Nicaragua 1961-1990: Volume 2: Contra War

Published: February 27th, 2020     
Product Image
Front Cover
Author: David Francois Illustrators: David Bocquelet; Tom Cooper; Anderson Subtil
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 978- 1-911628-68-2
Other Publication Information: Soft Bound ; 8.25” x 11.75”, 80 pages
Price: $29.95
Product / Stock #: Latin America @ War #15
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

David Francois, from France, earned his PhD in Contemporary History at the University of Burgundy and specialized in studying militant communism, its military history and relationship between politics and violence in contemporary history. In 2009, he co-authored the Guide des archives de l'Internationale communiste published by the French National Archives and the Maison des sciences de l'Homme in Dijon. He is regularly contributing articles for various French military history magazines and regular contributor to the French history website L'autre cote de la colline.

Helion's latest book in the Latin America @ War series is a square back soft cover includes 80 gloss paper pages. This tome is a follow-up to Latin America @ War Volume 9 that focused on the downfall of the Somoza dictatorship. The front cover features a color (or possibly colorized) photograph of troops crossing a stream. I could find no reference to this cover photograph in the book. The color side view by Tom Cooper is of a FAS Mi-25 (This profile can also be found on page 32 iv with a nice description). The color side profile of a FAS AT-33A by Tom Cooper on the rear cover can also be found on page 32 ii. I counted 6 color pictures and 90 black and white photographs. There also 13 aviation color side profiles by Tom Cooper, three armor color side profiles by David Bocquelet, 3 color 'uniform' figures by Anderson Subtil, 2 black and white maps, one full color map, and 7 tables.

The end of the Somosa dictatorship saw Russia's extension of socialism, through Cuba, into Nicaragua with Castro's support of the FSLN (the Sandinista Liberation National Front). President Carter wished not to offend the Sandinistas, but that all changed with the election of President Regan, who refused to tolerate socialism so close to the United States. This collision of Russia and America would bring civil war to Nicaragua for nearly the next decade.

Although the Catholic Church had supported the Sandinistas in toppling the Somoza regime, the election of the anti-communist John Paul II led the church against the Sandinistas increasing implementation of socialism. The Catholic church was not alone, as many organizations, including the Agricultural Workers Union, quickly found they had jumped from the frying pan (Somoza) to the fire of the Sandinistas. The Sandinistas quickly found out that the proletariat that helped them overthrow Somoza wanted no part of the Sandinistas' better society. Of course, the United States also jumped in to support these contra-revolutionary ('Contras') forces to help defeat socialism. The Reagan administration implemented attacks on the Sandinistas on many fronts, from clandestine military actions to a suspension of all economic aid and finally, a total trade embargo.

The sections include:

  • Abbreviations
  • Addenda / Errata to Latin America @ War 9: Nicaragua 1961-1990, The Downfall of the Somoza Dictatorship
  • Introduction
    • The Nicaraguan Sandinistas
  • The Sandinisation of Power
  • The FSLN's Economic Policy
  • The Choice of the East
    • The Sandinista Forces
  • The Birth of the EPS
  • The US Threat
  • Table 1: Military Regions of the Sandinista Forces, 1979-1982
  • Organization of the EPS [Page 13]
  • Cuban and Soviet Military Support
  • Soviet Armament in Nicaragua
  • Table 2: Armored Vehicles of the EPS, 1986
  • The Sandinista Navy
  • The FAS-DAA
  • Table 3: Aircraft and Helicopters of the FAS, 1980-1988
  • Table 4: Known Serial Numbers of FAS Mi-8s, Mi-17s, and Mi-25s
  • Sandinista Security Forces [Page 18]
  • Hysteria Over Nicaraguan 'MiGs'
    • The Birth of the Contras (!980 - 1982)
  • Civil Opposition and ex-GN
  • The Atlantic Coast Uprising
  • The Uprising in the Central Regions
  • The Meeting of Ex-GN and Campesinos
    • The Undeclared War of the Reagan Administration (1981 - 1982)
  • US Policy Towards Sandinista Nicaragua
  • The Birth of the Southern Front
  • Growth in Contra Military Activity
  • The Contra Air Force(s)
  • Color Profiles [Page 32 ii]
    • Grenada 1983 - Nicaragua 1984
  • In Search of a Liberated Area
  • Change of Strategy
  • Contras Settle Inside Nicaragua
  • The Contra Pressure Increased
  • Table 5: FDN Structure, 1985
  • Contras Divided
    • The Sandinista Counter-Offensive (1985-1986)
  • The EPS Counter-Insurgency Strategy
  • Sandinista Counter-Insurgency Forces
  • Table 6: BLIs
  • The Contras on the Defensive [Page 45]
  • Sandinista Raids into Honduras
  • The Pacification of the Atlantic Region
    • Between War and Peace (1986-1988)
  • US Clandestine Support
  • The Difficult Union of the Contras
  • The Last Contra Offensives
  • Tube Missiles
  • The Esquipulas Agreements
  • Table 7: Known, Confirmed, and Claimed Aircraft & Helicopter Losses of the Contra War, 1979-1990
  • Operation David and Olivero
  • Operation Danto 88
    • The Long Road to Peace (1988-1990)
  • The Economic Collapse of Nicaragua
  • The Sapoa Agreement [Page 62]
  • A Difficult Demobilization
  • The Difficult Learning of Democracy
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgements

I found many of the topics very interesting, possibly since I had an awareness of these events through the news. One topic that I had not been aware of was that the Soviets had intended to provide the Sandinista Air Force with sixteen MiG-21Bis jets. These MiGs were planned to be delivered to Cuba in 1984 where they were assembled and painted in Sandinista colors. However, with Brezhnev's death, the MiG delivery was cancelled, for fear of forcing President Reagan to stand on his promise to strike and destroy the MiGs should they arrive in Nicaragua. In the end, the helicopter fleet that Russia provided was much more valuable to the Sandinistas for their civil war. This included Mi-8s, Mi-17s, and Mi-25s that were a bit more suited for fighting the guerilla warfare of the Contras.

David Francois leads the reader through the back stories and all the details of the composition of both sides in this conflict. I really appreciated the background into the ideologies of the different parties involved along with the military operations and political policies that were involved. In the end, the Contras did not defeat the Sandinistas, their socialistic beliefs did, as Nicaragua collapsed from their own economic policies, even though it was maybe a bit faster due to the US's policies. Even today, you can still see the parallels of the collapse of Venezuela in Nicaragua, as the fight for democracy goes on.

The contemporary photographs support the text, and although the quality due to the source material is not there, they certainly give you a good perspective of the events described. I am looking forward to obtaining Volume 1 on the precursors to this Volume. If you own one the previous releases in the Middle East @ War series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Helion & Company, Casemate Publishing, and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Back Cover
    Back Cover
  • Page 13
    Page 13
  • Page 18
    Page 18
  • Page 32
    Page 32
  • Page 45
    Page 45
  • Page 62
    Page 62

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