At their recent AGM, the chairman of Post 2, of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association, Con Roche welcomed their new member Tadgh Quinn from Purt, Abbeyfeale.
Mr. Quinn is a real live Irish hero who was part of the 157 strong A Company 35th Infantry Battalion – according to post PRO, John Wade.
“In September 1961 he was part of the Irish contingent of United Nations peacekeepers deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to stop the country descending into chaos.
Five Days in Jadotville
“What unfolded over five days in Jadotville was a little-known but amazing story of heroism, against-all-odds soldiering and feats of courage,” Mr. Wade continued.
“A film, The Siege of Jadotville, tells the true story of how these 157 Irishmen, led by a tactically astute commander, Cmdt. Pat Quinlan from Waterville, Co. Kerry, repelled a force of 3,000 attackers, killing 300 of them — while suffering no fatalities.
Party To A Civil War
“The U.N. forces found themselves party to a civil war between the central government and Katanga, which was also supported by Rhodesia and South Africa.
“As part of the U.N. mission, ‘A’ Company of the Irish Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion was dispatched to Jadotville, a strategic, mineral-rich town in Katanga, with orders to protect the mainly Belgian settlers.
A Life or Death Fight
“In a move that has never been explained, two companies of U.N. peacekeepers—one Swedish and one Irish—had been hastily withdrawn from Jadotville, days before A Company was sent in.
“What seemed like a simple mission, ended up in a desperate life or death fight, pitting the Irish against a well-armed enemy, which consisted of Katangan troops supported by European mercenaries and settlers who outnumbered them 20 to one.
“While most of Quinlan’s men were at mass on September 13, the Katangans attacked, probably with the aim of taking the Irish as prisoners and using them as leverage in negotiations with the U.N.
“Sergeant John Monahan was the first to see the first wave of attackers coming. Monahan rushed to the nearest machine gun and opened fire….so began the battle.
“The Irish were hit by mortars and heavy machine gun fire and strafed by the Fouga jet.
Out of Water and Ammunition
“The same airplane later dropped bombs, damaging the Irish vehicles and buildings.
Surrounded and battling day and night for five days, the Irish troops ran out of water and ammunition and, to save his men from slaughter, Quinlan ordered them to lay down their arms. “They had killed 300 of their attackers and five Irish soldiers were wounded but all survived.
“They were kept prisoner’s for five weeks and when they returned home, in December, there was to be no hero’s welcome.
The ‘surrender’ of A Company was seen by some as a national embarrassment which completely overshadowed the men’s courage and competence.
Fight for Recognition
“The treatment of the Jadotville troops infuriated the soldiers and their families and led to a decades-long fight to recognize the importance of the battle.
Jadotville was swept under the carpet. These men should have been heroes, instead they were subject to humiliation and in some cases abuse for their involvement.
“The men’s bravery was finally acknowledged, awarded a Unit Citation and a specially struck medal – too late for many who had passed away, including the officer whose actions in defence are now taught in many military training establishments throughout the world,” Mr. Wade concluded.