Siege of Jadotville

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This article is about the historical event. For the 2016 film based on it, see The Siege of Jadotville (film).
Siege of Jadotville
Part of Operation Morthor (Congo Crisis)
Irish captives in Katanga 1961.PNG
A mercenary serving with the Katangese gendarmerie and four Irish ONUC personnel, taken captive just prior to the siege at Jadotville
Date 13-17 September 1961
Location Jadotville, State of Katanga
(now Likasi, Katanga Province, DR Congo)
Result

Katangese victory

  • Failed Irish-Swedish relief attempt
  • Surrender of Irish company
Belligerents

State of Katanga Katanga

Belgian, French, and Rhodesian mercenaries

United Nations ONUC

Commanders and leaders
State of Katanga Roger Faulques (overall command of Gendarmerie Katangaise) [1]
State of Katanga Michel de Clary (field commander)
State of Katanga Henri Lasimone (field commander)
Republic of Ireland Pat Quinlan (POW)
Republic of Ireland Billy Ready (POW)
Strength
Estimates vary widely, from some 500[2] to up to 4,000 or even 5,000[3][4]
1 Fouga Magister aircraft
Irish company:
155[5]–158 soldiers[6]
In support:
500 Irish and Swedish soldiers
Casualties and losses
300 dead[3][4]
Up to 1,000 wounded
5 wounded
158 prisoners
One transport destroyed
One helicopter damaged

The Siege of Jadotville took place in September 1961, during the United Nations intervention in the Katanga conflict in Congo-Léopoldville, in Central Africa. "A" Company, 35th Battalion (UN service) of the Irish Army ONUC contingent was attacked by Katanga Gendarmerie troops loyal to the Katangese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe. The lightly armed Irish soldiers, besieged in Jadotville (modern Likasi), resisted Katangese assaults for six days as a relief force of Irish and Swedish troops unsuccessfully attempted to reach the Irish force.

The outnumbered Irish company was eventually forced to surrender after ammunition and supplies were exhausted, but not before inflicting heavy casualties on the Katangese and their mercenaries. They were held as prisoners of war for approximately one month, with no loss of life. It was the last engagement of the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) peacekeeping mission to use Irish and Swedish troops in hostile action.

Background[edit]

On Wednesday, 13 September 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld gave permission for the United Nations forces to launch a military offensive, code named Operation Morthor, against mercenary military units serving the State of Katanga, which had seceded from Congo-Léopoldville in July 1960. According to its mandate, the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) forces were to remain strictly impartial in the conflict. But, the Katangese political leadership believed the UN had broken its mandate and its forces were siding with their opponent, the Congolese central government. Soon after the start of Morthor, the Katangese led a counterattack on an isolated UN military unit based at the mining town of Jadotville, approximately 100 kilometers up country from the main UN base in Elizabethville.[7] A contingent of 155 Irish UN troops, styled as "A Company" and commanded by Commandant Pat Quinlan, had been sent to the mining town, ostensibly to assist in the protection of its citizens. The foreign minister of Belgium had called the UN secretary general, reporting that Belgian settlers and the local population were unprotected, and feared for their safety.

But, when the Irish troops arrived at Jadotville, they were not welcomed by the local people, due to strong pro-Katangese and anti-UN feeling. Two previous companies of ONUC peacekeepers — one Swedish and one Irish — had been withdrawn from Jadotville in the days prior to the arrival of Quinlan's force.[8] It is not clear why the Katangese wanted to isolate the Irish UN troops, although some commentators have suggested that the goal may have been to take the Irish as prisoners for leverage in negotiations with the UN.[8]

Battle[edit]

The Katangese attacked while many of the Irish troops were attending an open-air Mass. Expecting to take the men off guard, the first attackers moved in rapidly but were spotted by an alert sentry. A warning shot by Sgt. Billy Ready alerted the company to the threat (Ready was wounded in the subsequent exchange of fire).[9] A five-day battle ensued.

