Colonial Wars of Independence

In the late nineteenth century a combination of increasing European industrialization, expanding trade and finance from growth centers in North America and Western Europe, and developing technological advances in transportation and communications fostered a global expansion of the imperial powers’ political and military domination.

Political Considerations

In the late nineteenth century a combination of increasing European industrialization, expanding trade and finance from growth centers in North America and Western Europe, and developing technological advances in transportation and communications fostered a global expansion of the imperial powers’ political and military domination. In Asia, China’s military and industrial underdevelopment allowed Britain, France, the United States, and Japan to assert colonial control over such former Chinese tributary states as Burma (1824-1885), Indochina (1862-1895), and Taiwan (1895), while also creating neocolonial spheres of influence in Thailand (1896) and in China itself (1839-1945). The vast interior of Africa, meanwhile, was visited by semiofficial European explorers and missionaries and was conquered by European troops operating from coastal bases beginning in 1880. Earlier European coastal encroachments that facilitated the slave trade, such as those of Portugal, were expanded.Independence movements (anticolonial)ColonialismInsurgenciesIndependence movements (anticolonial)ColonialismInsurgenciesAnticolonial movements

A European-based alliance system preserved international balances of power in Europe, Asia, and Africa until the start of World War I World War I (1914-1918)[World War 01];impact on colonial possessions[colonial](1914-1918). After the war the victorious Allies awarded themselves control over former German and Ottoman possessions in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The anomalous position of the former German colony of South-West Africa;colonialismAfrica, seized by South Africa during World War I, was resolved when, in 1920, the League of Nations made it a mandate territory of South Africa, to eventually be known as NamibiaNamibia.

Although colonial powers had various purposes for waging colonial wars, they generally sought to extend or preserve a global presence unfettered by the geographic limitations of their metropolitan homelands. In the late twentieth century this impulse came into conflict both with evidence of the military vulnerability of the European powers, many of which suffered defeat during World War II World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];impact on colonial possessions[colonial](1939-1945), and with increasing demands for self-determination from colonized peoples. Against these currents Italy;invasion of EthiopiaItaly had tried reinventing itself as a great power by invading Ethiopia;Italian invasion of 1935Ethiopia in 1935, hoping not only to create a new colony but also to redress an earlier embarrassing military defeat it had suffered in 1896. Japan;colonialismJapan’s occupation of Chinese territory from 1931 to 1945 and of European colonies in the Southeast and Southwest Pacific island coloniesPacific from 1940 to 1945 during World War II exchanged one occupying power for another, fueling nationalist resolve and greatly complicating the efforts of British, French, and Dutch troops to reassert their colonial authority after Japan’s defeat. In the postwar economy European powers needed the natural resources provided by the colonies, but they also struggled to recover their international prestige after the damage of World War II. The same factors, resources and prestige, were interpreted differently by other colonial powers. The United States rapidly agreed to Philippines;independencePhilippine independence, linking it to the American ideal of freedom by selecting July 4 as Philippine Independence Day in 1946. Between 1956 and 1975 Spain;colonies’ independenceSpain withdrew from virtually all its colonial territories without armed confrontation: Morocco in 1956; the Republic of Equatorial Guinea in 1968; and the Spanish Sahara in 1976. Belgium also relinquished direct political authority in the Congo (1960) and Rwanda (1962), but did so without assuring the emplacement of stable successor governments.

As time passed, the motives of colonial powers changed. In the 1950’s Britain and France deployed troops to certain colonies to protect expatriates from violence launched by local nationalists and to preserve sufficient order to allow a smooth transition of authority to local elites sympathetic to the West. Portugal;colonial powerPortugal’s calculus was different. It made its overseas colonies provinces of the motherland and tenaciously defended its colonial system, particularly after the embarrassment caused by India’s easy seizure of Portuguese Goa (India’s annexation)Goa in 1961. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s Portugal used force to suppress independence movements in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Angola, with disastrous results.

