Operational Valiant: Turning Of The Tide In The Sinai 1973 Arab-Israeli War CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA History ABSTRACT Author: Owen, Richard L., Major, USMC Title: Operation Valiant: Turning of the Tide in the Sinai, 1973 Arab-Israeli War Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College Date: 1 April 1984 On the 15th of October, only eight days after being stunned by a highly successful Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal, the Israeli army began an attack which would carry it over the Canal, threaten Cairo, and encircle half of the Egyptian army. This offensive was code named Operation Valiant, and it is the subject of this paper. The Israeli army was only marginally prepared for such an attack. Bridging equipment was obsolete and the logistics system was inadequate. The detailed planning and centralized command and control needed for a water crossing operation were alien to Israeli leaders whose philosophy emphasized initiative and individual action. For the first three days, the outcome was in doubt. The inability of the Israelis to conduct combined arms operations and coordinate their forces was balanced by grave tactical errors on the part of the Egyptians. When the Israeli divisions finally broke through the Canal defenses, however, the result was decisive. Able to return to mobile armored warfare, the Israeli tanks rapidly pushed south, cutting off the 3d Egyptian Army and forcing Egypt to call for a cease-fire. This paper concentrates on the planning, preparation for, and execution of the Canal crossing. The principal findings are that: -The Israeli army was hamstrung by the pre-1973 organization, doctrine, and tactics which had evolved from the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, and which were based on an unfounded assumption of Egyptian ineptitude. -The Israeli concentration on mobile armored warfare to the exclusion of all else had greatly reduced their ability to conduct operations which required detailed planning and centralized control. The battle was nearly lost as a result of internal bickering and poor coordination of forces. -Israeli domestic politics often interfered with the conduct of the war. -The tendency of the Israeli leaders to lead from the ABSTACT front was a major factor in their success. -Ultimately, it was the Israeli offensive spirit and determination which gave them victory WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR Operational Valiant: Turning of the Tide in the Sinai 1973 Arab-Israeli War Major Richard L. Owen 2 April 1984 Marine Corps Command and Staff College Marine Corps Development and Education Command Quantico, Virginia 22134 Table of Contents Page List of Figures iii Preface iv 1. Introduction 1 2. Background Historical Setting 2 Egyptian Military Preparations 5 Israeli Military Preparations 8 Egyptian Organization 10 Israeli Organization 12 3. Prelude to Operation Valiant The Egyptian Attack: 6-7 October 16 The First Israeli Counterattack: 8 October 20 Stalemate: 9-13 October 26 The Egyptian Attack on the Passes: 14 October 29 4. Planning and Preparation Pre-War Planning and Preparation 33 Planning and Preparation During the War 37 The Egyptians and the Terrain 39 The Plan 42 5. Operation Valiant Attack and First Crossing: 15-16 October 46 Opening the Corridor: 16-17 October 50 Breakout: October 18-19 68 Encirclement of the 3d Army: 19-25 October 76 6. Analysis Pre-War Planning and Preparation 81 Planning and Preparation During the War 85 Tactics 87 Command and Control 91 7. Conclusions 95 Bibliography 99 FIGURES Figure Page 1. Egyptian Division Organization 11 2. Initial Dispositions 14 3. Egyptian Plan, 6 October 15 4. Initial Israeli Counterattacks 18 5. Egyptian Attack Plan, 14 October 31 6. Operation Valiant Terrain Map 41 7. Operation Valiant Plan 43 8. Sharon's Division Plan 44 9. Sharon's Attack and Crossing, 15 October 47 10. Battle for the Corridor, 17 October 59 11. Breakout, 18-24 October 69 PREFACE Even though a decade has passed since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, it is recent history for the Arab and Israeli states. Much of the information concerning this conflict is still classified. That which has been written for public consumption usually leans significantly toward one side or the other. Contradictions abound, and no one source provides a complete picture. Where there were conflicts, I have tried to present that side of the story which, in my opinion, was most consistent with the overall military situation, while noting the opposing view. Since this is the tale of an Israeli operation, the Egyptians unavoidably appear as the enemy. In my readings, however, I came to have a great deal of respect for both sides. Indeed, I suspect that the Marine Corps, because of its structure and likely opponents, has at least as much to learn from the Egyptians as from the Israelis. I would like to thank Lieutenant Colonel Tim Kline, USAF, Major Ed Robeson, USMC, and Major Jerry Kelly, USMC, for their critical readings and suggestions, which much improved this paper. Any errors or ill-founded conclusions, however, remain solely my responsibility. CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION On the 6th of October 1973, armies of Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. The Egyptians mounted a highly effective crossing of the Suez Canal, quickly pushed through the Bar-Lev defensive line, and established control of the canal's west bank. Israeli counter-attacks were disastrous. Entire battalions were destroyed, and the vaunted Israeli Air Force was forced from the sky. By 14 October, the Egyptians were prepared to capitalize on a two-to-one force advantage to seize the key mountain passes which controlled the Sinai Peninsula. Ten days later, however, it was the Egyptians who were near defeat. The Third Egyptian Army was surrounded. Israeli tanks had crossed the Canal and were roaming through Egypt. The Israeli Air Force once again in commanded the skies. The purpose of this paper is to examine the events which produced such a dramatic change of fortune. The focus is on the canal counter-crossing operation which occurred from 15 - 18 October. During this period, the Israelis threw three divisions over the Suez Canal under the noses of two Egyptian armies. They succeeded in this daring attack despite being handicapped by antiquated equipment and the violation of nearly every doctrinal principle for such crossings. Given the circumstances under which this attack was planned and executed, it was appropriately named: Operation Valiant. CHAPTER II BACKGROUND Historical Setting. The actions of the leaders during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War are difficult to understand outside of the historical context. The recurring wars fought by the Israelis and various combinations of Arab states since 1948 flavored the decision making on both sides. Even before the formation of Israel in 1948, Arab inhabitants of Palestine and the neighboring states had warred with Jewish settlers. The professed Arab objectives in these battles were unstintingly the destruction of the state of Israel and the complete election of the Jews. The Israelis, consequently, had the strongest possible motivation in each war: survival. The Israelis had two inherent disadvantages. First, they were greatly outnumbered by the Arabs. Second, Israel was small. Lacking in defensible terrain, battles fought on Israeli soil are unacceptably dangerous and destructive. Because of these limitations, the Israelis developed a strategy of carrying the war to the Arab nations as quickly as possible. Successes in 1956 and 1967 reinforced this philosophy. By 1973, it had become an unquestioned principle of Israeli military planners. Despite a huge Arab superiority in numbers, Israel had come away the victor in these early wars. In 1948, the Israelis pushed back the Arab armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and other independent groups to establish borders beyond those lines which had been mandated by the United Nations. In 1956, only the intercession of the United States and Russia prevented the Israelis (supported by France and Great Britain) from gaining control of the Suez Canal. The 1967 "Six Day War" was their most complete victory. In the north, east, and south, the Israelis occupied highly defensible territory which greatly increased the size of the nation. The armies of Syria and Egypt were routed, and the Arab air forces were destroyed. Although an objective evaluation of these battles suggests that Arab leadership was principally at fault, the Israeli military came to believe in their inherent superiority over the Arabs. To a certain extent, the Arabs agreed with this assessment. The Egyptians, when analyzing the 1967 war, recognized that the Israelis had, and for the forseeable future would maintain, superiority in air forces and in mobile armor skills. If these advantages could be nullified, however, the Arabs felt that they could win, given strong leadership. Both sides recognized that their fate was not entirely in their own hands. Because of the international dangers of an unlimited middle east war, every war between the Arabs and the Israelis had ended with a cease-fire either arranged or imposed by the super powers. As a result, military objectives tended to be limited and were closely tied to political objectives. Especially in Israel, the politicization of the military extended beyond war objectives. With national survival directly connected to the effectiveness of the armed forces, top ranks of the military were often springboards to political careers. On the Arab side, Nasser, Sadat, and Assad had each begun their careers as military officers, and political loyalty was often at least as important as military ability in determining an officer's success. At the end of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel had gained complete control of the Sinai penisula, had ejected Jordanian forces from the west bank, and had secured the length of the Suez Canal. These successes removed much of the Israeli impetus for bargaining with the Arab states. Bounded by the Suez Canal on the south, the Golan Heights on the north, and the Jordan River on the east, Israel finally had fully defensible borders. Neither Israel nor the Arabs would agree to the other's starting conditions for negotiations. The situation settled into stalemate punctuated only by minor military engagements. For Anwar Sadat, this was unacceptable. Egypt had been humiliated by the performance of her armed forces. Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula. The Suez Canal, which had been a major revenue source for Egypt, appeared to be forever closed. Improvement of the situation by diplomatic means seemed to be hopeless. According to much Arab opinion, chances for meaningful military action were not better. Sadat thought otherwise. In October of 1972, he began preparations for a coordinated Arab attack on Israeli occupied territories. His principal objective, however, was not military victory. Sadat hoped to bring about a change in the political situation which might lead to negotiations. At the least, Sadat wanted to raise the human cost, always difficult for the small Israeli nation to accept, of the Israeli occupation. At the most, Sadat hoped to regain control of the Suez Canal, and to hold his position until the superpowers solidified his gains with a cease-fire. Such a success, Sadat hoped, would convince the Israelis that they could not depend on military force alone. Egyptian Military Preparations. Sadat and his military staff faced a most difficult military problem. All by itself, the Suez Canal was a formidable obstacle. (Moshe Dayan had called it "one of the best anti-tank ditches available.") The Israeli fortifications on the Sinai side, their superiority in mobile armored combat, and the mighty Israeli Air Force combined to make a crossing appear impossible. Egypt, however, was not without advantages. The Egyptian soldier had proven to be a tenacious fighter when well led. This was especially so while he occupied strong defensive positions. The Arabs enjoyed a great numerical superiority, the value of which was increased by the Israeli political sensitivity to wartime casualties. Egyptians sought to neutralize the Israeli advantages, while maximizing their own. To this end, Sadat employed two means: technological improvements to the equipment of the Egyptian army, and detailed, intensive planning and preparation. Technological improvements1 fell into three categories. In order to quickly cross the canal, the Egyptians acquired the Soviet bridging equipment designed to span the rivers of Europe. Precision guided munitions, principally the Sagger anti-tank missle, and great numbers of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) were provided to the infantry to counter the Israeli armor. Finally, the Egyptians installed a massive and interlocking array of Surface-to-Air Missles (SAM) in order to provide protection from the Israeli Air Force. Although the new equipment improved the Egyptian army's 1Despite the ejection of the majority of the Russian advisors in June of 1972, the Soviet Union not only maintained, but increased the flow of military equipment to Egypt. Clearly, the 1973 war would not have been fought without this support. ability to battle Israel, past experiences had shown that technology alone would not provide sufficient advantage to insure an Arab victory. The plan had to be effective; preparation had to be intensive. In essence, the plan which emerged was simple. Under cover of a massive artillery bombardment and the SAM umbrella, Egyptian forces would quickly cross the canal and isolate vital Israeli strongpoints. Infantrymen would then press forward and establish defensive positions along avenues of approach to block counter-attacks. While Israeli armored units were beaten back by the Sagger-equipped infantry, the strongpoints would be eliminated. Only then would major Egyptian armored forces cross the Canal to support further advances into the Sinai. The Egyptians realized that the secret to successful implementation of simple plans is detailed and intensive preparation. Moreover, they recognized that achievement of surprise was critical. The Egyptian army supported both goals by initiating monthly exercises near the Canal, involving many of the units that would participate in the attack. Over time, Israelis accepted these exercises as routine. For one year, each Egyptian unit drilled in the combat tasks which it would need to perform during the offensive. Mock-ups of the targets were constructed for rehearsals. Each soldier practiced his job hundreds of times, gaining both proficiency and confidence in his ability to succeed. When the attack was launched, the