Historicity: 4 February, 2022
Your daily dose of historic curiosity.
4 February, 1961 - 61 years ago today, in Africa
The Angolan War of Independence began with an uprising on this day in Luanda.
Angola, in southwest Africa, had been a colonial territory of Portugal since the late 1400s.
By the 1960s many countries were throwing off the yoke of European colonialism and staking out independent paths for themselves. Angola was the first Portuguese territory in Africa to do so.
The post colonial civil wars in Angola, Rhodesia, and other African states quickly became another Cold War proxy front between the U.S. and Soviet Union throughout the 60s and 70s.
Here, some American Vietnam-war veterans, often feeling unwelcome or unable to adjust at home, could continue their martial careers as mercenaries and armed guards, fighting against Marxist guerillas, other political factions, and criminal gangs.
Of course, there are no “good sides" in these types of conflict, and these mercenaries were no saints. Some committed attrocities themselves. A few American and U.K. mercs were eventually executed or imprisoned, most notably for their willingness to kill blacks at will.
The mercenary cadres from this shadowy period developed further into the 1980s, carrying their trade experience into Central and South America. They became more formalized private military companies serving countries, corporations, or wealthy individuals on contract throughout the region.
Many of the stories behind the most prominent American mercenaries of the latter 20th century somehow connect back to Angola. Their stories and detailed operational accounts, regaled in the pages of Cold War propaganda magazines like Soldier of Fortune, were a huge influence on me as a teen in the early 1980s.
Reminiscent of this past, more recent headlines have raised concerns about the Wagner Group, a Russian private mercenary company now operating as Putin's unofficial army in nearby Mali, west Africa.
What are you doing, Vladimir?
What’s going on in Angola today?
Has the country found any peace or stability in the last 20 years?
What are Wagner Group mercs doing in Mali?
How many major private military companies (aka PMCs in military parlance) are there in the world now?
The Angolan Liberation War (1961-1974) on GlobalSecurity.Org.
Mercenary Wars in Angola on Mercenary-Wars.Net.
Timeline of Angolan civil wars from 1961 to 2002 on TimeToast.Com.
Soldier of Fortune magazine on Wikipedia.
'Romantic' Ex-Mercenary Says He Would Return to Angola (1982) on Washington Post
All About Angola now on Africa.com
What else makes February 4th special around the world?
Winter Olympics XXIV begins in Beijing, China today.
It’s also World Cancer Day and Homemade Soup Day.
Famous births on 4 February, under the sign of Aquarius
Singer Alice Cooper (1948-),
historic Black activist Rosa Parks (1913-2005),
boxer Oscar De La Hoya (1973-),
American pilot Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974),
American VP Dan Quayle (1947-),
film director George A Romero (1940-2017),
and self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States Joshua A Norton (1818-1880).
“Last night at quarter past eight o'clock, Joshua Norton, universally known — and known almost only — as Emperor Norton, died suddenly in this city. The similar death of the first citizen of San Francisco, or the highest municipal officer of the city, would not have caused so general a sensation as that of the harmless old man whose monomania never distorted at least a heart which was wholesome, and hardly affected a mind which had once been of the shrewdest, other than in the method of his sovereignty of the United States and Protectorate of Mexico.”
- "Emperor Norton; He Dies Suddenly on California Street Last Night" article in The San Francisco Morning Call, 9 January 1880.
Today is the 35th day of the year on the Gregorian calendar. 330 days remaining.
It is 188.8.131.52.12 on the Mayan long count calendar.
It is day 8 - Grass, in the 13 day cycle of the Snake, in the solar year of the Rabbit on the Aztec calendar.
It is 3 Adar I, 5782 on the Jewish calendar.