A first hand account of a modern private army in action
by Jim Hooper
Executive Outcomes was the title of the most successful private army of modern times. In Angola, Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea, it stepped in while the UN revealed itself as little more than a debating society. But the motives of this mercenary army are open to question: was it more interested in protecting Sierra Leone's diamond mines than the people caught up in a savage guerrilla war? Journalist Jim Hooper followed Executive Outcomes on operations all over Africa. Here he reveals the story of a mercenary army in action.
After graduating with a degree in Slavic Studies from the University of South Florida, Jim Hooper worked as a documentary research-writer for WFLA-TV in Tampa, with weekends set aside as a skydiving instructor and team captain. He gave up television after three years to devote himself full time to jumping out of airplanes, logging over 3000 freefalls and building the world's premier skydiving center in Zephyrhills, Florida. His thirst for adventure unfulfilled, he sold the business in 1984 to realize a long-held dream of being a war correspondent and author, making his home in England and setting off for Africa.
Fortune found him in Uganda during the overthrow of President Milton Obote, and he was the first (albeit still-unaccredited) journalist to file a story on the coup d'etat. Within two years, his byline was appearing in publications ranging from The Daily Telegraph of London to Jane's Intelligence Review. During the six months spent gathering material for his first book on the South West Africa Police Counter-insurgency Unit in Namibia, he was wounded twice by Soviet and Cuban-backed rebels. He also covered wars in Angola, Chad, Congo, South Africa, and southern Sudan, and was the only journalist to accompany the mercenaries of Executive Outcomes on operations in Sierra Leone. The Balkan wars of the 1990s found him crossing back and forth between the Croatian, Serbian and Muslim frontlines in search of stories, the most memorable when he was captured by Muslim extremists in central Bosnia and subjected to mock executions. His release the day before two British civilian medics were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the same Arab terrorists remains as imponderable today as it did then. His previous titles include: Koevoet, Beneath the Visiting Moon, Flashpoint (with Ken Guest and Anthony Rogers), and Bloodsong; he was also a principal contributor to the best-selling World's Most Dangerous Places, and its companion, Hotspots. Contentedly divorced and holding dual US and UK citizenship, Hooper lives in the heart of Thomas Hardy country in southwest England and travels widely as a security consultant.
Jim Hoopers website
Bernard Ley Pretoria South Africa
The late lord Harold MacMillan's winds of change that started off as a relative gentle breeze in western Africa in the early sixties had built up to hurricane strength when it reached Southern Africa. In the middle eighties the major part of the region was ablaze: full-scale wars were waged in Angola and Mozambique, troops and police anti-terrorist units were deployed along the Angolan - South West African border to neutralize the liberation groups and in South Africa the black townships were virtual war zones. The South Africans were with their backs to the sea but managed to survive and to suppress wave after wave unleashed on them.
Having been the pariah of nations for decades they had to be totally self-reliant: a war machine unequalled in the history of the Dark Continent came into being. Equipment was designed and perfected. Thousands of men were conscripted, processed, trained and to a certain extent, programmed for warfare.
And then, in the late eighties and early nineties the unimaginable happened: peace broke out!
For many South Africans it was a low blow - all of a sudden they were both without a mission as well as a way to eke out a living.
For years armed conflict was all they knew and lived for and in the new political dispensation their skills were not required and instead, quite frankly, actually frowned upon.
Thus, with uncanny entepeneurial skill and leadership qualities Executive Outcomes (EO), South Africa's first mercenary army was conceived out of necessity and born in comradeship. Although the banners had changed the cause had remained the same.
Jim Hooper, an American author and journalist currently residing in England and a veteran of the armed conflicts in Southern Africa, was invited and allowed into the inner sanctum of EO. In "Bloodsong! A first hand account of a modern private army in action" the combatants themselves recount the exploits of EO graphically. The volte-face of EO by siding with an erstwhile enemy is discussed and so is the harassment of EO and members of their families by both old-guard South Africans and paranoid new politicians.
During their involvement in Angola EO was paid the ultimate compliment: they were approached by the Angolans to retrain their army.
Bloodsong! is well written and researched and Hooper reveals a compasionate insight in the driving force behind all those involved. The narrative is sober and according to an EO-leader
"as close to the truth as possible".
Although one would have preferred more accounts of the "grunts" themselves the book is reccommended to all thse with an interest in military operations.
A truly informative can't-put-down must read!
J.C. Neff North Salem USA
Bloodsong is a good book that gives us an insight into the mysterious world of the mercenary. These men have a glamorous persona that is shown not to be so. Many of these men have served in the finest Special Forces units in South Africa. War is what they know and it is how they make a living just like an electrician or a plumber. After reading Jim Hooper's first book Beneath the Visiting Moon I was a little disappointed in this book. Bloodsong did not have the same action packed scenes that Moon had. In Moon, Hooper gave us a connection to the characters and when something happened to them the reader felt it, not so in Bloodsong. Overall it is a good read about a group of men that many people know little about. I would recommend reading Nine Days of War of Beneath the Visiting Moon before reading this to gain some background knowledge of the situation in Angola.
Special Warfare Magazine
Along with giving excellent accounts of the fighting that took place from the perspectives of the men on the ground and in the air wing, Bloodsong also shows the side of a foreign internal defense/unconventional-warfare mission that special operations personnel will truly appreciate.
Whatever EO employees may have been fighting for—be it money, adventure, excitement, love of the job or resentment of UNITA—the stories of bravery, audacity, innovation and fighting for the man next to you are truly universal.
Bloodsong is highly recommended as a well-detailed account of the realities of a modern private army operating in a brutal guerrilla war.
Christopher Spearin, Centre for International and Security Studies, York University, Toronto
Bloodsong is the first-hand account of the private military company Executive Outcomes in Sierra Leone and Angola, where twenty-one of its employees were killed in the vicious fighting to capture the diamond mines at Cafunfo. Using Russian BMP-2 armoured vehicles supported by EO-flown Mi-17 helicopters, PC-7 light attack aircraft and MiG-23 fighter-bombers, a handful of former special forces operators succeeded where thousands of government soldiers and Easy-bloc advisors had failed against Unita’s seasoned troops. Told by senior ground and air officers, Bloodsong reveals how and why the company became a legend in the annals of professional soldiering.
[Bloodsong is] a compelling narrative of the successes, trials, and tribulations of the most famous – or infamous – private military company of the 1990s.