Angola, ravaged by warring factions trying to gain control of the nation, was besieged by a large group of foreign mercenaries who came to support the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) against the government in early 1976. Thirteen of the mercenaries were put on trial for various crimes, with four of them being executed, including one American and three Brits, on this day in 1976.
Angola was basking in its newly gained independence, and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) were the leading faction but not officially. The MPLA battled with the FNLA and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in the Angolan Civil War.
The MPLA had massive support from the Soviet Union, including Cuban troops, as a result of its left-wing political aims. Meanwhile, the FNLA and UNITA were enemies of communist ideology. The West supported FLNA and UNITA forces, particularly because of the MPLA’s alignment with the Soviets during this critical juncture of the Cold War between the world’s major superpowers.
Consequently, the mercenaries were deployed in full force and conducted several ground operations and other violent acts against the Angolan government and its people. The MPLA handily defeated the soldiers-for-hire and the FNLA, though, due to their support from the Soviets and Cubans.
Ten British, two American, and an Argentinean mercenary were captured and put on trial in the capital city of Angola on June 28, 1976.
Three of the British mercenaries and a lone American were ordered to death for crimes against the Angolan government.
The BBC reported on the trial, stating that it was not publicly revealed at the time what charges the mercenaries faced.
The BBC wrote:
The Angolan authorities have described them as “the lowest of human characteristics in volunteering to kill, destroy, and commit criminal acts in exchange for adequate payment.”
The 10 Britons, 2 Americans, and one Argentine were mercenaries in the Angolan civil war but have not been seen prior to their court appearance.
One of the men, ex-paratrooper Costas Georgiou, is also wanted by New Scotland Yard for questioning in connection with the murders of 14 of his own men during the war.
The men who were killed were Andrew McKenzie (pictured top with fingers on mouth), John Barker, Georgiou, and Daniel Gaerhert. Reportedly, McKenzie, who was wounded and used a wheelchair, stood up to face the Angolan firing squad.
The remaining mercenaries were sentenced to 16 to 30 years in prison.