Battle of Massawa (1977)

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Battle of Massawa
Part of Eritrean War of Independence
Date 1977-1978
Location Massawa, Eritrea
Result Ethiopian/Soviet victory
EPLF Ethiopia
Commanders and leaders
Petros Solomon Abera Abebe
3,000 6,000 (Ethiopia)
unknown (USSR)
Casualties and losses
unknown unknown

The Battle of Massawa (also known as the First Battle of Massawa) took place from 1977 to 1978 in and around the coastal city of Massawa in Eritrea. The port was besieged by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) against the forces of Ethiopia, and was one of two battles in and around the city.

The battle[edit]

By 1977 EPLF soldiers had claimed all of Massawa save the port itself.[1] This included the main road used by the garrison for the transport of supplies from Asmara. Essentially the garrison was cut off by land and under siege.

On 23 December 1977 the EPLF began a strike through an open field towards the salt flats and port. Soviet Naval warships began to shell EPLF held portions of the town to prevent its occupation by the EPLF, especially the downtown areas.[1][2] The Ethiopian victory was attributed to the intervention of the Soviet Union on behalf of Ethiopia.[3] This defeat led to a withdrawal, dubbed the strategic withdrawal, into Sahel, the strategic, EPLF held mountaintops around the town of Nakfa. This battle was also the beginning of direct Soviet involvement in the Eritrean War of Independence, which would continue in other battles.


  1. ^ a b Cooper, Tom (2003-09-02). "Ethiopia and Eritrea, 1950-1991". Archived from the original on 2006-12-06. Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  2. ^ "Another Soviet Push for Power". Time. 1978-02-06. Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  3. ^ Payton, Gary. "The Soviet-Ethiopian Liaison". Air University Review. XXX (1). Retrieved 2006-12-27. 

See also[edit]