Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Siege of Jadotville and The Wild Geese.

Netflix recently added a new original film called "The Siege of Jadotville" which chronicles the experience of an Irish company attacked during the Congo Crisis of 1961. Most Americans would shrug their shoulders if asked about the Congo Crisis, but at the time, the Congo was a supplier of copper and uranium, and an important part of the Cold War chessboard.

The movie has some minor flaws, but overall is well done, I like the way the story is woven in the bigger picture of what was going on in the Congo and with the larger UN mission of Operation Morthor. Obviously it is a "Hollywood" take, full of typically tropes. But, there is an authenticity to it as well. The United Nations was still in relative good graces at the time in most people's minds. The Congo Crisis was the beginning of the end for that belief.

Interestingly enough, the only United Nations General Secretary to die while in office, Dag Hammarskjold, died in a plane crash while trying to deal with the consequences of Operation Morthor. Ultimately, like so many times before and since, The Siege of Jadotville is really the story of soldiers dealing with the messes created by inexperienced and ignorant bureaucrats who are more worried about their own places in history.

The movie is based off of the work of Michael Whelan which can be read here. There is a LOT of FN-FAL and Bren action. Also, Gustav M45's and MAT-49's seen in action as well.

So why the reference to The Wild Geese? As I have written before, I am a huge fan of The Wild Geese.

 There are a lot of real life characters that criss cross back and forth between the two stories. General Tshombe, the self declared President of Katanga which played a very prominent role in the Congo Crisis, has been likened to the character of President Limbani in The Wild Geese. Mike Hoare, famed mercenary, was at the Siege of Jadotville, as part of the mercenary forces arrayed against the Irish company. He had been brought in as a technical advisor for the film. Richard Burton's character, Colonel Faulkner, was based off of Hoare. Ian Yule, who plays Tosh in the film, had been a mercenary in Africa during the 1960s and 70s.

The Wild Geese has long stuck with me since I first saw it back in the early 1980s. We were at my grandparents house on a Saturday afternoon, and it came on. I remember how my dad was excited to see it. Fast forward to the early 1990s. While at college, one of my best friends also expressed a love for the move. He had a copy of movie on VHS that had been recorded when it had been broadcast on TV. He could quote long passages of the movie, which was great fun around the cafeteria table.

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