211th Squadron

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211th Squadron
Makasi.jpg
Air Force: Congolese Air Force
Group: 2nd Group
Active: 1964-
Theater Congo
Motto: Makasi (Strong)
Aircraft: C-46, T-28, B-26
COMMANDERS
Group CO: Joaquin "Pupy" Varela
MAIN BASES
Air fields: Albertville

Stanleyville, Leopoldville

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The Makasi Squadron was a composite squadron that operated out of the Congo as part of Operation Anstalt Wigmo.

Background

In many ways the CIA's participation in the Congolese Civil War was a direct continuation of their battle against Castro in the Bay of Pigs.

Emboldened by his victory in Cuba, Fidel Castro looked to extend his influence and spread his political ideologies to other parts of the world. To that end, Castro supplied arms and equipment to Che Guevera, a revolutionary leading a pro-communist faction.

In response fo Cuban aid, the CIA moved their "instant air force" to Cuba and formed the 211th Squadron. They started with poorly armed T-6s, and then upgraded to T-28s. The 211th Squadron was supplemented with 5 B-26Ks.

To crew and fly the planes. Initially, the Cubans were told that if they helped the US defeat the Congolese revolutionaries, tje US would help them with Castro. However, as part of the political deal struck between the US and Russia following the Bay of Pigs, both countries agreed to be hands off in Cuba. President Kennedy's hands were tied and he could not fulfill the promise to help the Cuban exils retake their country.

Overview

Formally, the unit was the 211th Squadron, 2nd Group, Congolese Air Force. [1] [footnotes 1] However, unofficially none of the people in the squadron called themselves that. They instead said they were "El Grupo Voluntario Cubano" or the Cuban Volunteer Group.[2] By June 1964 the Squadron had approximately 25 pilots, mostly Cubans. [2]
Rum Dum and crew.jpg 64-17646 and crew.jpg Jose Castrsana and TITI Peron at Albertville.jpg Masaki Crew.jpg Makasi Crew 2.jpg Gustavo Ponzoa and Joaquin Valera in the Congo with 64-17646.jpg Makasi Crew 3.jpg


The B-26s were owned by the USAF, on loan to the CIA, based in the Congo, and flown by Cubans. The squadron had several other planes. Initially the squadron's maintenance was handled by Cubans. However, as the size and scope of the squadron grew the CIA formed a fake Belgian company called Anstalt Wigmo to handle the maintenance. They brought in over 100 European mechanics and armorers to keep the planes airworthy. [2]
Rene Garcia (left) with 3 mechanics from the 602nd FS(C).jpg Cuban and British Armorers load a B-26K in the Congo.jpg 64-17645 loaded (2).jpg

Perhaps the most important development from this operation was the improvement to the carburetor intake that was developed in the field as a means to keep the engines from overheating. These modifications became known as "Congo Cowls" and would end up as standard equipment on all B-26K models, which served the plane crews well in the harsh climates of Southeast Asia in the coming years. Note that the air intakes used in the Congo are signifanctly larger than the final version that would be adopted. The Congo Cowls on the planes in Southeast Asia have the air intakes in the same place, but the scoop is much shorter.
B-26K on assignment with modified intake.jpg B-26K Cowlings.jpg


The squadron's insignia, a bull, was taken from a popular local brewery named Unibra that made a popular beer called "Polar". The name Makasi coming from the Cuban pilots, meaning "Strong" in Lingali, the native language of the Congo. [3]
Bracongo Unibra Congo (catawiki).jpg

The squadron itself was a composite squadron that operated out of Leopoldville. All of the planes in the unit bore the Makasi bull emblem on the nose. Several examples from T-28D Trojans and B-26Ks are visible below. Note the very subtle difference in the lettering, particularly the last "i", and the subtle changes in the bull, particularly the ears and tail. Based on the photographic evidence, it seems as though this insignia was adopted sometime after the spring of 1965.
Makasi on a T-28.jpg Makasi 2.jpg Makasi planes.jpg T-28 Makasi.jpg Makasi Helo.JPG

