Sources for the Portuguese Colonial War

An annotated bibliography for the Portuguese Colonial War. Not surprisingly I concentrate on the English languages sources.

4.ª Companhia de Caçadores Especiais – 4 CCE – Angola, 1960-1962 [Portuguese]

A site dedicated to the tour of duty of one of the first Special Cazadore units of the Portuguese Colonial War, 4th Cazadore Company. They served in Angola. The photos are interesting because they show the older equipment including helmets and WW2 American trucks.

Abbott, P. and Rodrigues, M. (1998). Modern African Wars 2: Angola and Mozambique 1961-74. Osprey.

A good resource packed with good stuff. However there are some errors:

Miguel Silva Machado (co-author of Spencer & Machado, 1992) posted some errata on the New Rhodesian Forum: Guerra colonial / Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974).

The Osprey book is very interesting but please note:


A2 – The Portuguese Air Force only became an independent branch in 1952 (not 1925); The Warm Weather Uniform was created in 1960 not only for the Colonies but also for Sumer in European Portugal. The tie was blue and not black.

C1 – The only women serving portuguese armed forces were the paratroopers nurses;

D1 – The marines boot had no laces. They hadn’t either a black beret with green and red ribbons, but a dark blue beret with black ribbons, and the beret was only for Fuzileiros Especiais (Special Marines);

D3 – With n.º 2 uniform the rank insignia should be “gold”, not “grey”;

E3 – There is a certain confusion in this picture; it is neither the combat dress nor the parade dress. To be the Parade dress there are missing the white gloves and laces and the metalic wings. If he was a platoon commander he would be carrying a P-38 pistol. A riffle if he was a section commander, never both. The belt crest only belongs to the “Regimento de Caçadores Pára-quedistas” (Tancos – Portugal) and not to other units in Africa. To be the Combat dress he should not be wearing neither the white belt nor the neckerchief. The AR 10 “Armalite” was bought only for the paratroopers who had it until 1975. The GEP whose base was in Dondo (30 km north from Beira in the North of the colonie Mozambique) did only combat in Mozambique. They use a dark red beret with their own beret badge and wings.

According to Carlos Marighela on the Lead Adventure Forum: 28mm African Wars Portuguese

The Osprey claims a photo of a Ferret with the crew in French helmets as Portuguese. If it is then it’s a strange picture as the licence plate has the initial letter codes for the Portuguese Air Force!

Nuno Pereira (personal conversation) pointed out that the Portuguese never used Panhard AML-90s in Africa. Turra Valley AAR

An After Action Report of two wargames set in the Portuguese Colonial War. They use the rules Force on Force by Ambush Alley. They also feature house rules to generate the terrain as the game progresses.

Batalhão de Caçadores 4512 – Guiné 1972/74 [Portuguse]

A site dedicated to the tour of duty of Cazadore Battalion 4512. They served in Guinea-Bissau in 1972-74.

Cann, J. P. (1997). Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese way of war 1961-1974. Hailer.

An analysis of the Portuguese approach to counter insurgency by an American military man. One of my main sources.

Chaliand, G. (1967). Armed Struggle in Africa: With the Guerrillas in “Portuguese” Guinea. New York: Monthly Review Press.

An interesting book because Chaliand had the opportunity to visit the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau. However Chaliand, being a writer for a Marxist journal, has a particular slant. For example he accepts as fact all claims made by PAIGC.

Chandelle: A Journal of Aviation History: COIN: The Portuguese in Africa, 1959-1975

Nice article on Portuguese aircraft.

Davidson, B. (1981). The People’s Cause: A history of Guerrillas in Africa. Longman.

I’m not a fan of Davidson. He is extravagantly pro-insurgent. In his book the insurgents conduct “brilliant” operations, the Portuguese are all “fascists” who are “outfought and outmanoeuvred” (p. 8), and all Africans fighting for the Portuguese are “mercenaries”. Claims which do not bear close scrutiny. None-the-less Davidson’s book has a lot of detailed material on the insurgents.

Heitman, H. (1991). Modern African Wars 3: South-West Africa [MAA 242]. Osprey.

Really covers the period after the Portuguese Colonial War but provides some interesting background.

Humbaraci, A., and Muchnik, N. (1972). Portugal’s African Wars. NY: The Third Press.

