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Gunplay in Africa - Memoir Excerpt

517 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  rhmc24
Prompted by threads by Texas Man about events in the 1960s along the Texas-Mexico border, I resurrected this from my memoir about an event in Africa also 1960s.

In my travels I often went to Africa. In 1946-47 I was in
Leopoldville, Belgian Congo for over a year. I was again there
several months with my new bride in 1950-51. I was there many
times in later years for a few days at a time. Around 1960 the
country became independent of Belgium and the name of the
capitol, Leopoldville, became Kinshasa, and the Belgian Congo
became known as Zaire. There was a period of guerrilla
activity, anarchy and unrest that continued for several years.
The Belgians had a government and law and order that was replaced
by an African regime that had little to do with any of those.
Where the country had been run by relatively efficient Europeans,
they were replaced by Africans. Some of these were educated to
some extent but competency and efficiency were a thing of the
past. The little African in his mud hut probably never knew the
difference, except that certain things like the possibility of
medical attention were no longer available.

An acquaintance of mine told me this story, which I will relate
in the first person as though I experienced it.

On one of my trips to Kinshasa I was killing time in the bar at the
hotel that had originally been called the Regina but renamed
something else. Another American struck up conversation, saying
he had met me somewhere before. I did not recall any such
meeting but he may have looked familiar. I am pretty much a
loner and almost never approach strangers and am not often
approached by strangers. Having nothing better to do we talked.

I have heard that there is an understanding in certain circles
that one never recognizes another person under circumstance as
described above due to risk of blowing cover. I never ever had
any "cover" than I was an American on a business trip. I was not
involved in anything covert or otherwise so it did not matter to
me. I have since often wondered how and why he decided to

In the course of conversation I mentioned that I had completed my
business and was waiting for my flight out. That would be two
days later. He mentioned that if I was free, he could offer a
little trip into the interior that would take a few hours the
next day. It would be a C-47 trip of about an hour and a half
and there would be a jeep ride about 10 miles to a mine to
deliver something. It sounded like it might be interesting so I
agreed to go.

We left the hotel early the next morning and went to the airport.
The C-47 looked airworthy enough but had no markings at all. My
companion was not to accompany me, I was surprised to learn. The
crew were totally uncommunicative. They sat in their pilot and
copilot seats and flew the airplane while I sat on a box back in
the main cabin cargo compartment of an empty airplane. We flew
what seemed to be southeast and landed at a bush airport. Just a
grass or sod landing strip. There was only one building that I

The crew disappeared in a back room and I was met by a man who
said he would be driving the jeep. It was open with no top and
no windshield. He asked if I was familiar with side arms and I
said I was; with some types, anyhow. He suggested I pick out one
for the trip. I took a .45 automatic in a web belt and holster.
I checked it out for function and loading. He said there were no
known opposition forces operating in the area, but one never

I had accepted this trip as an escape from boredom. Flying on
airplanes and driving around in tropical Africa was something
that I had a fill of. I guess I had expected, at least, to be
able to engage in some different and perhaps interesting
conversation. That, obviously, was not to be.

There wasn't much of a road. It was more like a trail or wagon
road. We made up to about 20 MPH most of the time. In some
places it was very rough and rocky and we had to creep along in
low gear for a couple hundred yards at a time. It was the dry
season. There was considerable vegetation but not the jungle
that most people think covers Africa. We reached our destination
in about 45 minutes. During that time my companion had little to
say and made it clear that real conversation was not in order.
We were met by a man who came only to the door when he heard
our approach. I was told to wait in the car while he took a
briefcase into the building. There were several crude buildings
but nothing that looked like any mine that I had ever seen. One
could have concealed the entrance to a tunnel, I suppose. I saw
only the one man. My escort asked if I wanted to drive back. I

At one of the slow places in the road I was grinding along at
walking speed. Two men stepped out in front of the vehicle with
guns. I stopped. One fired two rapid shots into my companion.
The center chest shots no doubt killed him almost instantly. I
figured I was next.

The leader of the two motioned me to get out. I stood behind the
vehicle with my hands behind my head while he examined my
passport which I had stuck in the pocket of my bush jacket. He
had taken my .45 auto and stuck it in his belt on his left side,
with the butt toward me. These two were armed with some kind of
very short carbine or submachine gun. The one facing me had let
his gun hang on its sling while he went through my passport.

The other stood to his right about a five feet away and slightly
behind him, with his gun on me. He saw the briefcase in the back
of the jeep amongst other junk that was there. He held the gun
with his left hand while he took is right hand off the trigger grip
and leaned over reaching for something in the jeep.

This was all happening in what seemed like slow motion. I
grabbed my pistol out of the first man's belt, in one motion,
putting it off safety and firing once into his belly. He seemed
surprised. The other was trying to get his gun into operation.
I swung the muzzle in his direction and shot twice in the center
of his chest. The first man had been more or less hors de
combat from the first shot but he was still standing and groping
for his gun dangling on its sling. I then put another round into
his chest. I picked up my passport and drove back to the landing
strip, with my dead escort in a heap by my side.

There things took a strange turn. The several men there became
highly agitated when I told them what had happened. They
seemed to be as concerned about the two attackers as by the
killing of the driver. Was I sure they were dead, etc.? Why
didn't I check for sure? I told them I thought there may have
been more of them and it was in my best interest to flee the

I was then told that none of this had happened and I was flown
back to Kinshasa. The man who set up the trip was nowhere to be
found. To this day it is an unreported and unexplained event.
I have often thought about this experience but I have lost no
sleep over it. I have no guilt about the two killings. As far
as I am concerned it was them or me. I have a sort of abstract
regret, however. There is no explanation. Only speculation. I
have more or less concluded that this was intended as an
execution of the driver. I was supposed to be a witness to the
killing, that I was supposed to be allowed to drive on but it
didn't go according to plan. If my reconstruct of the scenario
is not correct or at least plausible, I doubt that I would have
survived. They could just as well shot me at first, as with the

That is the story as related to me, as accurately as I can
recall. I can vouch for the plausibility of the .45 automatic
aspect of it. I was very familiar with the US Gov't .45
automatic pistol. I have occasionally fired one from time to
time and I own one now. When I was about 16 I fired one a lot.
An uncle had one that he let me use. A cousin on the other side
of the family also had a .45 automatic. He was a rancher and
several years older than I. One of his ranch hands went to
National Guard camp and brought him a nail keg of .45 ACP
ammunition. That is about five gallons of rounds. We shot up a
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