32 "Buffalo" Battalion
A SHORT OVERVIEW
Known amongst Friend and Foe as "The Terrible Ones" (Os Terriveis) , this
reputation was derived from operational successes and from its inception in
1975 until it's disbandment it was the most feared Unit by it's foes in Angola and
South West Africa, and accounted for more enemy losses than any other Unit of
the South African Defence Force. 32-Battalion was probably the most
controversial unit of the SADF and its story virtually the untold story of the
SWA/ Namibian Border War - a war which took place against the back-drop of
the Cold War and which was in fact anything but cold in Africa. The Battalion,
which also became known as the most successful counter insurgency unit of the SADF, was comprised mainly of former FNLA and other anti-communist fighters from Angola who had sworn allegiance to the South African government. Together with their South African officers, these troops forged a formidable Battalion that became known as the best operational Battalion of the South African Defence Force – if not one of the best in the world.
The Battalion did not only play an integral part during Operation Savannah in 1975
as well as all other major external operations of the SADF such as the Battle of
Cuito Quanavale in 1987/88 (one of the last great campaigns during the Cold War),
but from 1976 until 1989 the battalion was deployed on an almost permanent
basis to conduct offensive operations mainly inside Angola, acting as a buffer
between the SADF’s regular forces and its communist enemies.
This Elite Unit’s activities covered a wide spectrum ranging from counter-insurgency and guerrilla operations; reconnaissance missions through to semi-conventional and even fully-fledged conventional operations during the last phases of the war, when the Unit was also tasked more and more to assist Jonas Savimbi’s guerrilla movement, UNITA, against the FAPLA and Cuban onslaughts. Because of the nature of its work, the Battalion’s activities were highly classified and few were privy to the contribution the battalion had made towards the war effort in southern Angola.
The Battalion saw action all year round, which resulted in an unmatched
Esprit de Corps that gave this Elite unit its unique and unconventional character.
32-Battalion became legendary among friend and foe, and was the most decorated SADF
Unit since WW-II.
(Click to Enlarge)
After the 1989 Namibian settlement, made possible by the disintegration
of the Soviet Block and the withdrawal of Cuban and other Communist
nations troops from Angola, the unit was relocated to South Africa and all
its foreign members were given South African citizenship. However, after
the conclusion of the Namibian war, the usefulness of the battalion had
disappeared which together with the new political situation in South Africa
led to the uneventful disbandment of the battalion in 1993.