The first 3 B-26Ks arrived the night of 17 Aug 1964, having been flown in by US pilots from the 602nd Fighter Squadron. The Cuban pilots learned quickly, having some experience on the B-26 already, and flew the first combat mission on 21 Aug 1964.[2] Four B-26Bs were originally slated to go to this operation. Of these, 1 was left behind in Okinawa, another crashed and burned in Aden, and the last two arrived in-tact in September 1964. [2] The Cubans soon learned that the B-26Bs were no longer used by the Americans and were somewhat outraged over their arrival thinking them to be a deathtrap. One of the planes was never used again, instead becoming a source for spare parts. The other plane had benches installed in the bomb bay and was kept on standby as an emergency escape vehicle. Eventually, desperation and need forced them to refit the plane as a makeshift recon vehicle which the crew jokingly called "U-3" as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the U-2 spyplane.[2]
64-17644.Cachita.jpg 64-17644. SHM.jpg 64-17645 in the Congo.jpg 64-17645. Rumdum.jpg 64-17645. Bunia, Congo. 1965.jpg 64-17646. Congo.jpg 44-35890. Called U-3.Congo.jpg 644 Cachita.jpg 646 belly landing in Albertville after taking enemy ground fire.jpg A Makasi B26K in the Congo.jpg Stanleyville.jpg

The T-28Ds and the B-26Ks performed largely the same role within the squadron - close counter insurgency operations. The tactics that would eventually become adopted included scattering the T-28Ds to multiple air fields so that they could respond everywhere more quickly and saving the harder-hitting B-26Ks for large, high-value or heavily defended targets. The B-26Ks did not carry internal bombs in the bomb bay while operating in the Congo so, instead, a long-range ferry tank was installed to give the planes extra range.[2]

By January of 1965, two more brand-new B-26Ks arrived at to join the squadron. [2]. Eventually, 649 and 662 would also get the Makasi insignia painted on the nose, but neither of these planes is known to have a name.
649 (2).jpg 64-17649 Stanleyville. 1965.jpg On mission.jpg 64-17649. (3).jpg 64-17662. At the end of Congo operations.jpg

List of Planes

USAF S/N Registry # Start Date End Date Comments
B-26 Invaders
44-35890 35890 & FL-890 Sep 1964 1966 B-26B named "U3" used for recon. Scrapped at Kinshasa. [2]
A second B-26B was send to the Congo, but it was not used.[2] A third B-26B crashed and burned in Aden on 21 Aug 1964, and a fourth was left behind in Okinawa. [2]
64-17644 RF644 & FR-644 18 Aug 1964 Jan 1967 Named "Shit House Mouse"/"Cachita"
64-17645 RF645 & FR-645 18 Aug 1964 27 Dec 1966 Named "Rum Dum". By 29 Dec 1966 the plane was in Sacramento, CA at a repair depot[4].
64-17646 RF646 & FR-646 18 Aug 1964 Mar 1967 Named "The Boogie Bogey"
64-17649 FR-649 Jan 1965 Oct 1966
64-17662 FR-662 & FM-662 Jan 1965 Feb 1967
C-46 Commandos & C-47 Skytrains
42-3577 9T-PLJ 1966 16 Apr 1969 C-46A-30-CU. Purchased from Transair Sweeden as a wreck after it crashed doing UN transports in the region. Returned to service. Crashed in the Congo River due to fuel starvation killing all 46 souls aboard. [5]
42-3580 9Q-CRP Dec 1967 1970 C-46A-35-CU. Purchased from Fairline Sweeden. Withdrawn from use and stored. [6]
42-96281 9Q-CWN Jun 1968 1969 C-46A-50-CU. Sold to Aero Suppliers Establishment. [7]
43-48241[8] 9T-PKF 3 Jun 1964 [9] 7 Jul 1967 C-47A-30-DK. A photo of this plane exists showing it in Congolese markings. [10] The plane was destroyed on the ground in Stanleyville by the retreating Congolese Army to keep it out of rebel hands. [11]
T-6 Texans & T-28D Trojans
I don't know exactly how many T-28s were with the unit. I will list the data here as I come across it. A lot the information on the T-28s comes from photos.
FG-067 T-28
??-153 T-28
FG-260 T-28? The photo I saw shows the plane flipped over with its belly to the sky.
FG-282 T-28
FG-289 T-28
FA-291 T-28
??-485
FA-496 T-28
FG-516 T-28
FG-563 T-28
FG-576 T-28
FB-809 T-28
9T-847 T-6
FB-87? T-28
9T-P32 T-6
9T-P35 T-6