Egyptian soldier was ready. Although the plan for the crossing and seizure of the Canal was prepared in great detail, the plan for subsequent operations was not. This failure to plan for success would cost the Egyptians dearly. Israeli Military Preparations. In the years following success in the 1967 war, Israel had not been idle. She, too, had upgraded military equipment, developed plans, and prepared for the renewal of fighting. Not surprisingly, however, Israeli conclusions from the 1967 war differed from those of the Egyptians. Based upon the successes of the air and armored forces, these components received the most attention. Both were equipped with new, improved weapon systems2 which greatly increased their capabilities. The artillery was also upgraded with weapons which increased their range and mobility. The infantry, however, received much less consideration. Although some mechanized units supporting armored divisions were given the M113 armored fighting vehicles, most still traveled in antiquated (1941 vintage), open-roofed half-tracks. Tactically, the Israelis were on the horns of a dilemma. Although the west bank of the Suez Canal was of major military importance as a defensive position, its primary 2The M6O tanks acquired by the Israelis were the first which had not been used prior to being given to the Israelis. value was political. Loss of control of the canal, even for a short period, would be unacceptable to Israel, since an externally imposed cease-fire might make permanent the temporary Egyptian gains. The only way to prevent penetration in the Sinai was to conduct an area defense3 along the entire line of the canal. The Israeli army, however, was totally unsuited for such a tactic. Relying on maneuver and surprise to offset a gross numerical inferiority, the Israelis had developed an army which was dedicated to the doctrine of mobile defense. Faced with this conflict, Israel opted for compromise. A series of 33 strongpoints, known as the Bar-Lev Line4, were built along the west bank of the Canal. These strongpoints were to serve as early warning posts, and as fixed positions which would divide any attacking force. All except 16 of these, however, were later closed. At the time of the Egyptian attack, these forts were manned by reservists who had been brought forward to allow the regulars to enjoy the Yom Kippur holiday at home. Behind these strongpoints, using a road network built for the purpose, stood the Israeli counterattack force composed 3In an area defense, the defenders attempt to prevent any forward advance of the attackers. In a mobile defense, penetrations are allowed in order to destroy the offensive force with a counter-attack. 4The Bar-Lev Line was named after Lieutenant-General Chaim Bar-Lev, who was then the Israeli Chief of Staff. of an armored division supported by fourteen batteries of artillery. Their job was to move against the main attacking force and halt it until the national reserve forces could be mobilized and deployed. Egyptian Organization5. On paper, the Egyptian army was a mighty force. Fully mobilized, as it was by the time of the Canal crossing, it totaled 1.1 million men. In reality, however, the effective force was far less imposing. Nearly half of the army was the poorly trained and ill-equipped National Guard which was used for support and rear guard duties. Forces used for the cross-canal attack consisted of approximately 200,000 men. These were organized into two Egyptian Armies (analogous to U.S. Corps): the Second (110,000 men), commanded by General Saad el Din Mamoun, and the Third (90,000 men), commanded by General Abd el Moneim Wassel. Figure (1) illustrates the division organizations. These two Armies (and the forces of the central military district, which served as a strategic reserve) came under the command of the Egyptian General Headquarters (GHQ). The top military officer at the GHQ was the Chief of Staff, 5Organizations and strengths are taken from Colonel Trevor N. Dupuy's Elusive Victory: The Arab-Israeli War. (1947-1974 New York, 1978) pp. 399 ff. Of the many books on the subject, this was the most objective. Click here to view image Lieutenant-General Saad el-Shazli. The Commander in Chief and Minister of War was General Ahmed Ismail, who had been appointed by Sadat to implement the plan for the attack on Israel when his predecessor Commander in Chief had balked. He, like Sadat, was fully aware of the political nature of the upcoming campaign. Israeli Organization.6 Israel's combat units were organized into three area commands, one each in the north, center, and south of Israel. All of these were under the command of the General Staff, headed by the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General David Elazar. The southern command, responsible for the defense of the Canal and the Sinai Peninsula, was commanded by Major General Shmuel Gonen. General Gonen had only recently been appointed to the position, haven taken command 1 July 1973 from Major General Ariel Sharon. His forces consisted of two infantry brigades, one of which occupied the Bar-Lev line strongpoints, and one armor division with three armored brigades. This "Sinai Defense Force" was commanded by Major General Albert Mandler. All together (including divisional support and the nearest reserves) Israel had approximately 18,000 men defending the Suez Canal. Of these, only 8,000 were in position to meet the initial attack. Dedicated to the southern command were two reserve 6Dupuy. pp 399 ff.; and Edward Luttwak and Dan Horowitz The Israeli Army (New York, 1975). pp 94 ff. divisions. The first, commanded by Major General Avrahan Adan, consisted of three tank brigades. General Adan, one of Israel's most experienced warriors, had previously commanded the Israeli Armor Corps7, and the Sinai Defense Force. The second division, composed of a paratroop and two armored brigades, was led by Major General Ariel Sharon. General Sharon was a living legend in the Israeli military, having, like Adan, commanded units since the founding of the Israeli nation. Also like Adan, he was far more experienced than General Gonen, having held the Southern Command for nearly three years prior to Gonen's assumption of that position. Sharon had resigned his regular commission upon his relief from Southern Command, in order to pursue a career in politics. He was emerging as a potent political figure, and headed one of the principal opposition parties. Reserve divisions required from three to five days to mobilize and travel to the Sinai. Israel assumed that Egypt could not prepare a major attack across the canal without giving sufficient warning to allow deployment of these units. The total Southern Command forces, when mobilized, equalled approximately 100,000 men. 7The Armor Corps is a training and supervisory direc- torate responsible for overseeing Israeli armored unit development and performance. Click here to view image CHAPTER III PRELUDE TO OPERATION VALIANT The Egyptian Attack: 6-7 October. A successful Israeli defense of the Suez Canal would depend on sufficient warning to allow mobilization and deployment of the reserve forces. Conversely, a successful Egyptian attack would depend on achieving surprise to the extent that such timely mobilization would not be possible. In the initial battle of intelligence services, the Egyptians clearly triumphed. By a shrewd combination of military and political maneuvering, Sadat convinced Israel that she was secure behind the Canal. As late as the evening of October 5th, Israeli Intelligence was maintaining that there would be no war. Not until 0700 on the 6th did GHQ inform the reserve division commanders that war was imminent1. The warning came too late. At 1405 on 6 October, the Egyptian armies opened with a devastating artillery barrage. Nearly 2,000 artillery and mortar pieces, 1,000 tanks, and 1,000 anti-tank guns pounded the Bar-Lev line. Within 15 minutes, the first wave of Egyptian infantry crossed the canal, by-passed the forts, and moved inland to establish defensive positions. Within four 1Avraham Adan, On the Banks of the Suez (San Fran- cisco: Presidio Press, 1980), pp. 3-4. hours, nearly 80.000 Egyptians crossed into the Sinai. The multi-pronged offensive purposely had no main attack against which Israel could concentrate her counter-attack (figure (4)). Instead, the Egyptians pushed into the desert on line, while Gonen lost precious hours trying to identify their principal effort. Forward Israeli armored units, rushing to help the besieged strongpoints, were met by an eruption of Sagger missiles and RPG's. With no reconnaissance and unsupported by infantry, the Israeli tanks were routed. By the morning of the 7th of October, more than half of the three hundred tanks with which the Israelis had begun the battle were destroyed. The Egyptians consolidated their gains behind their infantry shield. The Bar-Lev line forts remained under intense attack, and, when their appeals for help were unanswered, began to fall one by one2. Using powerful jets of water, the Egyptian engineers quickly wore away sections of the high Canal ramparts, making paths for the on-coming armies. (Some of these gaps were opened in only two hours, beating Israeli intelligence estimates for such a feat by 46 hours.) The first through the breaches were amphibious tanks and APC's. They were followed by other vehicles carried initially by ferries, and later by Soviet pontoon bridges and self-propelled barges. The infantry crossed on small, 2At the end of the war, only one of the forts was still held by Israel. Click here to view image float-supported bridges which were laid by amphibious vehicles. Following colored markers, the follow-on forces joined up with advance elements and strengthened their positions. By the end of the day, the Egyptians controlled the entire west bank, to a depth of one to two miles. By the evening of the 7th, while fighting off initial Israeli counter-attacks, they had expanded their zone to a depth of five to six miles. In the air, the battle was going no better for Israel. Soviet supplied AA systems performed with deadly efficiency. More than half of the attacking aircraft were hit by missiles or gunfire. The shock of these losses, and the worsening situation on the Syrian front, resulted in a suspension of air support for Southern Command. The Egyptians had been prepared to accept 30,000 casualties to win the Canal crossing. Their actual total was just 208. The attackers had crossed the Suez Canal swiftly and efficiently, in what is one of the most impressive water barrier crossings recorded in military history. The Israelis, however, were not yet defeated. As the forces on the Bar-Lev line were fighting their desperate battle, the reserve divisions began to arrive. The lead elements of Adan's armor division reached the front during the evening of the 7th, only one day and a half after the order to mobilize had been given. By the morning of the 8th, the Israeli forces had pushed over 500 tanks, the principal portions of three divisions, into the Sinai. Already, their thoughts were on a major counter-attack. The First Israeli Counter-Attack: 8 October. Although the Israeli assault which took place on the morning of the 8th of October is not the principal topic of this paper, it is worth while to examine it in some detail to establish trends and comparisons relative to Operation Valiant. Much of the impetus for the first counter-attack came from Sharon, who arrived in the Sinai during the afternoon of October 7th. Although, by position, he was subordinate to Gonen and the Southern Command, Sharon did not hesitate to make his views known to the highest levels. Motivated by a desire to rescue the men trapped in the Bar-Lev forts, he called directly to General Elazar, the Israeli Chief of Staff, to recommend an immediate counter-attack. Elazar carried this recommendation to Prime Minister Goldal Meir3. On the next morning, the Chief of Staff ordered his staff to begin planning for counter-attacks both in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Enthusiasm for counter-attack was not universal. Adan, in particular, was hesitant to charge into the face of the freshly prepared Egyptian positions when so much of the Israeli strength was still queued along roads leading from Israel's interior. At a meeting which included Elazar, Gonen, and Sharon, he called for a limited attack aimed at wresting 3Ibid., pp 92-93. the initiative from the Egyptians. Over Sharon's objections, it was agreed that Adan's division would attack from the north, along a line parallel to but three kilometers away from the Canal. The assault was to be a limited one, with no intention of reaching the Canal. Sharon's division would support Adan's by acting as a holding force near the center of the canal. Despite this apparent agreement, planning did not proceed smoothly. When Gonen returned to his command post, he issued an overlay order to implement the attack plan. Either by mistake or intent, the written order contained major changes from the plan discussed the previous evening. Rather than a limited spoiling attack the mission had become: "Mopping up tho zone between the Artillery Road and the canal water line; destruction of the enemy forces in that area while extricating forces from the strongpoints and pulling out stuck tanks; and readiness for a crossing to the other side of the canal."4 Further, the overlay apparently called for a two stage offensive, with Adan's attack being the first phase, to be followed by an assault by Sharon's division from the center of the zone south to the Gulf of Suez.5 As might be 4Ibid.p p. 107. 