Barrel of a Gun: A War Correspondent's Misspent Moments in Combat

Barrel of a Gun: A War Correspondent's Misspent Moments in Combat

by Al J Venter


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“Anybody who says that the pen is mightier than the sword hasn’t spent time in Somalia, or in Beirut during its bloody heyday.” So begins this fascinating memoir of a journalist, filmmaker, and just plain raconteur who has made a career of examining warfare—on the ground and as the bullets are flying. While the average citizen is aware of violent conflicts broiling all around the globe, Al J. Venter—from some strange compulsion unexplainable even by him—has felt the need to see them all in person, preferably at the center of the action.

Born in South Africa, Venter has found no shortage of horrific battles on his own continent, from Rhodesia to Biafra, and Angola to Somalia. He has ridden with the legendary merc group Executive Outcomes, jumped into combat with South Africa’s crack Parachute Regiment (the Parabats), and traipsed the jungles with both guerrillas and national troops under whichever strongman in the country then held power. During Sierra Leone’s civil war he flew in the government’s lone Mi-24 Hind gunship as it blasted apart rebel villages and convoys, his complaint being that the Soviet-made craft leaked when it rained.

In the Mideast he went into southern Lebanon with the invading Israeli army as it encountered resistance from multiple Muslim groups, including the newly formed Hezbollah. Curious about the other side of the hill, he joined up with General Aoun’s Christian militias while that conflict was at its height. Touching down in Croatia during the Balkan wars, and in Congo during their perpetual one, as well as the Uganda of Idi Amin, Venter never lost his lust for action, even as he sometimes had to put down his camera or notebook to pick up an AK-47.

In his journeys, Venter associated with an array of similarly daring soldiers and journalists, from “Mad Mike” Hoare to Danny Pearl, as well as elite soldiers from around the world, many of whom, he sadly relates, never emerged from the war zones they entered. The creator of countless documentaries and books, from warfare to shark diving to nuclear proliferation, Al Venter has here offered the reader his own personal combat experiences, in all their multi-faceted fascination.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935149255
Publisher: Casemate Publishers
Publication date: 10/19/2010
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Al J. Venter is a specialist military writer and has had 50 books published. He started his career with Geneva’s Interavia Group, then owners of International Defence Review, to cover military developments in the Middle East and Africa. Venter has been writing on these and related issues such as guerrilla warfare, insurgency, the Middle East and conflict in general for half a century. He was involved with Jane’s Information Group for more than 30 years and was a stringer for the BBC, NBC News (New York) as well as London’s _Daily Express_ and _Sunday Express_. He branched into television work in the early 1980s and produced more than 100 documentaries, many of which were internationally flighted. His one-hour film, _Africa’s Killing Fields_ (on the Ugandan civil war), was shown nationwide in the United States on the PBS network. Other films include an hour-long programme on the fifth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as well as _AIDS: The African Connection_, nominated for China’s Pink Magnolia Award. His last major book was _Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa_, nominated in 2013 for New York’s Arthur Goodzeit military history book award. It has gone into three editions, including translation into Portuguese.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Dubious Life of a War Correspondent

1 Getting to a Lebanon at War
2 Death of a Young Man
3 Levantine Woes
4 Lagos and an Army Mutiny
5 Biafra: The Build-Up
6 Survival in a West African Conflict
7 A Dirty Distant War: El Salvador
8 Patrol in No Man’s Land
9 A Central American Conflagration
10 Somalia: Wars of No Consequence
11 Air Operations in the Horn of Africa
12 Somali Aftermath
13 Search and Destroy in the Eastern Mediterranean
14 Israel’s Border Wars
15 Marj’Ayoun and the South Lebanese Army
16 Uganda: Africa’s Killing Fields
17 Bounty Hunt in Rhodesia
18 On the Ground in Rhodesia’s Bush War
19 Zaire: Road to an African War
20 Into the Congo’s Cauldron
21 Jailed for Espionage in Lubumbashi
22 Isolated in a Congolese Prison
23 ‘Kill all Infidels – Allahu Aqbar!’
24 Tete Convoy in Mozambique
25 Serengeti Must Not Die
26 The Balkan Beast: Landmines in Croatia
27 Balkan War Joint-STARS Offensive
28 Helicopter Drug Raids in Zululand


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