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Operation Green Sea

Green Sea Operation
Portuguese invasion of Guinea, 1970
Part of Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
Date22 November 1970
LocationConakry, Guinea
Result Limited Portuguese success, all 26 Portuguese POWs rescued, PAIGC and Guinean ships and air force assets destroyed; failure to capture or kill Amílcar Cabral and Ahmed Sékou Touré.
23x15px Portuguese Military
23x15px Guinean dissident forces
23x15px Guinean People's Militia
22px PAIGC
Commanders and leaders
23x15px Alpoim Calvão
23x15px António de Spínola
23x15px Rebordão de Brito
23x15px Sekou Toure
22px Amílcar Cabral
220 Portuguese
200 Guinean opponents[citation needed]
Casualties and losses
1 Portuguese and 7 Guineans killed[citation needed] 52 to 500 (according to different sources)[citation needed]

The Operation Green Sea (Portuguese: Operação Mar Verde) was an amphibious attack on Conakry, the capital of Guinea, by between 350 and 420 Portuguese soldiers and Portuguese-led Guinean fighters in November 1970.[1] The goals of the operation included the overthrow of Ahmed Sékou Touré's regime, capture of the leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), Amílcar Cabral, destruction of the naval and air assets of the PAIGC and its Guinean supporters, and the rescue of Portuguese POWs held in Conakry.

The attackers withdrew after rescuing the POWs and destroying some PAIGC ships and Guinean air force infrastructure, but failed to capture Amílcar Cabral, the leader of PAIGC guerrillas, or to topple the regime of Guinean dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré.


In 1952, Ahmed Sékou Touré became the leader of the Guinean Democratic Party (PDG). In 1957, Guinea had an election in which the PDG won 56 of 60 seats. The PDG conducted a plebiscite in September 1958 by which Guineans overwhelmingly opted for immediate independence rather than for continued association with France. The French withdrew and, on 2 October 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic with Touré as its President.

In 1960, Touré welcomed to Guinea and supported Amílcar Cabral and his organization, the PAIGC, which was seeking the independence of Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) and Cape Verde from Portugal.[2] In 1961, the PAIGC began the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence.[3]


Monument du 22 Novembre 1970, a memorial to the 22 November 1970 attack in Conakry.

On the night of 21–22 November 1970 about 200 armed Guineans—attired in uniforms similar to those of the Guinean Army and commanded by Portuguese officers—and 220 African-Portuguese and Portuguese soldiers landed at points around Conakry. The soldiers landed from four unmarked ships, including an LST and a cargo vessel, and destroyed 4 or 5 supply vessels of the PAIGC. Others landed near President Touré's summer house, which they burnt.[4] Touré was in the Presidential Palace at the time. Other soldiers captured two army posts, took control of the city's main power plant, captured the headquarters of the PAIGC (but not Amílcar Cabral), and freed 26 Portuguese POWs who were being held by the PAIGC at Camp Boiro. Guinean militia forces fought the raiders with little success. Since both Cabral and Touré couldn't be found, the raiders retreated after suffering minor casualties.


Internal purges in Guinea

Within a week of the invasion, Touré set up a ten-person committee: the Haut-Commandement (High Command). Staffed with loyal members of the Political Bureau, the High Command ran Guinea by decree. The High Command oversaw arrests, detentions without trial, and executions. The High Command's actions decimated the ranks of government and police officials. Notable among the victims were the President of the Central Bank of the Republic of Guinea and the Minister of Finance Ousmane Baldé.[5] After a five-day trial, on 23 January 1971, the Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal ordered 29 executions (carried out three days later), 33 death sentences in absentia, 68 life sentences at hard labor, and 17 orders of confiscation of all property. The Portuguese-African troops who had defected to Guinea received life sentences at hard labor. Eighty-nine of those charged were released, but dissidents say some people "disappeared" into prison or were executed extrajudicially. Those sentenced to execution included members of the governing party (including the neighbourhood party chiefs in Conakry), Conakry's Chief of Police, a secretary to the President, an assistant minister of finance, and at least five Guinean soldiers. Those who had their property confiscated were either French or Lebanese. The fate of other Europeans who were arrested is unknown. Among those who received life sentences were former government Ministers, heads of state industries, a former regional governor, and the top two officials of the National Museum.[citation needed]

In July 1971, Touré purged the army of some of its officers. In April 1973, he purged his regime of some of its ministers.[6]

Political condemnation

On 8 December 1970, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 290, which condemned Portugal for the invasion of Guinea, and called upon Portugal to respect the principles of self-determination and independence with regard to Portuguese Guinea.[7] On 11 December 1970, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) passed a resolution unanimously condemning the invasion.[8]

Nigeria and Algeria offered support to Guinea-Conakry and the Soviet Union sent war ships to the area (known by NATO as the West Africa Patrol) to prevent further military operations against Touré's regime and against the PAIGC bases in Guinea.[9]

Recollections of Portuguese soldiers

See also

Additional reading

  • Invalid language code. António Luís Marinho. Operação Mar Verde - um documento para a história. Lisbon: Temas e Debates, 2006. 8°. ISBN 972-759-817-X
  • Invalid language code. 'Mar Verde': revelados documentos sobre operação militar ainda secreta. Manuel Carlos Freire. Diário de Notícias. 17 April 2006.
  • "Guinea Reports Invasion From Sea by Portuguese; Lisbon Denies Charge U.N. Council Calls for End to Attack Guinea Reports an Invasion From Sea by Portuguese" by the Associated Press, The New York Times, November 23, 1970, Monday Page 1, 644 words.
  • (German) Cord Eberspächer/Gerhard Wiechmann : Systemkonflikt in Afrika. Deutsch-deutsche Auseinandersetzungen im Kalten Krieg am Beispiel Guineas 1969-1972 (System conflict in Africa. German-German clashes in the Cold War by the example of Guinea 1969-1972) in : Zeitschrift des Forschungsverbundes SED-Staat, Nr. 23, Berlin 2008, ISSN 0948-9878, p. 30-41.
  • (German) Adalbert Rittmueller: "Portugal schoss, die DDR gewann, die Bundesrepublik verlor". Die Rolle der DDR beim Abbruch der diplomatischen Beziehungen durch Guineas 1970/1971 ("Portugal shot, GDR won, FRG lost" - GDR's role in cutting diplomatic relations by Guinea 1970/1971), in: Zeitschrift des Forschungsverbundes SED-Staat, Nr. 27, Berlin 2010, ISSN 0948-9878, p. 230-147.


  1. ^ "Cascon Case GPG: Guinea-Portuguese Guinea 1970". Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "ISS Africa - Home". ISS Africa. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Black revolt". The Economist. 22 November 1980. 
  4. ^ "Guinea: Cloudy Days in Conakry". Time. 7 December 1970. Retrieved 26 December 2009. 
  5. ^ O'Toole, Thomas; Baker, Janice E. (2005). Historical Dictionary of Guinea. Volume 94 of African historical dictionaries, Scarecrow Press. p. 17. ISBN 0-8108-4634-9. 
  6. ^ " - Report on Guinea, From Rags to Riches". Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  7. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld - Resolution 290(1970) of 8 December 1970". Refworld. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Brecher, Michael (1997). A Study of Crisis. University of Michigan Press. p. 446. ISBN 0-472-10806-9. 
  9. ^ "South Africa". Retrieved 10 February 2015.