5It is not clear that Gonen intended to call for a two- phase attack. Quite possibly, the second attack plan was pre- pared as a contingency should the first go well. Regardless of the intent, the order as written was not clear. expected of a one-page order from a corps-level headquarters- the instructions were not particularly explicit. The mission for Adan's division, as an example, was: "containment in the west and north, attack southward and reserve." Despite this major change in the plan of attack, Gonen chose to issue his order by radio rather than send it to the division headquarters by helicopter. Adan, however, could not be reached until 0430 on the 8th, four hours before the assault was to be launched. Gonen then informed him that he was thinking of linking up with the forts, and of crossing the canal. Adan was ordered to be prepared for either. At the same time, Gonen was ordering Sharon to prepare to attack to the south, cross the canal near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez, and capture Suez City! At 0800, Adan began his attack to the south with his two armored brigades. Although he had discussed the possibility of a change in plan with Gonen, he did not understand that a decision for such a change had been reached. He did not know that Sharon's division (on Adan's left flank) would soon move out and leave his flank exposed. The early going was easy. Adan's brigades came under artillery fire, but met few Egyptian soldiers. At 0900, Gonen called. Once more he discussed an attack to and over the canal, but now in definite terms. Adan was to break through to the canal, cross, and establish a foothold. Repeated radio messages from Southern Command urged Adan to move quickly. Gonen, like most senior Israeli officers, expected an Egyptian collapse when they were faced with resolute attack. He wanted to be sure that, when the rout began, the most would be made of it. At 1005, Gonen's deputy sent this message to Adan: "There are some slight indications that the enemy gas begun to collapse, so it's very important, very important, to rush at maximum speed with all your forces along your entire axis from the north, from Qantara, to down below to make contact and destroy. Otherwise they're liable to get away!"6 The "slight indications" noticed by Southern Command were not evident to the brigades in contact. They had found the Egyptians. Adan's forces were now under heavy fire from artillery, tanks, and anti-tank missiles. Far from chasing a defeated enemy, they were themselves in danger of defeat. Again and again, the engaged units called for air support and reinforcement. Two flights of four Israeli planes each finally appeared, made short attacks, then left. There was no other support7. Southern Command, nonetheless, acted as if they were viewing a different war. Sharon still intended to move south, away from Adan. Adan continued to receive urgings to hurry his attack in order to trap the enemy, while his requests for support were handled in a cursory manner. The tone of the 6Ibid., p. 123. 7Dupuy, p. 428. radio communications between Adan and Southern Command became increasingly bitter, and as the bickering continued, one of Adan's brigade commanders sent his own message: "You are arguing among you, and meanwhile my men are being killed."8 In compliance with Southern Command orders, Adan now reoriented his attack toward the Canal. One brigade moved west with two battalions on line. Within minutes, one of the battalions lost 20 tanks to missiles and RPG's. They fell back, while Adan's other brigade, also with two battalions forward, assumed the attack. One of these battalions, receiving heavy fire, began to retreat. The remaining battalion pressed on alone with no air and little artillery support. They were crushed as they charged into the killing ground established by the Egyptian 2nd Infantry Division. Reduced to 120 tanks, with Egyptian pressure mounting, Adan was now ordered to extend his front lines to cover the gap left by Sharon's move to the south! Desperately, he reorganized his forces into three brigades of only two battalions each, and sent one brigade to the south. It immediately came under attack by strong Egyptian forces. He was now being assaulted by three Egyptian divisions. His area of responsibility included 40 kilometers of the Israeli front lines, and the only available reinforcement, Sharon's 8Adan., p. 127. division, was moving away from the battle. On the verge of retreating, Adan pleaded with Southern Command for help. Gonen, who finally realized that he was nearer defeat than victory, turned Sharon back to give support to Adan's endangered left flank. The commitment of one of Sharon's brigades allowed Adan to stabilize his position, and hold in place9. The Egyptians, taking advantage of the disorganized Israeli attack, continued to consolidate bridgeheads and advance where possible. By the morning of the 9th, they had pushed forward to lines seven to ten kilometers from the Canal, and had brought approximately 800 tanks and 90,000 men to the east bank. The battles on the 8th had demonstrated that they would not repeat the poor performance of the 1967 war, and had given the Egyptian soldier confidence in his ability to stand against the Israelis10. For the Israelis, the 8th was a severe shock. The day's fighting had resulted in a clear tactical defeat, possibly the worst in Israeli history. The performance of the Israeli generals had been unmitigatingly poor. Gonen had wasted forces in uncoordinated and confused attacks. Adan had failed to coordinate the attack of his division, allowing it to be defeated piecemeal. Sharon had resisted direction from Southern Command and only exacerbated the poor coordination 9Dupuy. pp. 426-433. 10Dupuy. p. 470. between divisions resulting from Gonen's plan. As a group, the Israeli generals underestimated the capabilities of Egyptian forces. Israel reacted with little or no intelligence or reconnaissance, with negligible air and artillery support, and with no infantry. They were saved from disaster only by the fighting skills and courage of individual Israeli officers and men11. Stalemate: 9-13 October. For awhile, the situation in the Sinai settled down to minor, if briefly intense, engagements between the two armies. The Bar-Lev line forts which remained in Israeli hands were under continuous attack. On the 9th, Gonen authorized the garrisons to either surrender or try to breakout to friendly lines. By the 13th, all but one were controlled by the Egyptians12. The Israelis were learning to deal with the new Egyptian tactics, which, though effective, were yet too predictable. As the vulnerability of unaided armor became apparent, they began to employ artillery screens and infantry forces in coordination with the tanks. Israeli tanks sought out hull down positions, and planned for movement between hiding 11Even if the Israelis had succeeded in reaching the Canal, the chances for a successful crossing would have been poor. Post-war evaluation of the Egyptian bridges, which the Israelis hoped to use, showed that they could not support the heavy Israeli tanks. 12Ibid., p. 472-473. places to confuse Egyptian gunners. Most importantly. the Israelis began to operate carefully, with new respect for the abilities of the Egyptian army. Meanwhile, the internal battle between Sharon and Gonen broke into the open. As a result of the defeat of the 8th, Gonen issued orders for his division commanders to consolidate positions until Southern Command could regain strength and prepare for the next phase of the war. Sharon, nonetheless, continued to engage in armed reconnaissance along his front, with significant forces. When, on the 9th, these units discovered a gap in the Egyptian lines13,14 near the northern edge of the Great Bitter Lake, Sharon pressed Gonen to mount an immediate attack. In order to keep the Egyptians from noticing his units along the Canal, Sharon conducted a diversionary assault on Egyptian forces to the north, incurring heavy Israeli losses. Gonen was furious. He ordered Sharon to break off the attack and withdraw his units. Instead of complying, Sharon radioed directly to the Israeli GHQ, and presented his views. Not unsurprisingly, Gonen would not tolerate such 13Sharon had found the boundary between the Egyptian 2nd and 3d Armies. 14Edgar O'Ballance, (No Victor. No Vanguished: The Middle East War (San Rafael, Ca: Presidio Press, 1974) p. 222) claims that the gap was located by American SR-71 flights. insubordination. He requested Sharon' s relief. Relieving Sharon was not simply a matter of military discipline for the Israeli High Command. Politically, a cashiered Sharon would become a time-bomb which would explode in the inevitable review of the conduct of the war. Gonen was not in a strong position. His performance had been mediocre, at best. Dayan, to whom the question of Sharon's relief was referred, decided that Sharon would remain. It was Gonen who would be replaced. Lieutenant-General Haim Bar-Lev, a former Chief of Staff and the current Minister of Trade and Industry, was recalled to active duty and placed in command of Southern Command. Gonen remained at Southern Command as Bar-Lev's deputy15. In the north, the war was not going so well for the Arab coalition. Since the Syrian attack on the Golan Heights more quickly threatened the Israeli homeland, the IDF had first concentrated on eliminating that threat. By the 11th, the Syrians were in trouble. Not only had Israeli armored units come close to penetrating the main Syrian defensive line, but the Israeli Air Force, having neutralized the AA defenses, was loose over Syria, attacking key industrial, government, and military targets. The Syrians appealed to the Egyptians for help. They hoped that an increase in pressure in the Sinai would force the Israelis to divert resources to the 15Chaim Herzog. The Arab-Israeli Wars (New York: Random House, 1982) p. 255. south. The Syrian request placed the Egyptians in a quandary. Essentially, they had achieved their objectives, if they could avoid a major defeat. The chief danger lay in an attack which would move the Egyptians out from under their precious SAM umbrella. Nonetheless, such a Syrian call for help could not be ignored. The only hope for victory over Israel lay in coordinated and combined action by the several Arab nations. General Ismail ordered the Egyptians to attack. The Egyptian Attack on the Passes: 14 October. In preparation for the new assault, armored reserves of the two Egyptian Armies passed over the Canal. This gave Shazli, the Egyptian Chief of Staff, a force of nine divisions and one independent brigade on the east bank16, but left only one armored brigade and three mechanized infantry brigades on the Egyptian side17. As in the cross-Canal assault, the Egyptians decided not to concentrate for one principal attack. Instead, they would send out brigades all along the front in order to confuse the 16The Egyptians were organized as follows: 2nd Army: 2nd, 16th, and 18th Infantry divisions, 23rd Mechanized Division, 21st Armored Division, and one independent infantry brigade. 3d Army: 7th and 19th Infantry Divisions, 6th Mechanized Division, and the 4th Armored Division. 17Herzog. p. 257, and Adan, p. 252 Israeli counter-attack effort, and to find and pierce any weak spot in the Israeli lines. Two brigades would attack in the north, two in the center sections, and two in the south. Their objectives were the three mountain passes which controlled the Sinai: Mitla, Giddi, and Khatmia (figure (5)). Even though the mission was patently offensive, the main Egyptian concern continued to be preservation of their position. Six brigades made the attack against the three Israeli divisions. Over twenty others remained behind Egyptian lines18. The Egyptian attack was heralded by a violent artillery bombardment in accordance with Soviet doctrine. At 0630, the Egyptian attacked with tanks and armored personnel carriers, but without dismounted infantry. This time, there was no surprise. Firing from prepared positions, and using combined arms tactics which they had developed since the war began, the Israelis stopped, then turned the attackers. Israeli artillery was effective in nullifying the BMP borne Sagger teams, but the Egyptian artillery, without the benefit of the detailed planning which had made it so deadly only eight days earlier, merely obscured the already well-concealed Israeli tanks. On the 14th, the Israeli Air Force was once again a potent battlefield killer. The Egyptians had left most of their new SA-6 SAM's on the west bank to reduce their 18Dupuy. p. 485-491. Click here to view image vulnerability to ground attack. This distant positioning, however, also reduced their effectiveness. The trade-off was not a good one for the exposed Egyptian armor. The battlefield was a bedlam. In the largest tank battle since World War II, the Egyptian force of 1,000 tanks and 5,000 mechanized infantry was pitted against 800 Israeli tanks and their supporting infantry. Advances were negligible, and, as the toll of the battle continued to rise, Ismail recalled his brigades. By the end of the day, the Egyptians had lost 260 tanks and had suffered over 1,000 casualties. The Israeli losses were 40 tanks19. The Egyptian attack did nothing to lessen the pressure on their Syrian allies. It did damage the confidence of the Egyptian High Command. The Israelis, on the other hand, while failing to take immediate advantage of their victory, were confirmed in the opinion that the time was ripe for an offensive. As the Egyptian tanks rumbled back, the Israeli preparations for the charge to the Canal continued. 36 hours later, they would be in Egypt. 19Dupuy. p. 487. A major Israeli advantage, noted by many authors, was their ability to quickly return damaged tanks to combat. Of the 40 tanks put out of action on the 14th, all but six were soon back in service. CHAPTER IV PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR THE COUNTER-ATTACK Pre-War Planning and Preparation. Operation Valiant1 did not spring, ready for battle, from the minds of the Israeli Generals in October of 1973. Planning and preparation for a Canal crossing began in 1967, when the Israeli nation found itself pressed against water obstacles for the first time. The Israeli strategy required any battle be quickly carried to the enemy. To do that, it was now necessary to be able to bridge the Suez Canal. The Israelis began buying bridging equipment soon after their victories in 1967. The principal acquisitions were British Unifloat bridging sections, which could be joined to form a bridge or, with the addition of ramps and a motor, be combined into 60-ton, 45 foot long rafts. These iron floats (each was 5 x 2.5 x 1.2 meters in size and weighed three tons) were difficult to handle both in and out of the water. They required huge trailers for their transport, as well as 1Some authors have mistakenly used "Operation Gazelle" as the code name for the Israeli Canal crossing operation. In the U.S. edition of Adan's book, On the Banks of the Suez, the Hebrew "Abiray-Lev" is translated as Valiant. Dupuy (op. cit., p. 492) calls the crossing "Operation Strongheart". considerable time and a large crane for assembly2. Practically, the Israelis had to control the far side of any water obstacle before they could begin to build their bridge, and the crossing site could not be within enemy artillery range. Since such circumstances were not likely, the Israelis continued to try to improve their water-crossing capabilities. Some of the unifloat sections were combined to form permanent rafts, and special trailers were built for transport. Eleven of these rafts could be joined to make a bridge sufficiently long to span the Canal. Seven man crews were assigned to each raft, and the raft and bridge sections were combined into bridging units directly under the control of GHQ3. The new Israeli equipment was tested in the winter of 1971-2 during the IDF Exercise Oz. By flooding a small valley in the northern Sinai, Sharon, then commanding Southern Command, was able to create a Canal surrogate over which crossing tactics and equipment could be evaluated. In a live fire demonstration, paratroops in rubber rafts and infantry in APC's crossed the water barrier and "seized" the opposite side. The bridging equipment was then towed forward, and within an hour the bridge had been emplaced. 