Helion's Nicaragua 1961-1990 Part 1: The downfall of Somoza

Author/Artists: David Francois


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 72 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-911628217

After WWII, Central America became an area of considerable conflict. Whether it was the CIA overthrowing governments (Honduras) or the US propping up dictators (Panama), often times there was considerable internal strife. One such place was Nicaragua which had a long history of civil strife and US intervention. This started as far back as the 1920s when the US was involved in keeping the government solvent. Indeed, during some of these years, it was the US military which basically was the government.

Eventually, the Somoza family came into power and maintained control through the 1940s and into the 1950s. However, they were a repressive government who controlled the main military and policing force in the country, the National Guard or GN. These troops got all the good equipment and equipment came from a number of sources, mostly the US. There was an air force that was composed mostly of WWII era aircraft. At one tome, Nicaragua had the largest fleet of P-51 Mustangs, having received over 50 from various places, in this case, mostly from Sweden. They later got some T-33s and O-2s which were well suited for the region. In terms of the GN, their main 'heavy' equipment were four M4A3 Shermans and a couple of dozen Staghound armored cars.

As often happens, corruption in government and within the military causes considerable unrest amongst the population. No more so in this case than various groups that wanted to see power taken from the wealthy and spread out more amongst the people. These groups were, for the most part, some branch of socialism from straight Marxism to a form of Chinese or Soviet communism and even people that were far more moderate, but still wanted to see the rights of people eclipse those of the dictator in charge and his private army, the GN.

To say all of this was fairly convoluted would be an understatement. Politics often is. But when a population feels suppressed by a government or that government seems to only be for a very select few, then that foments unrest.

By the early 1960s, there were sufficient groups within the country, when forms of insurrection started to be the only way it seemed to be possible to change the political landscape. Without going into great detail, the author of this book has, with the help of some others, been able to make sense of what was going on within the various groups vying for change and those wanting to keep the status quo. The various raids and battles (for battles there were) are covered in a matter that is both interesting and lets you see why these folks behaved the way they did.

This volume covers the first part of the Nicaragua civil war from the beginning of the country until the fall of Somoza in 1979. At this time, the future looked bright for the nation and the ruling Sandinistas, but this time only brought momentary peace as the US decided it did not like the new government and the increasing influence of Cuba and the Soviet Union in the area. Add that to the loss of Iran and the Soviet invasion and things would be changing soon. This will be covered in the second volume.

In all, it is a superbly researched and well written book. There are a considerable number of photos from that time and that all adds up to a book that those with an interest in the region should have on their shelves.

October 2019

Copyright ModelingMadness.com

Review book courtesy of  Casemate Publishing, where you can order your copy at this link.

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