South African Military History 

P.O. BOX 12926


Our speaker on 8 March 2012 was Mr Simon Norton who once again gave us an excellent power point illustrated lecture. His subject was 1942, a year of both victory and defeat for both the Allies and the Axis powers – defeat then victory for the Allies, victory then defeat for the Axis powers. In short, the turning point of the Second World War took place in 1942. Our speaker illustrated this fact by selecting a number of the major events of the year and discussing their importance. As usual, his talk was well-illustrated with photographs and video clip inserts.

Mr Norton selected as his first event a conference that was held on 20 January 1942 in the SS guesthouse in the borough of Wannsee (suburb of Steglitz-Zehlendorf) near Berlin. The purpose of this meeting was allegedly to discuss the “final solution” of the Jewish Question. [1]

The Wannsee Meeting was chaired by Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the deputy commander of the SS. The son of musical parents, he was of the officer class and himself an accomplished violinist. A very intelligent man, he was extremely efficient in the performance of his duties and a greatly feared person.

He joined the Navy in 1922, served until 1929 when he was cashiered and the joined the NSDAP and the SS. He qualified as a Luftwaffe pilot and flew over Norway in 1942. He became deputy to Himmler, the head of the SS, and was a lot more effective a leader than his boss. A feared man, he was seen by many as a future successor to Hitler himself. He later became the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia-Moravia (the western part of Czechoslovakia).

Mr Norton informed us that only one copy of the Wannsee Protocol document has survived

– in the German Foreign Ministry archives. It was agreed that Jews doing important war work should be left in their jobs until they could be replaced. A large part of the discussions related to the “problem” of half Jews and mixed marriages.
As Reichsprotektor he applied himself to the task of wiping out the resistance groups which had arisen in the western part of Czechoslovakia, which he did very rapidly and efficiently.

[1] The veracity and authenticity of this document have not been established beyond any doubt. It need to stated that controversial political questions and policies falls outside the broader ambit of the society’s focus, namely military history, and the endeavour is to promote the dissemination of historical facts that is impartial and non-contentious. It can be said that there are major ambiguous interpretations regarding the origin, purpose and content of the Wannsee Meeting Protocol. There are almost as many viewpoints and interpretations regarding the so-called “Wannsee meeting” and “-protocol” as the number of books written on the subjected or consulted. It would have been helpful if the speaker had made available a reference source list used in his research, as requested by the editor, but to date such a list has not been forwarded. – Ed.

But it was also an anomalous situation – Heydrich was an extremely efficient administrator and developed the protectorate into a model satellite where living conditions and nutritional levels were above the wartime average, even the Reich included. The British then decided that this situation should be turned around and the population turned against the Germans. The solution arrived at was to have Heydrich, because of his considerable qualities, assassinated. A team of Czech commandos were trained to do this and dropped into Czechoslovakia to undertake this perilous task, which they knew would amount to a suicide mission. Heydrich felt quite safe in Prague and drove round in an open car without an escort. He was ambushed but the agents’ Sten guns jammed and they then threw a hand grenade at the open car which injured him critically. Heydrich managed to stagger out of the car and also to get off a few shots at his attackers. He succumbed to his injuries in hospital a while later.

Reaction to this was swift and ruthless. The village of Lidice was chosen to be destroyed. Mr Norton showed a short film on the destruction of Lidice. The village was flattened, all males over 16 years of age were shot, all females above that age were sent to concentration camps and all children below the age of 16 were either adopted to be "Germanised" or, if unsuitable, sent to Polish camps.

The second major 1942 event chosen by Mr Norton was the fall of Singapore in January 1942. This was the biggest disaster suffered by the British Commonwealth during World War 2. Our speaker introduced this part of his talk by showing us a picture of the SS Automedon, a 7,500-ton Blue Funnel Line vessel sunk by the German raider Atlantis on 11 November 1940 and a frequent visitor to Cape Town and Durban in the pre-war years. Automedon was sailing some 250 miles NW of Sumatra when Atlantis found her. Accurate gunfire stopped her and the Germans boarded her. Her cargo, with one exception, was of little interest to the Germans.