Networks of anticolonial nationalists readily evolved, including the Pan-African Congress Pan-Africanism[Panafricanism]movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Communist International Communist International movementmovement of the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the Nonaligned Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Through these and other initiatives, Anticolonial movementsanticolonial insurgents gained international recognition and built political alliances. Meanwhile, nationalist leaders, who endorsed social changes such as land reform in addition to anticolonial causes, often conceived of their movements as “national liberation struggles.” Of these, many included well-organized local Communism;anticolonial movementsCommunist parties whose leaders studied the strategies developed and employed by Mao Mao ZedongMao ZedongZedong (Mao Tse-tung; 1893-1976) in the Chinese Civil War (1926-1949). Material and political support from the Soviet Union and China bolstered anticolonial forces in several colonies. These facts greatly complicated the international context of many colonial wars, as East-West tensions became integrated with local colonial politics. Once local nationalists embarked upon an armed struggle, whatever its external orientation, colonial powers were loath to withdraw without first quashing the armed rebellion. Typically each side in the ensuing conflict interpreted the military activities of the other as an escalation of the conflict, and partisan support galvanized on each side as casualties and costs mounted.

For their part, local Nationalism;anticolonialsnationalists could not organize cohesive political, let alone military, opposition where some form of genuine antipathy to imperial rule did not already exist. Leaders sought to transform local dissatisfactions into an organized resistance movement through propaganda, recruitment, and political instruction. Leaders also carefully monitored East-West Cold War (1945-1991);and anticolonialism[anticolonialism]tensions and studied the progress of other anticolonial movements, looking for external support and examples of successful struggle strategies.

Transitions to independence typically required the complete military withdrawal of the colonial power. Metropolitan powers elected to withdraw for many reasons: the financial and other costs of long-lived colonial wars, as in the French withdrawal from Algeria;independenceAlgeria in 1962; cataclysmic military defeat, as in the French disaster at Dien Bien Indochina;French withdrawalPhu in 1954; the transfer of power to moderates after the defeat of insurgent forces, as in Malaya;independence movementMalaya in 1957; the collapse of the metropolitan government, as in Portugal in 1974; and international isolation and condemnation, as in South South Africa;and Namibia[Namibia]Africa’s withdrawal from NamibiaNamibia in 1989. Although negotiations between colonial authorities and insurgent leaders gave the latter political legitimacy, anticolonial leadership structures often fractured after hostilities ended, plunging newly independent states into extended civil wars.

Military Achievement

Although few colonial wars produced clear military results for either party, there are important examples of decisive battlefield victories that prefigured political change. Colonial powers thoroughly suppressed mid-twentieth century armed rebellions in both Madagascar and Malaya, allowing gradual transitions to independence in each case. Similarly, certain nationalist forces were able to force colonial administrations to withdraw after inflicting military defeat upon colonial troops. This occurred in Indochina, where Vietnamese forces engineered the collapse of the fortified French position at Dien Bien Phu and in Algeria, after a less disastrous but equally costly six-year conflict (1954-1962).

For both colonial and nationalist militaries, one of the great challenges of anticolonial conflict lay in asserting cohesive command over multinational and Diversity in armed forcesmulticultural troops. Where anticolonial commanders failed in this project, as the Chinese-dominated Malayan Communist Party did, broad popular support proved elusive. Where they succeeded, as in ethnically diverse Guinea-Bissau under the political leadership of AmilcarCabral, AmilcarCabral (1921-1973), the shared experience of colonial occupation became a unifying factor that promoted nation-building. Colonial powers, on the other hand, routinely utilized troops and bureaucrats from other colonies in colonial wars. In Malaya, for example, the British used Gurkhas from India, whereas the French employed Moroccans in Indochina and Senegalese in Algeria. Coordination of these international forces underpinned cooperative bilateral relations between colonial powers and the donor colonies: India (1947), Morocco (1956), and Senegal (within the Federation of Mali, 1960) all achieved political independence with relatively little anticolonial violence.

Weapons, Uniforms, and Armor

In almost all colonial wars, nationalist forces initially armed themselves with crude weapons fashioned from local materials by local manufacturers. Knives, machetes, and small bombs filled with bits of wire or glass were devised for urban conflicts. In jungle and bush terrain camouflaged pits concealed sharpened punji Punji sticks (Southeast Asia) sticks, often soaked in snake venom or human waste in order to inflict both injury and infection. Similarly, vines and jute laid across footpaths and in streams served as triggers for swinging spikes, bombs, and falling rocks or nets. Such traps were especially valuable because they required little matériel, could be constructed by noncombatants, and remained viable without maintenance.

