Author(s): Al J. Venter
Mercenaries have been around since the dawn of civilization, yet today they are little understood. While many modern freelance fighters provide support for larger military establishments, others wage war where the great powers refuse. In War Dog, Al Venter examines the latter, in the process he unveils a remarkable array of close-quarters combat action.
Having personally visited everywhere he describes, Venter is the rare correspondent who had to carry an AK-47 in his research along with his notebook and camera. To him, covering mercenary actions meant accompanying the men into the thick of combat. During Sierra Leone’s civil war, he flew in the government’s lone Hind gun ship-piloted by the heroic chopper ace “Nellis”-as it flew daily missions to blast apart rebel positions. In this book Venter describes the battles of the South African mercenary company Executive Outcomes and after stemming the tide of Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA army in Angola they headed north to hold back vicious rebels in West Africa.
This book is not only about triumph against adversity but also losses, as Venter relates the death and subsequent cannibalistic fate of his American friend, Bob MacKenzie, in Sierra Leone. Here we see the plight of thousands of civilians fleeing from homicidal jungle warriors, as well as the professionalism of the mercenaries who fought back with one hand and attempted to train government troops with the other.
The American public, as well as its military, largely sidestepped the horrific conflicts that embroiled Africa during the past two decades. But as Venter informs us, there were indeed small numbers of professional fighters on the ground, defending civilians and attempting to conjure order from chaos.
In this book we gain an intimate glimpse of this modern breed of warrior in combat. Not laden with medals, or even guaranteed income, they have fought some of the toughest battles in the post- Cold War era. They simply are, and perhaps always will be, “War Dogs.”