Carnation Revolution Volume 2: Coup in Portugal, April 1974

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
José Augusto Matos and Zelia Oliveira
Other Publication Information
Paperback (8.3”x11.7”), 74 pages with 96 black and white photographs, four color photos, 13 color profiles, and one color map.

Illustrators: David Bocquelet, Luca Canossa, Tom Cooper, and Anderson Subtil
Company: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site

Carnation Revolution Volume 2: Coup in Portugal, April 1974 is a part of Helion and Company’s Europe@War series, No. 39 (HEL 11844). This is the third book about Portuguese forces that I have read, authored by José Augusto Matos (he co-authored Sanctuary Lost, Portugal’s Air War for Guinea 1961-1974, Volume 1, with Matthew M. Hurley, reviewed, and the first volume by authors José Augusto Matos and Zelia Oliveira.

For those who have not read Volume 1, or the previous review, a recap is necessary as the title states, this book is the second volume of this coup that re-shaped Portugal’s future and starts where the first volume leaves off.

The Carnation Revolution occurred on 25 April 1974 and was centered around military captains (MFA - the Movimento das Forças Armadas (Armed Forces Movement) against the authoritarian Estado Novo (New State) government established in 1933. The catalyst for the revolution was the declining prestige of Portugal, its military fighting unpopular wars in its African colonies (it had already lost its three colonies in India in the early 1960s), its economy, and other factors.The almost bloodless revolution got its name from the citizens taking to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship by placing carnations in soldiers’ weapons and their uniforms. A big catalyst for this revolution was the publication of the book “Portugal E O Futuro” (Portugal and the Future) by General António de Spínola in February 1974, which outlined the unpopular colonial wars were not military winnable, and that a political solution was required.The fact that General Spínola’s book was published at all is a mystery well documented in Volume 1. This book outlines the effects of the two coups set in motion in Volume 1.

The book is complete with extensive photographs, technical details and specifications, and detailed illustrations, composing the following three chapters:

  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 – Win Or Be Defeated
    • Ministers No Longer in Control of Departments
    • The Rheumatic Brigade
    • Government Reshuffle
  • Chapter 2 – The First Rebellion
    • Incredulity in the Opposition, but Some Hope
    • Calm in the Metropolis
    • Mission to London
    • The Last Family Conversation
  • Chapter 3 – Between Tanks and Flowers
    • Caught by Surprise
    • Radio Signals
    • The French View
    • The Last Council of Ministers
    • The Longest Night
    • So That Power Does Not Fall Onto the Street
    • The Fall of PIDE/DGS
  • Sources and Bibliography
  • Notes
  • About the Authors

The first revolution happened 15-16 March 1974 and wasn’t properly planned nor coordinated, and only one unit left its garrison. The almost 200 officers and soldiers were quickly, and bloodlessly, stopped and the situation returned to normal quickly. Key military leaders learned the lessons well and conducted better planning, including the use of telecommunications (telephone, radio, and TV, to include bugging military channels loyal to the government).

The second revolution was much better planned and launched on the night and morning of 24-25 April 1974. The surprise and efficiency was complete, with overwhelming force put in the field quickly. The MFA counted on 5,000 loyal troops, 3,000 of which would be focused on the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. The MFA persuaded troops and units to join their cause. One of the instrumental leaders, Captain Salgueiro Maia said,

“Gentlemen, as you all know, there are various forms of state. The socialist states, the capitalist states, and the state we are now in. Now, in this solemn night, we are going to end this state. So, anyone who wants to come with me, we go Lisbon, and we finish it. If you volunteer, go outside, and form up. If you do not want to go, stay here!”

Military leaders loyal to the government were given the choice to join or be arrested. The revolution was quick and wholly supported by the civilian populace.There were a few tense moments when forces loyal to the government were given the order to fire on the rebels, to include a naval frigate enroute to a NATO exercise and the unit with the only tanks (M-47s), only to have their crews disobey their orders.

The President of the Republic, Marcello Caetano, realized that his regime could no longer continue and surrendered to General Spinola, the author of the book that started the regime change. General Spinola was not directly involved, but President Caetano insisted he assume power, “so that power would not fall onto the street.”

“The day after the revolution, an anecdote circulated in the Portuguese capital about the difficulty the President of the Republic had in understanding what happened to him on 25 April. ‘But what is this about a coup d’etat?’ he would ask, adding: ‘And so I wasn’t consulted?’”

The only few casualties were civilians who were fired upon by the feared Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado/ Direção-Geral de Segurança (PIDE/DGS – secret police) before the PIDE/DGS headquarters was surrounded and the secret police surrendered peacefully. The surprise was so complete that the archives containing millions of files were found intact, along with a large quantity of weapons, and copies of Playboy and Penthouse magazines (both of which were not sold, or legal, in Portugal). The final act was the removal of the official state portraits.

Modelers will appreciate the few black-and-white photographs of troops in the field and armaments, but most of the photographs are of the key players. The color profile section is great for aircraft modelers with Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa-FAP) Reims-Cessna FTB-337G (Skymaster O-2), CASA C-212 Aviocar, and Dassault Mirage 5. Armor modelers have Panhard EBR 75 (Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance), Panhard ETT (Engin Transporteur de Troupes), Panhard AML-60, Shorland Mark III, Chaimite (based on the Cadillac Gage Commando V-100), and M47 Patton, all in the prevalent olive drab color. Figure modelers have Portuguese forces in black and white photos and color profiles of the army olive green No 2. Service kit, Special Marine in black uniform, FAP Parachute Regiment in “lizard” uniform, and a junior officer from Regiment No. 7 (one of the few units mobilized to counter the rebels) wearing an olive drab cavalry uniform complete with cavalry trousers, long spurred boots and leather jacket.

While not an easy book to digest, it is a detailed English language text on this pivotal moment in Portugal’s history and its place in NATO and the European Community deserves attention to better understand our current world.

Profuse thanks to Casemate and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample.


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