Minter, W. (1972). Portuguese Africa and the West. NY: Monthly Review Press.

Morris, M. (1974). Armed Conflict in Southern Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Jeremy Spence.

Guerra Colonial [Portuguese]

Studio Validus: Portuguese Colonial War in Miniature Part I

Some well painted Peter Pig Portuguese for AK47 and/or Cold War Commander.

Spencer, D. E. and Machado, M. (1992). The Unknown War: Portuguese Paratroops in Africa, 1961-74 (I). Military Illustrated Past & Present, 47, 21-27. ADH Publishing.

A good article on the Portuguese paras. There is a part two on p. 42-46 on a later edition of Military Illustrated but I don’t know which edition. Military Illustrated is out of print and Miguel Machado has made the articles available on-line at Operacional (with a water mark). A copy without water marks is available on-line at the New Rhodesian Forum: Guerra colonial / Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974).

Venter, A. J. (1969). The Terror Fighters: A profile of Guerrilla warfare in Southern Africa. Cape Town: Purnell.

A real find as this concentrates on the Portuguese Colonial War in Angola.

Venter, A. J. (1972, Feb). Portugal’s Forgotten War. Air Enthusiast, p. 59-62 + 74.

A short article on the war in Guinea-Bissau. Essentially it is a summary of the material in Venter (1973). Given the nature of the magazine there is particular focus on the Portuguese Airforce. Includes some good illustrations of the main aircraft used by the Portuguese: Noratlas, Do27, T-6G, Alouette III, PV-2 and Fiat G91.

Venter, A. J. (1973). Portugal’s Guerrilla War: The campaign for Africa. Cape Town: John Malherbe.

Focuses on the war in Guinea-Bissau.

Venter, A. J. (1974a). Africa at War. Connecticut, USA: Devin-Adair.

Still waiting for this to arrive.

Venter, A. J. (1974b). The Zambesi Salient: Conflict in Southern Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins.

Written after the coup in Lisbon but before the Portuguese pulled out of Africa. The bits on the Portuguese colonies are interesting – the book starts with a trip along the Tete road in Mozambique – but the general theme is the threat to white Southern Africa by communist backed insurgents.

Venter, A. J. (1994). The Chopper Boys: Helicopter Warfare in Africa. London: Greenhill Books.

This book is what it says on the tin, i.e. about helicopter warfare in Africa. Has lots of detail and very interesting although the emphasis in on the latter conflicts involving Rhodesia and South Africa. The Portuguese wars are covered but in less detail.

Wikipedia: Angolan Civil War

Wikipedia: Angolan War of Independence

Wikipedia: Carnation Revolution

Wikipedia: Guinea-Bissau War of Independence

Wikipedia: Military history of Africa

Wikipedia: Mozambican Civil War

Wikipedia: Mozambican War of Independence

Wikipedia: Operation Gordian Knot

Wikipedia: Portuguese Armed Forces

Wikipedia: Portuguese Army Commandos

Wikipedia: Portuguese Colonial War

Wikipedia: Portuguese invasion of Guinea (1970)

Wikipedia: Portuguese irregular forces in the Overseas War

Wikipedia: Portuguese Marine Corps

Books to buy from Portugal

Some links from one of the best bookstores in Portugal. The suggestions and comments are by Pedro Pato on the New Rhodesian forum: Guerra colonial / Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974).

bilingual and mainly focused in the uniforms and gear

Portuguese general and Defense Minister in 1961 analysis of the ongoing war in Africa

Portuguese Indian State final days and invasion

Soldier’s experiences

American involvement

OPs in Guinea

OPs in Angola

OPs in Mozambique—guerra-colonial-causas-e-consequencias-dalia-cabrita-mateus/?fz=Listagem+Por+Pesquisa


History, very complete


History, very complete

According to Carlos Marighela on the Lead Adventure Forum: 28mm African Wars Portuguese

By the by, if anyone is looking for a one stop shop for references, the above book is probably as close as it gets. Short of buying the five volume official history it’s probably the best thing out there. It’s a big folio format hardback, nigh on 700 pages, full of photos, maps details on weapons, tactics, organisation it’s a wargamer’s treasure trove. It even has some cute photos of models of various aircraft, vehicles and troops made by Portuguse modellers. Pretty hard to beat.

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