Operation Dingo

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Operation Dingo
Part of the Rhodesian Bush War
Date 23–25 November 1977
Location Chimoio and Tembue, Mozambique
Coordinates: 19°07′S 33°28′E / 19.11°S 33.47°E / -19.11; 33.47 (Chimoio)
Result Decisive Rhodesian victory
Belligerents
 Rhodesia Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army
Commanders and leaders
Rhodesia Lt. Gen Peter Walls (Chief of Combined Operations)
  • Group Captain Norman Walsh (Director Air Operations)
  • Major Brian Robinson (ground force commander)
Robert Mugabe
Strength
Total
c. 200 ground troops
4 x Canberra light bombers
c. 10 x Hunter fighter-bombers
6 x Vampire fighter-bombers
10 x Alouette III helicopters (20mm cannon)
Total
>10,000 guerrillas/trainees + ZANLA political/civil elements
Casualties and losses
2 dead
6 injured
Total: 8
3,000 dead
5,000 injured
Total: 8,000

Operation Dingo, also known as the Chimoio massacre, was a major raid conducted by the Rhodesian Security Forces against the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) headquarters of Robert Mugabe at Chimoio and a smaller camp at Tembue in Mozambique from 23–25 November 1977. More than 3,000 ZANLA fighters were reported as killed and 5,000 wounded while only two government troops died and six were wounded.[1]

Description[edit]

Ninety-six SAS and 48 Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) paratroopers and an additional 40 helicopter-borne RLI troops attacked the camps at 07h45 in the morning to exploit the concentration of forces on the parade ground for morning parade, directly after a strike by the Rhodesian Air Force's ageing Canberra and Hunter strike aircraft. To strike as many ground targets as possible, six mothballed Vampire jets dating from the 1940s were brought back into use for the operation.

A Douglas DC-8 airliner was flown over the Chimoio camps 10 minutes before the airstrike as part of a deception plan in which the insurgents were dispersed in a false air raid alert, so that when the aircraft participating in the actual airstrike approached, they did not cause alarm. When the first Air Force jets arrived, the assembled ZANLA forces, as planned, did not take cover again as they assumed it was the DC-8 that was returning.[2] In their first pass, four Canberra bombers dropped 1200 Alpha bombs (Rhodesian-designed anti-personnel cluster bombs) over an area 1.1 kilometres long and half a kilometre wide.[3]

Following the initial air strikes by the Canberras, Hunters and Vampire FB9's, ten Alouette III helicopter gunships ("K-Cars" in the attackers terminology) engaged opportunity targets in allocated areas that together inflicted the majority of the casualties, while 2 Vampire T11's flew top cover. The paratroopers and heliborne troops were deployed on three sides of the objective into various stop groups and sweep lines,[4] and were also effective in killing large numbers of fleeing ZANLA cadres. Nevertheless, the small size of the ground force and the lack of a complete envelopment allowed a number of fleeing ZANLA cadres to escape. Two important targets of the attack, ZANLA commanders Josiah Tongogara and Rex Nhongo escaped.

A "stay behind" force of SAS remained in ambush positions around the area overnight to wait for any ZANLA who might return; these SAS were then extracted by helicopter in the morning.[5] The Rhodesian force withdrew in good order having suffered one SAS member being shot and killed at Chimoio, and a Vampire pilot was killed trying to crash land his Vampire in a field after his plane was damaged by ground fire while overflying Vanduzi Crossroads on return to base and led to a partial loss of power. The pilot chose to attempt a forced landing rather than execute the dangerous act of abandoning the Vampire which was not fitted with an ejection seat.(18°57′14.5″S 33°15′49″E / 18.954028°S 33.26361°E / -18.954028; 33.26361 (Vanduzi)).[6]

Several tons of equipment were destroyed or captured and taken to Rhodesia.

A similar attack was repeated two days later at Tembue. (14°47′33″S 32°50′10″E / 14.79250°S 32.83611°E / -14.79250; 32.83611 (Tembue)). On that occasion the morning parade had been cancelled and the bomb strike on the parade ground ineffective. Though there was a Mozambique Liberation Front base nearby they did not interfere in the Rhodesian forces activities.

A new base was later built in the Chimoio area. This was attacked in 1978 in Operation Snoopy.

Controversy[edit]

Some of the victims were visibly wounded but it was not clear whether others had died from violence or epidemic disease. Much later a doctor provided harrowing personal testimony explaining that infectious disease had been a major cause of death after the attacks but that nonetheless many civilians had been killed at close range by the soldiers.[7]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Winds of Destruction Pg. 446
  2. ^ JRT Wood. "Helicopter Warfare in Rhodesia: 1962–1980". Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  3. ^ Petter-Bowyer, Winds of Destruction pp. 382 and 439
  4. ^ Cox, Chris, Fireforce
  5. ^ Petter-Bowyer p
  6. ^ JRT Wood. "Rhodesia: Roll of Honour". Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  7. ^ "The Sunday Mail". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 

References[edit]

  • Petter-Bowyer, P. J. H. (2003). Winds of Destruction: the Autobiography of a Rhodesian Combat Pilot. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-4120-1204-X.