The 1973 Arab Israeli War:
Anwar al-Sadat’s War to Make Peace
as published in Honores the North Georgia College and State University Honors Journal
“Politics is the womb in which war develops.”
Karl Von Clausewitz
To grasp all the implications of the 1973 Yom Kippur, or Ramadan War, one must have a good comprehension of the origins. Anwar al-Sadat, President of Egypt from 1970 until his death in 1981, instigated this war. Sadat, the master statesman, used this war to bring about the peace he desired. To understand his mastery, all of the strings pulled by this puppet master must be examined. Once exposed, Sadat’s actions can be explained, and the wisdom of his actions can be shown.
“I can't get no satisfaction”
The Rolling Stones
Anwar al-Sadat was a product of the independence movement afoot in Egypt during the first half of the twentieth century. In colonial Egypt, the hanging of a local man involved in a riot, which itself led to the death of a British officer,[ii] affected Sadat greatly. Mustafa Kemal’s creation of a modern secular state in the Muslim region as well as Kemal’s reforms became a guide for Sadat. Further, Mohandas Gandhi, who Sadat heard during a tour of Egypt in the 1930s, showed Sadat the need for nonviolence and peace. Also significant, Adolf Hitler showed a strongly anti-British Sadat Britain’s weakness.
Sadat attended the newly created Egyptian military academy, graduating in 1938. There he studied warfare and many great battles and gained an understanding of war. Upon his commissioning, Sadat’s posting led him to cross paths with Gamal Abdel Nasser. Quickly forming a close relationship, together they began forming what would become the Free Officers Movement. Sadat’s anti-colonial activities earned him two stays in prison. Afterwards, Sadat rejoined Nasser and the Free Officers Movement in the overthrow of King Farouk and expulsion of the British colonial system.[iii] Sadat soon earned a position in Nasser’s government. From there Sadat learned statecraft in the superpower political system. During this time, Egypt gained dominance as the strongest or at least loudest of the non-aligned nations. Following the Franco-British-Israeli attempts to seize the Suez Canal in 1956, Egypt became the non-aligned hero, a position Sadat learned to love. Sadat, while not one of Nassar’s top confidants, steadily rose through the ranks of Nassar’s government. Following the severe losses and humiliation of the 1967 Six-Day War, many of Sadat’s rivals fell from power. By September 1970 when President Nasser suddenly collapsed and died, Vice-President Anwar al-Sadat claimed the office of President.
Now as nominal President of Egypt, Sadat slowly consolidated power in several “coups” removing rivals whose power threatened his position.[iv] Sadat inherited a nation neither at war nor at peace.[v] This nation had lost prestige, territory, and self-respect in the previous wars with Israel.
After assuming control of Egypt, Sadat put forth peace feelers. His main requirement was return of the Sinai. Sadat offered reopening of the Suez Canal to the world and a signed peace with Israel, recognizing the right of Israel to exist.[vi] Sadat even agreed to try U.S. Secretary of State Rogers’ plan for peace. However, Israel saw no need to negotiate for anything from Egypt, as past wars had shown Israel could take anything it wanted from Egypt without negotiation.[vii] The United States, in the person of Henry Kissinger,[viii] saw no need to be involved with what it perceived as a Soviet puppet state and thereby endanger détente. The Soviet Union perceived Egypt as a client state unable to act on its own and saw no need to change that. Thus, Sadat was denied a chance for a peaceful method of obtaining peace.[ix]
Egyptian (and Arab) honor demanded some kind of victory over Israel before any thoughts of peace could go further.[x] The closing of the Suez Canal (an economic disaster to Egypt) and conquest of the Sinai were intolerable to Egyptians. For Sadat to maintain power in Egypt, these problems had to be addressed and corrected.
High on Sadat’s agenda for war was to restore Egyptian honor, raise the Israelis’ appraisal of the Egyptian military, and grab a toehold across the Suez Canal.[xi] With these three accomplishments, Sadat knew he could negotiate a successful peace agreement.[xii] Yet, in his way were the superpowers busy with the beginnings of détente and the Arab nations’ requirement for the destruction of Israel.
A key selection in Sadat’s political coterie was Nasser’s son-in-law, Dr. Ashraf Marwan, as Ambassador at Large and part of the inner circle.[xiii] Through this man, Sadat created an information chain to Israel that he could control. Enough correct legitimate information was leaked to classify this source as beyond reproach. Israeli intelligence used this information, more specifically a letter from Sadat to the Soviet Union,[xiv] to build what became known as “The Concept”.[xv] “The Concept,” which was to be Israeli intelligence’s (as well as Golda Meir and her cabinet’s) set of criteria which Egypt must meet before being able to go to war with Israel took on a life of its own, dictating the conditions under which Egypt could or could not attack Israel.[xvi]
Significantly, in modern military relations between Egypt and Israel, the advantage had been mostly Israel’s. In every conflict from the Israeli War of Independence through the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces had dominated Egyptian forces.(no new paragraph here) The use of airpower by the Zahal (Israeli Defense Force - IDF or Tzvah Haganah L’Yisrael) was a key factor. In 1948, the Israeli Air Force (IAF or Heyl Ha’avir) flew surplus Luftwaffe Bf-109s successfully against Egyptian P-51 Mustangs. After that drubbing, Egyptian pilots were never to receive training to bring them to standards on par with the Heyl Ha’avir. The difference in airpower had only widened over the years. Supplied by the United States and Europe, Israel had 130 McDonnell Douglas F-4 “Kurnas” (Hammer) Phantoms (Figure 15), 35 French Dassault Mirage IIIC “Shahak” (Figure 16) fighters/attack aircraft, as well as 230 Douglas A-4 “Ayit” (Eagle) Skyhawk (Figure 17) attack aircraft.[xvii] Egypt had Soviet supplied MiG-17 (Figure 18) and 250 MiG-21 fighters (Figure 19), but had to rely on foreign “volunteers” to fly them in combat.[xviii] Other Arab nations made available French Mirage attack aircraft, Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers and British Aerospace (BAe) Lightning fighters, but Egypt had no pilots up to the necessary standards to fly them in combat.[xix] The Soviet Union, intent on protecting the relations with the Nixon government, consistently denied Egypt aircraft and training necessary to take on the Zahal head to head.[xx]
On the ground, the Zahal, a much smaller force, relied on Guderion’s and Rommel’s tactics.[xxi] A smaller fast armor force was used to break through Egyptian lines and route them in 1956 and 1967. Egyptian armored forces had access to tanks ranging from the World War II T-34 to the (then) modern T-60 and T-72[xxii] (2100 in all). Israel’s armored brigades had World War II U.S. M-4 Sherman tanks[xxiii] (called M-51 Ishermans) (Figure 3) as well as M-48/M-61A1 Megach tanks (Figure 2). British Centurions (called Sho’t by the Zahal) (Figures 7 and 8) and even 400 rebuilt Tiran 3, 4, 5, & 6s (T-50s T-54s, T-55s, and T-60s rebuilt by Israel[xxiv]) (Figure 20) could also be found in Israeli brigades. All Israeli tanks had been re-equipped with the L7 105mm gun.[xxv]
Using the Soviet supplied armored vehicles, Egypt had an army of more than half a million men[xxvi] and that number did not include soldiers from other Arab nations sent to aid Egypt. Israel’s army with full reserves called up (thereby idling the entire nation’s economy) topped out at 200,000.[xxvii] Yet, Israeli tactics repeatedly defeated Egyptian and Arab forces at every turn.
Egypt had to turn to the Soviet Union for military and economic aid because the Western nations had refused any assistance to Israel’s enemies. Knowing it had a monopoly on Egypt, the Soviet Union sought to control more and more of Egypt’s policies and economy. The price for Soviet assistance grew as the Soviet Union felt Egyptian options diminish.[xxviii] Egypt’s primary source of income, the Suez Canal, was closed. During the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces captured most of the Sinai and the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. The 1967–1970 War of Attrition also prevented ships from passing through the canal. The economy of Egypt desperately needed the income from the Suez Canal. This added to the political urgency.