In Southeast Asia arms stored by anti-Japanese guerrillas during World War II supplied anticolonial insurgents in the late 1940’s. Weapons were also purchased in neutral Thailand and smuggled to insurgent units in unguarded coastal areas in Indochina, Malaya, and Indonesia. Later, more advanced armaments were captured from colonial forces and received from external allies. Colonial wars in central and sub-Saharan Africa in the 1950’s were characterized by insurgents’ use of antiquated and in some cases primitive weaponry, deployed against European forces wielding automatic guns, explosives, and aircraft. In Guinea-Bissau[Guinea Bissau]Guinea-Bissau, for example, the earliest guerrilla units organized by the Partido Africano pela Independencia da Guinea-Bissau e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), or the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, were armed with traditional spears and shields, supplemented by stolen or smuggled handguns. Arms Arms trade;illegalsmuggling proliferated during the 1960’s and increasingly included heavier weapons such as light artillery, mortars, and rocket launchers. In the 1970’s superpower weapons deliveries to African fighters introduced greater weapons standardization. In Angola and Namibia, Soviet and Cuban military advisers oversaw combat operations, and in Indochina Soviet and Chinese advisers were sporadically present from the early 1950’s until the early 1970’s.

Anticolonial forces typically had greater difficulty obtaining ammunition for their varied weapons stock than in obtaining the guns themselves. As a result self-activating weapons such as Explosives;plasticexplosives were particularly valued. Plastic explosives were preferred because of their stable state, easy detonation, and amenability to cutting and shaping to meet specific operational demands. Land Mines;landmines were of similar utility because of their destructive capabilities against both personnel and vehicles. Lightweight shoulder-launched Rockets;shoulder-launchedrockets were prized for their effectiveness against aircraft, particularly slow-moving helicopters.

Asian and African anticolonial forces’ uniforms were seldom standardized but usually consisted of dark-colored cotton shirts, trousers, and rubber-soled shoes with cotton uppers, or sandals. Exceptionally, PAIGC forces in Guinea-Bissau in 1964 received shipments of lightweight khaki camouflage uniforms made of Chinese cotton sewn in Cuba. Colonial troops were universally better clothed and equipped that their anticolonial counterparts. Typical uniforms were European summer-weight issue, with mosquito netting, wide-brimmed cotton hats, and rubberized boots as appropriate for deployments into jungle, desert, or riverine environments. In Kenya white combatants blended into the local African population by Camouflagestaining their skin, wearing native dress, and adopting rebel practices such as oiling their skin with animal fat to avoid detection by tracking dogs. Elsewhere equipment innovations proved vital. In Malaya British paratroopers were regularly injured in treetop landings and in climbing to the jungle floor; new safety equipment was introduced to reduce the weight of jump kits, and in 1950 Paratroopersparatroopers were issued newly developed abseil, or rappelling, devices.

Conventional equipment and weaponry found new uses in colonial wars, and new weapons were introduced. British troops used explosives and mechanical saws to prepare landing “pads” for Helicoptershelicopters, because drooping rotors and steep descent angles made extensive foliage removal essential. Airborne delivery of high explosives and new small fragmentation bombs was common. NapalmNapalm, or jellied petroleum, bombs were widely used in Indochina, Malaya, and Guinea-Bissau to attack villages and storehouses and to clear deep jungle growth. Airplanes and helicopters sprayed toxic DefoliantsChemical weapons;defoliantsdefoliant chemicals to destroy jungle cover and food cultivation sites. Airplanes dropped whistles and bottles known as Screamers (noise weapons)“screamers” in conjunction with resettlement programs to intimidate civilians without causing physical harm.

In 1950 helicopters were introduced by Britain in Malaya for troop transport, reconnaissance, and liaison where mountainous terrain interrupted wireless communications. Despite functional problems caused by heat, humidity, and high-altitude operations, the helicopter’s utility was fully demonstrated in Malaya. Helicopters were used by the British in Cyprus and Kenya, by the French in Indochina and Algeria, and by the Portuguese in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Angola. In each case only colonial troops deployed helicopters, guaranteeing their forces important mobility, reconnaissance, and tactical advantages.

Military Organization

The maintenance of political control over armed activists was critical for the coherent management of independence movements. In Malaya;independence movementMalaya, the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) controlled its guerrilla organization, the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA), through a political commissariat attached to guerrilla units. Commissars were charged with assuring the political allegiance of armed units and transmitting political directives from the Communist leadership. A commissariat system was also established by the PAIGC within its military wing in Guinea-Bissau. There, however, commissars conducted political instruction and oversaw non-operational problems such as health care, literacy, and complaints within armed units.

