Jan Breytenbach

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jan Dirk Breytenbach
Born (1932-07-14) 14 July 1932 (age 86)
Allegiance  South Africa
 United Kingdom[1]
Years of service
Rank Colonel
Other work Author

Jan Dirk Breytenbach DVR SD SM MMM[3] (born 14 July 1932) was appointed by General Fritz Loots, the founder of the South African Special Forces Brigade, as the first commander of 1 Reconnaissance Commando, the first unit founded within the South African Special Forces. He was also appointed as the first commander of the 32 Battalion, known colloquially as "Buffalo Battalion", as well as 44 Parachute Brigade.

Military career[edit]

Breytenbach attended the Army Gymnasium in 1950, and was awarded the Sword of Peace in 1953 and joined the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm after serving in the Armoured Corps and saw service in the Suez Crisis in 1956. He rejoined the South African Defence Force in 1961[3] and soon after completed one of 1 Parachute Battalion's courses. He founded 1 Reconnaissance Commando in 1971.

In 1975 Breytenbach lead Operation Savannah, the SADF's covert intervention in the Angolan Civil War. The remnants of this group became the infamous 32 Battalion.

He attended Staff College in 1977[4] and was promoted to colonel. In 1978, lead the SADF air assault on Cassinga, and has continued to the present day to contest opposing versions of the event in the press.[5]

He became senior staff officer for operations at Northern Transvaal Command and commanded 44 Parachute Brigade from 24 September 1980 to 31 December 1982. He founded the SADF Guerilla school, which he commanded until his retirement.[3]

Breytenbach retired from the military in 1987, and has written a number of books since then. He is the brother of South African poet and writer Breyten Breytenbach and of war correspondent/photographer Cloete Breytenbach. During the 1980s, Breyten and Jan Breytenbach held strongly opposing political viewpoints, so with his brother opting for a more left-wing approach, this influential family effectively covered the political spectrum.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Books by Jan Breytenbach[edit]

  • Breytenbach, Jan (1986). Forged in battle. Saayman & Weber. ISBN 0-7971-0025-3. 
  • Breytenbach, Jan (1990). They live by the sword. Lemur. ISBN 0-620-14870-5. 
  • Breytenbach, Jan (1997). Eden's exiles, one soldier's fight for paradise. Queillerie. ISBN 1-874901-24-4. 
  • Breytenbach, Jan (2001). The plunderers. Covos Day. ISBN 1-919874-01-1. 
  • Breytenbach, Jan (2002). The Buffalo Soldiers, the story of South Africa's 32-Battalion, 1975–1993. Galago. ISBN 1-919854-07-X. 
  • Breytenbach, Jan (2008). Eagle Strike: The Story of the controversial airborne assault on Cassinga 1978. Manie Grove Publishing. ISBN 978-0-620-40614-7. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Authors – Col. Jan Breytenbach". The Galago Publishing Company. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  2. ^ a b "History of the South African Special Forces". SAForces Club. Archived from the original on 20 January 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Els, Paul J., WO1 (2010). We conquer from above. PelsA Books. ISBN 978-0-620-46738-4. 
  4. ^ Uys, Ian (1992). South African Military Who's Who 1452–1992. Fortress Publishers. p. 30. ISBN 0-9583173-3-X. 
  5. ^ http://etd.uwc.ac.za/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11394/1711/Shigwedha_PHD_2011.pdf
  6. ^ "Member Profile - Jan Breytenbach". Warinangola.com. Archived from the original on 12 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Brig Mike du Plessis
OC 44 Parachute Brigade
1980  – 1982
Succeeded by
Col Frank Bestbier
New title
OC 32 Battalion
1975 – 1977
Succeeded by
Col Gert Nel

External links[edit]