Gabon, West Germany: De Gaulle to the Rescue

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"Total Punishment." Down from Dakar and Brazzaville winged two companies of paratroopers under the overall command of General René Cogny, the hero of Dienbienphu. At 2 p.m. they began landing at the Libreville airport, where the rebels providentially had failed to erect obstacles on the runway. The troopers swept through the city with little resistance, but the coup leaders made a stand at Baraka. Sending Mba off under guard to a village near Dr. Albert Schweitzer's hospital at Lambarene, the rebels prepared to meet the imminent French attack. It came next morning as French fighters stooped like falcons from the tropic sky, sent ball and tracer lashing into the army camp.

For five hours, mortars and machine guns pounded the stronghold. Then, guns blazing, the paratroopers bulled through the gate, and the coup was countered—less than 42 hours after it began. One paratrooper and 15 rebels died in the fight.

Returning to Libreville, Mba made it clear that if he had been tough on the opposition before, he now would be hell on wheels. Pledging "no pardon or pity" but rather "total punishment"—probably death—for the insurrectionists, he seemed to have reached his original goal: an unopposed oligarchy.

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