Escalating levels of armed conflict required insurgent forces to broaden their recruitment efforts and adopt more complex organizational schemes. In Cyprus;independence movementCyprus, the armed struggle of the Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypriakoú Agónos (EOKA), or National Organization of Cypriot National Organization of Cypriot FightersFighters, began with a handful of armed operatives trained by a single commander. As EOKA’s goal of unifying Cyprus with Greece gained popularity, it formed auxiliary nonmilitary groups including a youth organization and civilian support networks, which in turn yielded new recruits for the armed struggle that began in 1955. The EOKA guerrilla organization itself developed cells with differentiated tasks including terrorist attacks, patrol ambushes, and assassinations. In Algeria;independenceAlgeria refugees and political exiles throughout North Africa provided military recruits for the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) or National Liberation National Liberation Front (Algeria)Front. As armed units proliferated in the mid-1950’s commanders organized geographical divisions, known as wilayāhs, within the guerrilla organization. When propaganda and persuasion failed to produce sufficient manpower for the expanding armed struggle in Mozambique;independence movement Mozambique, operatives of the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique Frelimo (Frelimo), or Mozambique Liberation Front, initiated conscription campaigns; Women;Mozambique women as well as men were given weapons training and inducted into Frelimo-controlled military units.

Auxiliary noncombat organizations could play key roles in the success of guerrilla operations. In Malaya;independence movementMalaya insurgent forces depended upon material support from a civilian network, the Min Min YuenMin YuenYuen, or People’s Movement, which provided food, clothing, medical supplies, cash, and local intelligence. The Min Yuen had its own comprehensive district and branch organizational scheme and functioned under the direction of the Malayan Communist Party, which also controlled the guerrilla forces. As Min Yuen networks became the targets of British counterinsurgency operations in 1952, many Min Yuen operatives took up arms, but they remained organizationally distinct from the movement’s military wing.

Cohesive command systems were also crucial to the success of anticolonial armed struggles. Lack of central organization by insurgent forces in Madagascar independence movementMadagascar allowed French troops to completely rout 4,000 anticolonial fighters in 1947. In contrast, in Southeast Asia relatively small nationalist forces based on well-organized guerrilla units active against the Japanese during World War II were able to conduct successful military operations for several years against British and Dutch main-force troops in Malaya (1948-1960) and Indonesia (1945-1948). In Malaya the MRLA was divided into eight regional commands with companies of from 50 to 80 fighters as the basic operational units. Smaller guerrilla cells known as Blood and Steel Corps conducted specialized intelligence, terrorist, and demolition operations.

A similarly organized insurgent force was developed by Algeria;insurgent forcesAlgerian partisans. The armed struggle originated with the small Special Organization, a radical paramilitary wing of the nationalist Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques (MTLD), or the Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties (Algeria)Liberties. From this beginning the anticolonial insurgent force grew after 1954 into tens of thousands of fighters, but it retained its small-scale organizational model. The ferka, a unit of about thirty-five active combatants, remained the principal operational unit. In Guinea-Bissau[Guinea Bissau] Guinea-Bissau in the mid-1960’s PAIGC guerrillas were grouped into units of twenty-six men each, including a commander and a commissar. These units, operating in pairs, were deployed by regional military commanders who coordinated the activities of each pairing with those of others in the same region.

Some insurgent organizations developed larger armed units to confront colonial main-force troops. In response to the influx of thousands of Portuguese troops, the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau reorganized its guerrilla fighters into main-force troops and created a system of regional “fronts,” or interzonal command centers, to replace the small autonomous zones that had been previously occupied by its guerrillas in 1964. In Indochina in the late 1940’s the Communist-led Viet Viet MinhMinh pursued a two-track program of force enlargement, building small guerrilla units in southern and central Vietnam and regular battalions in northern Vietnam.

Men suspected to be Mau Mau rebels are retained in a barbed-wire compound in Kenya, circa 1955.

(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Mau Mau Rebellion Mau Mau Rebellion (1952-1956)(1952-1956) was organized against British rule in Kenya;anticolonial movementKenya by the Kikuyu tribeKikuyu and Meru Meru tribetribes, led by the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA). Mau Mau forces included two wings: large units operating under seven regional commands on the coastal plan, and loosely organized bands of guerrillas operating in the forested foothills of Mount Kenya. Within one year of the arrival of British regular troops, the KCA launched a general offensive in the low country (1953). In a rare organizational innovation by colonial forces, the British military authorized the creation of special units of white Kenyan settlers known as Pseudo unitspseudos, which included captured Mau Mau operatives and defectors. From them pseudos learned local techniques for tracking guerrilla fighters through the jungle, as well as the locations of rallying points and supply caches. The 1956 arrest of the elusive guerrilla commander Dedan Kimathi, DedanKimathi, DedanKimathi, which effectively terminated the Mau Mau Rebellion, was made by a pseudo unit. In general, however, colonial military commanders used standard troop configurations against anticolonial forces, relying on superior numbers, weapons, and the administrative tools of the colonial administration to counter armed rebels.

