He died at the age of one hundred while he slept, on February 2 in a Durban asylum (South Africa), in a calm transfer that contrasts with his past turbulent life, the British Mike Hoare, Mad Mike the most famous mercenary of modern times. The title could be disputed perhaps Bob denard (1929-2007), that although he lived similar adventures he had against him being French, religious transega and polygamous.
In the real experiences of Hoare, the mercenary par excellence in the civil war of the Congo of the sixties, iconically dressed in camouflage uniform and beret of command and wielding a submachine gun MAT-49, great classic adventure films have been based as Wild Ducks (The Wild Geese, 1978) or Last train to Katanga (1968), that great double show. In fact, Wild ducks -in pure geese-, a film in which Richard Burton embodied the fictional colonel chief of mercenaries Allen Faulkner who was a Shakespearean idealization of Hoare (although he liked the Bard and could recite several thousand lines of his works), took his title of the appellative of the 5th Command, the mercenary unit that Mad Mike commanded in the Congolese war and that had the goose in flight as a badge. Mike Hoare, of Irish family roots (although born in 1919 in Calcutta when he was part of the British Raj), chose for his heterogeneous troop the name of “wild geese” because he was the one who was given to the Irish soldiers who left their country to fight in the continental European armies in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Hoare has ultimately inspired also, as emblematic soldier of fortune, other popular fiction creations, since The dogs of war to Team A, or more recently the movie series The mercenaries. And it is that Mad Mike – the pejorative nickname was put on the radio of East Germany – represented as no one the archetypal mercenary, that brave and unbelievable combatant, decisive and highly trained, capable of putting his life at stake in the service of a cause for money. And more if there was more money.
Mad Mike, like the fictional mercenaries of the movies, apparently even had his principles: he fought especially – as long as he was paid well – to communism, which he considered “an insidious disease” and “the greatest cancer the world has known”. He said he had fought in the Congo in 1965 against Ernesto himself Che Guevara and boasted that he was the only one who had defeated the Cuban guerrilla in battle, causing him to leave by legs in a confrontation, both with his men in front of black troops, in Baraka, on the shores of Lake Tanganika.
Thomas Michael Hoare, which is what our man was called, failed to enter Sandhurst, the great school of British officers, to study the military career, and instead was an accountant. But he joined the Reserve Army and with 20 years, at the start of World War II, he enlisted in the Irish Fusiliers of London. Later he served, and well, in the Second Regiment of Recognition of the Royal Armored Corps where he reached the rank of lieutenant and fought against the Japanese in Burma and in the battle of Kohima, the Eastern Stalingrad.
After the war, with all his treasured military experience and the rank of major, Hoare emigrated to Durban and became a safari guide in the Kalahari and the Okavango Delta in the 1950s (getting a great knowledge of the African terrain, the bush), and as a rental soldier, instigated by the CIA.
The operation of the Seychelles was a disaster: one of Hoare’s men was discovered in the airport control an assault rifle – which is not what you usually take if you go on vacation – and another one rode his step and started To shoot.
His great hour, if we can call it that, was during the so-called Congo Crisis, that extension of the Cold War in the heart of Africa, where he served as a mercenary leader first in 1961 at the service of the secession of Katanga and then in 1964, on the other side, in the ranks of the Congolese army, against the famous uprising in that same province known as the Simba Rebellion (curiously both times he was hired by the same politician, Moïse Tshombe). It was during that episode, that he horrified the world for rebel violence first and then for both sides, when Mike Hoare became world famous. Especially for his energetic march against Stanleyville (now Kisangani) at the head of the 5th Command, a force of 300 soldiers led by fifty of his mercenaries, his wild geese (“les affreux”, the terrible ones, for the Congolese), trained with British standards, and without stopping to shoot (and catch gold on their way in the abandoned mines).
In the troop, which charged between 400 and one thousand dollars thereafter per month according to rank, there were some that were the worst of each house. Like Siegfried Müller, Kongo Müller, who had fought in the Nazi army and wore his Iron Cross on his chest and rebel heads in the car (inspired Heinlein’s delectable character in Last train to Katanga). Or Captain John Peters, a deserter from SAS, who shot the unit’s cook by finding a monkey’s hand in the soup.
In an ambush en route, Mad Mike stood erect deploying his map under the bullets to set an example. In the city, the dreaded Simba, who mixed Marxism with tribal magic, gutting and cannibalism, without disregarding the Bazookas, held 1,600 civilians mostly European and missionary settlers hostage, who threatened to execute with their pangas, their machetes, in the scariest ways. After the operation, which managed to save lives, but which led to widespread looting, Hoare, who came to kill 13 rebels with his own hand “before stopping to count,” was promoted to colonel of the Congolese army and his strength increased until consist of two battalions.
In the seventies he was hired (he did nothing without charge, of course) as an advisor to the film Wild ducks, which featured as an actor some former mercenary who had fought under his command. After not participating in the Biafra War (1967-1970), where both sides declined to sign him, in 1981 Hoare did his thing again, another merc operation, by engaging in a coup against the president of the Seychelles orchestrated by his predecessor and the South African government, with the acquiescence of the United States.
Mad Mike recruited 40 mercenaries including former members of South African special forces, Rhodesian soldiers and former combatants in the Congo. They landed in the Seychelles characterized by players of a rugby team and with their weapons hidden in the double bottom of their luggage.The operation was a disaster: one of Hoare’s men was discovered in the airport control an assault rifle – which is not what you usually take if you go on vacation to the Seychelles- and another one stepped on his own and started shooting. The situation degenerated into a widespread shooting and with the mercenaries capturing an Air India Boing 707 that had landed in the middle of the scrub. Hoare and his men took off on the device leaving four of their own on the ground. A government soldier and a mercenary died. In South Africa, Mad Mike was tried because of international pressure and sentenced for hijacking the plane to ten years in jail, of those who turned 33 thanks to an amnesty.
Married twice and father of five children, skilful navigator and motorcycle rider (crossed Africa at the controls of one), Hoare, who lived many years in France and investigated the Cathar phenomenon (also searched in Africa for a mysterious monkey and a lost city ), is the author of several reference works on mercenary activity, including the canonical Congo mercenary (1967). Fired as a “charming, courageous and brilliant leader”, a true “officer and gentleman” of “Irish sentimentality” in the pages of the magazine Soldier of fortune (where else), and despite all the movies, Mad Mike will have a much more negative judgment in history as a guy dedicated to letting go of war dogs, closing his eyes to his atrocities and leading them for money.