2Adan. p. 245, and Lieutenant Colonel William G. Kosco, "The 1973 Middle East War: An Engineer's View," The Military Engineer, November-December 1979, p. 395. 3Kosco. p. 395. Although the crossing exercise had been reasonably successful, the Israelis were still not satisfied. The IDF engineer corps, desiring a bridge with the capability of spanning the Canal under fire, developed the Roller Assault Bridge (RAB). This 200 foot long, 400 ton goliath was built of 2 X 12 meter cylindrical float units, which also served as rollers while the bridge was being moved into place. By plan, this bridge would be assembled beyond the range of enemy weapons. It could then be towed by 10 to 16 tanks to the edge of the Canal. Once there, the bridge would roll down the band and into the water, while one tank to the rear attempted to govern its progress. This bridge was capable of immediately carrying the heaviest Israeli tanks and self-propelled artillery, and could be towed at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour4. In practice, the bridge had severe problems. It took three days to assemble, required a straight, specially prepared road, and was very difficult to maneuver. While being towed, it was vulnerable to breakdowns, and, with its tow-tank escorts, made an impressive target. Finally, the sixteen tanks needed to provide mobility were a significant loss to the Israeli forces during the towing operation5. The final additions to the Israeli array of bridging equipment were twenty obsolete U. S. Army Gillois Amphibious 4Kosco. pp. 394-5. 5Adan. pp. 248-9. River Crossing Equipment (ARCE) self-propelled rafts6. These wheeled assault rafts were purchased as salvage in Europe, then refurbished by the Israelis. They could quickly reach the Canal, join into three-raft units, and carry tanks over to support initial operations. Because of the inflatable rubber flotation rings used for support, however, these rafts were especially vulnerable to enemy fire7. Even with the required bridging equipment, the Israeli army could not cross the Canal without special preparations. There were no roads to the Canal which met the requirements of the RAB. Once there, the sandy terrain would not support the concentration of men and equipment needed for such a crossing. Most importantly, the high ramparts which had been built by both sides along the Canal blocked access to the water. As far back as 1970, Sharon had begun to prepare for the eventuality of an Israeli crossing of the Suez Canal. At several spots along the canal, Sharon had the ramparts thinned so that bulldozers could quickly break through and clear them. At these spots, hard surface "yards" were constructed to support the bridgehead personnel and vehicles. These areas were re-covered with sand, and marked with red brick for identification. Finally, a road designed to the specifications required for transport of the RAB was laid through the desert from the small town of Tass to the most 6Kosco. p. 395. 7Adan. p. 249. likely crossing site, on the northern edge of the Great Bitter Lake8. In retrospect. Sharon's choice of location would prove to be uncanny. Planning and Preparation During the War. At the onset of operations there was never any question in the minds of the Israeli generals concerning whether they would attack to cross the Canal. It was only a question of when, where, and how. Gonen and the Southern Command staff set to work to develop the plan. Two sites were considered for a crossing. The first was in the far north of the Canal, where relatively light Egyptian forces and Limited avenues of approach from the Egyptian side would permit the Israelis to quickly isolate the area and gain a bridgehead. Unfortunately, the same factors would limit the potential value of such an attack. The Egyptian army would not be seriously affected, and follow-on operations against the main Egyptian forces would be difficult9. The other site was at the northern edge of the Great Bitter Lake, where Sharon had detected the gap in the Egyptian lines, and near which the majority of the Israeli bridging equipment was conveniently staged. The small Devesoir airfield, on the Egyptian side, could support Israeli operations once it was secured. On the west bank, 8New York Times, 12 November 1973. p. 20, col. 1. 9Adan. pp. 250-1. operations against the rear of either the second or Third Armies would become possible. Even a thrust at Cairo could be threatened. Finally, any crossing at this site would have its left flank guarded by the Great Bitter Lake. The risks, however, were significant. An attack toward Devesoir would put the Israeli crossing force between the Egyptian armies. A long and vulnerable corridor from the Israeli lines to the west bank would hazard the effort. Until Israeli armored units could cross and knock a hole in the Egyptian AA system, there would be no air cover. Lastly, it would be some time, even under the best of circumstances, before a bridgehead secure from indirect fire could be established. Until then, the crossing forces could be under heavy artillery bombardment. The decision to risk greatly in order to gain much was typically Israeli. The crossing would be at Devesoir. Furthermore, it would be made as soon as possible. Gonen proposed a crossing date of 13 October. Bar-Lev agreed, then flew to Tel Aviv on the 12th to present the plan to a war counsel composed of himself, Dayan, Elazar, Tal (Elazar's deputy), and Gonen. After gaining the approval of this group, the plan was taken to Prime Minister Golda Meir. The consensus was that Israel must quickly attack. Although no one relished a charge into the teeth of prepared Egyptian positions, the present stalemate was clearly unacceptable. The plan was approved. Before Bar-Lev could leave, however, new intelligence reports were received which indicated that a major Egyptian attack could be expected on the 14th. The Egyptian attack was the answer to Israeli prayers. Egyptian defensive positions would be thoroughly disorganized after their assault. Most importantly, the Israelis would have an opportunity to reduce Egyptian strength while risking little of their own. The decision, then, was to let the Egyptians throw the first punch. The Israeli offensive was re-scheduled for the 15th of October. The Egyptians and the Terrain. A review of the Egyptian situation and the terrain over which the battle would be fought will set the stage for the pending action. Despite their defeat on the 14th, the Egyptians were still a dangerous adversary. To the north of the corridor chosen for the Israeli attack, the 21st Armored Division and the 16th Infantry Division were reorganizing. The 21st had been mauled during the attacks of the previous day, losing over 100 tanks. Nonetheless, 200 remained. To the south, the 7th Infantry Division and the 25th Armored Brigade were also settling in after their operations on the 14th10. The total east bank Egyptian forces were five infantry divisions, two armor divisions, and an indepedent armored brigade, with a total of 650-700 tanks11. 10U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, The Middle East War Reference Book 100-2, Vol I. Fort Leavenworth Kansas, 1976) pp. 4-12 to 4-13. 11Adan. p. 252. Across the Canal, the opposition was much lighter. The principal units holding the gap between the 2nd and 3d Egyptian Armies were the Ain Jolloud Brigade of the Palestine Liberation Army and the Kuwait Yarmuk Brigade. Both were lightly armed infantry units12. In the 2nd Army portion of the west bank were two mechanized infantry brigades, while the 3d Army west bank section contained one armor and one mechanized brigade. In the Cairo area, maintained as GHQ reserve, were five tank brigades and eight commando or paratroop brigades. All in all, the Egyptians had approximately 650 tanks west of the Canal, but only one armored brigade on the west bank proper13. The area over which Operation Valiant would be played out is shown in figure (6). The principal roads in the area were the Lexicon road, paralleling the Canal; the Artillery Road, also parallel to the Canal but further east; the Akavish road, running from Tass to the deserted Israeli fortress of Lakekan; the Tirtur road, splitting from the more southerly Akavish road and running to the crossing point near the Matzmed fortress; and the Nahala road, connecting the Lakekan and Matzmed fortresses. Off-road surfaces were often deep sand, which restricted the mobility of even armored vehicles. Tirtur was the road built by Sharon to carry the RAB. At its end was the "yard" designed to hold the bridgehead, men, 12O'Ballance. p. 220. 13Adan. p. 252. Click here to view image and equipment. This brick covered area was 700 meters long by 150 meters wide, and was surrounded by a sand wall. It was located between the Matzmed fort and the northern edge of the Great Bitter Lake14. Just north of the Talisman-Artillery road junction was the Hamatul hill mass (the Egyptians called it Talia). To the south was another bit of high ground known as Televisia. Both 14Dupuy. p. 494. of these hills were held by the 16th Infantry Division. The corridor formed by the Akavish and Tirtur roads was overlooked from the north by a long ridge line known as Missouri, and from the south by a smaller hill called Kishuf. Finally, near the northeast of the junction of the Tirtur and Lexicon roads was an abandoned experimental agricultural complex known as Chinese Farm. This area was covered with irrigation ditches and embankments which could provide ready-made cover for infantry forces15. The Plan. The Southern Command plan (figure (7)) called for Sharon's three brigades (with a total tank strength of about 240), reinforced with a fourth paratroop brigade, to attack to the west and open a corridor through the Egyptian lines on the evening of the 15th. At the Canal, the paratroops, in rubber rafts, and a tank battalion, on self-propelled rafts, would cross and secure a bridgehead on the west bank. Meanwhile, the RAB and the uniflost bridging sections would be brought forward and put in place. All would be completed by the morning of the 16th. One brigade of tanks would then cross to expand the west bank bridgehead beyond direct fire weapon range, while the remaining two tank brigades held the corridor from the Israeli lines open. Adan, now armed with three-full strength tank brigades (total of about 200 tanks), would pass through the corridor and cross to the west bank. Once in Egypt, he would attack 15Dupuy. pp. 493-4. Click here to view image either to the north to take the town of Ismailia and threaten the 2nd Egyptian Army, or to the south towards Suez City and the 3d Egyptian Army. Adan's west bank breakout was planned for the evening of the 16th or the morning of the 17th. When Adan's drive began, Sharon would be relieved from security duties by the division commanded by Major General Magen (with a tank strength of 140 tanks). Sharon would then follow across the Canal to protect Adan's rear and provide reinforcement16. The Southern Command plan for the crossing was a simple one Sharon's division plan was much less so. (Figure (8)). Click here to view image His northern-most brigade was to attack to the north against the Egyptian positions at Talata and Televisia in order to divert attention from the main effort. An hour later, his second brigade, reinforced with two mechanized infantry and one armored battalions, would move to the southwest toward the northern shore of the Great Bitter Lake. 16Dupuy. pp. 492-3. Once there, this brigade would divide into three segments, with one tank battalion returning to the northeast to clear the corridor for the follow on forces, three tank battalions attacking to the north against the right flank of the 2nd Egyptian Army in another diversionary move, and the three mechanized infantry battalions remaining near the crossing yard as the brigade reserve. Meanwhile, the paratroop brigade, reinforced with a tank company, would be moving toward the Canal. Once there, they would cross to seize a bridgehead. The remaining armored brigade, in division reserve, would follow after the paratroops, towing and providing security for the RAB and other assorted bridging equipment17. The Israeli plan was bold. If it succeeded, they would break into the rear of the Egyptian armies, threatening their lines of communication as well as the Egyptian capital. The Israelis could return to the mobile, hard-hitting tactics at which they excelled. If they failed, the results might be just as dramatic. Three quarters of the total Israeli force in the Sinai would be caught between two Egyptian armies, with no air support and potentially no line of retreat. 17Dupuy. pp. 495-6. CHAPTER V OPERATION VALIANT Attack and First Crossing: 15 - 16 October. No military plan is ever executed completely according to plan. Nonetheless, the divergence between the plan for Operation Valiant and the event was remarkable. The initiative of the israeli commanders, which has been both a curse and a blessing, was be strained to the limit. On the morning of the 15th, the Israeli forces deployed for the advance. Southern Command had not specified routes of advance1, causing the roads to the Canal to quickly become entangled with masses of vehicles as combat units and supporting equipment tried to reach their jumping off points. Traffic control was poor to nonexistent. Localized Egyptian attacks added to the confusion. By 1500, Sharon realized that he could not meet the schedule appointed him by Southern Command. Rather than risk cancellation of the mission, he decided to continue apace and improvise2. At 1700, Sharon's northernmost brigade, led by Colonel Tuvia Raviv, launched its diversionary attack toward the Egyptians at Talia and Televisia. As had been expected, it 1Adan. p. 256. 