Having inherited this reality, Anwar al-Sadat set out to build grounds for a peace Egypt could live with. The political reality in Egypt demanded a military victory over Israel before Sadat could seek peace. The economic reality in Egypt required the income from the Suez Canal to keep Egypt from bankruptcy. The other Arab nations would not give Sadat any real support without a successful war with Israel. Likewise, Sadat could not receive aid or political help with the peace process from either superpower without changing their perception of Egypt. To change the Soviet Union and the United States’ attitude toward Egypt would require a show of military strength. Sadat’s options for peace soon narrowed to one – war.
To make this war possible, Sadat had many hurdles to overcome. The Soviet Union refused to continue sales of arms to Egypt under the old financial agreements. Egypt was required to pay in full and mostly up front in hard currency. Egypt was promised more modern T-72, Su-17s and MiG-21s as well as SA-2, SA-3, and SA-6 surface to air missile (SAM) systems and ZSU-23-4 Shilka[xxix] anti-aircraft artillery (AAA).[xxx] But because of Egypt’s economic hardships, none were forthcoming.
After several rounds of promises broken, Sadat sent a letter to the USSR expelling the Soviet advisers.[xxxi] Sadat threatened to go to Western sources if the Soviet Union did not meet more of Egypt’s military requirements, the key requirement being SAMs. Once negotiations resumed (the USSR could ill afford to lose prestige in the Arab world by having Egypt go to the West), Sadat obtained a larger amount of the supplies required.[xxxii] When pressured by the Soviet’s chief advisor to attack Israel to reclaim the Sinai,[xxxiii] Sadat sent a letter[xxxiv] to Brezhnev outlining all the training and equipment needed for a total victory over Israel (the goal being to obliterate the nation of Israel entirely).
Sadat’s enigma was how to take the poorly trained and equipped peasant army of Egypt and defeat the highly trained and motivated, well-equipped Zahal. This is what drove Anwar al-Sadat to choose Saad al-Shazly, a junior paratrooper Major General, over many senior officers to run the Egyptian military as Chief of Staff. Primarily replacing those military leaders with political sway, Sadat promoted and placed LTG Saad el-Shazly in as Chief of Staff of the Egyptian military and Brigadier General Mohamed Abdel Ghani El-Gamassy as Operations Officer. With the eventual choice of Ahmad Ismail Ali as Defense Minister, as Shazly’s superior, Sadat illustrated his statecraft by keeping the personal conflict going between the two, preventing either from gaining power.[xxxv]
A combat experienced, highly trained,[xxxvi] and skilled officer, a rarity in upper level Arab armies of the day, Shazly was also very opinionated. He was very vocal in his criticisms of the conduct of the Egyptian High Command in the 1967 Six Day War.[xxxvii] For this, Shazly had been “exiled” to command the Southern Front, a position with no record of career advancement. With this low-status job and not much to do, Shazly set about devising a realistic plan for the Egyptian military to fight and win against Israel. This theoretical operation became known as Operation Badr[xxxviii] and like the original Battle of Badr, was meant to be conducted during Ramadan.[xxxix] Shazly’s plan was for a limited war. Shazly planned to send the infantry-heavy 2nd and 3rd Egyptian Armies across the Suez Canal to overwhelm the Zahal’s Bar Lev Line of defenses and dig in.[xl] Explaining this plan to Sadat, LTG Saad el-Shazly set the stage for the 1973 war[xli].
Shazly’s key concept was to take only what could be held. Reality demanded the Heyl Ha’avir be considered the primary threat. To nullify this threat, the Egyptian Air Force could not be counted on. Instead, Shazly saw the effect of North Vietnamese Army SAMs against the USAF and USN aircraft attacking Hanoi. Given enough modern SAMs, .Shazly knew he could place the Egyptian Army in good defensive positions. From such a position, the Egyptians could hold off the Zahal and create enough Israeli casualties to make the cost in men for further Israeli attack prohibitive. Shazly learned what equipment and training the USSR would offer Egypt. Planning with these limitations in mind, Shazly felt the Egyptians could cross the canal and proceed no more than 10 or 15 km east. Still, the protective umbrella created by the SA-2s, and SA-3s on the west side of the canal could be augmented by semi-mobile SA-6 batteries and ZSU-23-4 units capable of crossing the canal. The front line infantry would be equipped with man-portable SA-7s to cover those troops fighting off the Zahal’s armored attacks as they killed tanks with RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and the new Sagger (NATO code word) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).[xlii]
Shazly already had an outline of Operation Badr with him when placed in charge as Chief of Staff. Working with Gamassy in Operations, Shazly began building this outline into a true operational plan. Shazly still needed equipment and training for his men. This equipment included modern bridging equipment and some way to breach the large sand berm barrier on the east bank of the canal. To keep the training to a minimum, Shazly trained troops in very specialized jobs.[xliii]
Sadat had General Shazly draw up plans (Operation 41) that showed the intended first phase of the future war being the capture of Gidi, Milta, and Bir Gifgafato Passes.[xliv] Sadat informed Shazly that this plan was not for execution but to get more of Egypt’s “shopping list” of military equipment and aid filled.[xlv] Sadat and Shazly understood the Soviet Union would not supply the Egyptian Army with the equipment and military assistance Shazly needed for Operation Badr. But, Soviet advisors had already promised more equipment if the Egyptian Army were planning a war to recapture the entire Sinai. With this plan in hand, Sadat renegotiated the Egyptian-Soviet relations. Soviet operated SCUD missile battalions deployed to Egypt as well as SA-2, SA-3 and mobile SA-6, and ZSU-23-4 units.[xlvi] Training for the Egyptians on these missiles commenced shortly thereafter.[xlvii]
Once Sadat negotiated the Soviets into providing what he wanted at his price, Sadat turned his attention to the Arab states. As a non-petro state, Egypt was one of the poorer Arab nations yet as a nation with direct borders with Israel, was required by all Arab states to maintain hostilities with Israel (but as other Arab-Israeli conflicts had shown, none of Israel’s neighbors could possibly attack Israel on their own and have any hope of victory). Sadat sought economic[xlviii] and military support for his “theoretical” war. To the Arab neighbors, Sadat made no hard promise of a date for a war with Israel. Syria agreed to join Egypt as a front-line state in going to war.[xlix] The other Arab nations agreed to some degree or another without really committing. But, before promising any military or economic aid, all the Arab states asked to see Egypt’s plans for war (all Arab nations had previously proclaimed there could be no peace until Israel was totally conquered). To this end, out came Shazly’s fake plan[l] (which showed the requisite drive for Jerusalem) to convince one and all of Egypt’s seriousness on this subject.[li]
To complete the planning and specialized training, Shazly trusted his subordinates to be experts in their jobs. Given this freedom, junior officers came up with surprising solutions to problems that fit the Egyptian capabilities. Egyptian engineers tasked with the job of getting the Egyptian infantry and armor across the canal were particularly innovative. Using the new Soviet PMP bridging equipment, these captains and lieutenants found ways to bridge the canal (Figure 1) faster than even the Soviets thought possible. They also created barges out of PMP bridging equipment to ferry vehicles across before the bridges were complete. Their biggest challenge, literally, was to overcome the high sand berm built on the eastern shore of the Suez Canal.[lii] The sand was too loose to effectively use explosives and too steep just to climb over.[liii] The junior officers’ solution was to use high-pressure water pumps and wash the sand away from special barges in the canal.[liv] Using this method, openings for vehicles could be made in a few hours instead of a full day.[lv] The Egyptian engineers brought out older bridging equipment no longer capable of carrying modern war material and vehicles. These bridges were employed to build “dummy” bridges, capable of being moved at night, for the Heyl Ha’avir to strike. This lessened the chance of “real” bridges being destroyed.[lvi]
As Shazly prepared for war, Sadat readied his country for war. Politically, Sadat needed a mandate from the Egyptian public. After consolidation of power, Sadat made speeches demanding action against Israel. He declared 1971 as Egypt’s “Year of Decision” and then did nothing obvious to strike against Israel. By early 1973, the Egyptian populace demanded action. This was another of Sadat’s overlooked statecraft master strokes. With public emotion at a fever pitch, Sadat could mobilize the military as often as he needed.[lvii]
This allowed Shazly to train the reserves as well as the regular soldiers.[lviii] Sadat also used these mobilizations and his son-in-law to numb the Israeli intelligence system. One of the “leaks” was a false war warning in May 1973. The culmination of the year’s mobilizations was announced to be in early October and to be a Suez Canal crossing exercise, Tahrir (Liberation[lix]) 41.[lx] As part of the exercise (and Shazly’s planned deception), Egyptian troops had been told they would be home by October 10 to finish Ramadan at home. Reports were released beforehand stating soldiers were to be allowed to visit mosques during this “exercise.” Combined with the previous exercises that year and Sadat’s selective leaks to AMAN and Mossad, Shazly and Sadat could openly proceed with the final preparations and training for war.[lxi]
During all this, the Mossad and AMAN (Israeli military intelligence) spent $20 million “milking” information from Dr. Marwan (code-named “In-Law” by the Mossad). The carefully selected tidbits “leaked” to Israel indicated that Sadat would not go to war unless he had the military might to take Jerusalem. Dr. Marwan provided the previously mentioned letter from Sadat to Soviet Premier Brezhnev, which became the primary basis for “The Concept.” This letter stated that Sadat required R-17E (SCUD) rockets, more fighter-bombers,[lxii] training, more T-72 tanks, and other equipment that the Israelis knew he would not get from any source before being able to attack Israel. Israel knew that neither superpower would be willing to jeopardize détente, and Sadat built a cover story with that fact. Since the Israelis literally read Sadat’s mail, they assumed that Egypt would only go to war with them if they could achieve total annihilation. Since neither the Soviet Union nor the West would give Egypt the military means to defeat Israel totally, AMAN and the Mossad had faith in “The Concept” to protect them in any actions against Egypt and Syria (since Syria would never go it alone against the Zahal). Meanwhile, having built this concept in Israel’s mind, Sadat knew its flaws.[lxiii]
The Israel Sadat faced in the 1970s was bustling economically with a Gross National Product (without oil) better than most Arab nations with a fraction of the population. This meant the standing forces of the Zahal were kept small to keep the businesses going. To bolster such a small professional military, almost every Israeli, male and female, served in the reserves in some function. Every reservist had a 1-month active duty period every year as part of normal duty. In emergencies, recalls were made over Israeli radio and TV by using code words in the news announcements. Very effective, but not very secret. Every time one of Israel’s Arab neighbors rattled sabers, reservists were called up to augment the standing military. Long term recalls were avoided whenever possible as this slowed the economy, increased government spending (and therefore taxes),[lxiv] and angered the voters (the recalled as well as their families and coworkers left to deal with the absences). The Zahal ground forces were built around highly mobile armored brigades. The Heyl Ha’avir was considered the most highly trained in the world at that time. The undeclared so-called War of Attrition (from 1967 through 1970) had seen that most Heyl Ha’avir crews were combat experienced as well.