A Fouga Magister similar to the one used by the Katangese during the siege

A combined force of mercenaries, Belgian settlers and local Luba tribesmen attacked the Irish. The attackers had a strength of 3,000–5,000 men, mostly bands of Luba warriors, but also many Belgian, French and Rhodesian mercenaries armed with a mix of light and heavy armament. They also had air support from a Fouga Magister trainer jet, fitted with underwing bombs and machine guns. For the most part, the Irish UN soldiers were armed with only light personal weapons, a small number of water-cooled Vickers machine guns and 60mm mortars. The besieged Irish radioed to their headquarters: "We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey".[7]

The Katangese attacked in waves of 600 or so, preceded by bombardment from 81mm mortars and a French 75mm field gun. The Irish soldiers successfully defended against successive waves of attackers from their positions. The Irish Support Platoon knocked out most of the Katangese mortar and artillery positions with accurate counter-battery fire from 60mm mortars. After withstanding four days of repeated attacks, the Irish fired on identified Katangese mortar and machine-gun positions with several hours of continuous and concentrated fire from their own mortars and machine guns.

The Irish fire proved accurate and effective. Mercenary officers were reportedly observed shooting native gendarmes to stem the rout caused in Katangese lines.[10] The Katangese asked Quinlan for a cease-fire, as their forces had been seriously diminished. By this time their effective strength may have been reduced to 2,000 men. Quinlan agreed.

Swedish members of ONUC in the Congo, November 1961

The 500 Irish and Swedish UN troops based in Kamina, and Indian army Gurkhas, made several attempts to relieve the besieged Irish soldiers.[3] The supporting force of mercenaries, many veterans of the Algerian War,[11] beat back these efforts. They had been brought in by Gen. Moise Tshombe, Katanga's premier, whose secessionist government had been supported by Belgium.[12]

A series of battles took place at a pinch point called the Lufira Bridge. It carried the Jadotville-to-Elizabethville Highway across the Lufira River. The Katangese forces dug in here and brought heavy and sustained ground and air fire onto the relief column, killing several Indian UN troops, injuring a number of Irish UN troops and ultimately forcing the column off the bridge.[13]

'A' Company, 35th Battalion suffered five wounded in action during the six days of the siege. The Katangese, on the other hand, suffered heavy losses. Up to 300 were killed, including 30 mercenaries, and an indeterminate number were wounded, with figures ranging from 300 to 1,000. Quinlan, however, had no access to resupply and reinforcements and, with his transport destroyed by the Fouga Magister jet, a breakout was virtually impossible.

At one stage in the conflict a mission to bring in water by air was successful, but due to the use of contaminated containers (previously used to store petrol) the water was largely undrinkable. Quinlan lacked any clear direction or communication from his superiors, and the Katangese gradually infringed on the cease-fire agreement to undermine A Company's position. In the end, with his position untenable, without any clear orders or promise of assistance, having run out of ammunition and food and low on water, Quinlan accepted the second offer to surrender to the Katangese.[9] The Irish were held as hostages for approximately one month, in an effort to extort terms of ceasefire that were embarrassing to the UN.[14] The Katangese and their mercenary allies bartered the Irish soldiers for prisoners in the custody of the Congolese government of Joseph Kasa-Vubu. After being released, the troops were returned to their base in Elizabethville. Some weeks later, however, "A" Company found itself involved in active combat again,[15] this time with the support of Swedish UN troops. Eventually they were reinforced with fresh troops from Ireland (their replacement was the 36th Battalion).[citation needed] After weeks of fighting and their six-month tour of duty now complete, "A" Company was rotated out of the battle zone and were home in Ireland that December.[8]

Aftermath[edit]

Inaccurate reports of the deaths of several Irish soldiers circulated in the media at the time of the attacks. Some analysts suggest that the Belgian Fouga pilot mistook bed rolls for body bags as he overflew the battlefield.

