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Movies for Gun Guys: Siege of Jadotville

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Overview: The post-colonial history of Africa is rife with conflict, and the United Nations used to take more of an offensive role. The scene is 1961 in Katanga province, Congo. The United Nations sent a small contingent of Irish soldiers to the mining town of Jadotville (now named Likasi). While this was considered a low-risk post, the commander of A company of the 35th battalion was having none of it and ordered his men to dig in. These efforts were rewarded as while the rest of the UN force was on an offensive, 3-5K members of Katangese forces attacked the isolated Irish outpost. Siege of Jadotville is the story of that fight, which remained classified for decades.

What We Like: Though as a rule, “based on a true story” can be anything, the writers, producers, and director wanted the story to be accurate; at least more so than their movie peers. The 1990s saw many attempts at creating a movie from the events but since the battle wasn’t officially acknowledged until 2005, writers had a hard time verifying the circumstances. Like the movie 300, Siege of Jadotville ignores everything but the main effort for tighter storytelling. As a result, the 500 additional UN soldiers made up largely from Indian and Swedish forces disappear from the screen the same way the additional 3,000 fighters in support do at Thermopylae. Still, this allows you to focus on the 155 Irish fighters who took the brunt of each assault. 

If you’re a military historian with a focus on Ireland or the Congo, not everything will line up; the uniforms are the wrong shade and some of the insignia incorrect, but the firearms are surprisingly well done. Combat scenes don’t depict characters performing superhuman feats, rather the cumbersome moves of men under fire. We love the fact that after more than four decades this tale got to see the light of day — these soldiers are finally able to tell their side of the story.

Gun Guy Highlights: We’ve always heard tale of the accuracy of the Bren. Some British soldiers in WWII even declared it to be more consistent than then-issued sniper rifles, and certainly more common. With that in mind, when the Irish sniper Bill Ready (played by Sam Keeley) asked for the Bren in the middle of a fight we perked up. Forgoing the [now strange] magazine that feeds vertically from the top, Ready hand-feeds single rounds for each shot, resulting in accurate fire downrange. And really, FN FALs in early 1960s Africa? Hell yeah.

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Editor's Note: This is a Section of the Article Movies for Gun Guys Published in RECOIL Issue #55.

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