2Herzog. p. 262. made little progress. It did serve, however, to divert attention from the reinforced brigade commanded by Colonel Reshef which had begun the approach down the Akavish Road an hour earlier. Reshef's advance started smoothly enough. He met only light patrols and had no difficulty in reaching the Matzmed fort and the crossing yard. Reshef radioed back that the Akavish Road was open, then began a diversionary attack to the north with five battalions, as the brigade reconnaissance battalion secured the yard area, and the remaining battalion turned back along the Akavish Road to meet the advancing paratroop brigade commanded by Colonel Matt. (Figure (9)) Click here to view image Colonel Matt's beginnings had not been as auspicious. Neither the transportation for his men nor the boats in which he was to cross the Canal had arrived at his location at Tasa as planned. Not to be stopped, Matt's men "borrowed" vehicles meant for another unit, and sent out teams to locate and bring forward the boats. It was not until 2230 that Matt's brigade, with an attached tank company, began to move down the Akavish road toward the Canal3. His progress was excruciatingly slow. The road was jammed with Israeli vehicles. Those without tracks which tried to move off the road were quickly mired in loose sand4 The main force from Reshef's brigade, meanwhile, was advancing to the north along the Lexicon Road and into the rear of the Egyptian 2nd Army zone. Initially, the deep penetration surprised the Egyptian outposts. There was little fighting. At the junction of the Tirtur and Lexicon roads, one armored battalion and one infantry battalion turned to the northeast along Tirtur, while two armored battalions and one infantry battalion continued the attack along Lexicon. One infantry battalion stayed near the intersection as brigade reserve5. Suddenly, explosions erupted all around Reshef, as the Egyptians finally awoke to the intrusion. Reshef's seven 3Adan. p. 262. 4Herzog. p. 267. 5Dupuy. pp. 497-8. battalions had stumbled upon the heart of both the 16th Infantry Division and the 21st Armored Division. The previously clear roads were now swarming with sagger and RPG equipped soldiers. Chinese Farm, which dominated the Tirtur road, was now seen to be held by at least a brigade of infantrymen. Matt's force soon ran into the firestorm raised by the attack to his north. Guided by Reshef, however, he was able to avoid most of the fighting, and proceeded toward the Canal. As Matt's brigade passed south of the Tirtur-Lexicon road junction, he sent his attached tank company to the north to secure that crossroads. They never returned. This company, charging into the middle of the battle raging between Reshef's brigade and the Egyptian forces, was destroyed to the last tank. Matt's brigade finally reached the crossing point shortly after 0100 on the 16th. Sharon, traveling with a six APC command group, had also arrived at the crossing site and was supervising preparations for the crossing. Behind a heavy artillery preparation, the first paratroopers boated over, arriving on the west bank at 0135. There were no Egyptians. 25 minutes later, Sharon himself crossed. Dawn on the 16th arrived with the entire paratroop brigade safely over the Canal. Closely following was a company of tanks on rafts. The Israelis were in Africa6. 6Dupuy. PP. 498-499. If the situation seemed to be well in hand on the west bank, it was just the opposite on the east bank. The Tirtur-Lexicon junction, which had appeared to be undefended when Reshef first crossed, was now held by strong Egyptian forces. Realizing the criticality of opening the Tirtur Road, Reshef attacked with battalion after battalion throughout the night. Finally, just after dawn, a coordinated attack from the west and south broke the defenders, who retreated to the north. Reshef's advance east from the junction, however, was quickly halted by heavy fire from Missouri ridge. Tirtur remained closed. Reshef's brigade was decimated, with losses of 60 of 100 tanks, and 120 men dead or missing7. Opening the Corridor: 16 - 17 October. By plan, the morning of the 16th should have seen an open corridor to the crossing site, and at least one bridge over the Canal. It soon became obvious that neither of these events were going to occur on schedule. At the Southern Command headquarters, Gonen, Bar-Lev, and Dayan listened to reports from Sharon's units revealing the dangerous Canal-front situation. The bridges and Gillois assault rafts were far from the Canal. They had gotten stuck on the Akavish Road along with hundreds of other vehicles. Worse, Erez's brigade from Sharon's division was stuck along with it. It was decided to send the mobile Gillois rafts ahead, over the sand dunes, to support Matt's brigade on the west bank. By 0630, the Gillois 7Adan. p. 269. had been formed into one one-tank and three two-tank rafts, and had begun ferrying armor over the Canal8. The RAB, meanwhile, was in serious trouble. Finally clear of Akavish, the bridge had to traverse a series of shallow slopes before it could reach Tirtur. One hill, however, was not shallow enough. The tanks could not slow the bridge sufficiently, and it broke loose. When it finally stopped, a roller connection had snapped. Repairs, which would take hours, had to be made before the trip could begin again. With that, Sharon ordered Erez to leave the bridge and move to the west bank. Erez did so, completing his crossing by 1000. At Southern Command headquarters, the realization was growing that Operation Valiant was bogging down. There was no bridge, and there would be none for some time. Even if the bridge was movable, the route to the canal was still blocked except to armored vehicles. Without a secure line of supply and reinforcement, adding more units to the exposed bridgehead only increased potential losses. Bar-Lev ordered Sharon to cross no more tanks9, and, with his remaining 8Adan. p. 271. 9Sharon was furious at this order. Even before the war ended, he began accusing Bar-Lev, in the press, of ruining the chances of victory by his over-cautious approach. It may be noted, however, that Sharon was on the west bank, where there was almost no opposition. Had he been experiencing the bitter fighting on the east bank, he may not have felt so secure. east bank units, to capture the Chinese Farm position. Adan was now directed to take charge of clearing the corridor and transportation of the bridges10. Adan's inspection of the Akavish Road revealed the vulnerability of the Israeli operation. If the Egyptians broke through from the north, or committed their air force, a disaster might ensue. Even heavy artillery shelling would cause many casualties. Adan assigned his Second in Command, Brigadier General Dov Tamari, to take charge of traffic control on the road. Sharon's second in command, Brigadier General Jack Evans, assumed responsibility for moving the bridging equipment11. Adan did not yet know that Southern Command had ordered a halt to tank transfers over the Canal. Still following the original plan, he sent an armored battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Amir Jaffe, to the yard as his lead crossing element. When this unit reached the Canal, they were met by Sharon. He told them of the Southern Command ordered halt, then called Adan to request that the battalion be attached to his (Sharon's) division to help Reshef's brigade. On hearing of the desperate situation at Tirtur Road, Adan agreed. Sharon immediately sent Jaffe's battalion north, where it went into action against the advancing Egyptian 14th Armored Brigade. 10Adan. pp. 271-4. 11Dupuy. p. 506. Adan now committed his two armor brigades12, under the command of Colonels Natke Baram and Gavriel Amir, to the hills north of the Akavish-Tirtur road junction. Their mission was to open the Tirtur road. When they advanced, however, they were met by long range Sagger fire, and indications of heavy Egyptian concentrations. The movement to the west proceeded slowly, under heavy fire. The Egyptians were making good use of the extensive network of ditches, which extended south from Chinese Farm to the Akavish Road, to provide cover and concealment for anti-tank missile teams. Adan, realizing that his armor heavy units would not be. able to advance without taking unacceptable losses, requested infantry support to clear the ditches. An Airborne Infantry brigade commanded by Colonel Uzzi Ya'iri was given the mission13. The infantrymen, however, were then at Refidim, 80 kilometers to the east of the Chinese Farm. Boarding buses, they began the long drive to the front14. 12Adan's third brigade, commanded by Colonel Aryeh Karen, had been retained as a reserve force by Southern Command. 13There is some disagreement concerning the size of this force. Dupuy (op. cit., p. 506) states that Ya'iri's entire brigade was used for the attack. Adan (op. cit., p. 284-5), the commander to whom the paratroops were attached, says that only a battalion, accompanied by Ya'iri, was sent to him. 14Adan. p. 278-81. Tamari, meanwhile, was making progress in unjamming the traffic on Akavish. Using bulldozers to push vehicles off the road, he was able to inch forward with the unifloat rafts. Sharon was not pleased with his new orders. He mounted no attack on Chinese Farm. Instead, he continued to push for permission to bring the remainder of his tanks over the Canal. His reserve brigade, under Colonel Tuvia Raviv, was ordered to send one battalion to the RAB, and to move to the crossing site with the others in preparation for crossing. Although Sharon issued his directions as a warning order, contingent upon Southern Command permission, it was clear that he was still following his own scheme. On the west bank, Sharon did not conform to traditional procedures for establishing a bridgehead. Instead of developing a defensive ring around the crossing site, he sent out units to raid SAM sites and rear-area support facilities. Sharon's units near the bridgehead were concealed in the thick growth along the Sweetwater Canal which paralleled the Suez in the West, and in the Deversoir airfield buildings. He had still met no significant Arab forces15. Southern Command found that even talking to Sharon was difficult. When attempts to raise him were unsuccessful, Gonen called Sharon's east bank brigade commanders. Their orders from Sharon, in contradiction to Southern Command direction, increased the developing friction between Southern 15Dupuy. p. 503-5. Command and Sharon. Gonen ordered Raviv not to cross the Canal without direct orders from southern Command16. Serious consideration was now being given to cancelling the entire operation. Dayan, at Southern Command headquarters, had seen the grim situation on the roads as he flew in. He, Bar-Lev, and Gonen agreed to concentrate on securing the east bank before proceeding with the attack on the west bank. Continuation of the mission would be contingent on opening the corridor and putting the bridges in place. If this could not be done, the forces on the west bank would be recalled. If the Israelis were concerned with the situation, the Egyptians were not. Their lack of concern, however, was based on ignorance. The Israeli diversionary attacks had mushroomed into major battles, were serving their purpose. The Egyptians thought that the aim of the east bank attacks was to roll up the right flank of the 2d Army, and they were confident that such an assault would be stopped. Whether by intent or luck, Sharon's tactics on the west bank were also successful in deceiving the sparse Egyptian forces. Reports to Cairo17 from units in contact spoke of nothing more than 16Adan. p. 280. 17Unlike the Israelis, the Egyptian GHQ was never moved close to the front. Even the force commander, General Shazli, operated from Cairo until the Egyptians recognized the scope and danger of the crossing. O'Ballance (op. cit. p. 334.) quotes Ismail as follows concerning this arrangement: "The distances were too small and a corps headquarters would required an extra 100 staff officers which we did not have. I did have a forward HQ, which both myself and Shazli visited from time to time, and also a field GHQ, designed to move forward if we advanced." small numbers of amphibious tanks, which were purportedly being destroyed by the Egyptian defenders. It was not until the evening of the 16th that the Egyptians began to seriously shell the bridgeheads on the east and west bank. Even then, there was no real effort to concentrate forces against the west bank Israelis18. The Egyptians did have a plan to contain an Israeli crossing. Called Plan 200, it mentioned three possible crossing sites, one of which was near Deversoir. The 182nd Paratroop Brigade was designated as the reaction force. Neither of the armies, however, was given responsibility for implementing the plan, and no rear area commander was designated. As a consequence, the local unit commander was the only one to take any action, and that was with company size units. The commands which should have taken control of the penetrated area at this point were the Army headquarters. Despite the threat posed to both, neither chose to do so19,20. The involved Egyptian command system also contributed to the inflexible response. Orders with the 18Dupuy. p. 505. 19O'Ballance. p. 242. 20The 2nd Egyptian Army commander, General Mamoun, had had a heart attack on the 13th. He was replaced by General Abdul Moneim Khalil. After the war, this change in command was noted by the Egyp- tians as a factor contributing to the lack of decisiveness shown the Army commanders during this period. signatures of four separate staff officers were required in order to initiate an operation involving both the 2nd and 3d Armies21. If the tip of the knife had not yet touched a sensitive area on the west bank, the same could not be said about the blade's penetration to the east. The Egyptian reaction to the Israeli wedge continued to be violent. In a planned pincer movement designed to cut off the Israeli forces near the Canal, the Egyptian GHQ ordered the 16th Infantry division to attack to the south, and the 25th Independent Armor division was directed to attack to the north22. Adan, meanwhile, continued in his efforts to clear the corridor and to move the recalcitrant bridges forward. The RAB had, at length, been repaired. But the Tirtur Road was still contested by the Egyptians. The paratroopers were making slow progress in their move toward the front. Although they had been expected at dusk, it was 2200 before Colonel Ya'iri finally reached Adan's command post. His troops landed soon after by helicopter (which had finally been supplied when their buses became mired in the road-jam). Adan briefed Ya'iri on his mission using a photo map and 1:50,000 scale maps. There would be no tanks or APC's because of the full moon. Surprisingly, the paratroopers had brought no artillery officers. Rather than delay the attack 21USACGSC Reference Book, p. 4-14. 