The exception was 15 bags of top secret mail for the British authorities in Singapore. Most of the mail consisted of code books, orders and intelligence reports but there was one bag marked “Top Secret – for the eyes of C-in-C Far East Only”. This contained details of the British and Commonwealth Forces in the Far East, an appreciation of the defences of Singapore, the role to be played by Australia and New Zealand and an appreciation of the likelihood of Japan entering the war. This had been issued by the Planning Division of the War Cabinet and sent to Singapore by ACM Newall, Chief of Air Staff. Also included was a document informing C-in-C Far East that the British Government was unable to supply him with any more aircraft or weapons. Captain Rogge of Atlantis realised that this document was a tremendous intelligence coup.

He immediately sent a captured vessel to Japan where the bag and contents were handed to the German Naval representative who copied the documents and sent the originals to Berlin via the Trans Siberian Railway (Russia was at peace with Germany at that time). The copy was handed to the Imperial Japanese Navy. Captain Rogge was presented with a Samurai sword by the Japanese – only two others were presented - to Goering and Rommel. This shows the value placed on the documents by the Japanese and our speaker believes that the contents of these documents and the use made of them by the Japanese planners sealed the fate of Singapore in 1942.

Japan attacked Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 and, within a day or so, they attacked the Philippines. The next step would be Malaya. Bombing raids on Malaya and Singapore started, launched from Indo-China and Thailand, both already in the hands of the Japanese by that stage. Landings on the east coast of Malaya followed.

The British had sent the battleships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse to Singapore with a small, four ship destroyer escort to Singapore but without an aircraft carrier (this had run aground in the Caribbean and needed repairs – there was no other carrier available). They then put to sea to look for Japanese forces. Admiral Phillips had refused air cover – all that was available was a squadron of Brewster Buffaloes. A Japanese navy bomber force was out looking for British ships and found them. They attacked and sank both vessels, the first battleships to be sunk by air attack. As a result, the Japanese could land their forces without fear of naval interception by the British.

The Japanese force was commanded by General Yamashita and consisted of three divisions – the Imperial Guards which had some tanks, 8th and 18th, supported by 211 tanks and 560 aircraft. They were opposed by a British force consisting of 3 Indian Corps (9th and 11th Divisions) and the 8th Australian Division, with a Malay Brigade, but no armour.

The Japanese were fit, well-trained and organised and experienced, having fought in Manchuria and China. They were well-supported by Army and Navy aircraft. The British had believed their own propaganda that Japanese soldiers were small, short-sighted, weak with protruding teeth and thick glasses. Our speaker showed us a photograph of Japanese soldiers who looked like that! There was nothing wrong with their fighting ability. Well- supported by artillery and mobile, they also improvised and utilized any form of transport being handy. Every bicycle they could find was confiscated and used to make the ground troops mobile! They also adapted easily to jungle warfare.

The two Indian divisions had lost many of their experienced officers and NCOs, who were needed to replace casualties in East and North Africa and for new divisions being formed in India. They did not cooperate too well with the Australians and vice versa. None of the troops had been trained in jungle warfare and they were constantly being outmaneuvered by the Japanese. Whenever a position was occupied in open country, the Japanese took to the jungle and appeared behind the British, who then retreated. Good use was made by the Japanese of their tanks – there were few if any anti-tank weapons on the British side.

The British GOC Malaya was Lt Gen A E Percival, a good staff officer but not the dynamic and inspirational leader required. The RAF was weak with only obsolete aircraft and few of these. The C-in-C was Air Marshall Brooke-Popham and the Governor of Malaya was Sir Shenton Thomas, all of them weak leaders. Percival had served in Ireland as a member of the Black and Tans and was alleged to have tortured Irish nationalists there. Lt Gen Heath, GOC of 3 Indian Corps, resented the promotion of Percival who was junior to him in the Army List. The Australians were commanded by Maj Gen Bennett who was another rather headstrong character! So the chain of command did not function smoothly! Bennett managed to escape from Singapore before the surrender, viewed by some as tantamount to deserting his troops.