Until the early 21st century, the Irish state did not give much recognition to the battle of Jadotville. The term "Jadotville Jack" was sometimes applied as a term of derision about the Irish Defence Forces. After the incident no Irish soldier received any decoration for his actions at Jadotville, although Quinlan recommended a number of his men for the Military Medal for Gallantry (MMG), Ireland's highest award for military valour, for their actions during the battle. In 2016 the Irish government awarded a Presidential Unit Citation to A Company,[16] the first in the State's history.[17]

Although A Company, 35th Battalion had tactically defeated a larger enemy force at Jadotville, the Irish Defence Forces did not overtly acknowledge the battle. There may have been perceived shame that A Company had surrendered, or because of political and strategic errors demonstrated at higher levels.[10] Quinlan eventually retired as a full colonel but never served overseas again. The Irish officers who fought at Jadotville found that it was best for one's career not to mention the battle.

The veterans of Jadotville were dissatisfied that the Defence Forces refused to acknowledge the battle and that there was an implied black mark on the reputation of their commander. Quinlan, who died in 1997, had his public reputation restored nine years after his death.[18] The veterans of A Company reportedly regarded him as an exceptional officer who had saved the lives of his men by ordering them to dig in, and who successfully led his company against an overwhelming enemy force. He was forced into an impossible situation by the apparent failings of the UN leadership. Against the odds, he had saved the lives of each of his men in a battle they had not expected nor planned for.

John Gorman, a retired soldier who had been a 17-year-old private during the fight, campaigned to have the Battle of Jadotville recognized. In 2004 Irish Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea agreed to hold a full review of the battle. A Defence Forces inquiry cleared Quinlan and A Company of allegations of soldierly misconduct. A commemorative stone recognising the soldiers of A Company was erected on the grounds of Custume Barracks in Athlone in 2005. A commissioned portrait of Quinlan was installed in the Congo Room of the Irish Defence Forces' UN School.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

