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Showdown in Western Sahara, Volume 1

Showdown in Western Sahara, Volume 1 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review April 2019 Title Showdown in Western Sahara, Volume 1
Author Tom Cooper, Albert Grandolini Publisher Helion
Published 2019 ISBN 9781912390359
Format 72 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


Take declining colonial empires. Add indigenous liberation movements. And mix with recently independent neighboring states with ill-defined borders.

That's the classic cocktail for Cold War conflict in northwest Africa. And it's the overarching outline for volume 1 of Showdown in Western Sahara – 33rd in Helion's amazing "Africa@War" range.

And what an illuminating account it is.

Subtitled "Air Warfare over the Last African Colony, 1945-1975", format follows the publisher's proven prescription.

After introductory notes, authors Tom Cooper and Albert Grandolini commence coverage with two informative background chapters on historical and political roots of the area's post-WWII clashes.

Northwest Africa proved a pioneering battlefield, too. Indeed, both French and Spanish air forces first saw action "on territory nowadays within the borders of Morocco".

In 1912, for instance, "Spanish military aviators … became the first to release weapons custom-tailored for deployment from aircraft". And a year later, Moroccan defenders "became first to ever shoot down an enemy aircraft in the history of aerial warfare".

After competent and compact summaries of, for instance, Rif conflicts, text then turns to five chapters on post-1945 fighting:  

  • Ifni War
  • Local Military Build-Up
  • Sand War
  • Vibrant 1970s
  • The Last Years of the Spanish Sahara

The admirably annotated coverage courses, geographically and chronologically, through the region's major campaigns. Text details all known forces and assets. Combat accounts season sections. And maps chart actions.

Lots of fascinating facts color commentary. What happened to four ex-Iraqi Hawker Sea Furies in Moroccan service? What Egyptian notable was "taken prisoner" during brief, bitter fighting between Morocco and Algeria? And what Caribbean nation rushed weapons to Algeria's aid? You'll find answers here.

Aircraft naturally take center stage. "Messerschmitts" and MiGs. Texans and T-28s. Flamants and Freedom Fighters. And much, much more.

At least 125 photos and 15 color profiles with inset art survey the spellbinding swath of participating warplanes and warpaint. Modelers will love it.

I certainly did. But I'd like to see the Arabic for "Teiara". Period maps would help. And is endnote 42 incorrectly placed in text? I certainly didn't grasp the reference!

Roundly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Casemate Publishing for this review sample!