The British 18th division was sent as reinforcement with the first Brigade arriving on 13 January 1942 and joining 3 Corps. The rest arrived in time for the final battle of Singapore and the POW camps.

The final battle took place with the British defending the Coast of Singapore Island and the Japanese bombarding the island and launching an amphibious landing. Percival surrendered Singapore. The Japanese had won a great victory with a force outnumbered by the British forces by 3 to 1. Some 100 000 went to the POW camps and many of these did not see the end of the war.

The third major event of 1942 chosen by Mr Norton was the Battle of Midway and the events leading up to this, the turning point of the Pacific War. He discussed the Enigma coding machine and the major role played by Polish engineers in getting this to England. The Japanese had codes for use by the Army and Navy and the Foreign Ministry. All of these were complex codes and not automated like the German codes which used Enigma. The Purple Code was that used by the Foreign Ministry and this had been broken by the Americans prior to Pearl Harbour.

The navy code was more complex. It was eventually broken by the cryptographic section in Hawaii, headed by Cdr Joe Rochefort, an unassuming but brilliant cryptographer whose entire naval service had been in that field. Sub-Lt Eric Nave RAN had made a large contribution towards breaking the Naval Code, which both the British and Americans were attempting. Nave was later attached to the Royal Navy.

The Hawaii team led by Rochefort had partially broken the Navy code and discovered that the Japanese were planning a major attack, the objective of this being a place codenamed AK. Rochefort’s team believed this to be Midway Island but the intelligence people in Washington did not agree. So Rochefort, with the agreement of Adm Nimitz CINCPAC, had Midway transmit a radio message that the water distillation plant had broken down and that a water tanker needed to be sent. A while later Rochefort’s people picked up a message instructing a Japanese task force to load a water distillation plant to be taken to AK. So AK = Midway!

Admiral Nimitz could now plan his response to the Japanese attack. The result was the battle of Midway, the first battle in naval history in which the opposing naval forces never sighted one another. The Americans led by Admiral Spruance sank all four of the Japanese fleet carriers for the loss of one of their own. Spruance did not pursue the retreating Japanese much to the disgust of many American officers. He was right not to pursue them – had he done so he would have come up against the main battle fleet with its eight or so battleships and numerous cruisers. Spruance had few cruisers and no battleships so would have been badly defeated. Not a gung-ho approach but a sensible one. This battle was the turning point of the Pacific War. Rochefort sadly received no recognition for his immense contribution to the victorious campaign in the Pacific. In fact he was transferred to the mainland and never served in cryptography again and was never promoted any further than Commander. He had upset his bosses in Washington and this was the result – jealousy and vindictiveness triumphed over common sense! His great work was recognized only after his death in 1986.

The next 1942 event chosen by Mr Norton was the fall of Tobruk, which was the greatest disaster to befall South Africa’s armed forces during the war. The war in North Africa had reached one of its static phases. The British held the Gazala Line, with the 1st South African and the 50th Division, well dug in with extensive minefields (supplied from the Tobruk defences) and with considerable artillery support. South of the, the Free French Brigade held Bir Hacheim. In the desert south of this were the British 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions and a number of independent brigades. A number of strongpoints were set up in a line from the Gazala line to the Tobruk fortress, supported by an armoured brigade.

Rommel’s plan was to make a feint attack on the Gazala line with his Italian divisions supported by a force of German infantry. While this was in progress, the German and Italian armoured and motorised divisions would make a wide sweep to the south and come up behind the Gazala Line having destroyed the British armour. The plan did not work out quite that way. The British armour came into action in the usual uncoordinated fashion and was hammered in detail. The various independent brigades were scattered but the Germans ran into problems at Bir Hacheim. The Free French resisted the German attacks tenaciously and held out for a number of days before breaking out. A counterattack was launched by the British in a very incompetent way with two divisions “commanding” a number of Brigades in an uncoordinated fashion. A dour struggle ensued and eventually the Germans broke through and headed north. Here they came up against a row of strong points which put up a fierce resistance, thus allowing 1 SA and 50 Divisions to retreat from the Gazala line. With the armour decimated, 8th Army started their retreat.

