The Crippled Eagles

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The Crippled Eagles
Dates of operation July 1964–1979
Motives Defence of Rhodesia, participation in the Rhodesian Bush War
Active region(s) Rhodesia /  Rhodesia
(now  Zimbabwe)
Ideology Anti-communism
Status Defunct

The Crippled Eagles was the informal name of a group of American expatriates that served in the Rhodesian Security Forces during the Rhodesian Bush War. The name and emblem came from author Robin Moore, who offered a house in Salisbury as a meeting place for the Americans who served in all units of the security forces, but never had their own unit.[1] The name "Crippled Eagle" and their badge was meant to symbolise what they considered their abandonment by the US government. Robin Moore and Barbara Fuca tried to publish a book with the same title, but because of the political controversy the book was refused by publishers and appeared only in 1991, when it was published as The White Tribe.[2]


One of the reasons for many of the American citizens who joined the Crippled Eagles was the Soldier of Fortune reports about both the Rhodesian Bush War and the means of entry into the Rhodesian Army. From 1976 to 1980 almost every issue contained one or more articles about the ongoing conflict.[3][4] The first issue of the magazine in 1975 actually contained two such articles, prompting some Americans to travel to Rhodesia.[5] After 1980, their attention turned to Angola, Soweto and other hotspots around the world.

Approximately 300 Americans, some with previous combat experience in Vietnam and other theatres of war, others with none, volunteered to fight in the Rhodesian Security Forces during the Rhodesian Bush War. They did so not as mercenaries, but as ordinary soldiers, earning a pay packet in local currency equal to that of a Rhodesian regular, under the same conditions of service.[6] The Americans suffered seven combat fatalities and many others were wounded in combat, some maimed for life. Five served in Rhodesia's most prestigious unit, the Selous Scouts.[7]

Members killed[edit]

During the course of its existence the following American citizens died in Rhodesia:[8]

Name Rank Rhodesian Force Number Date Killed Details
Coey, John AlanJohn Alan Coey Corporal 725702 19 July 1975 John Alan Coey graduated from Ohio State University in 1972 and flew to Rhodesia the day after he graduated. He first served in the Rhodesian Special Air Service, and afterwards in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, in the 2 Commando, with the attached Rhodesian Army Medical Corps. He was killed in action on 19 July 1975 by a gunshot wound. He was the first American out of the Crippled Eagles to die for Rhodesia. His journal, A Martyr Speaks, was published in 1988, posthumously.
Clarke, George WilliamGeorge William Clarke Trooper 728197 15 May 1977 Clarke was born in Canada, he came from a family of nine children. He lived in South Africa, and later in Southern California, according to some sources.[9] He was a Vietnam veteran, serving in the United States Marine Corps, and was decorated with the Purple Heart twice during his marine career. Prior to joining the RLI, George served as a paramedic in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada (EHSC). He was aged 28 when he was KIA. He served in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, in the Support Commando. He was killed on 15 May 1977 around Mtoko, in the then Tribal Trust Land, inside Rhodesia proper.
Biederman, Richard L.Richard L. Biederman Sergeant 726685 6 December 1977 Biederman was from Minnesota, first he served in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, in the 2 Commando, and afterwards he was granted entry to the Rhodesian Special Air Service. He was killed on active service on 6 December 1977, in Mozambique, during an accidental shooting, but sources vary.[10][11]
Battaglia, Frank P.Frank P. Battaglia Trooper 728515 6 March 1978 Battaglia was born in Florida, but later moved to New York. He was a Vietnam veteran having served with the US Army 173rd Airborne, and was reportedly wounded twice in the Vietnam War. He also served a full contract with the Spanish Foreign Legion. He came to Rhodesia with his wife, and went to C squadron SAS training troop. After SAS training he joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry, the 3 Commando, 14 Troop. He was KIA on 6 March 1978, around Kavalamanja in Zambia during Operation Turmoil, by a Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army machine gun. Frank P. Battaglia's wife served with the Rhodesian Air Force, packing parachutes. He was an avid poker player and gave some young Rhodesian soldiers poker lessons while playing for matches.[12][13]
Byrne, Joseph PatrickJoseph Patrick Byrne Trooper 728721 26 October 1978 Joseph Patrick Byrne was an Irish-American from Kearney, New Jersey. He joined the Rhodesian Army in October 1977. He was a regular in the crowd of foreign volunteers that socialised in the Monomatapa Hotel and a friend of American author Robin Moore. He joined 3 Commando, Rhodesian Light Infantry on 24 March 1978 from Recruit Intake 162. He was KIA during Operation Repulse at the age of 26, on 26 October 1978 around Middle Sabi or Lower Sabi inside in the Mutema Tribal Trust Land, in Rhodesia proper when his patrol came under fire in an area devoid of cover.[14]
Dwyer, Stephen MichaelStephen Michael Dwyer Trooper 729803 16 July 1979 Stephen Michael Dwyer was from Boston, Massachusetts. He served a tour with the US Marine Corps in Korea. He joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry, the 3 Commando. He was KIA at the age of 27, while coming to the aid of fatally wounded fellow American, Hugh John McCall, on 16 July 1979 on the Buffalo Range Area, in Rhodesia proper.[14]
McCall, Hugh JohnHugh John McCall Sergeant 727941 16 July 1979 Hugh John McCall was a Vietnam veteran, having served with the US Army 173rd Airborne. He was KIA on 16 July 1979 on the Buffalo Range Area, in Rhodesia proper. A well-known book on the Rhodesian Bush War, authored by Chris Cocks[15] is dedicated to his memory.


