“Missing in Action (The Ballad of Skillie Human)” – Story and Lyric

The Story of Andries “Skillie” Human

Andries “Skillie” Human

Andries Human was nicknamed “Skillie” (which means little tortoise) because of his relatively lightweight build, which showed even more clearly when he wore his parachute pack.  Like many young men at the time, he was drafted to serve as a paratrooper during the South African Border War of 1966 to 1989.  Skillie had a premonition that he might not survive the conflict.  On the morning of May 4th, 1978, he and his fellow paratroopers jumped out of transport planes over Cassinga, to neutralize a nearby fortified insurgent base 150 miles inside Angola.  He was never seen alive again.

Due to a navigation error, many paratroopers were scattered far from their intended landing zones.  Four paratroopers even landed in the Cuilonga River which ran nearby the Cassinga military base, but most of them made it out of the river to engage in the fight.  After the battle, all the captured weapons and documents were loaded into helicopters, along with the paratroopers and their dead and wounded.  They returned to Ondangwa, the main base of the parachute battalion inside South West Africa (known today as Namibia).  Only after roll call did it become clear that Skillie was absent…Missing in Action (MIA).

Intense efforts at the time failed to locate Skillie and understand what happened to him, but his parachute battalion brothers in arms vowed to find him and to return his remains to South Africa.  Sadly, it took nearly 40 years for information to finally surface that helped to explain what happened to Skillie. He had evidently landed in the Cuilonga River, where he drowned when his heavy kit dragged him under.  Shortly after the battle, a local tribesman had found him and buried him in a shallow grave near the river.  Now that his brothers in arms know where he is, at long last their promise can be kept to “leave no one behind.”  With hostilities long since reconciled, the Parabat (Parachute Battalion) Veterans Organization (PVO) is working to bring his remains back home to South Africa (CLICK HERE TO DONATE).

Skillie and his wife Rachel were married just four short years before he went MIA – she never remarried. Today Rachael Human lives in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (also known as Nelson Mandela Bay).  Skillie’s daughter, Eugenie, never met her father.  “Missing in Action,” a song of remembrance, loyalty and commitment, is also a tribute to Rachel and Eugenie who suffered a tragic loss as a result of the ultimate sacrifice that Skillie made in the service of his country.

Rachel Human with Paul A. Smulders

Missing in Action (The Ballad of Skillie Human) – Words and Music by Paul A. Smulders

Missing in action was all Rachel was told
The young man she married to have and to hold
His brothers in arms solemnly vowed
To find out what happened and to bring Skillie home

Verse 1
The last time anyone saw Skillie alive
Was over Cassinga on his final dive
A cruel wind blew Skillie down
Into the Cuilonga river where his kit dragged him down

Verse 2
Back in Ondangwa the roll was called
The silence of Skillie the grim story told
Missing in action he never got home
That’s when it sank in that Skillie was gone!

Missing in action was all Rachel was told
The young man she married to have and to hold
His brothers in arms solemnly vowed
To find out what happened and to bring Skillie home

Verse 3
On a trip to Cassinga an old local told
Of the grave of a soldier who drowned
In a shallow grave by the river that took him
The grave of a soldier and Skillie was found

Verse 4
Forty years on brave Skillie was found
His brothers in arms want to bring Skillie home
The unwritten law says “leave no one behind”
Bring him back to his loved ones regardless of time

Copyright © 2020 Paul A. Smulders

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