Declan Power's history, The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle (2005),[20] was adapted as the film, The Siege of Jadotville (2016).[21] The cast includes Jamie Dornan and Mark Strong, and the movie had a "well received" premier at the 2016 Galway Film Festival.[22] It had a limited cinematic release in September 2016,[23] and worldwide release on Netflix, on 7 October 2016.[24][25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE MERCENARY WARS". 
  2. ^ "Congo, Part 1; 1960–1963". Air Combat Information Group. Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Bravery of Irish soldiers at Jadotville siege to be examined – Naughten". Fine Gael News. 12 May 2004. Archived from the original on 1 September 2007.  3rd Battalion, 1st Gorkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment) was operating as part of 99th Indian Infantry Brigade during Morthor. Nambiar, Sundaram, Chhina, 'For the Honor of India: A History of Indian Peacekeeping,' Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research, USI of India, New Delhi, ISBN 978-81-902097-8-6, 2009, 201, 217.
  4. ^ a b Peace Operations and Intrastate Conflict. Greenwood Publishing Group. 1999. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  5. ^ David O'Donoghue. "Army's Congo Mission Casts a Long Shadow" (PDF). Royal Irish Academy. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Stanley Meisler (1995). United Nations: The First Fifty Years. Atlantic Monthly Press. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "War in Katanga". TIME. 22 September 1961. 
  8. ^ a b c "The True Story of the Heroic Battle That Inspired the New Netflix Film The Siege of Jadotville". TIME. 27 July 2016. probably with the aim of taking the Irish as prisoners and using them as leverage in negotiations with the U.N. 
  9. ^ a b "Brave Vets Medal Shame; Jungle fighters honoured.. with award they had to pay for themselves". Sunday Mirror. 5 May 2002. 
  10. ^ a b Whelan, Michael (2006). "The Battle of Jadotville – Irish Soldiers in Combat in the Congo 1961" (PDF). South Dublin Libraries. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  11. ^ Ralph Riegel, John O'Mahony (2010). Missing in Action: The 50 Year Search for Ireland's Missing Soldier. Mercier Press Ltd. p. 106. ISBN 9781856356947. [at the] Lufira River [..] the UN didn't have the bridging equipment to bypass the Katangan position [.. and ..] the Katangan gendarmes were now being led by freshly recruited French, German, Belgian and South African soldiers who were Algerian veterans almost to a man 
  12. ^ Molefi Kete Asante (2014). The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony. Routledge. p. 302. ISBN 9781135013493. Moishe Tshombe, leader of Katanga, declared, with Belgian support, Katanga independent 
  13. ^ Declan Power. Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle. ISBN 9781504758888. An attempt by Gurkha infantry, accompanied by Irish armored cars, to make a lightening dash across the bridge [..led to..] Three of the Indians were killed outright and eight other soldiers were wounded 
  14. ^ Haskin, Jeanne M. (2005). The Tragic State of the Congo: From Decolonization to Dictatorship. Algora Publishing. 
  15. ^ Declan Power. Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle. ISBN 9781504758888. Quinlan's men were to find themselves in combat again, literally days before they boarded the Globemasters to go home. This time it was on the night of December 12, when the Katangese set up a roadblock near the Soco petrol depot 
  16. ^ "Soldiers recognised for Jadotville bravery". RTÉ News. 17 September 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  17. ^ "Jadotville ceremony rights a "grievous wrong"". Westmeath Examiner. 17 September 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2016. This is the first time that a Unit Citation has been awarded within the Irish Defence Forces 
  18. ^ Carney, Jim (c. 2012). "From Galway to the Congo — into the Heart of Darkness – Part 2". The Tuam Herald. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  19. ^ Sweeney, Eamon (5 August 2016). "The Siege of Jadotville: How the bravery of Irish UN soldiers was shunned". Derry Journal. Retrieved 9 October 2016. 
  20. ^ Power, Declan (2005). The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle. Dublin: Maverick House Publishers. ISBN 0-9548707-1-9. 
  21. ^ "28th Galway Film Fleadh – July 2016 – The Siege of Jadotville". Galwayfilmfleadh.com. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  22. ^ "Jamie Dornan's latest film wins standing ovation at Galway Film Fleadh". Irish Independent. 11 July 2016. 
  23. ^ "'The Siege of Jadotville' to receive limited cinema release". Irish Times. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  24. ^ "The Siege of Jadotville (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  25. ^ "First trailer of Siege of Jadotville is nail-biting". RTÉ. 10 September 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Doyle, Rose & Quinlan, Leo (With) (2006). Heroes of Jadotville (The Soldiers' Story). Dublin: New Island. ISBN 1-905494-31-9. 
  • Dunleavy, Pat & O'Donoghue, David (Editor) (2005). "Fighting For Our Lives With 'Jadotville Jack'". The Irish Army in the Congo 1960–1964: The Far Battalions (Reprinted 2006 ed.). Irish Academic Press. pp. 105–112. ISBN 0 7165 3319 7. 
  • Foghlú, Sean Ó. No White Feather. Book Republic. ISBN 978-1-907221-06-4. 
  • Froberg, Lars & O'Donoghue, David (Editor) (2005). "Remembering Jadotville". The Irish Army in the Congo 1960–1964: The Far Battalions (Reprinted 2006 ed.). Irish Academic Press. pp. 113–126. ISBN 0 7165 3319 7. 
  • Greene, John. Red Legs: One Irish Boy's African Adventure. ISBN 9781904244837. 
  • Erik Kennes, Miles Larmer, The Katangese Gendarmes and War in Central Africa: Fighting Their Way Home, Indiana University Press, 2016
  • O'Donoghue, David (2006). "Army's Congo Mission Casts a Long Shadow". Irish Studies in International Affairs. 17: 43–65. JSTOR 30002097. 
  • Whelan, Michael (2006). The Battle of Jadotville; Irish Soldiers in Combat in the Congo, 1961. South Dublin Libraries. ISBN 0954766067. 

Coordinates: 10°59′S 26°44′E / 10.983°S 26.733°E / -10.983; 26.733 (Battle of Jadotville)