Doctrine, Strategy, and Tactics

In the pursuit of independence and self-government, anticolonial movements cultivated the support of the general populations. The KCA-led Mau Mau Rebellion, for example, exploited long-standing resentment about the British seizure of land from local people and its distribution to white settlers. Such popular support was not always forthcoming. In Guinea-Bissau the PAIGC was led by formally educated civil servants with few links to the peasantry, yet its armed forces required food, equipment, shelter, and recruits from peasants to fight the Portuguese. PAIGC leaders looked to the Chinese Civil War for doctrinal direction, embracing Mao MaoismZedong’s prescriptions for the political mobilization of the peasantry and a rural-based revolutionary struggle. They also borrowed Mao’s concept of a “people’s war,” in which all nationalist classes banded together against colonial occupation, making colonial rule too costly for the metropolitan power. These Maoist perspectives also shaped the anticolonial wars in Indonesia, Indochina, Malaya, Cyprus, Algeria, and Kenya. Colonial wars in Africa were also shaped by a widespread belief in UhuruUhuru, a concept that combined Pan-Africanism[Panafricanism]Africa;anticolonialismpan-African unity and the political independence of the whole continent from European colonialism.

A Turkish army tank rolls through the Turkish section of Nicosia, Cyprus, in July, 1974, part of an invasion sparked by an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Most colonial wars began with a political decision by nationalist leaders to confront colonial power with local violence. Small-scale, low-intensity violence was then directed against targets of symbolic importance. As the metropolitan power responded, isolated instances of violence expanded into an insurgency, with more and better-armed guerrilla units operating over wider areas and attacking larger targets, often of administrative or military importance to colonial authorities. The transition to widespread insurgency often required new tactics to supplement the armed struggle. In Cyprus a broad program of boycotts and passive resistance to British authority developed under EOKA guidance. In both Guinea-Bissau and Kenya, tribal customs, such as the Kikuyu tribe’s complex oath rituals, were incorporated into the nationalist forces’ recruitment process. In the early 1970’s small arms were distributed to the civilian population as part of Frelimo’s popular mobilization effort to counter the Portuguese military’s distribution of weapons to white settlers.

In certain independence struggles guerrilla warfare escalated into the deployment of conventional main-force units. In Indochina;anticolonialismIndochina, for example, the use of regular infantry divisions in northern Vietnam;anticolonialismVietnam in the early 1950’s dominated the Communists’ anticolonial military strategy, culminating in a series of positional battles against French troops and the surrender of the French redoubt of Dien Bien Phu. Vietnamese guerrilla forces in southern and central Vietnam remained relatively quiescent in favor of the main-force battles. The situation was reversed in Mozambique and Angola, where, under the guidance of Soviet and Cuban military advisers, anticolonial military organizations developed some main-force units that confronted Portuguese regulars, but small-scale guerrilla operations remained the primary engine of the insurgent movements.

Many anticolonial military organizations sought tactical advantages over metropolitan forces by utilizing military base areas located outside colonial borders, and thus beyond the operational theater of the colony itself. FLN forces in Algeria received weapons, supplies, and reinforcements from cross-border camps in Tunisia from 1956 to 1957. Frelimo forces from Mozambique operated bases in Tanzania. Angola;independence movementAngola’s Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), or Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, received aid from the Congo. In Namibia from 1966 to 1990 the South West Africa People’s South West Africa People’s OrganizationOrganization (SWAPO) operated its guerrilla organization largely from bases in southern Angola.

Elsewhere guerrilla organizations made tactical decisions to concentrate their operations in terrain that offered them operational advantages over colonial regular forces. In Cyprus EOKA guerrillas concentrated in the mountains on the western end of the island, where British troops’ mobility was impaired. In Malaya MRLA guerrillas retreated into deep mountainous jungle territory to avoid British air reconnaissance and “sweep” operations. Upland Mau Mau guerrillas led by Dedan Kimathi eluded British troops for years.