Sadat’s final insurance was Israel’s firm reliance on Sadat’s created “Concept.” With this, Sadat blinded AMAN and the Mossad in their assessments of Egyptian capabilities and intentions. Accurate intelligence estimates were ignored[lxv] based solely on “The Concept.” The deployment of SAMs in the Golan and forward staging of Syrian armored forced were discounted since the Syrians would not go it on their own and Egypt could not be going to war because “The Concept” said so.[lxvi] The Mossad, AMAN and the Israeli cabinet even ignored a 25 September 1973 secret night-time visit by Jordan’s King Hussein[lxvii] to warn PM Golda Meir.[lxviii]
The last twist of the knife from Sadat’s double agent came on the night of October 5th. Shazly’s last operational surprise had been to plan the attack for Yom Kippur, which in 1973 was October 6th. On Yom Kippur, the nation of Israel shut down to the point that no radio or TV stations broadcast for the entire day. Israel’s recall code words could not be announced. With this in mind, Sadat finally let out at a midnight Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) meeting (0400 Israel)[lxix] in London between Dr. Marwan and the head of the Mossad that war would begin a 6 pm on the 6th.[lxx] Israel government[lxxi] received a warning from a source they would believe with less than twelve hour to prepare for the attacks.[lxxii]
“War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means.”
Karl Von Clausewitz
With no radio or television stations broadcasting, the recall of reservists could not progress in its normal speedy and orderly fashion. The few under-strength active units on the Golan and Sinai borders had to go it alone.
Most of the 460 infantry reservists from the Jerusalem Brigade in the Sinai in the Bar Lev line “fortresses” were quickly surrounded and taken. Instead of moving forward to support the infantry in the Bar Lev Line, the armored battalions in the Sinai were held back.[lxxiii] The only armored battalion ordered forward (unsupported) to assist the Israeli infantry received a severe mauling.[lxxiv] The Egyptian 2nd and 3rd Armies advanced virtually unopposed.[lxxv] As per General Shazly’s plan, they dug in after advancing no more than 15 kilometers (Map 1). The infantry units contained armored units and special Sagger equipped anti-tank battalions (Figure 4). Integrating the natural wadis and hills into the defensive positions, the Egyptians formed anti-armor ambushes that blunted the Zahal counter attacks. Israeli losses were severe.[lxxvi] Egyptian Special Forces conducted airmobile and airborne attacks on Israeli command centers in the Sinai as well as resupply and reinforcement convoys. The orderly formation of reservists into combat units was disrupted and the resupply of units already in combat was stopped. Until these Egyptian soldiers were taken out of action, the Israeli war efforts in the Sinai were stopped. These 1700 elite Egyptian soldiers taught the IDF that the Israeli soldier was no longer worth 10 Egyptians. But price Egypt paid for teaching this lesson was steep – of the 1700 Egyptian troops placed behind Israeli line, 500+ were killed and 1100 were eventually captured.[lxxvii]
In the Golan, Syrian armor easily crossed the “border,” crushing the chain link fence under their treads. The only unit between them and Israeli kibbutzim in the Galilee and further south were the Barak[lxxviii] (armored) and Golani (infantry) Brigades. Manning the prepared firing positions, the Barak Brigade (Figure 6) destroyed Syrian tank after tank (Figure 11).[lxxix] But the price was high.[lxxx] Israeli armored companies were reduced to one or two surviving tanks, and then would pull back, refuel and rearm, replacing the dead and wounded with reservists as they trickled in to reconstitute the unit. Then the armored unit fought its way back to their original positions.[lxxxi] For the first time, Israeli soldiers refused orders to go into battle.[lxxxii] Nevertheless, the Syrians were prevented from penetrating any appreciable distance (Map 5)[lxxxiii] before Israeli reserve brigades could arrive.[lxxxiv] It was three days of heavy continuous fighting, before reinforcements began arriving in strength.[lxxxv] Replacement Zahal tanks included World War II surplus M-4 Sherman tanks (Figure 9).[lxxxvi]
In the Sinai, the active units pulled back to the line formed by Gidi and Milta Passes and the Lateral Road. Reconnaissance in force was conducted by battalion-sized task forces to find weak spots in the Egyptian lines.[lxxxvii] The Egyptian Sagger anti-tank guided missile teams, with help from the imbedded armor and RPG equipped infantry, severely mauled all the probes. The 162nd division lost 83 of its 183 tanks in these 8 October 1973 counter attacks and Sharon’s division was severely mauled also.[lxxxviii]
On the diplomatic front, Sadat offered the US State Department the same requirements for peace that he had asked for before the war. Israel begged for resupply from the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ignored Egypt and promised the world to Golda Meir. Yet, Kissinger told the Secretary of Defense[lxxxix] to hold off supplying anything. Kissinger was more concerned with not endangering détente with the Soviet Union than meeting Israel’s needs.[xc]
With Kissinger blocking negotiations or support, Meir and her Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, quickly convened the Cabinet and discussed the nuclear option. Dayan truly feared that destruction of the “Third Temple” (the Israeli State) was eminent. At his urging, Meir issued the code word “Temple” and the Israeli Jericho missiles and special weapons capable F-4 “Kurnas”s[xci] were placed on alert with warheads released.[xcii]
This information, leaked purposely to the U.S., turned the tide. President Nixon, swamped with Watergate difficulties, ordered Kissinger to quit stalling and get Israel the supplies needed.[xciii] Nixon also told Kissinger[xciv] to quit worrying about how it might look if the supplies were delivered by USAF aircraft; no Arab state would believe the ammunition and tanks would have come from somewhere other than the United States.[xcv]
On 14 October 1973, “Operation Nickel Grass” (Figure 14) began. Lockheed C-5A Galaxies and C-141 Starlifters began carrying ammunition and M-60 tanks to Israel.[xcvi] Replacement F-4 “Kurnas”s[xcvii] and A-4 “Ayit”s[xcviii] were taken straight from USN and USAF squadrons and flown by the U.S. crews to Sigonella Sicily, where U.S. airmen repainted them in Heyl Ha’avir colors[xcix] and turned them over to Heyl Ha’avir pilots.[c]
With ammunition and M-60 tanks and American M-220 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked Wire-guided) anti-tank missiles[ci] arriving, the nuclear alert forces stood down. As weapons, ammunition, and reinforcements arrived, the fight in the Golan turned around. Israel switched to the offensive.[cii] During this offensive (Map 6), the road to Damascus lay open.[ciii] Zahal artillery units were close enough to shell the outskirts of Damascus.[civ] Israel national hero, LTC Yossi Ben Hanan[cv] (Figure 13) led the offensive but ran into trouble outside Tel Shams.[cvi] He had to be rescued by one CAPT Yonatan Netanyahu, who later led (and died on) the Entebbe rescue.[cvii] This stalled the advance 35 km short of Damascus.[cviii] Now attention turned south to Egypt and the Sinai.[cix]
