In November 1965, Ian Smith's white minority government in Southern
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) made a unilateral declaration of
independence, breaking with Great Britain. With a European
population of a few hundred thousand dominating an African majority
of several million, Rhodesia's racial structure echoed the
apartheid of neighboring South Africa. Smith's declaration sparked
an escalating guerrilla war that claimed thousands of lives.
Across the Atlantic, President Lyndon B. Johnson nervously watched
events in Rhodesia, fearing that racial conflict abroad could
inflame racial discord at home. Although Washington officially
voiced concerns over human rights violations, an attitude of
tolerance generally marked U.S. relations with the Rhodesian
government: sanctions were imposed but not strictly enforced, and
hundreds, perhaps thousands, of American mercenaries joined white
Rhodesia's side in battle with little to fear from U.S. laws.
Despite such tacit U.S. support, Smith's regime fell in 1980, and
the independent state of Zimbabwe was born.
The first comprehensive account of American involvement in the war
against Zimbabwe, this compelling work also explores how our
relationship with Rhodesia helped define interracial dynamics in
the United States, and vice versa.