Operation Grandslam

Operation Grandslam was an offensive undertaken by United Nations peacekeeping forces from 28 December 1962 to 15 January 1963 against the forces of the State of Katanga, a secessionist state rebelling against the Republic of the Congo in central Africa. The Katangese forces were decisively defeated and Katanga was forcibly reintegrated into the Congo.

Operation Grandslam
Part of the Congo Crisis

Swedish UN peacekeepers led by Major Sture Fagerström plan their attack on the town of Kamina during the operation
Date28 December 1962 – 15 January 1963
Location
Result

ONUC victory

Territorial
changes
Katanga Province reintegrated into Congo-Léopoldville
Belligerents

ONUC[lower-alpha 1]

Supported by:
Congo-Léopoldville

 Katanga Surrendered

Supported by:
 Portuguese Angola
 South Africa
 Northern Rhodesia
Commanders and leaders
U Thant
Dewan Prem Chand
Reginald Noronha
Moïse Tshombe Surrendered
Norbert Muke Surrendered
Jeremiah Puren
Strength
~13,000 troops
10 fighter aircraft
2 reconnaissance aircraft
14,000–17,000 gendarmes
300–500 mercenaries
12 combat aircraft
Casualties and losses
10–11 killed
27–77 wounded
7 fighter aircraft damaged
1 reconnaissance aircraft damaged
50+ killed[lower-alpha 2]
10–11 combat aircraft destroyed
There were no reports of civilian deaths confirmed by the UN during the operation, but statistics are ultimately unknown.[4][lower-alpha 3]

The United Nations had tried several times to reconcile the government of the Congo with the State of Katanga, which had declared independence under Moïse Tshombe with Belgian support in 1960. Though initially limiting its actions, the United Nations Operation in the Congo became increasingly impatient towards Katanga and Tshombe, drawing up plans to resolve the situation through force. Tshombe continuously violated agreements he had made with the United Nations and the Congolese government by building up his forces and bringing foreign mercenaries into the conflict. The situation reached a breaking point in December 1962 when Katangese gendarmes attacked peacekeeping forces in Katanga. United Nations Secretary-General U Thant authorised a retaliatory offensive to eliminate secessionist opposition.

Reinforced by aircraft from Sweden, United Nations peacekeepers completed the first phase of the operation, securing the Katangese capital, Élisabethville and destroying much of the Katangese Air Force by the end of the year. In early January, the United Nations forces turned their attention towards remaining strongholds in southern Katanga. Indian peacekeepers exceeded their orders and crossed the Lufira River ahead of schedule, generating panic behind the Katangese lines and embarrassing the United Nations leadership. Tshombe, realising that his position was untenable, approached Thant for peace. On 17 January 1963, he signed an instrument of surrender and declared the Katangese secession to be over. The central government reorganised the provincial administration of Katanga to weaken its political structure. Tshombe initially participated but feared his arrest and fled to Europe.

Many Katangese gendarmes and their mercenary leaders took refuge in Angola to reorganise, acting under orders from Tshombe. In 1964, Tshombe was welcomed back to the Congo and made Prime Minister. He immediately called on his forces to suppress communist revolts in the east and centre of the country. This they accomplished but Tshombe was dismissed from his post in 1965, ultimately losing all contact with them following his imprisonment in Algeria in 1967. Relations between the new central government and the gendarmes soured and, after a mutiny was repressed, they returned to Angola. An insurgency for Katangese secession continues to the present day.


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