VETERAN STORIES NEEDED

I am a historian who has been studying the South Africa Border War in detail for almost a decade. I am currently completing my PhD at Stellenbosch University and my topic is on what SADF soldiers did when not in combat and/or during recreation time, and specifically when deployed in Angola and on the Border between 1966 – 1989.

I’m looking for stories, photos, videos, books, official documents and reports, and anything else that helps me dig deeper into this.

You can find out more about my work here or read below: https://thisishistory.org/theses-and-dissertations/ 

NOTE: if you have any stories from other conflicts or armies you were involved in, please do send those as well as they can help with comparisons in my study!


[HOW TO SUBMIT]

Send to: Garrett Eriksen at geriksen@thisishistory.org

Subject: Stories – [Your Name] – [Year of Service]

Attachments: You can attach images etc to the email or use WeTransfer to send me larger files.

English / Afrikaans: You can submit in English or Afrikaans, but the study will be published in English so I may ask you to help me translate parts of your story.


[TOPIC]

One Percent Terror, Ninety-Nine Percent Boredom
An analysis of the recreational time of SADF soldiers during the South African Border War.

*This is an analysis of what deployed soldiers did when resting at camps, or between combat, or after specific operations during deployment. Basically, what were they doing when they weren’t being shot at or out running missions or patrols?


[WHAT I NEED]

  • Stories / Anecdotes
  • Photos / Drawings
  • Articles (magazine or academic)
  • Videos / Films / Footage
  • Reports (official SADf documents or similar)
  • Studies (articles or books)
  • Books (any recommended that have good stories and detail)
  • Music (examples of music you listened to at the time)
  • Anything else you can think of

*I have been doing a ton of research but I would love to receive actual stories from the veteran community! I’m looking for stories about receiving mail from home, pranks and funny situations, drugs/drinking, sex, gallows humour, braais, animal encounters, experiences with the locals or POW’s etc. They can be funny, sad, terrible, boring, whatever you can recall. The wider the variety the better and if you can provide any images or videos, that would be fantastic.

Photo 2017-10-09, 15 11 38

*If you know of any official documents (for example in archives somewhere) or news reports, articles or books, that also cover this topic (it can be about other wars as well), then please let me know. An example would be: Boredom is the Enemy – Amanda Laugesen


[HOW YOUR MATERIAL WILL BE USED]

Your stories/images etc, if chosen, might go into my final PhD dissertation or at least form part of the reference material. When submitting, you are welcome to tell me if you want it to be anonymous or partial/full name etc. ALL INFORMATION SHARED WILL BE TREATED AS CONFIDENTIAL! I will always double-check with you if you are ok with me using your info in my studies, but even if you just want to share the story and not have it published, that’s fine too as all the information will provide an insight into activities.


[WHY AM I STUDYING THIS?]

The South African Border War is woefully understudied, and I feel that that is an injustice not only to South African history in general, but to veterans, on all sides of the conflict, whose experiences have been marginalised in favour of much grander and more marketable conflicts, such as WWII.

(WWII is obviously a very important event to study, and I am not disparaging the sacrifices made by all those involved, but WWII is easy to sell and so most of the focus is on it and other important conflicts fall by the wayside.)

When I realised this. I changed my focus in university and decided to use my training in psychology, and the methodologies of a few other disciplines such as sociology, to focus on military history and in particular the South African Border War and the experiences of war veterans.

My particular direction of research, what soldiers do when they are not fighting, (which takes up the majority of their time) is becoming more and more relevant in not only historical studies but in global contemporary military strategy, psychology and logistics. It’s not impossible that South Africa will be involved in a global conflict sometime in the next 50 years, as we were in World War I and II, thus understanding what soldiers do when they are not being shot at, or otherwise experiencing psychologically impactful events, is becoming more and more important. A study such as this, of a past conflict, would become immediately useful as a source from which to draw on when making plans to comfort, maintain and eventually release a soldier back into society.

In South Africa, these soldiers (both SADF and MK/SWAPO) never received the benefit of understanding and, in many ways, are still fighting for their place in South Africa today. Understanding what these soldiers did when they were deployed in Angola is important, but as important is knowing what they were doing in between so that we can gain a deeper insight into their mindset at the time, which may explain their actions then and now.

Conflict is where humanity is at its most visceral, thus if we want to know what the fathers and grandfathers of our current South Africa did that got us here, we need to know about everything, not just the blood-soaked battles but the moments when their humanity floated back to the top amid a sea of dust and blood and kept them sane in the face of calamity.


 

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