In the Sinai, the Egyptians were held in place.[cx] As Israeli reinforcements arrived, battalions were formed into brigades and brigades joined into division-sized forces. Each of these divisions[cxi] was commanded by a general recalled from retirement. The center division was given to Ariel Sharon, forced to resign from his political office for this war.[cxii] Sharon was known for grandstanding to get headlines at the expense of his troops and following only orders he liked.[cxiii] To control Sharon, former Zahal Chief of Staff LTG Bar Lev was recalled to duty and placed in Sharon’s headquarters to ensure Sharon followed orders and remained a team player.[cxiv]
As the Israelis advanced toward Damascus, Syrian President Assad begged President Sadat to “continue” his attack and draw away Israeli forces fighting the Syrians.[cxv] General Shazly requested an audience with Sadat. Sadat refused him and, on 14 October 1973, ordered an attack towards Gidi, Milta, and Bir Gifgafato passes by the Egyptian 3rd Army Map 2).[cxvi] Egyptian losses to Israeli armor and new TOW missiles[cxvii] were overshadowed by the losses to Heyl Ha’avir attacks.[cxviii] As Shazly had known, as soon as Egyptians advanced past the coverage of the combined SA-2/ SA-3/ SA-6 net, the Heyl Ha’avir struck viciously. After the loss of approximately 260 tanks destroyed (compared to the ~20 to 30 IDF tanks destroyed),[cxix] the Egyptian thrust toward the Sinai passes fell back.[cxx] Israelis everywhere rejoiced. LTG Elazar reported to PM Meir, “Golda, it will be alright. We are back to ourselves and they [the Egyptians] are back to themselves.”[cxxi]
That night, an Israeli tank battalion found a gap between the Egyptian 2nd and 3rd Armies. Following a devastating battle at “the Chinese Farm,”[cxxii] Zahal forces found a way to the Suez (Map 3). Taking this information back, a larger scale plan was formed. Sharon was placed on the shortest leash ever and the Southern Command waited for the right moment. Sadat wasted little time in providing that moment.[cxxiii]
The day after the discussion in Tel Aviv regarding the possibility of crossing the canal and cutting off Egyptian troops on the East Bank,[cxxiv] Sadat again interfered in Ismail and Shazly’s turf.[cxxv] Sadat ordered the two divisions on the west bank, the 4th and 21st Armored Divisions, defending the bridges, to cross and support the Second and Third Armies, nominally to replace losses inflicted in the attempt to take Bir Garsafa, Gidi and Milta Passes.[cxxvi] By 16 October, both divisions were heavily engaged on Sadat’s orders and unable to withdraw.[cxxvii]
This coincidental order of just what the IDF needed is the topper.[cxxviii] Sadat had opened the door for Gonan to cross the canal with almost all his forces. Israel dug out the secret rolling bridges built years before to cross the canal with and towing them with 18 tanks each, crossed the Suez.[cxxix] Gonan had Sharon’s division open the split in Egyptian lines and hold the crossing, while Adan and Brigadier General Magen[cxxx] crossed and swept south to cut of the Egyptian Third Army (Map 4).[cxxxi]
Both the United States and the Soviet Union witnessed this crossing with their reconnaissance aircraft and satellites. Reacting to this escalation of the fighting, the Soviet ambassador to Egypt presented Sadat with photographs showing Zahal forces deploying on the west bank of the Suez Canal. Even after being presented with Soviet satellite photographs of IDF forces in Egypt, Sadat refused the Soviet offered ceasefire until a joint U.S.-Soviet plan came out.[cxxxii] Elazar (and presumably Dayan and Meir) firmly kept Sharon from trying to drive to Cairo. The Sinai was held by a newly arrived reserve division commanded by Major General Sasson.[cxxxiii]
At this stage, U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger got involved. He brushed off Sadat’s previous request for arbitration and rushed to Moscow. Yielding on almost every turn to Premier Leonid Brezhnev, Kissinger secured a peace “agreement” with none of the warring parties’ consent. As Israel was indebted to the U.S. for aid at this critical time, Meir and Dayan ordered the Southern Command to halt and obey the cease-fire. In the fine print, though, the order also stated that if the Egyptians broke the cease-fire, offensive operations were to resume immediately. Sadat likewise received a copy of the U.S.-USSR ceasefire agreement. Egyptian forces were ordered to comply.
Almost immediately after ordering the cease-fire, Sadat ordered the Egyptian Third Army to attempt to breakout and open up supply lines to Egypt.[cxxxiv] This was just what Sharon, Adan and Magen wanted. The offensive was back on. As Sadat had hoped, in the UN Security Council, Soviet and Arab nations denounced Israeli actions. The “Warmongering” Israelis were again ordered to stop. This time, on 25 October 1973, following severe losses in the urban fighting for the Egyptian town of Suez, the Israelis stopped.
“Gimme three steps, gimme three steps mister…”
Almost immediately, the peace process Sadat had sought began. With some initial mistakes,[cxxxv] Egyptian Major General Gamassy and Israeli Major General Ya’ariv began talking peace. Two experienced warriors, they began talking face to face.[cxxxvi] Their first agreement arrived at was to discuss only what they could reach an agreement on. Issues which they both knew they could not agree upon such as who should have Jerusalem were off the table.[cxxxvii] By quickly focusing only on the issues they could achieve agreement on, these talks progressed quickly.
Unable to receive any credit for a peace reached without his personal involvement, U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger intervened.[cxxxviii] His first demand, supposedly based on the joint U.S.-USSR agreement was for a UN-controlled negotiation. Norwegian, General Silovuo was sent to Km 101. The Egyptian and Israeli generals both agreed that the UN would not control these talks and promptly walked out into the desert with a map and continued the negotiations.[cxxxix] Then Kissinger insisted the UN demand peace talks under UN control. The Km 101 talks were completely shut down by Kissinger and the United Nations on 28 November 1973. But, before this stopped negotiations, the two generals agreed and acted upon terms for the return of Israeli POWs, wounded Egyptians (from the surrounded Third Army), and supply of food and water for the Egyptian Third Army as part of what became known as “The Six Point Agreement.”[cxl]
The Geneva peace talks began after the Israeli election in November 1973. Kissinger’s Geneva talks began in a very stilted fashion.[cxli] Each party had military and civilian negotiators. The talks could only take place under UN auspices. This interference essentially stopped the Egyptian-Israeli peace process. The only agreement reached in the Geneva talks was a disengagement treaty, no different that the one already agreed upon at Km 101. Kissinger had ensured no peace would be reached without his personal touch. After Kissinger left office, the Km 101 talks would resume. True peace between Egypt and Israel stalled until President Carter intervened and again created conditions for direct talks between responsible parties.
Anwar al-Sadat had what he wanted, Egyptian honor restored, a foothold on the Sinai, and an Israel that respected Egypt, while not fearing for its existence.[cxlii] Records of the Camp David talks show Sadat could truly negotiate the return of the Sinai from just a foothold on the eastern shore. Using all the tools of statesmanship, Sadat got the Sinai back without further bloodshed and a true peace with Israel.
“The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.”
Karl von Clausewitz
“The Arabs have learned how to fight, while [the Israeli Defense Force] learned how to lie.”
