In medieval romance literature, a knight-errant is a traveller of noble birth in search of adventures in which to exhibit military skill, valour and generosity. Count Carl Gustaf von Rosen was all that, although he did not explicitly look for adventures.
His forty-year flying career took him to different parts of the world, giving him a bird’s-eye view of the unfair distribution of global wealth. He started as a Red Cross pilot in Ethiopia during the Italian war of 1935-1936, he built an Air Force for Emperor Haile Selassie from 1946 to 1956, and he experienced the painful birth of new African states after the colonial era. He became personally involved in the Nigerian conflict on the side of the breakaway, starving Biafra, creating a tiny air unit of rocket-armed, 100 HP trainer aircraft, to destroy, on the ground, the aggressive Nigerian military jets flown by mercenaries announcing their presence over Biafra with: “This is Genocide calling”, before dropping the bombs.
In the early 1970’s when drought hit Ethiopia, von Rosen launched a method of food drops from the air to starving mountain villagers. His son Eric and daughter-in-law Heli worked with him for two years, witnessing the revolution, the Red Terror of the military junta, and the growing conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia; both claiming possession of the semi-desert region of Ogaden. Ultimately, this conflict caused the death of Carl Gustaf von Rosen. He was killed in a Somali attack on Gode in July 1977.
Heli von Rosen tells the story.
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