22Adan. p. 283. for the hour needed to bring one forward from Adan's batteries, it was agreed that Ya'iri would request fires over Adan's division command net. Preparations proceeded with a sense of urgency. If the mission could not be completed during darkness, the paratroops would be exposed to the brunt of the Egyptian fires from Missouri ridge. At midnight, with no reconnaissance and too little preparation, Colonel Ya'iri began to move down Tirtur Road23. It soon became apparent that the infantry would not clear the road in time. Adan ordered Ya'iri to narrow his front and move faster. In desperation, he also sent a scout company in APC's down the Akavish Road to probe for a hole. At 0245, the paratroopers found the Egyptians. Artillery began to land around them, and the volume of small arms fire became heavy. Saggers, used against the infantrymen, made movement even more difficult. Israeli artillery fire was ineffective. Attempts to move around the left, then the right flanks, of the Egyptian position were met with barrages of fire. Casualties mounted. As the infantry battle increased in intensity, the scout company reported in. Amazingly, the Akavish Road was open all the way to the Lexicon junction. Adan decided to push his luck to the limit. He recalled the scout company, then sent them back down the Akavish Road with the irreplaceable unifloat rafts. A tank battalion from Baram's brigade was 23Adan. pp. 285-8. detailed to cover their movement by traveling along the sand dunes to the north of Akavish. Bulldozers were sent out to clear the road of the wrecks from tank battles of previous days. The convoy moved out at 0400, while the paratroopers' desperate battle held the attention of the Egyptians. By 0630 on the 17th, the rafts had reached the Canal. Construction of a bridge began immediately24. With bridge emplacement finally under way, Adan turned his full attention to opening the roads to the crossing site. He sent his two tank brigades down the Akavish Road, then to the north against the Egyptian positions. (Figure (10)) Click here to view image They were met by major elements of the Egyptian 16th Infantry and the 21st Armor Divisions, who, in compliance with the Egyptian GHQ plan for pinching off the Israeli penetration, had begun their attack to the south. The two forces slammed together between Akavish and Tirtur, and began a morning long battle which see-sawed between the two 24Adan. pp. 290-91. roads25. The Israeli brigades received help from an unexpected direction. Since the morning of the 15th, Amir Jaffe's tank battalion had been in battle against the Egyptian 14th Armored Brigade. In a final encounter on the morning of the 17th, the 14th brigade broke, retreating to the north. Jaffe then turned his men to the east, and hit the main Egyptian force from the rear. The Egyptians began to pull back grudgingly, allowing the Israeli brigades to move, temporarily, into the Chinese Farm area26. The advancing Israeli armor was a welcome sight to the beleaguered paratroopers. Although the tankers were under effective Sagger fire, they collected the infantrymen, then pulled back to stronger positions on the Tirtur Road. In all, the paratroopers lost 80 wounded and 40 killed, among which were two company commanders27. Armor losses had also been heavy. "In an area of about seven kilometers by three kilometers a total of about 250 tanks had been destroyed in about 36 hours of intensive fighting; about two thirds of these were Egyptian."28 The Egyptian forces were far from defeated. They occupied 25Dupuy. p. 508. 26Herzog. p. 272. 27Adan. p. 294-5. 28Dupuy. p. 508. strong positons on Missouri ridge, and along the northern section of the Chinese Farm. From there, they could still bring effective fire to bear on the Tirtur Road, now held by the Israelis. The Akavish Road, however, was secure. At 1100, the road was declared open to all traffic. The logistic support needed to make the crossing viable began to pour forward, and, with Bar-Lev's authorization, Sharon transferred ten more tanks to the west bank29. The reinforcements had not come too soon for Sharon. On the morning of the 17th, the Egyptians finally focused heavy artillery fire on both the east and west bank bridgeheads30. The engineers took heavy casualties struggling to assemble the unifloat bridge. Sharon, hoping to take out some of the artillery positions, sent elements of Matt's brigade in an attack to the north, while units from Erez's brigade continued to roam in the Egyptian rear areas. Matt's men soon ran into trouble. Near a position known as Orcha, they were attacked by an Egyptian commando unit, supported by artillery firing directly at the paratrooper 29Dupuy. p. 508. Adan (op. cit., p. 293) differs. He states that the tank crossing was in violation of the still in force ban on transfers. 30Adan (op. cit. p. 296) states that the Egyptians had 21 light artillery, 5 medium, and 3 heavy batteries, for a total of 144 pieces, which could bear on the bridgehead. half-tracks. The paratroopers were pinned down for four hours before an armored rescue unit managed to relieve them31. Erez' force also drew a violent response. In the first major west bank attack on the Israelis, the Egyptian 23rd Armored Brigade charged into Erez' positions. The battle was intense, but the Egyptians finally withdrew, having lost ten tanks32,33 As Adan was directing the battles in his division area, a helicopter arrived at his command post. In it were Dayan, Elazar, and Bar-Lev. Sharon soon appeared as well, having traveled from the Yard in a half-track34. Since the previous day, Dayan had been considering canceling Operation Valiant. Reports which worked their way up to Southern Command were relentlessly bad. The paratroopers failure to clear the Chinese Farm area had made up his mind. The assemblage of military leaders was intended 31Adan. p. 296-7. 32Herzog, p. 275. 33O'Ballance. p. 236. According to this author, the Egyptian commander of the attack only fell back after re- ceiving an order directly from "No. 10" (Ismail) to retreat in order "to avoid creating a salient." 34The composition of Sharon's traveling party is interesting. They included a reporter and senior Israeli officers, not assigned to Sharon's division, who were his friends. (Adan. p. 298.) to begin planning for an Israeli retreat. Adan, however, was not thinking of retreating. As he spread his 1:50,000 map on the sand and explained the situation, it became clear that the battle was finally turning in favor of Israel. Within hours, a bridge would be in place. The Akavish Road was finally open, and progress was being made in the clearing of the Tirtur Road. As they talked, a new report came in: the paratroopers at Chinese Farm had been rescued. With that, talk of retreat ceased, and the Israelis began to plan for the advance35. Sharon, ever offensive-minded, called for a change to the original plan. He proposed that Adan's division, instead of passing through Sharon's positions, relieve the in-place west bank forces. Sharon would then breakout from the bridgehead and lead the attack to the south. Adan would have none of it. He felt that his division had done the dirty work, originally assigned to Sharon's division, of opening the corridor and bringing up the bridges. He was insistent that his division would now have the position of honor in the attack. Elazar stepped in and stopped the argument. Operation Valiant would go as planned. Adan would cross and attack. Sharon would continue to hold the bridgehead, and take responsibility for the security of the corridor on the west bank. Raviv's brigade was returned 35Dupuy. p. 509. to him for that purpose. Sharon, meanwhile, could re-commence the ferrying of his tanks to the east bank, preparatory to his follow on assault36. Adan had one more job to finish before crossing over. Even before the command post conference began, he had received reports of a large tank formation advancing on the Israeli corridor from the south. This was the Egyptian 25th Independent Armor Brigade, with 100 T-62 tanks, finally commencing the southern portion of an intended double pincer attack on the Israeli penetration. By 1300, the dust cloud from the Egyptian tanks could be seen at Adan's command post. He moved out in an APC to personally direct the impending battle. The advance notice and long march required of the Egyptians gave Adan the opportunity to set an effective trap for the 25th Tank Brigade (figure (10)). Reshev, with one battalion, was already at the Lakekan fort, directly in front of the advancing Egyptians. Adan pulled Baram out of the Chinese Farm battle, and sent him south with two battalions. One of these moved up beside Reahev, while the other took up positions on the right flank of the Egyptian line of march. Finally, Karan's brigade, released from Southern Command reserve, circled behind the Egyptians from the southeast. As the 25th Armored Brigade traveled up Lexicon Road, with the shore of the Great Bitter Lake on their left flank, 36Dupuy. p. 509. they were advancing into a killing ground whose borders were defined by the principal portions of three Israeli tank brigades37. The outcome was never in question. As the lead Egyptian tanks approached the Lakekan fort, Baram and Reshev's battalions opened fire. An Egyptian attempt to deploy away from the lake was met by fire from the other tank battalion on their right flank. Soon thereafter, Karen's brigade reached their positions, and opened fire from the right rear of the Egyptians. In the confusion which ensued, few managed to escape. More than 80 of the nearly 100 Egyptian tanks were destroyed in less than an hour. The only Israeli losses were four tanks which ran into a minefield while trying to pursue the disorganized Egyptians. Adan had won the battle for the corridor. The commander 37The Egyptians claim that there were considerably more than just tanks used in this ambush. O'Ballance cites Egyptian sources which stated that most of the Egyptian tanks were killed by TOW's, (Tube launched, Optically tracked, Wire guided anti-tank missiles) recently supplied from the U.S., and flown to the Sinai by helicopter just before the attack. (O'Ballance. p. 234) Adan denies this, and Dupuy considers the use of TOW's on the 17th to be unlikely. (Dupuy. p. 502.) Willmott, however, flatly states that the Israelis used TOW's against the Egyp- tians from the 16th on. (H. P. Willmott, "The Yom Kippur War," in War in Peace, ed. Sir Robert Thompson (New York: Crown, 1981), p. 238.) whose performance on the 8th of October contributed to one of Israel's worst defeats had totally redeemed himself. "On the 16th and 17th, as on the 8th, combat activity on the Sinai front was focussed on one Israeli division: Adan's. While this division was carrying the heaviest part of the fighting, other Israeli units were doing their part. But just as with the failure of Adan's division on October 8 Israel suffered the most crushing military defeat in its history, so with the division's success on the 17th came the most outstanding Israeli victory of the war."38 By 1600, Adan and his men were on their way back to their assembly areas to refuel and rearm, Karen returned to Southern Command reserve, These preparations, however, were not moving fast enough for the impatient Sharon. Immediately after the battle, he radioed to Southern Command: "Where is Bren (Adan)? Everything is ready. Where is Bren? Why is he holding things up?"39 Adan was incensed at the radio call, which he intercepted over the Southern Command command net. Indeed, the bridge was finally ready to carry traffic. Before he crossed, though, Adan had to ensure that the hard won positions on the shoulders of the Israeli corridor remained secure. The units which Sharon was to send to replace Adan's men had not arrived. Until they did, Adan could not complete his 38Depuy. p. 511 39Depuy. p. 511. preparations. The tension among the Israeli Generals increased as Sharon, his attention riveted on the west bank, resisted attempts to have his forces open the Tirtur Road. When Bar-Lev applied pressure, Sharon turned to Dayan. The Defense Minister took Sharon's part, and chided Bar-Lev and Gonen for the delays. Adan, in turn, refused to begin crossing his tanks until they were prepared. It was not until 2000 that Raviv relieved Baram in his positions near Chinese Farm. At 2130, with some tanks still not completely refueled, Adan ordered his brigades to move to the east40. Traveling along the dunes south of Akavish, Adan arrived at the bridge an hour later. He began to cross his forces, still bickering with Southern Command and Sharon over the latter's refusal to return Jaffre's battalion. Adan was among the first to cross. Under a full moon, the bridgeheads were quiet; too quiet on the west bank. Instead of the guides Adan had expected to lead his men into position, there was no one. Only after Adan contacted Sharon's headquarters did Colonel Erez appear to bring Adan forward. He arrived none too soon. Artillery shells began to pour into the bridgehead as the tanks from Amir's brigade were crossing the bridge. Initially, the barrage was not the principal problem. After only two tanks had crossed, the connections between two floats of te bridge snapped. The traffic waiting to cross 40Adan. p. 306-8. piled up, making an inviting target for the Egyptian artillery. Adan quickly ordered his men to continue the crossing using the Gillois rafts while the engineers tried to repair the damage. Adan himself solved the problem. He ordered a bridging tank forward, and soon the gap was spanned by an Assault Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB)41. With artillery shells and Katyusha rockets thundering around them, Amir's tanks returned to the bridge and completed their crossing. By 0235, all of his armor had reached the west bank, despite the sinking by artillery of a Gillois raft. The artillery attack ended around 0315, and Baram quickly brought his men over. Both brigades and a battalion of self-propelled artillery were on the west bank and in staging areas by 051542. Breakout: October 18 - 19. As previously noted, the Suez Canal is paralleled in the west by a fresh water canal and irrigation system from Ismailia, near the center of the Canal, to Suez City in the south, A heavily cultivated "green belt:, covered with thick vegetation, extends from the fresh water canal west for distances of 100 to 5,000 meters43. 41The AVLB is a metal bridge mounted on a tank chassis. It is driven up to a gap, then automatically unfolded and extended from bank to bank. The chassis is then detached. The AVLB does not float. 42Adan. p. 312-3. 43USACGSC Ref Book, p. 4-4, and Dupuy. p. 514. Click here to view image Sharon was to have included the green belt in his bridgehead in order to establish a strong position from which Adan could begin his attack. In fact, Sharon had only moved to the eastern edge of the fresh water canal, leaving the green belt to the Egyptians. Adan's first battle would be to reach the desert. Sharon, meanwhile, had finally obtained an attack of his own. Although his division still straddled the Canal, with one brigade on the east bank (Raviv) and two on the west bank, Sharon requested and received permission to attack north on the west bank toward Ismailia and the 2nd Egyptian Army. Conceptually, Sharon envisioned a wide sweep around the rear of the 2nd Army, eventually reaching the Mediterranean and cutting them off. Southern Command, however, was not quite so ambitious. Sharon could attack toward Ismailia, but he must also clean up the Missouri Ridge position on the east bank, and maintain security for the bridges. Magen's division, which had previously been assigned to guard the corridor and bridgeheads, would assume Sharon's old mission of providing security and depth for Adan's assault to the south44. 