Joke told around water cooler in AMAN[cxliii]
Anwar al-Sadat set one major goal upon assuming the office of President of Egypt – the securing of the Sinai. With the signing of the Camp David Accords, the Sinai was returned and secured by the peace with Israel. Egypt became the Arab power. The USSR’s hold over Egypt was broken.[cxliv] Egypt’s economy recovered with the reopening of the Suez Canal.
So how much of what occurred during Sadat’s presidency to achieve these ends was calculated statecraft by Sadat? Sadat, ever the politician, never answered this question while alive or in any papers left behind. Yet a logical analysis indicates that too many crucial events occurred when needed to be coincidence.
First, Sadat, before openly planning the war with Israel, stated, “Give me a foot of the Sinai and I can negotiate the rest back.” Then, Sadat selected the one officer in Egypt who thought to plan for less than the annihilation of Israel to head the military. The controversial plan was to take and hold only what could realistically be held. This went against the grain of Arab military thinking. Even the Soviet Union advised taking the entire Sinai by force. Yet Sadat chose and backed this man and his plan. Sadat’s support of this plan is well documented (a point which Sadat later denied).
The key to this plan, as stated before, was to limit Egyptian efforts to only what realistically could be achieved. Gain a victory that could be kept. With this, Egyptian honor would be restored and allow Sadat to seek peace. A strong victory, gained by not over-reaching the Egyptian Army’s grasp, would force Israel to look at Egypt as an equal. Keeping the victory small would prevent Israel from feeling backed into a corner, a place Sadat realized the Israelis would never negotiate from.
To wage this expensive war, Sadat had to have backers, monetarily and militarily. Sadat expelled the Soviet advisors when the USSR hedged against giving Egypt the support necessary; then he detailed in a letter what the USSR must do to return to Egypt (a letter Sadat passed to Israel through Dr. Marwan). In order to get the aid Shazly needed for Operation Badr, Sadat asked the Soviet Union for much more than require for the Egyptian Army. To justify this increase in support, Sadat instructed Shazly to create a fictional plan to show the Soviets, the capture of Gidi and Milta Passes. With this overreaching plan in hand Sadat negotiated and received the equipment, training, and support from the Soviet Union he needed for his real planned operations.
Likewise, Shazly and Sadat needed the support of other Arab states. Militarily, a two front war was needed. This meant Syria must agree to attack. Syria (and the other Arab nations) would never agree to a plan not aimed at the destruction of Israel. Again, Sadat ordered Shazly to prepare false plans to show the Syrians and get them to agree to attack. The false goal this time was the old tried and true “wipe them off the face of the Earth” plan. The first phase would be the true war plan, and the second would be the plan sold to the USSR. The Syrians agreed.
Egypt needed aircraft to counter the IAF and by using the “Syrian” plan received support from other Arab nations. Shazly and Sadat also gained promises of troops and money from the petro-nations. Sadat did whatever was required to gain the support needed to achieve Shazly’s goals. Sadat even made nice with Arab leaders such as Moammar Gaddafi whom he detested in order to obtain financial and military aid.
At home, Sadat removed officers senior to Shazly from power, both securing Shazly’s support and Sadat’s own station. To keep Shazly from gaining too much power, his arch-rival was recalled from a forced retirement to be Minister of Defense.[cxlv]
Sadat created a demand for the action he desired with his inaction during the 1971 “Year of Decision.” The Egyptian masses and politicians now insisted Sadat take the very actions he wanted. With this outcry, Sadat secured the approval needed to prepare for war and begin it.
Several times prior to the 6 October commencement, Sadat clearly stated that attempting to seize the Sinai passes was not part of the Egyptian plan. Several Egyptian generals had argued the point with him and later noted it.
On 13 October, with the prewar goals met, Anwar al-Sadat told the British Ambassador a cease-fire was not possible until the “tasks in the plan” had been accomplished. Two days late, Sadat rebuffed Kosygin’s offer of a cease-fire, again stating the plans had not been completed. Yet, on paper, Sadat had no operational plans beyond crossing the Suez Canal and holding 10 to 15 km of ground.[cxlvi]
Sadat knew without Egyptian success, Egyptians would not allow negotiations with Israel to begin. Sadat also understood, Israel would not negotiate from a position of weakness or while backed to a wall. To get the Egyptian victory, the plan called for crossing the canal and holding ground. The Egyptian Army did that. To restore Egypt’s faith in its army, the Egyptians not only held but bloodied the IDF several times.[cxlvii]
Yet Golda Meir could not negotiate from such a position. Even Israeli doves would object. Anwar Sadat had to give Israel a way to gain something also. Sadat had already shown he did not really care how bad the fighting was in Syria by his inaction from 7 October to 13 October. So what could he give Israel to bring them to the negotiations? An Israeli victory of some degree was necessary.
By waiting until Syrian President Assad begged for further Egyptian offensive action, Sadat had a scapegoat. Sadat sent forth Egyptian brigades toward the Sinai passes.[cxlviii] Yet, most of the Third Army forces were held back. This allowed the IDF Southern command to redeploy forces to outnumber the attackers. The SA-6 mobile SAMs were not sent forward, leaving the IAF an opening to save face.
With the losses from this attack not in the Egyptian operational plans, both the Second and Third Armies needed replacements. Sadat chose the two divisions guarding the western bank of the Suez. USAF SR-71 flights were already known to be operating and it was no secret that U.S. intelligence was assisting Israel. Sadat’s moving those units without waiting to bring up replacements from elsewhere in Egypt would be known by Israel before the moves had been completed. Sadat had to have already known of the reconnaissance in force conducted by one of Sharon’s brigades that reached the shore of the Bitter Lake. By moving the two divisions across the canal, Sadat opened the door for Israeli troops to cross safely.
As so many other incidents showed, Anwar al-Sadat was no one’s fool. Yet he directly created the situation that allowed Israel to cross the Suez canal. Without something like this, Israel would not have agreed to a ceasefire or to further negotiations.[cxlix]
So from this analysis, the conclusion that Sadat purposely gave the IDF a chance to regain pride and give the Israeli government a sense of equality is not a big leap. Anwar al-Sadat started a war he could win, and deviated from the plan to give his enemy a victory. Sadat went to war to gain peace and waged war in such a way as to allow both sides to claim a victory. From this, negotiations as equals could begin.
Map 1 (above left) Egyptian attacks on Sinai on 6 October 1973.
Map 2 (above right) Sinai attacks and counterattacks of 14-15 October 1973.
Figure 1 (left) Egyptian pontoon bridge across Suez.
Map 3 (above left) Israeli counter attacks in the Sinai (15 – 17 October 1973)
Map 4 (above right) Israeli counter attack and Suez Crossing (18 – 23 October 1973)
Figure 2 Israeli Megach 5 tank racing across the Sinai
Figure 3 IDF M-51 Isherman in Sinai
Figure 4 (above) Egyptian Sagger Anti-Tank Guided Missile Positions in Sinai
Figure 5 (right) Egyptian MiG-21 shoot-down captured in IAF gun camera film
Figure 6 Barak Brigade Memorial (above left).
Figures 7 and 8 Barak Brigade Centurions (top right and below).
Map 5 Syrian (Iraqi and Jordanian armored forces included) (red) attacks in Golan Heights with Barak and Golani Brigade counter thrusts (blue).
Map 6 Israeli surge into Syria with final lines (blue) and Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi counter thrusts (red).
Figure 9 M-51 Ishermans in Golan. (above left)
Figure 10 M-3 half-tracks in Golan. (above right)
Figure 11 Syrian-Israeli tank battle in Golan Heights
Figure 13 Israeli LTCOL (then LT) Yossi Ben Hanan "bathing" in the Suez Canal upon reaching it during the 1967 Six Day War. This cover of Life magazine was reprinted as an extremely popular poster throughout Israeli in the following years. From this fame, Yossi Ben Hanan became a national hero and heart throb. Howard Blum's Eve of Destruction: the Untold Story of the Yom Kippur War goes to show, "Yossi's" September 1973 wedding was a national event. Yossi and his wife were honeymooning in Katmandu when the October 1973 war began.
Figure 14 "Operation Nickel Grass" underway. M-60A tank unloads from USAF C-5 Galaxy at Ben Gurion International Airport.
