"From this day to the ending of the World
...we in it shall be remembered
...we band of brothers."
"No problems, we fly again"
Captain Stig von Bayer served in January-June 1964, as Deputy Commander for the missionary rescue operations (JADEX 1), in the Kwilu province and as a commander for the last combat missions STRAWBERRY and STAYPUT within the ONUC Operation in the Congo, 1960-1964. The first rescue mission went without problems, but the second, three days later, ended in a deadly confrontation between the UN soldiers and the Mulele warriors. Stig von Bayer describes the events below.
“In the end of 1963 the so called Mulele uprising spread quickly in the Kwilu province in the Congo, an uprising that would last for more than 20 years.”
“The Mulele warriors attacked isolated ANC pickets (the Congolese National Army), intoxicated on a mixture of drugs and human testicles, shouting ‘Mai-Mai-Mulele’, translated: your bullets will become water when they hit me. At the sight of these ‘immortal’ warriors most army units fled without noticeable resistance. Everyone who could read and write were killed by the Mulelists. Mission stations, hospitals, and schools were plundered and destroyed. The UN hastily gathered the remaining helicopters (6), and two single-engine Otter aircraft to Tchikapa, led by Lieutenant Colonel Mayer (Canada), where I arrived with two helicopters and First Lieutenant Glantz, with the Otter aircraft from Luluabourg in the morning, 24-01-64. We were ordered to immediately go to the Catholic mission station Kandale, to rescue 3 nuns. When we arrived in Kandale, we landed close to the buildings and were met by intense fire from arrows and muzzle-loaders, but also by the 3 nuns, who left the mission house and came running toward us. We were forced to open heavy fire to stop the Mulele warriors from cutting down the nuns with their spears. Somehow, we got the nuns into helicopter no. 2 and could return in one piece to Tchikapa, were the nuns immediately started to cry and explained that we had forgotten two priests visiting Kandale. and asked us to go back and get them!! Why didn’t you tell us that right away? I asked them angrily. I pointed out that it was impossible for us to return after what had happened. Then the nuns cried even more and explained that we were heartless. An animated discussion followed, after which it was decided that we should make an attempt with the whole force. I got the ‘honour’ of going down with Lehman's helicopter and try to pick up the priests, while the rest of the force supported us with rifles, sub-machine guns, and hand grenades.”
“When we flew in over Kandale my worst nightmares came true. In the middle of a soccer field by the mission, the two priests stood naked and bound to a pole, the whole field was filled with long poles and newly dug holes, In the bush around it hundreds, well, thousands, of Mulele warriors were hiding! At a first glance everything seemed completely hopeless, but at a second turn over the field we found a gap between poles and holes which seemed to be enough for the helicopter. When we came in for landing all hell broke loose, from every direction Mulele warriors stormed in and downright rained arrows and spears, etc. on the helicopter. The priests tore loose from the pole and came running toward us, naked, with flapping beards, followed by an incredible horde who tried to cut them down. I had never thought that it would take so little time to empty 6 magazines from the sub-machine gun, that so many hand grenades could be thrown by the rest of the force with so little effect. I was hit by an arrow on the sub-machine gun, a poison arrow got stuck in the marching boot, and an arrow hit a Nigerian UN soldier by my side. Despite repeated point firing to the chest and stomach, several of the ‘immortal’ warriors continued to fire arrow upon arrow at us. Just as we got the priests aboard and tried to lift, the helicopter slipped down into a hole and I thought that this is it, tore out the UN pistol, determined that the last bullet would be for me, when Lehman got the helicopter up, into the air again and we could return to base.”
“Lasse Glantz’ aircraft, that had been hit by 17 bullets and got holes in two fuel tanks, said the word which became the motto of the force: ‘No problems, we fly again’, with the still working tank, to the general J.A. Dextraze, who just arrived on inspection, with the order to evacuate another 20 mission stations as soon as possible!!! One mission and already one aircraft and one helicopter out of order...”
In the player below, you can listen to Stig von Bayer telling about the rescue mission in the documentary “The Kongo Veterans” from 2014.