This left Tobruk, held by two brigades of the 2nd SA Division under Gen Kloppers, with a Guards Brigade and 11th Indian Brigade, some extra artillery and a very weak tank brigade under command. Klopper had been a very competent staff officer, was appointed to command a brigade for two months and the 2nd Division a few weeks before the battle.

The Australians had held Tobruk for 9 months in 1941 but the defences had gone to rack and ruin since then. Half a million mines had been lifted to be placed in the Gazala defences and had not been replaced. The anti-tank ditches had either collapsed or being filled with wind-blown sand. Much of the barbed wire had been removed and the garrison did not have the time to repair the damage. The very experienced staff had left with Klopper’s predecessor, Genl de Villiers they were replaced by a very mixed bunch of staff officers and Klopper also had problems with his (British) artillery and tank commanders who seemed incapable of agreeing on anything! There was a considerable amount of artillery but with no central command. 201 Guards Brigade was the designated counterattack brigade but had no liaison with the armour. The die was cast for disaster.

Middle East Command had, because of the state of the defences, assumed that Tobruk would be abandoned if the Gazala Line was broken. Churchill had known this but, in his usual way of interfering with his generals in the field, signalled Auchinleck “presume, in any case, no intention of giving up Tobruk?” Klopper then had to comply. Eighth Army retreated right back to El Alamein in the “Gazala Gallop” and Tobruk was left to its fate. Dan Pienaar on his way back saw Klopper and said to him “Kloppie, get out, don’t stay here!”

The Italian infantry divisions screened the western and southern defences, 90 Light and Ariete (Italian) kept an eye on 8th Army and 15 and 21 Panzer divisions and the Italian motorised divisions closed up on the eastern part of Tobruk. On 20 June 1942, the Axis artillery opened fire and every Ju 87 and Ju 88 dive-bomber that Rommel could lay his hands on came swooping down. When they had dropped their bombs, they returned to El Adem airfield 16 km/10 miles away for a reload. The Indian Brigade which was in a weakened state broke and only the Cameron Highlanders managed to hold on. The Panzers poured in, the counterattack force was scattered, the artillery line was broken and the Germans headed for the port. Genl Klopper surrendered after quite a large part of the fuel, ammunition and vehicles had been destroyed. A few hundred people escaped but 10 900 South Africans and some 21 000 British and Indians went into the bag.

Rommel had won a great victory but had in fact lost the North African campaign as most of his air support had come from the Luftwaffe units assembled for the planned German assault on Malta, which did not take place – to the detriment of Rommel’s supply lines.

8th Army reached the El Alamein line in a tired and disorganised state. The Germans were also exhausted and short of supplies. The captured supplies had been used up and their supplies had to come by road for a very long distance. The allied air forces in North Africa and Malta were hammering their supply lines.

The British were now within easy reach of their base, the air force could operate from properly developed airfields and reinforcements of fresh divisions were on the way. SA Division held the Alamein Box on the coast. 3 SA Infantry Brigade held the box and the other two brigades were held in reserve with the reinforced divisional artillery. A bit further south the 18th Indian Brigade held Tel el Eisa with some artillery and 16 6-pdr anti-tank guns. The Africa Korps attacked and the 8th Indian Brigade fought all day without assistance from British armour and was overrun that evening. 90 Light Division headed for the Alamein box but never reached to fight with the infantry. They were stopped by a hail of well directed artillery fire and the German division, probably the best ever produced by the German army, came near to breaking.

A number of battles followed and there was a stalemate. It was known that the Germans were planning an attack on Alam el Halfa, a ridge at right angles to the front line and Auchinleck had planned for this to be defended.

