The Wages of War
Dana Benner’s article “The Wages of War” [about the Rhodesian Bush War, published in the July 2019 issue and online] fails to mention the two Air Rhodesia airliners shot down by ZIPRA [the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army]. These incidents went largely unreported in the Western media.
Air Rhodesia Viscount airliner VP-WAS took off from Kariba airport, in the north of the country, on the last leg of the scheduled Victoria Falls to Salisbury service. As the flight climbed away on Sept. 3, 1978, ZIPRA insurgents fired a Soviet-supplied, shoulder-launched Strela-2 missile. It locked on to the Viscount’s starboard wing, and when it exploded, it destroyed the inboard engine. The captain aimed for an open field, which unfortunately had a ditch running across it. The aircraft broke up and burned. Eighteen passengers crawled out of the wreckage. Five immediately went for help, not knowing their assailants were making their way to the crash site. As the Strela team arrived, three survivors hid. The insurgents shot and bayoneted the other 10 (three men, four women, two young girls and a 3-week-old baby). The leader of their political party [the Zimbabwe African People’s Union] appeared on BBC and laughed about their “success.”
The airline adopted anti-missile practices, such as spiral takeoffs and steep combat landings. Unfortunately, the Feb. 12, 1979, flight from Kariba to Salisbury was late, and the pilot did not first climb over Lake Kariba to gain altitude. Insurgents fired a Strela, shooting down the plane and killing all 59 passengers and crew.
Air Rhodesia then fitted its airliners with exhaust shrouds and replaced its blue-and-white livery with a low-infrared-signature matte light gray. There were no further Viscount shootdowns in Rhodesia.
I found the January 2021 Military History instructive and enjoyable. However, I have a quibble with the Hardware segment that features the M4A3E8 Sherman. Specifically, the illustration accompanying the narrative is not the Sherman variant being emphasized. Among the tip-offs is that the depiction has a cast hull, whereas the M4A3E8 hull was welded. Moreover, the suspension bogie assembly shown is not the horizontal volume spring suspension (HVSS) that was a standard attribute of the tank under discussion. The Sherman shown is a M4A1(76)W. It was a prior version that like the M4A3E8 was mounted with a 76 mm gun but retained characteristics, such as the cast hull and suspension bogie assembly, common to earlier Shermans.
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Editor responds: Good eye. While the hull and turret of the Sherman variants are similar, the suspension assembly of the depicted M4A1(76)W is distinctive. We regret the error and have corrected the article online.
Do Not Appease
In regards to the article “‘The Few’ Four Score On,” by Barrett Tillman [September 2020]: The author stated historians believe Britain bought 11 months by selling out Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in signing the Munich Agreement, ceding to Germany the Sudeten German territory of Czechoslovakia and thus granting Britain time to ramp up its defenses. This frequently used statement is based on historians projecting onto Hitler their own likely behavior had they been in the same situation—i.e. that his intentions were honorable, and that he would only take that which these other countries had no right to give.
But had Britain and France not been signatories to the Munich Agreement and instead sent a clear message to Hitler that they would defend Czechoslovakia and attack Germany, World War II may have been avoided or at least shortened by containing Hitler long enough for Germans to remove him from office as a failure.
History has proved appeasement never works. I wish Americans would remember that.
Terrence R. Wall
Send letters via email to [email protected] or to Editor, Military History, 901 N. Glebe Road, Fifth Floor, Arlington, VA 22203. Please include name, address and phone number.