Helion's The Chaco War 1932-35: Fighting in the Green Hell

Author/Artists: Antonio Luis Sapienza & Jose Luis Martinez Pelaez


Helion  Publishing


$24.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 64 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-913118-73-0

I've been on this planet for quite a while and even minored in history in college. However, what was very much lacking from my education until I started reading these Helion books has been a knowledge of the various conflicts in my own hemisphere. World history did not stop once one went south of the United States, it is just that it is not all that widely known. Thanks to Helion, that history is available to those who wish to seek it.

The Chaco War was a conflict over what is mostly a fairly semi-arid portion of land between Paraguay and Bolivia. The Gran Chaco was a region that did not have a clearly defined border area between the two nations. Prior to this war, Bolivia had been gradually pushing towards  the Paraguay River in hopes of having access to the ocean, building settlements and forts into territory that was not theirs. Despite complaints from Paraguay to Bolivia and to the League of Nations, nothing happened and Bolivia kept gradually moving their influence into the region.

Finally, things came to a head with Paraguay and Bolivia coming to war with each other. This was a conflict that Bolivia should have won. They had more soliders, better equipment and German leadership. However, they did not realize that the leadership they had was not a good choice. Paraguay, on the other hand, had leadership and an understanding of the region and the tactics that were appropriate for the area of battle.

Through the years, there were numerous battles over various outposts and forts with the Paraguayans winning all but one of these contests. They took a fair number of prisoners and an equally fair amount of equipment, further depleting the Bolivians. Eventually, the Paraguayans pushed the Bolivians back into their own territory and this was enough for them to sue for peace.

The thing about this conflict is that there was no hate from one side or the other as is typical of just about every conflict. It was simply a war over a large section of land. There were no atrocities, few civilians were killed, and prisoners were all well treated.

Though this is by no means the first book on the subject, the authors have done a lot of primary research to give us a clearer picture of the war. Each of the various battles of consequence is provided so we can see the flow of events. The book includes a lot of photos, mostly from the Paraguayan side of things, and a decent number of maps. All the maps are in the color center section and while it would have been nice to have had them with the description of events, I can see why they were not. Also as the norm with this series, there are full color illustrations/profiles of the men and equipment used during this conflict. One area not really covered is air power, because it was not a deciding factor and Helion does a separate book on the subject.

In all, it is a great addition to any library and a great read. If you want to learn about this conflict, then this is a great book for you. I very much recommend it.

January 2021

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