish positions and took prisoners that were held for a month. Five were wounded on the Irish side. The Katangese experience 300 fatalities and thousands wounded.
The commanders were served two decade of public opprobrium for the loss of face, but only 8 years ago the Irish government finally recognized that the combatants did a marvelous and brave job. The Irish unit now has been awarded military ribbons and thusly an odd chapter in war history comes to a close.