In one of these battles the Australians came upon a strange unit with numerous radio aerials and radio vans. They overran this against fierce resistance. The unit was Nachrichten Fern Aufklaerung Kompanie 621, a wireless and radio intercept unit similar to the British Y service, commanded by the brilliant Hptmn Seebohm. Enigma provided strategic information but 621 provided tactical information which could be used immediately. The loss of this unit played a major part in the subsequent outcome of the battle of El Alamein.

Churchill now took a hand. He wanted Auchinleck out and replaced by Genl Alexander as C-in-C Middle East. He wanted Gen Gott to command 8th Army but he was killed in an air crash. Gen Montgomery was then chosen. A vain and opinionated person, he was brilliant in motivating his troops and was also technically very competent. He used Auchinleck’s plan to win the battle of Alam el Halfa and then took a grip on the organisation of the army – no more Jock columns or brigade attacks, divisions would fight as units, no belly-aching and no more retreats. Modern tanks were arriving; more troops and artillery were available, as were fresh divisions.

A general is only as good as his staff and Monty was very well supplied with an excellent staff. His Chief of Staff was the brilliant Maj Gen Francis de Guingand who later settled in South Africa. Brig Edgar Williams, an Oxford don, was in charge of Intelligence and Maj Gen Brian Robertson, a pre-war Managing Director of Dunlop SA, was in charge of logistics and administration. Brig Kisch was appointed Chief Engineer – he was killed in action a year later in Tunisia. Gen Montgomery insisted that army and air force should cooperate closely and Desert Air Force HQ was situated next to 8th Army’s HQ.

Both sides worked hard at increasing their forces and supplies but the Germans had the problem of very long supply lines which were under heavy attack from the air. In October 1942 Montgomery launched his attack under cover of a heavy barrage. His infantry reached their first objectives but the armour did not manage a breakthrough. Heavy fighting continued and the losses were high. Monty moved the focus of his attacks to the north where the Australians especially and the New Zealanders had heavy losses. The armour managed a breakthrough in the nick of time before Montgomery ran out of infantry. The Germans retreated all the way to Tunisia followed by 8th Army and a great victory had been, resulting in the final surrender of all Axis forces in Africa in 1943 made possible by Alamein.

The final event discussed by Mr Norton was the campaign in the latter part of 1942 in Southern Russia. The Germans had launched a major attack aimed at the river Volga and the city of Stalingrad. But Hitler’s economic advisors told him that, if they did not obtain additional oil supplies, it would not be possible to continue the war. This information proved to be incorrect as Germany continued to fight for a number of years, using Rumanian oil and the synthetic fuel produced from lignite coal. But Hitler had his eyes on the oil fields of Maikop, Grozny, Batumi and Baku and diverted 1 Panzer Army to head down to the Caucasus in the spring of 1942. Only 6th Army continued the drive on Stalingrad. This was commanded by Gen von Paulus, who had been an excellent staff officer but had never commanded anything as large as an army.

6th Army reached Stalingrad and became involved in savage fighting with the Russians. Stalin wanted the city held. Stalin would have had any general losing control of the city shot while Hitler, equally fanatically, wanted to capture it. The result was savage house-to-house and hand-to-hand fighting with huge losses on both sides. One Russian division was recorded as having 14 000 men when it crossed the Volga to the 200 metre-deep beachhead. It was left with 200 men a week later! As winter approached, the Russians began planning a massive counter-attack.

Stalingrad was at the point of a deep salient into the Russian lines. The flanks of this salient were defended by five armies of the Germans’ Italian and eastern European Axis partners two Rumanian (ill-equipped and ill-trained), one Hungarian and one Italian Army. A massive surprise attack from both flanks by a force of 1 million-plus Russians with a huge force of tanks and artillery was launched. The flank defenders broke and, in many cases fled panic- stricken to the rear. Some few troops resisted, including three Italian Alpine divisions, but 6th Army was cut off. Hitler insisted that they stay put while Reichsmarschall Goering promised that the Luftwaffe would supply 6th Army from the air, something that subsequently proved patently impossible under the circumstances at the time.

