Sunday, 30 November 2014

Operation "Red Dragon"

Last week was the 50th anniversary of operation "Red Dragon". A complete overview can be found on Wikipedia (Dutch, French, English) - especially the Dutch version is very extensive. In summary: this was an hostage rescue operation in Congo, conducted by Belgium and the USA in 1964. The operation relied heavily on Belgian paratroopers, and aimed to retrieve hostages held by Simba rebels in Stanleyville (modern-day Kisangani).

Belgian paratroopers near Kisangani during Red Dragon.
 The anniversary received quite some attention in the Belgian press, but I was wondering why this operation has received little or no  attention from Belgian wargamers.

Now that I think of it, Belgian military history is a relatively unexplored topic amongst Belgian wargamers.  Since it's start in 1830, Belgium has been involved in a number of military operations, but none of these operations ever caught the attention - as far as I know - of wargamers in Belgium. Perhaps this is due to our rather unglamourous military history. Belgium's involvement in military conflicts is not emphasized in the school curriculum, nor is it part of the "national consciousness". The only exception is World War 1, but this is more often seen from the viewpoint of political and civil history, rather than the military side.

Belgium has been the theatre of many famous historical battles. Ironically, these have been more important to the history of other nations. This is really due to the fact that Belgium was only founded in 1830. Significant events before that date might be known to people, but are often not seen as part of Belgian history. The most famous example is probably Waterloo (1815), the defining battle to end the Napoleonic Wars. I do not think many Belgians consider Waterloo as important to our history, and most probably think Napoleon did win. The battle of Oudenaarde (1708) is probably totally unknown to Belgians. Nieuwpoort (1600), featuring the Dutch against the Spanish - and which was part of the war that eventually led to the permanent split of the low countries (B and NL) - should be known due to its importance to our national history, but nothing of the sort. The Siege of Ostend (1601) could be an excellent wargame campaign. And so on ...

Apparantly, most Belgian wargamers like to pursue the wars of other nations. And perhaps this is not that strange. Wargaming is  mostly an Anglosaxon hobby, and therefore it is a surprise that most attention is given to the wars of the Anglosaxon countries.

Anyway, back to Red Dragon. The events in the Congo during the 60s and 70s still can strike a raw nerve in Belgium. Not only are some issues still unresolved (e.g. the murder on Lumumba), but also many ordinary Belgians suffered, and in many families, there is still something of a trauma regarding some of the events that happened during Congo's independence.

But wargaming should make abstraction of that. Years ago I bought a copy of the AK-47 rules by Peter Pig. I have never used them, but this might be a good occasion to get them out and try to recreate some Belgian military history on the gaming table. Or, I could disguise the scenario and have it featured in my Antares scifi campaign ...

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