List of Members

Afont Rodriguez, Tomas [12]
Alvarez, Francisco "Ponchito" (Pilot)[12]

Balboa Alvarado, Jose [12]
Baro, Cesar [12]
Batista Fernandez, Nildo (Pilot) [12]
Bernal Fernandez, Gaston [12]
Blanco, Reginaldo [12]
Blazquez del Pozo, Tony "The Stone" [13][12]
Bouzin (Colonel) [12]
Bringuier, Jorge (Pilot)[12]
Brito Garcia, Orlando [12]

Cadena, Enrique [12]
Cantillo Huget, Amado (Pilot)[12]
Castellanos, Jose Manuel [12]
Carol, Oscar A (Pilot)[12]
Castillo, El Guarijo [14][15]
Castillo Leyva, Rafael "Propeller" [12]
Castrasana, Jose[16]
Cereceda Coira, Castor [12]
Cordo Lugo, Oscar [12]
Cosme Toribio, Luis [12]
Cross Quintana, Raul [12]

De Cardenas, Roberto [12]
De La Cuesta, Angel [12]
De La Guardia, Luis [12]
Dearborne, Ed (CIA Advisor) [12]
Despaigne Perez, Ernesto [12]

Entriago Telledo, Jose [12]

Fernandez, Segisberto [12]
Fernandez Ardois, Luis [12]
Filpes, Claudio [12]
Flaquer Carballar, Federico "Fred" (Pilot) [12]

Garcia Acosta, Tristan [12]
Garcia Fernandez, Cpt. Rene (Pilot) [2][12]
Garcia Pujon, Rafael "El Huevo" (Pilot)[13][12]
Garcia Tunon, Juan [12]
Ginebra Groero, Mario "Chiqui" (Pilot) [12]
Gomez Gomez, Fausto [12]
Gonzalez Molina, Guillermo "El Walrus" (Pilot)[15]

Hernandez Reyes, Hector (Cuban Navy Mechanic)[12]
Hernandez Rojas, Angel M [12]
Herrera Cabrera, Gonzalo [12]
Herrera Perez, Eduardo (Pilot)[12]
Hoare, Mike [12]
Houcke, Bob "La Cucaracha" (French Bell 47 Helicopter pilot)[13][15][12]

Izquiredo Ramirez, Orlando "El Banana" (Helicopter Pilot)[13][12]

Dr. Kildare [12]

Landazuri, Ramiro [12]
Lopez Dominguez, Angel [12]
Luaices Sotelo, Cesar [12]

Maza Barros, Alfredo [12]
Mendez Acosta, Santiago [12]
Merriman, John (Pilot) [12]

Navarro Rodriguez, Jorge [12]

Organvidez, Hernan [12]

Padron Sanchez, Cecilio (Pilot)[12]
Pedrianes, Angel "El Blind"[15][12]
Pedroso Amores, Acelo [12]
Pellon Blanco, Jose [12]
Perez Mendez, Jose [12]
Perez Sordo, Alberto [12]
Peron Sosa, Juan C. "Titi" (Pilot)[17][16]
Peyno Inclan, Ernesto [12]
Pichardo, Roberto [12]
Piedra, Armando [12]
Pique Fernandez-Coca, Arturo (Pilot)[12]
Ponzoa Alvarez, Gustavo "El Mirlo" (Pilot)[2][12]

Quintero, Jorge [12]

Ramos, Mario [12]
Rodriguez Rendueles, Gaston (Pilot) [12]
Rojas Gonzalez, Ignacio Maximo ("Max") "El Hacha" (Pilot) [12]
Roque, Luis [12]
Roques, Jacques (Pilot) [12]

Salas Baro, Antonio (Pilot) [12]
Seda Reyes, Leonardo (Pilot)[12]
Solis Sariol, Raul (Pilot)[12]
Soto Vasquez, Antonio (Pilot)[12]

Torrecilla Gonzalez, Antonio "Speedy"[14][15][12]
Travieso Pla, Rene [12]
Tuya, Rene [12]

