Peter Ekandjo: The Jungle Fighter….. The Battle of Eendobe/Omunhete

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The battle of Eendobe/Omunghete took place in August 1981 about 10 kilometres east of Eendobe village deep in the jungle.

Our unit of about 40 fighters laid a successful ambush to engage 10 enemy Casspirs (armoured vehicles) backed by four helicopter gunships and two reconnaissance aircrafts. The enemy forces were pursuing our foot tracks from Ombudiya village up to Oshishogolo where we had spent the night. We were on our way to Ongalangobe village when we heard the sound of enemy vehicles behind us.

Commander Kalute, who led our unit deputised by Deputy Detachment Political Commissar Tobias Endjabi, ordered us to lay an ambush in order to engage the enemy forces. Our unit was equipped with 10 RPG-7 rocket launches, three 60-millimetre mortars, one 82-millimetre mortar and a dozen M-59 rocket launcher and rifles.
The area where we laid the ambush was covered with short bushes, trees and tall grass, which we used to cover our shallow trenches. Some of the Koevoet members were running on foot ahead of the Casspirs, while others were aboard the Casspirs. We laid the ambush in a V-formation ready to engage the enemy troops irrespective of which angle they approached.

The enemy forces eventually approached our position from the north-west and west, in parallel formation.
We waited until they were within killing range. However, it appeared that the enemy strategy was to overrun our position from both angles. Fortunately, our ambush formation thwarted their plan. The soldiers that were pursuing our footprints became the first victims of our fire-power.

Foot trackers arrived first, as they were running a few metres ahead of the Casspirs. We had appointed some fighters with RPG-7 to hit the Casspirs first before anybody could open fire. This plan did not work out, as the Casspirs were a distance behind the foot trackers, hence, we were forced to slaughter those that arrived within the killing range of our guns.

The moment the battle started, the Casspirs rushed forward in an attempt to overrun our positions. We managed to reverse their plan by forcing them to retreat. Later on, the Casspirs changed course by trying to encircle us, probably trying to create confusion among the fighters. I could see clearly four Casspirs burning a few metres from our firing position.

I could also see an abandoned Casspir, but it was not burning. In the meantime, the foot trackers were nowhere to be seen; they either had run away or killed in the process. The Casspirs that survived the attack, which were equipped with heavy machine guns, continued to fire indiscriminately from a distance until four helicopter gunships, accompanied by two Cessna reconnaissance planes, arrived to support the fleeing enemy forces. The helicopters hovered far from the battle scene, firing into the bushes while the reconnaissance planes flew high, mainly in the eastern and northern direction. The battle was so tense that the entire battle scene was burning.
Thick smoke coming from burning Casspirs and vegetation reduced our visibility such that we could hardly see each other.

The gunshots were also ringing from all directions, as the enemy forces tried to surround our position from a distance. The smoke and fire also made it difficult for both Casspirs and helicopter gunships to come near the battle scene, making it easier for us to retreat to our assembly point at Onamatadiva village, west of Okongo military camp.
The battle resembled a theatre war game I have seen played on television. This was one of the worst battles I ever fought during my career as a PLAN fighter operating inside Namibia. For the first time, the butt of my AK-47 was ripped off by enemy fire, luckily I was not hurt. I also saw two enemy soldiers running with their uniforms in flames, after they escaped from burning Casspirs. The enemy forces suffered heavy casualties, as our fire burnt four of their Casspirs to shells.

The enemy lost 10 soldiers in that battle, while a big number of the soldiers was wounded. We lost three fighters, three were wounded and one went missing in action.

We managed to rescue wounded comrades from the battle scene, though we were unable to recover the dead ones immediately after the fire ceased. We left the battle scene in small groups due to the enemy air firepower driven by helicopters, which were firing indiscriminately in all directions, probably in an attempt to prevent us from escaping from the battle scene. When some of us arrived at the assembly point, only a few fighters were there already.

The following morning, the Commander ordered five reconnaissance fighters, including myself, to go back to the battle scene. We left Onamatadiva, navigating through the thick jungle between Eendobe and Onamatadiva villages.
While moving we could hear sounds of enemy reconnaissance Cessna planes hovering in the direction of Eendobe. We decided to delay our arrival at Eendobe by spending the day deep in the jungle until late afternoon. We proceeded to the battle scene at around 18:00. We could see fresh enemy trenches, and when we moved further, we came across three corpses lying close to each other. Immediately we realised that these were our dead comrades that we left behind. We proceeded with caution, as we suspected that the enemy had booby trapped the corpses.

We initially detected one anti-personnel mine, but later discovered another anti-personnel mine planted a few metres from the corpses. The second anti-personnel mine was also linked to the one planted under the corpses. The enemy strategy was for the mines to explode once we moved the corpses.

However, we decided not to bury them during daylight in case the enemy returned while we were busy preparing for the burial. It took us a while before we finished digging the mass grave for our cadres. We finished at about 23h00. First, we tied a rope around the body, which lay at the bottom, then pulled the rope while we stood in the hole, just to shift the bodied from where we found them. We were not sure that we had not left another booby trap, hence, we decided to shift the bodies first before putting them into the grave.

In this particular battle, I saw our bullets mowing down enemy soldiers. I saw two black Koevoet soldiers running with their uniforms aflame as they escaped from a burning Casspir.

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