Second Battle of Nanawa
The Second Battle of Nanawa was a battle fought from July 4 to 9 in 1933 between the Bolivian and Paraguayan armies during the Chaco War
Chaco War
The Chaco War was fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over control of the northern part of the Gran Chaco region of South America, which was incorrectly thought to be rich in oil. It is also referred to as La Guerra de la Sed in literary circles for being fought in the semi-arid Chaco...

. It was one of the bloodiest battles fought in South America in the 20th century, coming to be labeled as the "South American Verdun" by comparison with the Battle of Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

 of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...



The battle was the last Bolivian attempt to capture the heavily fortified stronghold of Nanawa, a salient
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

 in the southern front. By capturing Nanawa the Bolivian army hoped to breach to Isla Poí, the Paraguayan headquarters, and ultimately reach the city of Concepción
Concepción, Paraguay
- Sources :* –

, on the Paraguay River
Paraguay River
The Paraguay River is a major river in south central South America, running through Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina...

. Nanawa (Enxet for "carob tree
Carob tree
Ceratonia siliqua, commonly known as the Carob tree and St John's-bread, is a species of flowering evergreen shrub or tree in the pea family, Fabaceae...

 forest") had been founded as a small outpost in 1928 by Ivan Belaieff, a white Russian
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

 officer who joined the Paraguayan army in the 1920s. In December 1932 the Bolivian army took over a number of Paraguayan outpost between Nanawa and the Pilcomayo River
Pilcomayo River
The Pilcomayo River is a river in central South America. At long, it is the longest western tributary of the Paraguay River. Its drainage basin is in area, and its mean discharge is ....

. Realising that a major offensive was looming, the fort's commander, Col. Luis Irrazábal
Luis Irrazábal
The Colonel Luis Irrazabal Barboza was born in Encarnación City, in Itapúa Department, Paraguay, on August 8, 1891 and died in 1958.He went to elementary school in Encarnación and to high school in Asunción, capital of Paraguay.-Beginnings:...

, built up a horsehoe shaped defence facing west around the old outpost and gathered under his command four regiments and several minor units which made up the Paraguayan fifth division. On January 20 1933, Nanawa was the subject of a massive Bolivian assault, which stalled after several days of heavy fighting and was eventually beaten off by the Paraguayan garrison. The Bolivian army suffered 2,000 casualties. By March, Nanawa became the headquarters of the Paraguayan III Army Corps.

The battle

The battle began on July 4 at 9 AM with the explosion of a large mine just 30 yards short of the main Paraguayan redoubt, followed by a massive frontal attack. Part of the redoubt was seized by the attackers. The Bolivian army engaged the defenders with artillery and mortar fire, air strikes, three Vickers light tanks
Vickers 6-Ton
The Vickers 6-Ton Tank or Vickers Mark E was a British light tank designed as a private project at Vickers. It was not purchased by the British Army, but was picked up by a large number of foreign armed forces and was copied almost exactly by the Soviets as the T-26. It was also the direct...

, two tankette
A tankette is a tracked combat vehicle resembling a small tank roughly the size of a car, mainly intended for light infantry support or reconnaissance. Colloquially it may also simply mean a "small tank"....

s and four flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

s. The attackers staged a two prongued assault, one from the north and the other from the south, while a diversionary force established a blocking position in the center. The Paraguayan troops responded with their own artillery fire and 7.62mm armour-piercing rounds. They eventually recovered those fortifications which had been overrun by the Bolivians.

The Bolivians lost one tank to artillery fire, while one of the tankettes was damaged by small-arms fire and the other became stuck in a ditch. Both of them were withdrawn from the frontline after this battle, while the crippled tank was eventually blown up by Paraguayan sappers. Four Potez 25
Potez 25
|-See also:*Aerial operations in the Chaco War-References:Heinonen, Timo Heinonen: Thulinista Hornetiin, Keski-Suomen ilmailumuseon julkaisuja 3, 1992. ISBN 951-95688-2-4.-External links:* *...

s fighter-bombers in the role of transport aircraft resupplied the exhausted Paraguayan stockpiles by delivering hand grenades and ammunition. The planes were stripped of their rear machine guns in order to use the gunner's cockpit to load 115 kg of ammunition. The aircraft departed from Isla Poí to the south flying over hostile territory and landed on an improvised airstrip close to the battle lines. The airstrip had been hastily built during the first Bolivian offensive. The pilots handed over 1,650 kg of ammunition to the stronghold on the first day of operation. Three Potez were hit by ground fire and forced to make hard landings, but all of them were eventually recovered and rebuilt.


Once the attack was repelled the Paraguayans launched on July 11 an unsuccessful counterattack on enemy positions outside the complex, in a wooden area southwest of the Paraguayan outpost of Gondra. The second battle of Nanawa was major turning point in the war, since the Paraguayan army regained the strategic initiative which had belonged to the Bolivians since early 1933.
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