Valdes Campaneri, Fausto [12]
Valliciergo, Francisco [12]
Varela Vieytes, Joaquin ("Jack") "Pupy" (Pilot)[2][12]
Verdaguer, Guillermo [12]

Whitehouse Insua, Eduardo "Teddy" [12]

Yabor Justi, Carlos [12]
Yopar, Andres (Mechanic) [13]

Missions

Due to the clandestine nature of operations for this unit, no known mission logs are known to exist. The unit wasn't required to report to the Air Force as they weren't a US military squadron. The Congolese Air Force, which they were officially assigned to, didn't have reporting protocols of that nature in place. The CIA handlers probably kept some kind of records, but those are locked in the CIA archives and will likely take a Freedom of Information Act request to access.

One thing that is known, is due to political restrictions from the Congolese government, the B-26Ks were not permitted to carry bombs or napalm on their missions. They were limited to machine guns and rockets. They would carry up to 4 LAU-3A rocket pods on each wing. Their bomb bays were fitted with extra fuel tanks to give them an extended flight time and range.

Miscellaneous Photos

The following photos show the sad remains of the 3rd B-26B that was en route to the Congo. The plane crashed at the RAF base in Aden, South Yemen in 1966 while on the way to the Congo. Apparently the plane remained at the air base and was used a fire-suppression practice instrument for many years until the hulk was too damaged and had to be scrapped.
Aden.jpg Aden (2).jpg Aden (3).jpg

A Makasi T-28D taxis in front of 2 B-26Ks in the Congo.
Congo-65-ops-Yangambi-T-28-pilotes-par-LIEBHER-et-BRACCO.jpg

Notes

  1. Hagedorn & Hellstrom have a footnote in their book that this unit is either called 22nd Squadron or 22nd Wing and they are very vague about it. Since the T-28 Foundation's claim is much more specific, including which group the squadron belonged to, we are going to assume that the T-28 Foundation information is correct at this time.

References

  1. http://www.t28trojanfoundation.com/congo.html
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Hagedorn, Dan and Hellstrom, Leif, (Midland Publishing, 1994), Foreign Invaders- The Douglas Invader in foreign military and US clandestine service. ISBN 1-85780-013-3. Pg. 149-155
  3. http://kosubaawate.blogspot.com/2016/01/leopoldville-1957-battle-of-breweries.html
  4. Reel AVH-6, USAFHRA
  5. http://curtisscommando.e-monsite.com/pages/aircraft/s-n-42-3564-to-42-3577-curtiss-c-46a-30-cu-commando/commando-42-3577.html
  6. http://curtisscommando.e-monsite.com/pages/aircraft/s-n-42-3578-to-42-3683-curtiss-c-46a-35-cu-c-46a-36-cu-commando/commando-42-3580.html
  7. https://www.planelogger.com/Aircraft/Registration/9Q-CWN/772015
  8. https://www.abcdlist.nl/douglas_longbeach_03.html
  9. http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1943_2.html
  10. https://www.orbspatrianostra.com/albums-photos/galerie-photos-congo.html
  11. http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/220911
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 12.12 12.13 12.14 12.15 12.16 12.17 12.18 12.19 12.20 12.21 12.22 12.23 12.24 12.25 12.26 12.27 12.28 12.29 12.30 12.31 12.32 12.33 12.34 12.35 12.36 12.37 12.38 12.39 12.40 12.41 12.42 12.43 12.44 12.45 12.46 12.47 12.48 12.49 12.50 12.51 12.52 12.53 12.54 12.55 12.56 12.57 12.58 12.59 12.60 12.61 12.62 12.63 12.64 12.65 12.66 12.67 12.68 12.69 12.70 12.71 12.72 12.73 12.74 12.75 12.76 12.77 12.78 12.79 12.80 12.81 Capote, Vicente Blanco (2011) The Makasis. Scribd. https://www.scribd.com/document/69193132/The-Makasis-2
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Photo File:Masaki Crew.jpg
  14. 14.0 14.1 Photo File:64-17646 and crew.jpg
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Photo File:Makasi Crew 2.jpg
  16. 16.0 16.1 File:Jose Castrsana and TITI Peron at Albertville.jpg
  17. Personal Correspondence