Green Leader

As the war escalated the Rhodesians increasingly resorted to external raids, attacking targets in Mozambique, Angola and Zambia. Their view of these raids is reproduced in the fictionalised account of the Green Leader raid, Operation Zambezi. The Green Leader raid was not the most significant strategically, but it was the most heavily publicised, within Rhodesia and internationally. One of the factors provoking the Green Leader raid was the shooting down of a Rhodesian Viscount - Rhodesian reaction was recalled internally in "A Deafening Silence"

The raid began with an airstrike on the camps, after which helicopter gunships and ground troops would move in. After the first bombs fell came the Rhodesian’s propaganda masterstroke. Climbing away after the bomb run, the commander of the raid – Green Leader – contacted Lusaka control tower. The tape of their conversation was broadcast throughout the world; it provided an incredible boost to white morale, and is still talked about by white Rhodesians today.

“Lusaka Tower, this is Green Leader. This is a message for the station commander at Mumba from the Rhodesian Air Force. We are attacking the terrorist base at Westlands farm at this time. This attack is against Rhodesian dissidents and not against Zambia. Rhodesia has no quarrel, repeat, no quarrel, with Zambia or her security forces. We therefore ask you not to intervene or oppose our attack. However, we are orbiting your airfield at this time and are under orders to shoot down any Zambian Air Force aircraft which does not comply with this request and attempts to take off. Did you copy all that?”

Lusaka tower replies that they have understood, and ask whether civil aircraft are still cleared to land. Green Leader asks them to wait half an hour or so. The impression given is very much that the Rhodesians are totally in control of the situation. And when Lusaka tower was asked by the incoming Kenya airways jet who had priority, Lusaka tower simply replied "I think the Rhodesians do".

This segment of dialogue was sampled in one of the best selling records in Rhodesia in 1978/79 – the Green Leader March – still available over the Internet today, and reproduced as the blurb on the back cover of this book; t-shirts, bumper stickers and a wealth of other merchandise were also produced to celebrate the audacity. The reality is somewhat different. As you might expect, the tape released to the international media was heavily edited; unfortunately for the Rhodesians, copies of the original survived, and is now available on the internet. This is a fuller version; I apologise for anyone who is offended by the odd swear word. I’ll begin with Green Leader’s aircraft beginning the bomb run; the two main characters are Green Leader and his navigator/ bomb aimer

The navigator announces the bombs have been released: Steady. Steady. NOW. BOMBS GONE. THEY’RE RUNNING!

Green Leader: Beautiful. Jesus Christ, you want to see all those fuckers. Those fucking bombs were beautiful. What the fuck is G.. doing so close?

Navigator: They’re straight running into the other frag, sir


Air Rhodesia Viscount - the downing of one is often seen as precipitating the raid

Green Leader: Just let me get onto the fucking tower to give them our bloody message. Where’s this fucking piece of speech?

Navigator: I think we’d better wait till we’ve climbed up, sir

Green Leader: Yah, just trying to get that thing ready. That was mush. Fucking hundreds of the cunts. Fucking magnificent. Jesus, those fucking kaffirs. . . . They’re like fucking ants running around there, hey?

Navigator: Remember the tape recorder, sir

Green Leader: Ah, fuck it.

There are now a couple of bursts of conversation between Rhodesian helicopter gunships, before Green Leader asks his navigator to check the tape recorder is working.

OK, let me try and get this spiel off: Lusaka Tower, this is Green Leader, how do you read?

Only one of the Rhodesian texts even hints at this, saying that the “choice obscenities were not unusual in such a combination of exhilaration and stress . . .among the more printable phrases. .  . are the guerrillas running about like ants.”

These texts are prepared to describe in great detail the effects of the Rhodesian attack, saying exactly what napalm and anti-personnel bombs can do to a person, or to talk of the hundreds of dead guerrillas. They are unprepared to use the odd “f” word. The whole point is that – aside from the racial remarks – this would go against the ideas of military professionalism, the detachment from events implicit in the Green Leader speech.

 

Trace