Monday, 6 August 2018

Cold War Skirmishes: Flashpoint Belize

Continuing on with taking a look at other settings and products that Utherwald has in the works. This week it is the turn of Cold War Skirmishes and we'll be taking a look at a potential conflict that almost erupted in Central America during the early 1970s. As ever the post will feature a overview of the military situation, offer adventure ideas and suggested NPC stats.


A Latin American Oddity

Unlike most of Latin America, the area that became Belize (known as British Honduras 1862-1973) did not fall under Spanish control. This was partially due to the decentralized society of the Mayans, who inhabited the area, and its lack of resources. There was some attempt at Spanish settlement, but English pirates proved to have greater success. Spain did attempt, a number of occasions, to expel the British settlers but grudgingly allowed them to remain after suffering an embarrassing defeat in the Battle of St. George's Cay.

The 19th Century saw pressure from the United States, under the Monroe Doctrine, for Britain to relinquish its holdings in Central America. Though whilst Britain did yield in some areas, it produced in 1854 a formal constitution for what became the Colony of British Honduras in 1862. There remain a strong American reluctance over the existence of the British colony, one that would last well into the 20th Century.

Unfriendly Neighbours

From 1821 the neighboring country of Guatemala has claimed part or the entirely of what is now Belize. This territorial dispute saw frequent flare-up of tensions, passions and tensions do run high in Central America as was proven by the 1969 Football War between El Salvador and Honduras. A treaty was signed in 1859 where Guatemala agreed to recognize British Honduras in return for Britain to build a road connecting the two. The dispute was then largely forgotten until the 1930s when Guatemala started claiming that the 1859 treaty was invalid because Britain had failed to uphold its end of the deal by not building the road.

In 1948 Guatemala threatened to invade and forcibly annex the territory, Britain responded by deploying two companies of troops. But the invasion threat never materialized, though Britain decided to permanently station troops in the colony. Guatemala would periodically mass troops on the border, but nothing further would develop. 1958 saw pro-Guatemalan Belize Liberation Army fighters cross the border, plant the Guatemalan flag and exchange fire with British troops before being arrested.

Attempts were made in the 1960s to negotiate an agreement, the US was asked to mediate and President Lyndon Johnson drafted a treaty that would give Guatemala effective control over the territory. British Honduras responded with riots. Talks would continue on and off as tensions flared and Guatemala threatened to invade, particularly as British Honduras made move towards independence. 1975 saw Britain, in response to the massing of Guatemalan troops on the border once again, deployed a large number of troops supported by artillery and fast jets which defused tensions. Guatemala suffered from troops desertions at this time in addition to an earthquake which put paid to its attempts to annex the territory.

Opposing Forces

The British

Britain typically kept a company of troops in British Honduras, though this would be reinforced with additional forces during times of tension. Additionally, a pair of frigates would be on station in the Caribbean as part of the Royal Navy's West Indies Station. The carrier HMS Ark Royal would be deployed in 1972 to deter Guatemalan aggression and a flight of Harrier Jump Jets would later be established. Whilst the British forces were a well-trained, equipped (for the early '70s) and professional force, they only maintained a small garrison and it took time for reinforcements to cross the Atlantic.

Equipment

L1A1 SLR
Sterling SMG
Bren 7.62mm
General Purpose Machine Gun
81mm mortar
Wombat Anti-tank
Harrier Jump Jet

The British also had access to F-4 Phantoms and Blackburn Buccaneers from HMS Ark Royal in the early 1970s. Though their only viable weapon against Guatemalan aircraft was 2-inch unguided rockets.

The Guatemalans

Guatemala had an army that was well trained by Latin American standards, its elite troops were even trained by the US military, but alot of its equipment dated from WW2. The Guatemalan military did enjoy support from both the CIA and US Military Assistance Programme.

Equipment

The Guatemalan Army used virtually the same infantry weapons as the US Army did in Vietnam, though its a little unclear on precise vehicles used. The M8 Greyhound armoured car and M113 APC are confirmed to have been in Guatemalan service (and still are), there was supposedly tanks and the best fit I can find is the M3 Stuart. Walker Bulldog light tanks were given to Guatemala in the early '80s.

Air assets included the Huey, P-51 Mustangs and Lockheed T-33s.

Adventure Ideas

If actual war had broken out, most battles would probably be squad or platoon sized skirmishes with perhaps one or two company level battles. The British, to begin with, would be at a disadvantage with having to wait on reinforcements which could be held up if the US denied use of its airspace for troop transport flights (which it did). The Guatemalans enjoyed greater mobility and potentially, if things went far enough, widespread support in the Americas. There probably would've been pressure from the US to end the fighting, but its difficult to say who's side the US would've backed as the US would've had to chose between allies.

Local British commanders, given lack of resources, planned to harass Guatemalan forces in hopes of buying time for reinforcements to arrive. Though if the sole international airport fell, the British would've resorted to guerrilla warfare in the jungles of Belize. There would be plenty of scope for squad level actions which would probably have been the mainstay of the conflict.

For the Weird Wars aspect, the region is riddled with Mayan ruins amidst the thick jungles with unknown creatures lurking among them. This potentially could see both British and Guatemalan patrols battling each other as they are in turn stalked by unseen sinister foes. Another angle could be British desperation in the form of trying to enlist the aid of an army of undead pirates to fight the Guatemalans.

Stats

The Experienced Soldier stats in Savage Worlds Deluxe would be a good basis for both British and Guatemalan soldiers as both were roughly equal in training and professionalism. Though due to the British Army's focus on marksmanship, it is recommended that British soldiers have the Marksman Edge.

1 comment:

  1. Mike Lunnon-Wood's book Long Reach (fiction), a great read although hard to get hold of, is on just such a subject, but set somewhat later - e.g. Guatemala uses M41s.

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