Remembering the Battle of San Bernardo: 60 years on.

The Town of San Bernanrdo is an unassuming small city of 60,000 built around a historic Catholic mission. Located in the heart of Victoria Province, San Bernanrdo has looked the same since Costeno left in the 1820s. Yet walk out of the historic Plaza Central and you will see a different side of the town. On July 15th, 1963 a large force of Republic of Slokais forces, aligned with the regime of Juan Costa attempted to take control of the town, from what they assumed was a small militia. Because of the geography, the ROS forces were actually trapped with Socialist Revolutionary Army forces working with the Federation of Slokais Army. The Federation had just been formed with an alliance of smaller factions of anti-government forces. Their combined forces quickly took control of the outskirts of San Bernardo.

Lewis Villarino remembers being stationed at a small church in San Bernardo. “I was with the 53rd Infantry Divison, I was a young guy just turned 18”. Villarino joined the military voluntarily to escape his small fishing village in North Acadia Province. “In my heart, I was not patriotic, but I convinced myself I was”. Vilarino was grilling fish awaiting further orders, when the gunfire started. “There were Reds (SRA soldiers) all over us suddenly”. “I shot the first one that came in with my side pistol, but his buddy came up from right behind and stabbed me with this sidearm”. Villarino ended up being captured and detained “We were very lucky, some other guys were killed on sight by the Reds”

The battle was the first with close-quarters combat with the most intense fighting occurring in the industrial district around the train station. Future Prime Minister, Howard-Alexander Walker who had months earlier deserted from the Republic of Slokais Army, described the close-quarters combat well. “It was like we were fighting on all fronts, we were no longer trying to achieve a goal but to simply survive the onslaught of ROSs (govermeant forces)”. However govermeant forces remained strong in holding government buildings as a word that the units would be relieved by the Reformist Brigade grew within the ranks of government forces. The National Health Ministry Hospital of San Bernardo was soon fortified by the government as they waited for relief. On the morning of July 29th, 2 weeks after the battle began, Reformist Brigade helicopters landed on the roof. The Reformist Brigade was made up of the most ideologically and physically strong soldiers and contained some Lao Sansong mercenaries. Officers were given priority as Federation Forces broke through the defenses. When the fog of battle cleared, a few dozen govermeant forces escaped while several hundred soldiers, mostly privates were left either dead or captured.

Today a memorial stands in a grove of trees next to the modern hospital’s parking lot. Hidden from most visitors, veterans of both sides of the battle, visit the memorial. Two soldiers stand, one Federation soldier, and one ROS soldier both looking down. The memorial is open from sunrise to sunset and is located at 1130 Loranger Ave, San Bernardo, Victoria Province.

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