The pre-war sentiments driving the various nationalist movements agitating for independence was given an added impetus by the diminishing capacities of the empires of France and Britain, both of which would yield to the demand by United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt that they break up their empires. The ‘Wind of Change’, to quote Harold MacMillan’s famous declaration of the early 1960s, would blow across both continents where a thirst for freedom and a belief in the right to self-determination took a firm hold.
Among the European nations, the Portuguese appeared to be unyielding in the demands that they set their African colonies free, and ensuing wars in Angola and Mozambique became emblems of the anti-colonial struggle set against the backdrop of a Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The OAS were claimed to be fascists, but three of the four generals in the putsch, including the organisation’s nominal leader, Salan, were to the left of the political spectrum. It was claimed to be racist, but included among its ranks were Arab Muslims. And Algerian Jews were among its most fanatical adherents.
Among a cast of memorable characters ranging from Bobby Dovecar, the baby-faced Austrian executioner of the Foreign Legion to the O.A.S.’s ideologue and philosopher-in-chief, Jacques Susini, the stand out is the formidable and charismatic Roger Degueldre, an NCO who reached the rank of Lieutenant and who was de facto chief of operations.