The Emperor’s Peacemakers, 57 Years Ago Today

A Congolese child is seen in the arms of an Ethiopian soldier, listening over a field telephone, Katanga, 1 March 1963. Note his American-made M1 Garand

A Congolese child is seen in the arms of an Ethiopian soldier, listening over a field telephone, Katanga, 1 March 1963. Note his M1 Garand

UN Photo # 184419

The 25,000 soldiers from 25 countries serving as part of ONUC in the Congo from July 1960 to April 1963 included the Ethiopian 3rd Brigade.

Drawn from the Imperial Bodyguard, with the unit’s elite 4th Tekel Battalion being reviewed by Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa on 25 July 1960 before their departure for Stanleyville, they were well-respected as being a professional force. The Ethiopians would subsequently be involved in the whole Katanga affair in 1961 alongside Swedish and Irish troops and see a good deal of action.

The Ethiopian force grew to some 3,500 by 1962 with Ethiopian Lt. Gen. Kebbede Guebre made commander of the entire division-sized ONCU peacekeeping effort from April 1962 to July 1963.

A mixed patrol of Ethiopian soldiers and local police officer patrol Commune Albert near Elisabethville March 1963 UN Photo # 210715

A mixed patrol of M1-armed Ethiopian troops and a local Congolese police officer patrol Commune Albert near Elisabethville March 1963 UN Photo # 210715

Rebuilt after WWII and Italian occupation with the help of U.S. and British aid, the Imperial Ethiopian Army made extensive use of 1940s American kit and small arms, sending the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Kagnew Battalions to fight in Korea in the 1950s. The new gear replaced a hodgepodge of old German Mausers, some as old as Kar88 models, and relatively newer British SMLEs picked up during the war.

Once back from the Congo, the Ethiopians would see combat in the Ogaden before going on to switch polarity to Moscow once the Derg seized power from the Volkswagon-driving Emperor in 1974, after which the AK became the standard infantry arm.

An Ethiopian Soldier Poses Next To an Ogaden War Propaganda Poster in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia February 27, 1978. Note the Romanian-type AKM and Soviet-style uniform.

These days, GAEC produces the AK-103 rifle under license in Ethiopia from Kalashnikov.

Meanwhile, in an echo to the past, Ethiopian-produced .30-06 M1 food appears on the surplus market from time to time with mixed reviews. Notably, it all seems to be minted prior to 1974.

2 comments

  • So that pushed me into the wiki rabbit hole for a while reading about the Emperor Haile Selassie. I didn’t know why Italy went to war with them in the thirties or that Ethiopia had pounded Italy in a war at the turn of the ninetheen century.

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