Barrel Of A Gun

Misspent Moments in Combat

by Al J Venter

Sequel to 'War Dog: Fighting Other People's Wars

Al Venter has spent most of his adult life covering wars. From these 40 years has emerged his latest book which, for want of something better, he has called Barrel of a Gun. This book covers many of Venter's exploits, starting with his first real experience of conflict after he'd landed in Nigeria following the Ibo-led putsch that eventually led to the Biafran Civil War. From there he went on to cover the wars that the Portuguese were then fighting in a desperate rear-guard series of guerrilla conflicts to retain their African colonies in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea (today Guiné-Bissau). Then came Beirut, Rhodesia, the Congo, huge dollops of the Middle East, South Africa's border wars in Angola and the consequential overflow into Zambia, Uganda, Liberia, El Salvador, the Balkans - where he went in twice - once with the United States Air Force over Kosovo and afterwards with mine-clearing teams in Croatia, Executive Outcomes (twice into Angola and once in Sierra Leone) as well five weeks with mercenary South African helicopter pilot Neall Ellis in the subsequent Sierra Leone war against the RUF rebels. There he flew combat in an antiquated M-24 Russian gunship that leaked when it rained. Since then, Al Venter spent a lot of time covering some of South Africa's security problems, including more than a month with para-military units active against drug elements along the Tugela River in KwaZulu/Natal. One recent phase in South Africa involved a brief spell in the mountains on horseback, and not the first time either. He was attached to a mounted unit along the Angolan Border in earlier days, not long before one of the soldiers was blown up by a Soviet TM-57 anti-tank mine. Venter has been twice injured in combat, once when a TM-57 detonated under his APC while with a long-range penetration group deep behind enemy lines in Angola and another time, through his own stupidity, that destroyed all hearing in his left ear ......

Taken from Bushveld.net Books of Zimbabwe


"Anybody who believes that the pen is mightier than the sword hasn't spent time in Somalia, or in Beirut in its bloody heyday." So begins this fascinating memoir of a journalist, filmmaker and raconteur who has made a career of examining warfare, on the ground, at sea and in the air, at the Sharp End. While the average citizen is aware of violent conflicts broiling all around the globe, Al J. Venter-from some strange compulsion unexplainable even by him-has felt the need to see them all in person, preferably from the centre of the action.

Born in South Africa, Venter has found no shortage of horrific battles on his own continent, from Rhodesia to Biafra, and Angola to Somalia. He has ridden with the legendary mercenary group Executive Outcomes, jumped into combat with South Africa's crack Parachute Battalion - the Parabats - at Cuamoto during the Angolan War, where he and several others became casualties, and traipsed the jungles with both guerrillas and national troops under whichever strongman in the country then held power.

During Sierra Leone's civil war he flew in the government's lone Mi-24 Hind gunship as it blasted apart rebel villages and convoys, his main complaint being that the Soviet-made craft leaked when it rained. In the Middle East he went into southern Lebanon with the invading Israeli army, and spent weeks at a time in war-torn Beirut. Through all this, Venter never lost his lust for action, even though he sometimes had to put down his camera or notebook to pick up an AK-47.

In his journeys, Venter associated with an array of similarly daring soldiers and journalists, from "Mad Mike" Hoare to Frederick Forsyth, as well as elite soldiers from around the world, many of whom, he sadly relates, never emerged from the war zones they entered. The creator of many documentaries and books, on such diverse subjects as warfare, shark diving and nuclear proliferation, Al Venter has here offered the reader his own personal combat experiences in all their multifaceted fascination.

Taken from Bushveld.net