Field Marshall von Manstein was ordered to relieve Stalingrad. Winter had come and the Germans struggled to assemble a force. Attacks had been launched by the Russians further north and Manstein had no more than 6 or 7 divisions for the task. They got to within 30 kilometres of the beleaguered 6th Army but von Paulus reported that he had insufficient fuel and transport to break out and Manstein was forced to pull back to maintain a cohesive front against the relentless hammer blows of the Russian offensive. 6th Army surrendered and 91 000 Germans went into captivity. Only 6 000 of these returned to Germany. The only good thing for the Germans was that Field-Marshal von Kleist managed to bring his entire 1st Panzer Army back from the Caucuses.

It has been argued that the battle of Stalingrad was not a decisive one but, after this battle, the Germans started to retreat and won only tactical victories after Stalingrad. So it was one of the decisive battles of World War 2 and shattered the myth of German invincibility.

Bob Buser thanked our speaker for another fascinating and informative talk and presented him with the customary gift.


The excursion took place on Tuesday, the 27th of March. Our intrepid group consisted of members and non-members in about equal proportion. Weather-wise the day proved to be absolutely perfect, with sunshine and a light south-easterly, which turned into a westerly breeze, which helped to temper the bright, sunny conditions. We left on the early-morning staff ferry, whereafter a bus picked us up and drove us around the southerly perimeter of the island, frequently stopping while our guide, Mr André Vom Hagen, explained some salient historical aspect or defensive structures on the island. Thereafter we visited all three guns of the De Waal Battery, finally stopping off at Gun No 3 where André, with the assistance of some Armscor staff, proceeded to operate the gun, traversing, elevating and going through the loading and ramming procedures preparatory to firing, much to the delight of the onlookers. After viewing some other support structures of the battery, we made our way back to the harbour. We returned to the Waterfront on the 12 o’clock ferry, tired but most appreciative and satisfied with our altogether rather brief trip “overseas”. The chairman finally handed our guide a small gift as token of our appreciation, before the group dispersed to make their way home.


A reminder that the Cape Town Branch will have its Annual General Meeting in April, to coincide with the lecture on Thursday, the 12th of April. The AGM will start promptly at 20:00, to be immediately followed by our scheduled talk. The notice of the meeting will be mailed/or sent by electronic mail to all members, together with the April Newsletter. The agenda, minutes of the previous meeting and chairman’s report will also be included -the audited statements of income and expenditure will be made available at the meeting. Matters for consideration or points to be discussed must reach the Secretary not later than 12:00 on the day of the meeting (please refer to his contact details at the end of the newsletter).


The membership dues for 2012 remain the same and Renewals for 2012 are now due.


We would like to welcome one new member, Mr F W Metcalf, to our ranks. We look forward to his company at our regular meetings.


Adm. Biermann will be remembered as the “father of the modern South African Navy”. He was called up to higher service in the ripe old age of 95 years. Adm Biermann was born on 6 August 1916 in Johannesburg and moved as a six-year-old to Cape Town, where he grew up and eventually matriculating at Jan van Riebeeck Secondary School. Adm Biermann joined the Merchant Marine after matriculating, whereafter his naval career started as a part-time member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the 1930s. During World War II he served in the Mediterranean and the South of France.

After the war, he joined the SA Naval Forces as a Permanent Force officer. His naval career included serving as Naval Chief of Staff (later called "Chief of the Navy") from 1952 to 1965, and subsequently as Commander Maritime Defence from 1965 to 1972. He ultimately served as Chief of the South African Defence Force from 1972 to 1976, commanding not only naval forces, but land forces as well. He also played a prominent role in community affairs. One of his greatest achievements, according to Vice-Adm Robert Simpson- Anderson (Ret), is the fact that he was instrumental in having Coloured sailors being incorporated as fully-fledged members of the SA Navy.

