While the Vietnam conflict was in full swing, not too far away another war of similar nature was taking place. Although the Dhofar War (1963-1976) didn’t attract the same publicity as its infamous American contemporary, it was certainly no less — and probably even more — important for the global power balance.

Whereas a terror of falling dominos provoked America’s spirited commitment in Southeast Asia, the safety of the Strait of Hormuz, the oil lifeline of the Western economy, triggered that of Britain in Oman. Indeed, the deserts, mountains, and scrub of Oman were a Cold War battlefield of no less significance than the hills of Korea, the jungles Vietnam, or the bush of Sub-Saharan Africa. The fight for material and ideological gains between East and West was bitter and prolonged.

The peculiar nature of the war saw British, Omani, Pakistani, Indian, Jordanian, Baluchi, and Iranian soldiers (the Shah was still in power) fighting together against the communist insurgents. The Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG), in return, received training and arms from South Yemen, the Soviet bloc, Iraq, China, and Egypt.

From a troop number point of view, the war was small: a few thousand allied troops pitted against a couple of thousand communist insurgents. Such numbers, however, shouldn’t fool us about the conflict’s intensity and significance.

As already hinted, geography dictated importance. The Strait of Hormuz, where one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes through daily, skirts the Omani coast. This shipping lane, 21 miles at its narrowest point, is the world’s most valuable petroleum sea passage and a strategic chokepoint. If Oman had succumbed to Communism, the West’s oil supply would’ve been in jeopardy and the world could’ve been a very different place today. (The Iranian revolution of 1978, which toppled the Shah, further increased the paramountcy of a free Oman.)

And why Britain?

Well, it was Oman’s colonial legacy that brought British intervention. Since 1798, a treaty of friendship existed between the Sultan and the British government. And during the centuries, British friendship had often materialized in the form of arms and troops.