Colonial powers’ military planning was influenced by such strategic concepts as the “domino Domino theorytheory,” which posited that a Communist “takeover” of one colony would cause the successive collapse of other pro-Western governments in Asia and Africa. Thus for Britain to protect its naval facilities in Singapore it had to extinguish the insurgency in Malaya. The domino metaphor retained its cachet into the 1960’s: To retain its access to Kuwaiti oil, Britain committed troops against insurrectionist tribesmen in Yemen from 1958 to 1961.

Colonial powers saw as a strategic imperative the separation of guerrilla forces from their civilian sources of supply. In Malaya British commanders implemented a “food denial” Food;denial campaigns (colonial tactic)campaign that combined strict food rationing, identity registration, and air strikes against crop cultivation. Similar tactics were used in Kenya. Mass arrests, interrogations, and trials of suspected sympathizers were conducted in Indonesia, Malaya, Kenya, Algeria, and Cyprus.

“Area Area domination (colonial tactic)domination” also segregated insurgents from their civilian sources of food, supplies, and recruits. Troops and aircraft were used to clear known guerrilla strongholds, and a police presence was established. The British Briggs Plan (1950) in Malaya followed this approach, forcing MRLA units from the south to the north of the peninsula. In Kenya British troops established guerrilla-free “exclusion zones,” creating mile-wide clearings that prevented insurgents from crossing and a 50-mile-long ditch around the foothills of Mount Kenya. In Algeria from 1954 to 1956 the French used “quadrillage” tactics, developing fortified areas free of insurgents.

Another common segregation Segregation tacticstactic was population Resettlement plansresettlement. As part of the Briggs Briggs PlanPlan in Malaya civilians were forcibly removed from their villages and located in access-controlled “strategic hamlets.” Similar projects were undertaken in Indochina, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, and Algeria.

The elimination of cross-border bases was a key colonial military objective. In 1958 French forces in Algeria built a 200-mile-long controlled barrier, known as the Morice Morice lineline, along the border with Tunisia to interdict the flow of weapons and reinforcements. The Morice line included electrified fences, machine gun nests, and land mines; it was patrolled by 80,000 French troops including mechanized units, armored trains, paratroopers, helicopters, and mobile infantry. In 1975 South African troops concentrated in northern Namibia to attack SWAPO bases in southern Angola and continued these military incursions until an international settlement was reached in 1989.

In deploying the Helicopters;counterinsurgency warfarehelicopter in counterinsurgency warfare, colonial forces developed new troop movement and air-support tactics. Small payloads, slow airspeeds, and exposed fuel tanks made helicopters vulnerable to ground attack, and rapid approach and departure protocols were developed for battlefield landings. The helicopter was, however, the vehicle of choice for rapid troop deployments in difficult terrain. In one 14-day operation in Malaya in 1953, 415 helicopter sorties moved 1,600 troops and their equipment on counterinsurgency patrols through high-altitude jungle that prevented rapid deployment by foot.

Contemporary Sources

Most insurgent movements made extensive use of radio broadcasts to deliver political instructions, Propaganda;anticolonial movementspropaganda, and military directives. Many of the publicized analyses of anticolonial military campaigns produced by their leaders were prepared for use by other combatants, and thus were broadcast rather than printed for general circulation. An important exception to this rule was the promulgation by Abel Djassi, a pseudonym for Amilcar Cabral, the political leader of the anticolonial movement in Guinea-Bissau, of “The Facts About Portugal’s African Colonies” (1960), a pamphlet that outlined nationalists’ complaints about Portuguese political and military policies in their colonies. Djassi drew attention to the brutality of Portuguese colonial forces, and appealed to the United Nations for military assistance in restraining Portuguese troops in Guinea-Bissau.

General Georgios Grivas, GeorgiosGrivas, GeorgiosGrivas (1898-1974), leader of the Cypriot insurgency against the British, published a treatise on small unit tactics entitled “Agon EOKA kai Antartiopolemos: Politikostratiotike” (1962; “General Grivas on Guerrilla Warfare,” 1965), in which he extolled the psychological and political uses of terrorist attacks on colonial targets. He endorsed the tactic of drawing metropolitan forces into ambushes and unfamiliar terrain. He urged insurgents to wear down colonial forces’ strength with hit-and-run attacks, which forced colonial forces to commit manpower to guarding potential targets. He encouraged military leaders to incorporate political activities into their tactical plans by coordinating guerrilla actions with protests and demonstrations by civilians.

