The Namibians were right, the number of refugees coming in had begun to taper off. There were a few reasons for this, all of which the guys from Exodus Consortium had foreseen. The people trying to get out of Durban and KwaZulu-Natal in general had to pass through Pietermaritzburg and Ladysmith as well as the mountainous province itself, which reduced the escape routes. Due to geography and the design of the national road network, those who made it out had to pass through Bloemfontein and the Free State province. Unable to refuel, they ran out of juice while struggling to get around the city and not only clogged up the roads, but also began to fall prey to police units along with the tank school and 1st Parachute Regiment out of Bloemfontein’s Tempe base. A lot of the Eastern Cape traffic also went through the Free State and it added to the traffic jam. Like others, they too ran out of fuel. By then, the situation was looking real bad. The fleeing whites were surrounded and under attack. They held on, fighting desperate battles from hastily dug positions, farms, hills and some urban areas, saved only by the incompetent design and leadership of the South African military machinery, which made integrated ops a damned nightmare and the troops’ lack of tactical savvy. With the exception of a few who managed to sneak on foot through the lines, the whites knew they were doomed unless help came.

 

NATO was on the way. Planes had begun to arrive in Namibia and Botswana, loaded with aid which the strained governments needed. This was distributed to the South Africans in the ad hoc camps formed outside main cities and towns, and the only reason it happened as quickly as it did was because ordinary people across Europe started to donate food, water and blankets along with money to charity organizations which either had planes or now found themselves with enough cash to charter a few. Airlines flying to those countries began to set aside a little of their cargo holds to carry aid, which they handed over to aid agencies upon landing. The political and military aspects were a little more difficult to sort out, mostly because the Americans had increasingly pulled out of world affairs and were no longer the de facto leaders. Unlike before, the two multi-national fleets were put under the command of a British and French admiral respectively and they answered to the head of NATO, who happened to be German. Their brief was simple- isolate South Africa’s coasts, launch aerial surveillance and begin to evacuate foreign nationals. To do that, they were cleared to take out South African air, ground and sea assets which tried to intimidate or engage them. The two American carrier battle groups were sent back to their previously assigned positions to support the NATO fleets and for the first time ever, found themselves taking orders instead of giving them.

 

The American CBGs got there first, three days before everybody else. They went to work, deploying their escort submarines and destroyers to cover the maximum area and gather intel on sea traffic while air assets were searching for South African subs and began to bombard up to 100 kilometers of the country’s inland with radar from their E-2D Hawkeyes. South African Elint stations and coastal sonar arrays detected them on arrival, but the picture on submarines got hazy very quickly, because these were Seawolf and Los Angeles class predators for whom silent running was merely one part of their deadly arsenals of advanced torpedoes and cruise missiles. There were only two South African corvettes and submarines running, the rest of the fleet lying helplessly in dock for repairs that hadn’t come for years, and one of those corvettes was doing anti-piracy duty around the Horn of Africa. It was recalled and ran south as fast as its moribund engines could push, but its stupid captain ran into the eastern CBG’s defensive screen and was sunk with all hands by two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers when he refused to turn around. The NATO fleets were coming, and their logistics tail a few days behind them. At the same time, the U.S. got approval from Namibia and Botswana to send engineering units who quickly built huge landing strips to accommodate heavies such as Boeing 747s, C-5 Galaxies and more importantly, airborne tankers, E-3 Sentries and J-STARS surveillance aircraft, then set up crew quarters, fuel dump positions and settled in to wait for arriving assets.

 

End of Part 15. To be continued…

Mircea Negres

Port Elizabeth

South Africa