On behalf of our Branch and Members we would like to convey our sincere condolences to the family of the late Adm Biermann and express our heartfelt sympathy with their great loss.

BIERMANN Admiral Hugo Hendrik: Passed away peacefully at Silvermine on Tuesday 27 March 2012. Much loved & respected father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Funeral Service to be held on Tuesday 10th April 2012 at Christ Church, Constantia at 2pm. No flowers by request, donations if favoured to St Dunstan's or the Mission Sea Farers.


PLEASE NOTE: Our regular monthly meetings are held every SECOND THURSDAY of each month. APRIL 2011: AIR WAR KOREA by Prof Derrick Dickens

Our speaker, a retired businessman/professor in marketing at the then Wits University, currently resides in Hermanus where he actively pursues the study of aviation history, with a focus on the Korean Air War and the Fleet Air Arm, as well as being an aviation artist. He is only one of two South African aviation artists – along with the late Ron Belling – who ever published an overview of his work in book form, illustrating the history of an air force. In his case it is an illustrated history of the RN’s Fleet Air Arm in colour, the first ever attempted.

In the first of a two-part lecture separated over two months, our speaker will deal with the first major war of the so-called “Cold War” under control of the newly-formed United Nations Organisation. The air war, in general a lesser well-known conflict from a South African perspective, forms an important aspect of SA aviation history where our fledgling air force grew from a small combat arm into a formidable tactical air force during two major wars and covering itself with glory – all within the space of ten years!

When North Korea invaded South Korea on 25th June 1950, the United Nations condemned the action and UN troops -commanded by United States General MacArthur -were ordered into action. Initially with only limited air support, the UN troops lost Seoul and were driven back into the extreme south of the country. However, the US Far East Air Force held the North Korean Air Force at bay until USN carriers arrived in Korean waters. The Royal Navy carriers and Fleet Air Arm were heavily involved in the air fighting and ground attack sorties but the RAF had no actual fighter forces in Korea. From the very start of the Korean War, the Allied air forces went after the enemy's communications network and his logistics support for the armies. It was dangerous, flying at high speed and at low level into possible anti-aircraft traps, to smash the enemy’s transportation network. The interdiction work began in June 1950 and gained increasingly in effectiveness throughout the war. UN airpower played a tactical role in blunting any Communist offensives undertaken but paid a heavy price. As well as the RAF and RAAF squadrons, RAF and RCAF pilots serving in the USAF, No.2 ‘Cheetah’ squadron of the South African Air Force fought in Korea from November 1950 with P-51 Mustangs, converting to F-86 Sabres in January 1953.


In Part Two of his Korean Air War lecture series, Prof Dickens will focus on what led to South Africa’s decision the heed the UN’s call for a military contribution, as well the form the contribution took, to help stem communist aggression halfway around the world in an environment totally foreign and hostile – both militarily and climate-wise -to South Africans hailing from the southern tip of sunny Africa! In the Korean War, the famous 2 Squadron ("The Flying Cheetahs") took part as South Africa's contribution. It won many American decorations, including the unusual honour of a United States Presidential Unit Citation in 1952. The Citation encapsulates the essence of South Africa’s role and contribution: 2 Sqn had a long and distinguished record of service in Korea flying P-51D Mustangs and later F-86F Sabres. Their role was mainly flying ground attack and interdiction missions as one of the squadrons making up the USAF's 18th Fighter Bomber Wing. During the Korean conflict the squadron flew a grand total of 12 067 sorties for a loss of 34 pilots and two other ranks. Aircraft losses amounted to 74 out of 97 Mustangs and four out of 22 Sabres. Pilots and men of the squadron received a total of 797 medals including 2 Silver Stars -the highest award to non-American nationals -3 Legions of Merit, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 40 Bronze Stars.

BOB BUSER: Treasurer/Asst. Scribe
Phone: 021-689-1639 (Home)

Phone: 021-592-1279 (Office)

South African Military History Society /