Political leaders and other combatants have also published polemical tracts and memoirs on colonial warfare. Among polemicists, one of the most important was socialist lawyer and Indonesian nationalist Sjahrir, SutanSjahrir, SutanSutan Sjahrir (1909-1966), the principal negotiator with the Dutch (1946) and prime minister in the earliest Indonesia;anticolonialismIndonesian nationalist government (1945-1947). Sjahrir’s tract entitled “Perdjuangan Kita” (1945; “Our Struggle,” 1945), outlined the nationalists’ political rationale for violent opposition to a return to Dutch colonial rule and the general strategy for postcolonial unification of the geographically dispersed islands of the Indonesian archipelago.

Participant memoirs of colonial warfare constitute a growing literature. Vietnamese Communist leader Hoàng Van Hoan, Hoàng VanHoan, Hoàng VanHoan’s Tsan Hai i Su (1988; A Drop in the Ocean: Hoàng Van Hoan’s Revolutionary Reminiscences, 1988) emphasizes the Communist Party’s oversight and management of the anti-French conflict and reveals the importance of Chinese military assistance to the Communists’ prosecution of the anti-French war. K’tut Tantri, K’tutTantri, K’tut Tantri, a female resistance fighter and intelligence operative who fought against Japanese, British, and Dutch forces in Indonesia in the 1940’s, described her experiences in her book Revolt in Paradise: One Woman’s Fight for Freedom in Indonesia (1960).

Few journalistic accounts convey the full scope of anticolonial armed conflict, but the works of two exceptional reporters merit study. A French specialist on revolutionary warfare, Gerard Chaliand, published a firsthand account of PAIGC guerrillas’ daily life and operational activities in Lutte Armée en Afrique (1969; The Armed Struggle in Africa: With the Guerrillas in Portuguese Guinea, 1969). The prolific journalist and former British intelligence officer Basil Davidson has produced a body of work detailing anticolonial warfare in Africa, including In the Eye of the Storm: Angola’s People (1973), The People’s Cause: A History of Guerrillas in Africa (1981), and The Liberation of Guinea: Aspects of an African Revolution (1969). The latter volume includes a foreword on revolutionary politics by PAIGC leader Amilcar Cabral, as well as detailed statements on political and military tactics by Cabral and by the Chinese-trained PAIGC commander in northern Guinea-Bissau, Osvaldo Vieira.Independence movements (anticolonial)ColonialismInsurgenciesAnticolonial movements

Books and Articles

  • Ansprenger, Franz. The Dissolution of the Colonial Empires. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1989.
  • Chabal, Patrick, et al. A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.
  • Clayton, Anthony. Frontiersmen: Warfare in Africa Since 1950. London: UCL Press, 1999.
  • DeFronzo, James. “The Vietnamese Revolution.” In Revolutions and Revolutionary Movements. 3d ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2007.
  • Foran, John. “The Closest Cousins: The Great Anti-Colonial Revolutions.” In Taking Power: On the Origins of Third World Revolutions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Gander, Terry. Guerrilla Warfare Weapons: The Modern Underground Fighters’ Armory. New York: Sterling, 1990.
  • Goodwin, Jeff. No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Horne, Alistair. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962. Rev. ed. New York: Viking Penguin, 1987.
  • Lawrence, Mark Atwood, and Fredrik Logevall, eds. The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Lord, Cliff, and David Birtles. The Armed Forces of Aden, 1839-1967. London: Helion, 2000.
  • Meredith, Martin. The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence. New York: Public Affairs, 2005.
  • Peluso, Nancy Lee. Rich Forests, Poor People: Resource Control and Resistance in Java. Berkeley: University California Press, 1992.
  • Postgate, Malcolm. Operation Firedog: Air Support in the Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960. London: H.M.S.O., 1992.
  • Robie, David. Blood on Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific. London: Zed Press, 1989.
  • Shrader, Charles R. The First Helicopter War: Logistics and Mobility in Algeria, 1954-1962. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999.

Films and Other Media

  • The Battle of Algiers. Feature film. Magna, 1966.
  • Le Crabe-tambour. Feature film. AMLF, 1977.
  • French Foreign Legion. Documentary. History Channel, 1998.
  • Guns at Batasi. Feature film. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1964.
  • Simba. Feature film. Group Film Productions Limited, 1955.

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