  1. ^ "SALUTE THE TROOPERS". 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  2. ^ Robin Moore and Barbara Fuca. The White Tribe (November 1991 ed.). Affiliated Writers of America/Publishers. p. 522. ISBN 1-879915-03-0. 
  3. ^ Churchill, Ward (1980). "U.S. Mercenaries in Southern Africa: The Recruiting Network and U.S. Policy". Africa Today. Indiana University Press. 27 (No. 2, 2nd Qtr.): 21–46. JSTOR 4185921. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Taulbee, J. L. (1985). "Soldiers of fortune: A legal leash for the dogs of war?". Defense Analysis. 1 (3): 187–203. doi:10.1080/07430178508405203. 
  5. ^ St. Amant, Nikki, Spc (29 April 2005). "Soldier of fortune: Infantry Center's Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Kelso". The Bayonet. United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Moorcraft, Paul L.; McLaughlin, Peter (April 2008) [1982]. The Rhodesian War: A Military History. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-84415-694-8. 
  7. ^ A brief biography of John Early
  8. ^ Binda, Alexandre (2008). The Saints: The Rhodesian Light Infantry. Johannesburg: 30° South Publishers. pp. 527–529. ISBN 978-1-920143-07-7. 
  9. ^ Pg 59 – Gerald Horne. From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War against Zimbabwe, 1965–1980 (5 December 2000 ed.). The University of North Carolina Press. p. 400. ISBN 0-8078-4903-0. 
  10. ^ "RHODESIAN ROLL OF HONOUR (A-C)". 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-30. Biederman, Richard L., Sergeant – Special Air Service – DOAS in an accidental shooting in Mozambique – 06-Dec-77 
  11. ^ "Sgt Richard Biederman". 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  12. ^ "Frank P. Battaglia". therli. 2009. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  13. ^ Wall Street Journal 30 April 1979
  14. ^ a b Gerald Horne. From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War against Zimbabwe, 1965–1980 (5 December 2000 ed.). The University of North Carolina Press. p. 400. ISBN 0-8078-4903-0. 
  15. ^ Chris Cocks. Fireforce: One Man's War in the Rhodesian Light Infantry (1 July 2001 ed.). Covos Day. p. 296. ISBN 1-919874-32-1. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]