Tag Archives: Ogaden

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.

Hodgepodge

The 1977-78 Ethio-Somali War, best known as the Ogaden war, saw a strange coalition of 40,000~ Soviet-Chinese-Romanian armed and equipped Somalian Army troops led by Gen. Muhammad Ali Samatar and assisted by another 15,000 irregulars of the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) invade Ethiopian territory which at the time was kinda sorta supported by the U.S..

However, in one of the odder moments of the Cold War games, the Soviets and U.S. switched the teams in the beginning of the 1st quarter of this match and soon the Somalis were backed by Uncle Sam while Moscow moved to back Ethiopia with the help of direct Warsaw Pact intervention including highly trained 20,000 troops and experts from Cuba, East Germany and the USSR.

As the U.S. didn’t come close to offering the same level of in-game support (it was the Carter years), the Somalis got spanked in a big way.

And this picture points to why:

One of the more famous photos of the Ogaden war, this picture shows a female WSLF fighter with a WWII StG-44 assault rifle

One of the more famous photos of the Ogaden war, this picture shows a female WSLF fighter with a WWII StG-44 assault rifle. Behind her is a bizarre assortment of twentieth century military firearms: an Italian Beretta M1938A submachine gun, an Egyptian Hakim rifle, an Italian Modello 1891 cavalry carbine, a Spanish Coruna 98/43 rifle, an American M14 assault rifle, two Czechoslovakian vz.52 rifles, and a French MAS-49/56 rifle. The Italian weapons probably dated to Italy’s control of Somalia in WWII. How the others ended up with the WSLF in the 1970s is anybody’s guess. The Hakim and the 98/43 were not common export rifles and the M14 was still in active US Army use when this photo was taken. Logistics for the WSLF must have been a nightmare as none of these weapons shared ammunition and some of the ammunition types, like the StG-44’s Kurz round, were obsolete.
(Source for quote above WWII after WWII)