Helion's Sanctuary Lost: Portugal's Air War for Guinea 1961-1974

Author/Artists: Matthew Hurley & Jose Augusto Matos


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 98 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-914059-99-5

A benefit of Portugal's early participation in the European exploration of the world during the 1500s was that it managed to get a number of African colonies. One of these was the small enclave of Portuguese Guinea. This was a fairly poor colony due to having fairly swampy land and not much in the way of resources. However, like many other colonies in the world after WWII, political movements towards independence started to grow.

By 1961, this movement had changed from strictly political to one that used insurrection. At first, it was quite small, but the movement grew to the point where Portugal had to send in military forces. In this case, the land was not suitable to standard ground forces in many places, so it was up to the Portuguese Air Force (FAP) to carry forward most of the offensive fighting. As you can imagine, this was not a simple task. The FAP was equipped with second-hand US military equipment and its lone base in the area was originally at the Cape Verde Islands.

As the conflict escalated, armed T-6s and F-86Fs along with a variety of transport/liaison types were based at the main city. Some of these were used to help supply outposts further in-country. However, after a while, the insurgents were able to be equipped with materials capable of shooting down attacking aircraft. This caused the FAP to rely more on the F-86s than the slower T-6s. However, the US stepped in and forced the FAP to withdraw the Sabres back to Portugal as their sale had only been approved for use in defending NATO countries. This is pretty much where the first volume stops.

The authors have done a superlative job of covering this conflict from its initial troubles up until it was a major conflict. Thanks to the use of quite a few maps, we are able to see how things progressed as the years went by. Frankly, I like seeing a lot of maps and this is one area where other books could take note. All of this is enhanced by a goodly number of period photos and the usual full color profiles that all of Helion's histories provide. It is another well researched and interesting read on a conflict that is often overlooked. Well worth picking up.

February 2023

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