By Charlayne Hunter

Feb. 16, 1970

Credit...The New York Times Archives

Published On The Biafra Post

September 11, 2021

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The only American known to have fought as a mercenary on the losing side in me Nigerian civil war was a 37‐year‐old black former paratrooper known by the Biafrans as Johnny Oche, or White Johnny.

The American is Juan Cor rea, a short and wiry, veteran of the Korean War. He re turned here recently after hav ing been wounded twice in the 30‐month Nigerian war, which ended Jan. 12. Mr. Correa said that he had trained Biafran soldiers to dismantle unex ploded bombs—a skill he had learned at Fort Campbell, Ky., when training as a paratrooper lin the United States Army.

He said that although he never joined any branch of the Biafran armed forces, he went on missions “from one end of Biafra to the other.” His ac tivities took him, he said, from Enugu, the Biafran capitol, to Port Harcourt and Calabar in the south and to Ogoja, Asaba and Onitsha in the north. They finally took him to Uli, from which he escaped the night Biafra surrendered.

‘Wait for the Bombs’

“We spread the men out in townships that had big markets and churches,” he said. “Those were the places the Nigerians bombed most often. They had nothing to do but wait for the bombs to come in.”

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Mr. Correa said that when he was not training men, he was dismantling bombs. He lost a finger in a bomb explosion and was wounded twice in strafings—in the right arm and in the left shoulder. He said that the Nigerian weapons were extremely crude.

“They were being sold stuff that dated back to 1940, and many of those bombs would have gone off,” he said. “At Uli they would drop a 1,000‐pound bomb, rigged with a small rocket detonator. That was just 800 pounds of dyna mite they gave us. The bombs just wouldn't go off.”

He said that when he was at Enugu, the Nigerians often dropped fire extinguishers filled with dynamite. Once, he said, they dropped a small white refrigerator filled with dynamite. “The pins were set wrong, so none of them blew up,” he said.

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