Figure 16 Dassault Mirage IIIC “Shahak”
Figure 17 Douglas A-4 “Ayit” (Eagle) Skyhawk
Figure 18 Egyptian MiG 17s
Figure 19 Egyptian MiG-21
Figure 20 (left) Tiran 5 (Captured T-55 in Israeli service)
 All maps from Edward J. Krasnoborski, and Frank Martini. Atlas for the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War, (Wayne, NJ: Avery Publishing Group, Inc., 1986).
[i] The historiography of this recent event illustrates that no matter how well observed, not everything will be made known about events recorded into history. The majority of material published on the 1973 Arab-Israeli War came out immediately following the cessation (from late 1973 through about 1976). Much of this work is based on newspaper records or personal accounts. Later works from 1977 through the 1980s focused more on reflections and lessons that could be learned. Around that time, using previously classified records in Israel, Matti Golan (in Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger, a book much delayed by censors) wrote on the inside story of the Israeli Cabinet, Knesset, and the peace process. Not until Ambassador Shazly’s exile did the Egyptian secrets begin to be revealed (in his 1980 rebuttal to Sadat’s rewrite of the 1973 war: Crossing the Suez). This “new” war was shown to be completely different from the one on record. The most recent declassifications in Israel and Egypt led to Howard Blum’s 2003 Eve of Destruction (currently the definitive work on the 1973 Arab-Israeli War).
Yet much is not known of Anwar al-Sadat’s thought processes and motives. Sadat’s autobiographies record what he wanted recorded. Being the master statesman he is acknowledged to be, the likelihood of one of these works letting out secrets Sadat thought should stay hidden is highly unlikely. Anwar al-Sadat took his secrets to his grave. While more intelligence records may surface in the future, it is doubtful that any really new revelations are left that can be disclosed. Sadat, Meir, Dayan, and many other key players are now dead. What they did not permit to be recorded is now lost to the historian.
The best works overall are found in the National Defense University collection. These works are from the U.S. military’s War Colleges and the Command and General Staff College students. Many experienced warriors and diplomats who otherwise would never get a voice here record insightful interpretations of events from many differing perspectives. Authors from many walks of life and nations bring their own unique thoughts and views to bear on the varied issues of this war. Authors include low-level ambassadorial staff, USMC grunts, USAF pilots, military doctors, National Guardsmen (including a Georgia National Guard Military Policeman/civilian veterinarian friend from high school), Israeli’s, Egyptians, and even the occasional paper from the faculty of these institutions.
[ii] The 1906 Dinshawai Incident, 12 years before Sadat’s birth.
[iii] Edgar O’Balance, No Victor, No Vanquished: the Yom Kippur War (San Rafael CA:
Presidio Press, 1978), 3.
[iv] Saad Shazly, Crossing of the Suez (San Francisco: American Middle East Research, 1980), 92.
[v] O’Balance, xi.
[vi] George W. Gawrych, The Albatross of Decisive Victory: War and Policy Between Egypt and Israel in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars (London: Greenwood Press, 2000), 129.
[vii] Howard Blum, Eve of Destruction: the Untold Story of the Yom Kippur War (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), 46. O’Balance, 4.
[viii] National Security Advisor and soon to be Secretary of State.
[ix] Anwar al-Sadat, In Search of an Identity (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 120. O’Balance, 18.
[x] Dr. George W. Gawrych of the United States CGSC, Fort Leavenworth KS, in his 1996 paper, “The 1973 Arab-Israeli War: The Albatross of Decisive Victory,” contends Sadat knew that a non-military victory along the lines of the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army 1968 Tet Offensive would be enough.
[xi] Gawrych, 155.
[xiii] Sadat, In Search of an Identity, 244.
[xiv] This letter spelled out to the Soviet Union the requirements for training and equipment Sadat and his advisors wanted for the Egyptian military in order to take on the Israeli Defense Forces and eradicate the nation of Israel. In this, Sadat never said he wished to wipe out Israel.
[xv] The term “The Concept” (ha-concepzia in Hebrew) actually came after the war from the Agranat Commission. Ephraim Kahana, “Early Warning versus the Concept: the Case of the Yom Kippur
War,” Intelligence and National Security 17, No. 2 (Summer 2002): 82.
[xvi] Thus, if Egypt did not have the terms of “The Concept” met, it could not attack, faulty logic as Sadat soon would prove. Blum, 36-37.
[xvii] Gawrych gives the prewar IAF strength as 150 A-4s, 140 F-4s, 50 Mirages, and 27 Mystere IVA (432 total combat aircraft) with the EAF strength at 200 MiG 17s, 60 MiG 19s, 161 MiG 21s, and 130 Su 7s (550 total combat aircraft), 140.
[xviii] In the 1967-1970 “War of Attrition” Soviet supplies aircraft came with Soviet pilots. 30 July 1970 saw a direct Soviet-Israeli Air Force dogfight. Gawrych gives the results as 4 Soviets shot down while Buckwalter gives the number at 5. Both agree that no IAF planes were lost. David T. Buckwalter, “The 1973 Arab-Israeli War,” Air War College, Air University 19, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc (accessed September 15, 2005). Gawrych, 8-9and Shazly, 13, 21, 84.
[xix] Shazly, 124.
[xx] Gawrych gives the average flight time per year for IAF crews at 200 hours while the Egyptians averaged less than 70 flight hours each year. Minimum proficiency requirements in the USAF and USN are 8 hours per month for pilots for a yearly minimum of 86 hours stick time. Tactical aviation (the small combat aircraft) pilots averaging 200 hours per year with much of it logged as combat time are extremely well trained. Shazly, 126.
[xxi] By the 1973 October War, the IDF had converted almost every brigade to armor, leaving a mere handful of infantry brigades with World War II surplus M-3 half-tracks and captured BTR-152 personnel carriers, a handful (300 for all the foot soldiers – 20 brigades) of U.S. supplied M-113 Bardehlas APCs, but primarily resorting to using trucks, school busses, and even taxi cabs during the recall of reservists. When Israelis faced the Egyptians in the Sinai, this lack of infantry and infantry support vehicle would prove to be very costly. Gawrych, 141.
[xxii] Wesselman contends the USSR supplied only T-62s not T-72. full citation needed
[xxiii] Most sources agree that 340 Shermans fought in the 1973 October War along side 1000 Centurions (with losses ~200 tanks), ~155 Tirans (10 destroyed) and 540 Magach M-48/M-60 tanks (200+ destroyed). No Shermans were listed as lost or destroyed. “Israeli Main Battle Tanks 1948-1982,” http://www.israeli-weapons.com/vehicles_1948.html (accessed 1 Dec 2005).
[xxiv] Also known as TI-67 for Tank, Israeli captured in 1967.
[xxv] Gawrych lists the IDF armored strength at 1000 Centurions, 450 M-48, 150 M-60, 300 M-4, and 150 TI-67s, 141. Also noted in “Israeli History: Yom Kippur War.” http://www.israeli-weapons.com/history/yom_kippur_war/YomKippurWar.html (accessed December 1, 2005).
[xxvi] Shazly gives the total number of men in the Egyptian Army at 800,000+ and in the Egyptian military at 1 million +. 22.
[xxvii] The IDF as a whole totaled 315,000 men and women. Gawrych lists 1973 IDF strength at 16 armored brigades, 9 infantry brigades, 6 mechanized brigades, 5 paratroop brigades, and 3 artillery brigades. 141.
[xxviii] Shazly, 100-106.
[xxix] The ZSU-23-4 proved to serious threat to close air support, when covered by SAMs.
[xxx] Buckwalter, 120.
[xxxi] Shazly, 162.
[xxxii] Shazly, 170.
[xxxiii] Shazly, 161.
[xxxiv] This letter “leaked” to Israel by Nasser’s son-in-law became the basis for AMAN creating “The Concept” as a definitive rubric for judging Egypt’s preparedness for war.
[xxxv] Shazly and Ismail first clashed in the Congolese Civil War. Ismail headed the Egyptian forces backing Lumumba (the loser) and Shazly commanded the Egyptian contingent of the UN Peacekeeping force. The clash in the Congo grew to the point that Shazly clocked Ismail. Following the 1967 Six Day War, with Shazly forced to retreat by an inept Chief of Staff Ismail, things got even worse. Shazly, 184; Blum, 57-58; Shazly, 187.
[xxxvi] Shazly completed much of his training in the U.S., including Ranger training and Airborne School.
