Christopher Warner chats to Jadotville survivor, John Gorman, on the 60th anniversary of the five-day attack in the Congo
At an age when most young men fret over school exams, finding a job, or girl trouble, 17-year-old John Gorman faced far more pressing issues: not being killed 8,000 km from home. The baby-faced private from Castlepollard, Westmeath, was part of a U.N. peacekeeping force sent to the Republic of the Congo, which had descended into civil war.
The men of Company A, 35th Irish Infantry Battalion, a unit as green as the shamrock patches on their wool uniforms, soon found themselves outnumbered twenty to one against a well-armed enemy led by battle-hardened mercenaries.
The ‘Congo Crisis’ became Ireland’s first-ever international military deployment, staged during the height of the Cold War when the world dangerously teetered on the brink of nuclear ruin.
In addition to the sweltering, humid conditions and being saddled with antiquated weapons, Company A operated without any reliable intelligence network and was prohibited from using force unless acting in self-defence.
In other words, like sending a blindfolded fighter into the ring with one arm tied behind his back.
However, despite the long odds, the Irish would prove their mettle, channeling the same fighting spirit of their countrymen who triumphed at Waterloo, and a century later, defeated the largest empire the world had ever seen.
This autumn marks the 60th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, a five-day battle that produced extraordinary acts of courage and heroism. Not surprisingly, the story inspired a movie in 2016, shining a well-deserved spotlight on this previously forgotten and often misunderstood conflict.