44Dupuy. p. 516. Bar-Lev recognized the obvious disadvantages of this split in the Israeli effort. The change in plan was approved, in large part, in an attempt to quiet the irascible Sharon. Unfortu- nately for Southern Command, Sharon continued to be just as difficult to deal with. Issuing his orders over the radio, Adan launched a two-pronged attack to the west at 0545. Baram was on the north flank, and Amir the south. Each had an artillery battalion in direct support. They used Bailey bridges or existing small stone bridges to cross the ten meter fresh water canal, and moved into the green belt. Contact was immediate. Although the Egyptians had still not deployed large units against the Israeli bridgehead, those which were in place had had time to chose and develop good positions. Dense vegetation and irrigation canals aided the defenders. Within minutes, both brigades began to lose tanks to Saggers and Egyptian tanks firing from well concealed emplacements. Baram advanced quickly. Despite an ambush by an Egyptian tank battalion, he cleared the green belt and took up positions on a hill five kilometers to the west by 0800. From the heights, he fought off Egyptian infantry and armored counterattacks. Amir was not so successful. His road-bound forces were pinned down by infantry hidden in the thick growth across the fresh water canal, and by tank positions on his left flank. Unable to advance and taking heavy casualties, he called for infantry reinforcement, and then sent a tank battalion around the flank of the Egyptian position to his south. The flanking movement cleared away the enemy armor, allowing the arriving paratroopers to attack and seize the infantry positions. Finally able to cross the stone bridge, Amir's tanks ran into still more tanks, missiles, and anti-tank guns firing from an Egyptian position called Tsach. This stronghold was too much for the brigade. Amir despersed his tanks among the trees, while Adan developed a coordinated divisional attack against the Egyptians strongpoint. The Tsach position was a stong one, dominating all of the approaches. Adan needed more punch if he was to either take or by-pass it. He requested and received his own third brigade (Karen's) which had been in Southern Command reserve. While Karen was pushing west, Adan, on Gonen's orders, sent tank raids against the Egyptian SAM sites. The tankers concentrated on knocking out the vulnerable radar equipment from long distances, avoiding the anti-tank defenses. Although only three or four missile batteries were destroyed, the attacks struck an exposed Egyptian nerve. The SAM's were soon pulled back to less threatened, but also less effective, positions45. In Cairo, serious attention was finally being given to the Israeli presence on the west bank. Soviet Premier Kosygin had arrived on the 16th. He brought satellite photographs showing the bridge in place with many Israeli armored vehicles on the east bank46. Ismail sent General Shazli, the Chief of Staff, to the front to investigate47. What 45Adan. p. 320 46O'Ballance. p. 241. 47This may be contrasted with the Israeli practice of front line leadership. Earlier in the day, Dayan had nearly been injured when an Egyptian helicopter dropped a napalm barrel near him at Adan's command post on the east bank. Throughout the war, both Dayan and Elazar, his Chief of Staff, regularly visited the forward units. Shazli found shocked him from his complacency. It was obvious that the Israeli attack posed a major danger to both Egyptian armies. When he returned to GHQ, he recommended pulling three to four armored brigades back from the east bank to contain the Israeli offensive. Ismail refused. His focus was still on the political value of the Egyptian gains in the expected negotiations following the war. Moreover, the spectre of the panic which had followed the retreat order in 1967 was in his mind. The Egyptians simply could not pull back their forces, even for a tactical counter-attack48. He did, however, order the 23rd tank brigade and the 150th paratroop brigade forward from GHQ strategic reserve. The remaining east bank forces were concentrated against the Israeli bridgehead49. These actions were not enough for Shazli. In the argument which followed, disagreement turned to hostility. Ismail ordered Shazli to wait for him in the command post, the called Sadat and requested his presence at the headquarters. When Sadat arrived, the generals presented their opposing views. Sadat agree with Ismail, and Shazli was relieved50. In the discussion which followed Shazli's relief, Sadat and Ismail agreed to seek an end to the war. This was especially difficult for Sadat, since he had been resisting 48O'Ballance. p. 245. 49Adan. p. 314. 50Dupuy. p. 518-9. Soviet attempts to impose such a halt to the fighting almost from the first day of the war. Nonetheless, the political gains which could be realized if Egypt's position remained reasonably intact overweighed any possible gains from continued combat. Sadat instructed the Soviets and the Syrians that Egypt would now accept a ceasefire51. Sharon's forces were especially busy on the 18th. When Raviv's brigade attacked toward Chinese Farm that morning, they found that the Egyptians had abandoned most of their positions. They cleared an area north of the road sufficient to permit engineers to commence clearing mines. By 1100, the road was open, and the RAB began to roll once more. It 51Dupuy. p. 519. Sadat sent the following telegram to President Assad of Syria: "We have fought Israel to the fif- teenth day. In the first four days Israel was alone, so we were able to expose her position on both fronts. On their ad- mission the enemy have lost 800 tanks and two hundred planes. But during the last ten days I have, on the Egyptian front, been fighting the United States as well, through the arms it is sending. To put it bluntly, I cannot fight the United States or accept the responsibility before history for the destruction of our armed forces for a second time. I have therefore in- formed the Soviet Union that I am prepared to accept a cease- fire on existing positions..." Although Assad strongly objected to such a move, the Soviets quickly arranged meetings with the United States in support of the Egyptian request. reached the crossing site at nightfall, and by midnight was in position about one kilometer north of the first bridge. It began carrying traffic the next morning. It had not arrived too soon. By nightfall, all but one Gillois rafts had been sunk. One of these had taken two tanks and their crews with it to the bottom of the Canal. Missouri ridge remained a problem. From that position, the Egyptians could fire, and direct fire, on the Israelis in the corridor. Sharon's remaining forces on the west bank were unable to take the position, and settled in about one kilometer north of Chinese Farm. On the west bank, Sharon had little success. The paratroop brigade was unable to move against strong enemy positions, and Erez' tank brigade made only limited progress toward Ismailia. Israeli reinforcements and supplies poured in along with Karen's brigade during the evening. The trip west had been hectic, with the roads jammed with supply convoys and under heavy artillery fire. Magen's division, also moving west in preparation for the next day's operations, added to the congestion52. Re-supplying, repairs, and planning were done under intense artillery bombardment. Especially for the ammunition and fuel crews, the evening was nightmarish. 52Adan p. 326-8. "There were many casualties among the logistics personnel, and control difficulties grew. Every time the shells started landing near the convoy vehicles, the drivers would leap out and scatter in every direction, trying to take cover as far as possible from the trucks loaded with fuel and ammunition. Reassembling in the dark was difficult and complicated."53 By morning, though not as ready as he would have wished to be, Adan was prepared for the breakout effort. He had three armored brigades, with 170 tanks. Magen was also across the Canal, and Sharon was poised for his strike to the north. There was no longer any question of whether or not Operation Valiant would go. It was only a question of how far. Encirclement of the 3d Army: 19-25 October54. Adan considered the Geneifa Hills, located about 20 kilometers to his south, to be the key to an effective attack into the rear of the 3d Army. If the Egyptians occupied and prepared these heights, the assault could be slow and difficult. Consequently, he left a small holding force before the Egyptians at Tsach, and aimed his briades to the south for a concentrated blow. His aim was to quickly by-pass the Egyptian strongholds, and occupy the Geneifa Hills before the Egyptians recognized his object. Magen would follow behind and clear up the by-passed pockets55. 53Adan. p. 328. 54The story of this last phase of the war is sum- marized from Dupuy (op. cit. pp. 521-9 and 538-46). 55Dupuy. p. 523. Adan attacked in an arc, first to the west and then to the south, with Baram and Amir in the lead, and Karen in the rear. Magen, able to move around the flank of the Tsach position, captured it fairly quickly and opened a major road junction. Adan pushed ahead, and although he encountered strong Egyptian resistance, he was able to overcome or by-pass it. By evening, he had established himself in the foot hills of the Geneifa region. Magen, meanwhile, had advanced well to the east in order to protect Adan's rear and flank. His position, less than 100 kilometers from Cairo, added to the Egyptian confusion about the ultimate goal of the bold Israeli thrust. On the 20th, Adan and Magen continued their drive to the south. Their effectiveness increased dramatically with the return of the Israeli Air Force, able to operate more freely now that the SAM system had been punctured. Adan's tanks secured the Geneifa hills by evening, and took control of the Asor Road, one of the major arteries from Cairo to the front. On the 21st, the town and airport of Fayid fell, opening effective air and land supply routes for Adan. Baram and Karen's brigades pressed on, hoping to close the last supply route from Cairo to the 3d Army and town of Suez, the Sarag Road. The Egyptians, recognizing this threat, mounted a determined defense with two brigades of the 4th Armored Division. This force stopped Adan 10 kilometers short of the road. Nonetheless, long range Israeli fires made movement along the road difficult for the Egyptians. On the 22nd, Adan was informed that a ceasefire would be imposed around 1800 that evening. In order to gain the greatest amount of territory, Adan sent Baram with Magen's division to the west in another effort to cut the Sarag Road. With his two remaining brigades, he attempted to reach Suez City to the south. Magen was quickly successful in cutting the Sarag Road. Baram then returned to reinforce Adan's attack in the south, which was stalled by stong Egyptian resistance. As the ceasefire neared, Adan decided to try, once more, the full-fledged tank charge which had been the Israeli forte in 1967. He turned to the east, toward the south shore of the Great Bitter Lake, and with all three brigades on line, roared into the desert. The result was an armored melee as the Israelis broke into the rear area of the 3d Army. Although the Egyptians fought bravely, Adan's forces were able to reach the green belt and cut off the Egyptians to the north56. Sharon's attacks in the north, toward the town of Ismailia, gained much less ground. The Egyptian 182nd Paratroop Brigade had arrived to bolster the southern flank 56The Egyptians dispute the Israeli claim of control in this area. Adan's by-passing of units had left strong Egyp- tians forces along his trail, who did not consider themselves defeated. of the 2nd Army's on the west bank position. Matt's paratroopers and Reshev's tank bigade, in a four day battle from 18 to 22 October, were unable to make any significant progress against the Egyptian positions, and sustained heavy casualties in the attempt. By the ceasefire on the 22nd, they were still 10 kilometers south of Ismailia57. In Adan's sector, there was little chance the cease fire would hold. After his wild charge, Israeli and Egyptian units were scattered over the battlefield, with no clear lines between them. Fire fights broke out regularly as both sides tried to consolidate and link up. With these skirmishes as an excuse, the Israelis continued their attack on the 23rd. Their objective was to complete the encirclement of the 3d Egyptian Army, and to capture Suez City. Reinforced by an improvised mechanized infantry brigade transported in captured Egyptian APC's and commanded by his second in command, General Tamari, Adan first concentrated on opening his lines of supply to the north. Around noon, he again used a tank charge, this time with Amir and Karen's brigades, and set off for Suez City. The battle was a difficult one, but by avoiding strongpoints Adan was able to 57Sharon claimed that his lack of success was princi- pally the result of politically motivated interference from Southern Command. Often during this period, he would call directly to Dayan and have Southern Command orders counter- manded. Bar-Lev's attemts to have him relieved were rejected. bring both brigades to the outskirts of Suez City by dark. To the west, Magen made his own daring advance. He established a strong position on the Sarag Road at the kilometer 101 marker, then pushed an armored brigade toward the Gulf of Suez. During the evening of 23-24 October, the 17 tank remnant of this brigade, with headlights on to gain speed, rumbled into the town of Ras Adabiya on the shore of the Gulf of Suez. The 3d Egyptian Army was trapped. On the 24th, the UN Security Council tried once more to establish a ceasefire. In an attempt to gain control of Suez City before the arrival of UN observers, Adan launched an attack into the town. It was a mistake. The Egyptians held the tank units to slight gains, and forced the accompanying infantry to break up into separated company size pockets. These barely escaped and suffered heavy casualties in the process. Despite repeated breakdowns of the ceasefires, and repeated Israeli attempts, on the 25th and 28th of October, to overrn Suez City, the lines upon which the Israel and Egypt would end the war had finally been drawn. Operation Valiant was over. CHAPTER VI ANALYSIS In terms of military results, Operation