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How a lone Frenchman started the present day mercenary industry in the world

At the beginning of the 1960s, the former Belgian Congo disintegrated into total chaos. U.N backed Congolese forces fought with troops of the breakaway province of Katanga, which in turn received backing and support from numerous foreign mercenaries.

Surely no one took notice at that time, but the seeds of a fresh strategy of war were being planted in the Congo’s fertile soil at that period. This was a way of fighting wars started widely by one man.

Among the fighters on the side of Katanga was a tall, handsome, thirty-something soldier-of-fortune from France called Gilbert Bourgeaud who was known widely by his nom de guerre as “Bob Denard.” This French citizen was famous for being fearless and even manning a mortar even under heavy attack from the Congolese forces.

The crisis in the Congo was the first time Denard had been hired for war. In later years, he would take part in conflicts in areas such as Angola, Gabon, Benin, Yemen and other countries.

The rebellion in Katanga was ultimately a failure and Denard had to flee. In late 1965, this soldier of fortune returned to the Congo to fight on the side of strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, one of the numerous opponents of the Katanga regime previously. Denard changed sides due to the money he received.

Mobutu consolidated his power and made himself President in November. Afraid of the mercenaries who had fought against him and then switched sides to fight for him still staying in “Zaire” as he had renamed the country, the new leader requested the help of Denard in disarming one of the most notorious soldiers of fortune of then, Jacques Schramme who was a Belgian.

Instead, Denard jumped to the other side again. He ganged up with Schramme in an effort to remove Mobutu from power.

The coup attempt failed when the mercenaries quickly ran into a North Korean platoon who was accompanying their Vice President to visit Zaire. The North Koreans had no qualms about shooting Denard’s men. Denard was hit in the head and was paralyzed for two days. He was later taken care of by a woman who became his first wife.

His men then stole a plane and quickly evacuated him. Denard had to walk with a limp for the remainder of his life. But then the 37-year old soldier of fortune was not done with fighting. He went back to Zaire for another coup which also ended in failure. He then drifted into other African wars.

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