[xxxvii] In the 1967 Six Day War, Shazly, upon successfully bringing his division back across the Suez, went immediately to Egyptian High Command and punched out Ismail for losing the Sinai.
[xxxviii] Shazly brought Operation Badr. Sadat made claims in his autobiographies to have previously developed the same plan as Operation Spark (Sharara) but never presented evidence or any one he had told this plan to. O’Balance, 15.
[xxxix] Blum, 42-45.
[xl] Later critics claimed Shazly failed to plan for further advances. (Shazly, 244.) This is patently false. Shazly planned to go only 5 miles and stop. Once in a defensive position, infantry with limited Egyptian armor and the new man-portable anti-tank missiles would defeat any Israeli armored attack. An Israeli infantry attack would be prohibitively costly. IAF superiority was nullified by the SAM curtain. Shazly was adamant in this part of his plan. Sadat had this spelled out for him more than a dozen times, so, coupled with his professional military training, Sadat’s understanding of this cannot be questioned. Likewise, Sadat spelled it out specifically to his generals on 5 October so there would be no misunderstandings. Gawrych, 147 and Shazly, 25-27.
[xli] Shazly brought Operation Badr. Sadat made claims in his autobiographies to have previously developed the same plan as Operation Spark (Sharara) but never presented evidence or any one he had told this plan to. O’Balance, 15.
[xlii] Blum, 54-59.
[xliii] For instance, Egyptian engineering units assigned to bridge the Suez Canal trained men to back up the truck with bridging equipment, others to unload it, still others to just move the pontoons in the water and still others to connect them, manpower inefficient by Western standards, but very effective for the paradigm of the Egyptian army in 1973. Blum, 85-91.
[xliv] Blum, 51and Shazly, 27-30.
[xlv] Shazly, 113.
[xlvi] Shazly, 29.
[xlvii] Shazly, 112.
[xlviii] Sadat even convinced sometimes foe COL Moammar Gaddafi to give $1 billion to Soviet weaponry for Egypt. McAntee, 4 and Shazly, 89.
[xlix] Sadat disliked Assad and had no qualms at using Syria to get what Sadat wanted. Anwar al-Sadat, Those I Have Known, (New York: Continuum, 1984), 116.
[l] This time named Operation Granite. Shazly, 36.
[li] Blum, 52.
[lii] Shazly, 8.
[liii] Gawrych, 16.
[liv] Gawrych, 19.
[lv] Shazly, 55.
[lvi] It worked quite well as IAF pilots reported destroying seven bridges on the second day of combat, but the majority of these seven were dummy bridges, and not all of these seven were in fact destroyed. Blum, 86-90.
[lvii] O’Balance, 4 and Blum, 57.
[lviii] Shazly, 75.
[lix] O’Balance, 44.
[lx] Shazly topped it off with issuing (loosely translated) General Order 41 as his final instruction manual in a series for Egyptian soldiers. Directive 41 was a detailed order specifically detailing the load for each soldier and unit. Operation 41 was the name for the false plan trotted out to show the Soviets and other Arab nations questioning Egypt’s sincerity in attacking Israel. See a trend here? (Could he bet on number 41 at roulette?) O’Balance, 4; Blum, 57; Shazly, 45; Buckwalter, 122.
[lxi] Shazly, 25.
[lxii] The National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) noted the presence of four MiG-25 reconnaissance aircraft at Luxor. Dino A. Brugioni, 6. Need full citation here.
[lxiii] Blum, 36-38.
[lxiv] The estimated May 1973 mobilization cost between $11 million (Buckwalter) and $18 million. Gawrych, p#? and Buckwalter, 121.
[lxv] This refusal to see went from the mid-level unit commanders in AMAN all the way up to Golda Meir and her cabinet. Lower level analysts built very convincing accurate Orders of Battle for Syria, Egypt and Jordan, but such reports were stopped and careers were broken over this. One who loudly refused to pass on new intelligence estimates literally dropped to the floor in a seizure when told of Egypt and Syria’s attacks. Blum, 153. The commanders who made the faulty decisions later placed blame on their superiors. One lieutenant punished prior to the war received a promotion when the Agranat Commission found his reports. Chiam Herzog, War of Atonement (London: Greenhill, 2003), 47. Blum, 326.
[lxvi] As late as 4 October, intelligence showing Egypt deploying 1100 artillery pieces was discounted. By 3 October, Early Warning (EW) indicators from photo reconnaissance and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) indicated Syria could not go to any higher state of readiness. Again faith in “The Concept” overrode reality. Bar Joseph, 19 Need full citation. Blum, 38, 84, 106.
[lxvii] King Hussein flew himself by helicopter to Jerusalem to meet with and warn Meir. The meeting was recorded and Meir consulted with Dayan and other advisors before politely dismissing Hussein and his report.
[lxviii] Ephraim Kahana, “Early Warning versus the Concept: the Case of the Yom Kippur
War,” Intelligence and National Security 17, No. 2 (Summer 2002): 88. Uri Bar Joseph, “Israel’s 1973 Intelligence Failure,” Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, P.R. Kumaraswamy, ed. (London: Frank Cass, 2002), 19.
[lxix] Buckwalter, 121.
[lxx] The original plan was to attack at sunset to allow crossing and bridge building to remain hidden in the dark. Syria demanded the attack begin at 2 pm so their armored forces had enough light to begin combat operations. Shazly and Sadat agreed.
[lxxi] Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, and the heads of the Mossad, and AMAN.
[lxxii] Dayan held off calling up reserves the morning of 6 October, 1973, because of the upcoming elections. Cohen, 75. He delayed from 0430 when he was notified of the word from London to 0930. Cohen, 91 and Blum, 140, 145.
[lxxiii] Blum, 157.
[lxxiv] Peter Allen, The Yom Kippur War (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1982), 116-158.
[lxxv] Egyptian losses for the crossing were around 200. Expected losses were 10,000 according to Buckwalter. 126. Gawrych places the expected Egyptian losses at 17,000. 10.
[lxxvi] 252nd division lost 180 tanks, 2/3rd of its tanks. Buckwalter, 126.
[lxxvii] Gawrych gives the total casualties (killed, wounded, and captured) at 1100. 38, 176-177.
[lxxviii] The rest of the Barak Brigade (1 battalion was already in place) began reinforcing the Golani Brigade on 25 September 73. It appears those not in on “The Concept” saw the build up for what it was. Avigdor Kahalani, The Heights of Courage: a Tank Leader’s War on the Golan (London: Greenwood Press, 1984). 3. Blum, 168.
[lxxix] Kahalani, 42 –124 and Allen, 54-98.
[lxxx] The Barak Brigade lost 75 of its initial 90 tanks. Gawrych, 39.
[lxxxi] Buckwalter, 126.
[lxxxii] Blum, 208 and Kalahana, 173.
[lxxxiii] Syria’s maximum penetration was 8 miles into Israel. Robert S. Bolia, “Overreliance on Technology in Warfare: The Yom Kippur War as a Case Study,” Parameters US Army War College, Summer 2004, 46-56.
[lxxxiv] Israeli and Arab losses could not be easily determined as both sides were equipped with British made Centurions and Soviet built T-50/55s. Brugioni, 9.
[lxxxv] Blum, 180-184, 190-191, 193-195, 220-223.
[lxxxvi] While Zahal Shermans had been reequipped with modern guns, they still had the inadequate armor from the factories in America.
[lxxxvii] Blum, 254.
[lxxxviii] Buckwalter, 127.
[lxxxix] Kissinger claimed Secretary of Defense Schlesinger was the hold up when talking to Israelis and their supporters. Golan, 59.
[xc] Kissinger was upset with Meir and Israel for openly supporting the Jews trying to leave the USSR for interfering with his negotiations. The record reveal the Soviet Politburo cared less about Meir’s efforts. Matti Golan, The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger: Step by Step Diplomacy in the Middle East (New York: Quadrangle 1978), 50-56. Gawrych, 179.
[xci] With the losses the IAF suffered to the Soviet supplies SA-3, SA-3, and SA-6 batteries, these aircraft were desperately needed in combat, not sitting on a ramp waiting with their crews held back.
[xcii] Later reconnaissance by an USAF SR-71 showed the Soviet SCUD battalions in Egypt had vehicles added that were known to only be deployed with nuclear capable SCUD units. Brugioni, 11. Apparently, Israel’s secrets were known in Arab capitals. The same timeframe as the “Temple” alert saw Syrian armored units replaced with Iraqi units moved up from the Jordanian front. While Syria had lost many tanks, they still outnumbered the Zahal armor by more than 3:1. Makes you go “Hmmm.” Boyne, 60.
[xciii] Golan, 61.
[xciv] Well know for his blunt language, Nixon used very undiplomatic language in this conversation with Kissinger.
[xcv] Boyne, 119.
[xcvi] Along with the 22,395 tons of ammunition and “consumables”, the C-5s brought 19 M-60A1 tanks, 63 M-48 Chaparral Missile Systems, 64 CH-53 helicopters, and 19 A-4 fuselages and empennage assemblies. El Al carried an additional 55,00 tons. Boyne, 279.
[xcvii] 48 replacement Phantoms. Boyne, 158.
[xcviii] 54 A-4s had been lost in the Golan alone. Boyne, 158.
[xcix] Conversation with ADC Dave Brown September 1987, one of the airmen repairing and repainting the A-4 Skyhawks.
[c] Rumors throughout the US Navy and USAF claimed not all replacement aircraft flew with Israeli pilots. It is purported that several of the F-4s fought with American aircrews.
[ci] Israeli troops were quickly hustled to Fort Benning for a crash course on TOW missile operation.
[cii] Israel destroyed ~1400 enemy tanks in the Golan. Bolia, 48; Kahalani, 135-181; Allen, 99-115.
[ciii] Blum, 266.
[civ] Using US supplied M-107 175mm high velocity guns, the Israelis had the roughly 30-mile range but this gun lacked the accuracy at extreme range to seriously shell Syrian positions. The shelling was quickly stopped after showing the Syrians it could be done. Syrian control of the news reported this shelling as result of Syrian anti-aircraft fire, not Israeli.
[cv] His image graced a cover of Life magazine following the 1967 Six Day War. Yossi was shown in the Suez Canal following the capture of the Sinai. In Israel, this picture was sold as a poster for years following. Yossi’s future wife was one of the thousands of girls who fell in love with the man in the picture. They were on their honeymoon in Nepal when the Yom Kippur War broke out. Blum, p#?.
[cvi] Blum, 270-273.
[cvii] Blum, 284-291.
[cviii] Robert S. Bolia, “An Overreliance on Technology in Warfare: The Yom Kippur War as a Case Study,” Parameters, US Army War College, Summer 2004, 48.
[cix] Blum, 155-230.
[cx] Pretty easy to do considering the Egyptians had no intention of going further.
[cxi] Mandler’s 252nd already on duty in the Sinai joined with the reserve 162nd (Adan commanding) and 143rd (Sharon) to fill out Gonan’s Southern Command.
[cxii] Israeli law prohibits any active military member from holding office. Therefore all recalled reservists in any political office had to resign when recalled. Blum, 201.
[cxiii] As illustrated by his attacks on 8 October when ordered to hold his position. Buckwalter, 127 and Blum, 280-304.
[cxiv] This was the final straw for Gonan. As Sharon had been commander of the Southern Command three months previously and now former Chief of Staff Bar Lev was ordered south, Gonan lost all effectiveness as a commander. Blum, 254-259.
[cxv] Ismail and Shazly strongly opposed this deviation from plans. Buckwalter, 127.
[cxvi] Gawrych notes before the war Sadat Ismail and Shazly agreed the attack toward the pass was too risky and argued with other Egyptian generals against this attack. 22. Sadat’s recollections in his autobiography disagree. 289; Boyne, 120; Blum, 276.
[cxvii] With crew fresh from emergency training at Fort Benning, GA.
[cxviii] Brugioni counted ~1600 tanks involved in this battle (800+ Egyptian). Israel fielded everything from M-4 Shermans, M-48 Pattons, to new French AMX and British Centurions. 9.
[cxix] Gawrych, 209.
[cxx] Kissinger requested a count of the losses. Israel lost 400 tanks in the Sinai, and Egypt losses for 14 October alone were 264 tanks. Brugioni, 9. These Egyptian losses on 14 October were 10 more than all the losses from 6 to 13 October. Boyne, 131. Shazly notes that Egyptian tank losses from 6 Oct to 13 Oct were 240, while IDF losses for the same period were 610. After reinforcements, midnight 13 Oct found the forces in the Sinai with ~900 IDF tanks facing 780 Egyptian tanks. Good enough numbers for defense on the Egyptians part, but not for offense. 244-245.
[cxxi] Gawrych, 57.
[cxxii] “The Chinese Farm” was so named by IDF soldiers because of the farm equipment found there in 1967 being marked in ideographs. The fact that this equipment later proved to be from Japan never led anyone to change the name. Blum, 256.
[cxxiii] Blum, 304-311.
[cxxiv] A plan to cross was approved but not put into action. This was due to the presence of Egyptian armored divisions on the west side of the canal protecting the bridges.
[cxxv] Blum, 315.
[cxxvi] Blum, 292-298.
[cxxvii] Shazly, 256.
[cxxviii] This information was provided to the IDF by a USAF SR-71 fly over on 13 October. Shazly cites the radar operator as telling him the radar indicated the aircraft was going Mach 3+ and at an altitude of 20+ miles. 252.
[cxxix] Boyne, 133.
[cxxx] Major General Mandler was killed by and artillery shell in the 14 October fighting.
[cxxxi] This information from Soviet satellites was given to Sadat by Kosygin.
[cxxxii] This forced the USSR to drop its demand that Israel withdraw to the pre-1956 borders. Galia Golan, “The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War,” Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, P.R. Kumaraswamy, ed. (London: Frank Cass, 2002),136-138.
[cxxxiii] Gawrych, 60.
[cxxxiv] Sadat ordered three R-17E rockets launched at IDF forces at Deversoir. He openly proclaimed they were Egyptian built Al Kahir rockets. The Egyptian Army had neither home built rockets or technicians capable of launching them. Soviet “advisors” launched these SCUD missiles for Egypt. Shazly, 268.
[cxxxv] The IDF engineers set up the tents for the peace talks at km post 101 while the Egyptian engineers set up at km post 105. The next day direct talks began at km post 101. Golan, 94.
[cxxxvi] As they each respected the other in war, so they respected each other in person. This mutual respect led to a trust in each other and eventually to a true friendship. Yet they died before conditions ever allowed them to meet again after the Km 101 talks.
[cxxxvii] Golan, 95.
[cxxxviii] Golan, 120.
[cxxxix] Golan, 117.
[cxl] Hassan al-Badri, Taha el-Magdoub, and Mohammed dia el-Din Zohdy, The Ramadan War, 1973 (Dunn Loring, VA: T.N. Dupuy Associates, 1974), 180. Golan, 118.
[cxli] Where as the Km 101 talks had progressed quickly, the UN Geneva talks took till 18 January 1974 to make a disengagement agreement between Egypt and Israel. It took Syria till May 1974 to agree to disengage. Gawrych, 76 and Golan, 211, 123.
[cxlii] Gawrych, 80.
[cxliii] Blum, 235.
[cxliv] Gawrych, 13.
[cxlv] Punching out Ismail following the Congo had gained Shazly his time in purgatory where he dreamed up his plan. Ismail was sacked due to the loss of the Sinai.
[cxlvi] McAntee, 7-9.
[cxlvii] Gawrych, 80.
[cxlviii] LTG Shazly disputes Anwar al-Sadat’s later justifications for the 14 Oct attack. “I have no idea why that attack was mounted. It was, of course, President Sadat’s decision. He has since claimed he did it to relieve Israeli pressure on the Syrian front. That has to be nonsense.” Shazly goes on to give three reasons this was patently false. 1) Egypt could only cause the IDF to shift brigades from the Golan by posing a serious threat. Sadat and the IDF was well aware of the forces in the Sinai on 13 Oct: Egypt – 780 tanks; IDF ~900 tanks in 8 armored brigades. 2) The Syrian/Golan front had stabilized by 12 October without Egyptian assistance. Two Iraqi divisions, one armored and one mechanized, had joined the front line fighting on 11 Oct and a Jordanian armored brigade was on the way. 3) The 4th and 21st Armored Divisions (Egyptian) were not withdrawn once it was obvious that the attack had failed and Egypt could not bring more IDF brigades south. Shazly, 250ff.
[cxlix] Gawrych, 80.