Valiant was a major Israeli success. Audacity and courage changed the situation in the Sinai from an incipient Egyptian victory to, at the least, a draw. Nonetheless, this is not a model to copy without reservation. Operation Valiant enjoyed a degree of serendipity sufficient to encourage conversion to judaism. Despite this good fortune, the entire journey to Suez City was made with one track on the edge of the cliff. If the crossing site selected before the war had not coincided with an Egyptian force vacuum; if the Egyptians had not made their ill-fated attack on the 14th; if the Egyptians had not tailed to recognize the seriousness of the crossing for an incredible three days... Certainly, Operation Valiant had much to commend it, but its lessons are not all positive. Planning and Preparation. Throughout the period from 1967 to 1973, the Israelis underestimated Egypt, assuming that she would not correct the glaring problems which lessened her combat effectiveness. There was a name for this denigration: the "collapse theory". Operating under this banner, Israeli military leaders assumed that the Egyptian forces would fall apart as soon as they were dealt a strong blow. as they had in 1967. The Israeli commanders, most of whom had fought successfully as independent task force leaders behind enemy lines, came to believe entirely in their individual military judgement. Confidence is desirable, but in this instance it appears that it was achieved at the cost of cooperation. The tendency of the Israeli generals to become "prima donnas" was reinforced by the political environment in which they operated. Israel carried more than assumptions of superiority from the 1967 war. As has been noted, the doctine of immediate offensive action on enemy soil became sacrosanct. Their dedication to the offense was comparable to, and at times as self-destructive as, French attitudes prior to World War I. This orientation, along with the political hazards inherent in even a temporary Egyptian seizure of the canal, locked them into what was actually an area defense. They were poorly suited for such a strategy. Tanks and aircraft had been the dominant weapons in 1967. The doctrine, organization, and armament of the IDF resulting from the Six Day War ensured that they would remain so in the future. Doctrinally, the Israelis had come to rely almost exclusively on the tank attack, supported only by the IAF. Tank battalions and brigades were stripped of all impediments to rapid advance, becoming almost pure armor instruments. Including in this purification were most of the organic mortars which had provided a base of fire for the tankers1. The majority of Israeli money went into 1Luttwak and Horowitz. p. 363. upgrading the armor and air components of the IDF, with the consequence that there was little funding left for the rest. The infantry suffered the most. Not only were most units lift with antique half-track armored cars and buses for trasportation, but the pride of the Israeli manpower was channeled into the IAF and the armored divisions. There were no more infantry organizations higher than brigade level, and few of these. "By 1973 most infantry brigades had been converted to armour; as distince from at least seventeen brigade-equivalents of armour, there were reportedly only three paratroop and a few first-line infantry brigades, including the Golani, the training brigade of the conscript infantry. Much of the rest of the infantry, 'motorized' with conscripted civilian buses or trucks, was made up of second line troops."2 Training of the armored division infantry brigades and battalions was often poor. Concentration was on developing the ability of nearly tank-pure units to make swift charges through the enemy lines and into his rear. The infantry, it was assumed, would come along, with little attention to tank-infantry coordination. No more time was allocated for training of the mechanized infantryman than was provided for the footmobile troops3. 2Luttwak and Horowitz. p. 370. 3Adan. p. 212. Certainly, not all of Iarael's military activity before the war was poor. Sharon's prescient preparations for the Canal crossing were outstanding examples of sound planning. Without the previoualy readied yard and thinned Canal ramparts, the specially prepared road, and the pre-staged bridging equipment, the crossing would have been much harder, if possible at all. The Israelis recognized that their bridging equipment was barely adequate. Assault bridging capability, in particular, was poor with only the RAB having even the potential of being emplaced under fire. This equipment must be considered, however, in light of the arms embargos which numerous countries placed on Israel, and the difficult choices which Israel faced allocating her scarce funds. Israeli pre-war planning for the crossing of the Suez Canal does not appear to have gone much beyond these bare bones elements of a bridging operation. Certainly, there was little attention to developing a road network and logistics system which would support operations on the west bank. It is equally clear that there was little attention to creating a plan for command and control of the bridgehead and attack elements. To be fair, however, the Israeli Generals never expected to have to fight their way to the east bank before they crossed. The need to maintain two bridgeheads, and supply them via a forced corridor through Egyptian-held territory was entirely unforseen. Planning and Preparation During the War. Israeli plans during the 1973 war were characterized by boldness and emphasis on maneuver to achieve surprise and shock effect. However, they typically underestimated the Egyptians, showed poor attention to detail in command and control, and failed to provide for adequate logistics support. Both the Israeli counterattack of 8 October and Operation Valiant illustrate these traits. The "mission-type" order issued by Gonen to launch Adan's a October charge against the Egyptians shows the Israeli planning process at its worst. It was simplistic to a fault, and provided little of the coordination and control instruction needed by the Israeli commanders. Beyond mission statements and diagrammed axes of advance, there was scant substance. All of these problems were worsened by the decision not to deliver physical copies of the order, especially since major changes in concept had occurred since the planning conference the day before. Although a canal crossing and attack into the Egyptian rear was envisioned, there was no mention of logistics support or supply routes to be opened. In the tradition of the 1967 war, all was left to the local commander's initiative. The mission was vague in the extreme: mopping up the zone between artillery road and the Canal...", "readiness for a crossing to the other side of the canal.", "containment in the west and reserve". The problems with such orders were apparent. "...paratroop officers complained that their colleagues in the Armour Corps do not plan their battles...that the tank commanders simply advanced and attacked without thought or method."4 As a generalization, this is an overly heavy indictment of the armor corps. In those circumstances where a breakthrough was possible, such loose planning supported the rapid decisions and initiative which could turn a small gain into a rout. There were occasions, however, when more detailed and controlled plans were required. The inability of the Armor Corps officers to conduct such planning was a glaring weakness. The plan for Operation Valiant, although it enjoyed more success, was similarly weak in command, control, and logistics. Procedures for controlling traffic on the routes to the crossing site appear to have been given little attention. Sharon's responsibilities for securing the corridor and bridgehead, and for preparing for follow-on operations, were covered as generalities. Once again, each Israeli commander was given almost complete freedom of action. In a battle which required the closest cooperation between divisions, such an approach guaranteed problems. Despite these criticisms, the Israeli planners deserve respect. Operating under fire and near exhaustion, they 4Luttwak and Horowitz. p. 369. responded to the ever-changing battlefield situation with plans which, though not unflawed, did achieve their objective. The flexibility and responsiveness of the Israeli staffs, at all levels, stands in stark contrast to the rigidity of the Egyptian planners. Tactics. The Israeli emphasis on individual initiative produced many tactical victories. Such a philosophy was necessary in order to offset the Arab superiority in numbers. There was, however, a cost: poor cooperation. Most serious for the Israelis was a reduced ability to conduct operations which required close cooperation between units, arms, and support agencies. The formation of what were essentially uni-arm units and an atrophied logistics system increased the difficulties. Both the initial counterattacks on 6 October, and the Adan attacks on 8 October demonstrated this Israeli weakness. They were largely unsupported tank charges, without the degree of multi-arm orchestration needed to defeat a modern, well prepared defense. This is not to say that the Israelis refused to learn. Their defensive battle against the 14 October Egyptian attack was an excellent example of combined arms tactics. Artillery obscured the vision of the Egyptian gunners and distracted them as they fired missiles. Infantry in armored vehicles used small arms to prevent deployment of the Egyptian infantrymen. Aircraft, working closely with artillery, took out many tanks, while Israeli armor effectively worked within the cover provided by these supporting arms to destroy most of the Arab armored vehicles. In Operation Valiant. however, the Israelis returned to a single arm offense. Although artillery was used more effectively, it still was not closely integrated with maneuver. Coordinated infantry-armor attacks were simply not used. If infantry was required, the armor would fall back until the infantry, unaided, had cleared the axis of advance. Then it would charge on. The paratroop brigade attack on Chinese Farm during the period 16 - 17 October is an example of how not to conduct combined arms operations. Once over the Canal and out of the green belt, Adan returned to pure tank charges, with the infantry again assigned to clean up by-passed flotsam. The reason for this regression was not intransigence. By this point, the Israelis recognized the danger of unsupported attacks, and had identified the solution. Unfortunately, post-1967 organization, training, and armament had made it very difficult for them to operate as a combined arms team. Organic indirect fire assets had been removed from the brigades, to include forward observers in some instances. The infantry was neither trained nor equipped to for combined attacks with armor. The IAF had not developed tactics which gave the other arms a role in suppressing air defenses5. This ragged cooperation extended beyond combined arms issues. Too often, cooperation between units was defective. In the 8 October counter-offensive, Gonen attacked with only one of his three divisions (Adan's), Adan attacked with only one of his brigades, and the brigade commander attacked with only one of his battalions. The result was that only one battalion from Adan's division faced the firepower of an entire Egyptian division, with predictable consequences. Adan candidly recognized his shortcomings: "I do not shirk responsibility for what happened in my division. The running of the battle was faulty; my coordination and control were insufficient. In 5It is ironic that the Israelis were fighting in nearly the same arena in which the British had been painfully schooled in the need for combined arms tactics three decades earlier. General Gott, General Officer Commanding 7th Armoured Division in the 1941 "Crusader" battle against Rommel wrote of that operation: "The German will not commit himself to tank versus tank battle as such. In every phase of battle he co-ordinates the action of his anti-tank guns, Field Artillery and In- fantry with the tanks and he will not be drawn from this policy." Correlli Barnett. The Desert Generals. (New York: Viking Press, 1960) p. 105. the second attack I was unable to prevent a situation in which Natke's brigade made an assault on its own. The brigade commanders were also at fault in coordination and control. Gabi, Natke, and Nir did not succeed in preventing an assault by just one battalion from their brigades."6 Sharon's cross-canal charge on the 15th, and his subsequent failure to secure the corridor on the 16th, were also examples of poor control and coordination. Essentially, only one of Sharon's three tank brigades carried the brunt of the fighting on the 15th. That brigade further sub-divided its efforts by sending battalions off in five different directions, three of which resulted in major engagements. The chance arrival of a battalion from Adan's division, which surely was not part of Sharon's plan, probably saved the corridor. Once over the Canal, Sharon's attention was hypnotically focused on the Egyptians to his front. He essentially abdicated his responsibilities for opening and securing the east bank corridor and bridgehead. On the west bank, instead of developing a true bridgehead, Sharon concentrated on raids into the enemy rear, using dispersion and concealment to avoid the artillery attacks he could not prevent. His tactics were successful, in that the Egyptians did not recognize the magnitude of the crossing until it was too late. However, this was more a function of Egyptian mistakes than of Sharon's tactics. Had the Egyptians attacked on the west bank 6Adan. PP 159-160. in force prior to the 19th, the lack of a secure bridgehead could have been disastrous. Certainly, not all of the Israeli battles from 6 to 25 October can be criticized for this same failing. Adan's magnificent fight on the 17th, during which he simultaneously cleared the Akavish Road and destroyed the 25th Egyptian Armored Brigade, was a model of effective and efficient use of forces. His west bank charge to the south was also extremely well done, with Adan coordinating not only his units, but Magen's. In these instances, the Israelis demonstrated the value of their favored tactics under the proper conditions. Essentially, such circumstances included: a turnable flank or penetratable line; a vulnerable rear area which could be reached quickly; and room to maneuver once the breakthrough had occurred. Once over the Canal, this situation existed. On the east bank, it did not. Command and Control. In a very interesting study, the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO) analysed the relative combat performance of Egyptian and Israeli units during the 1967 and 1973 wars7. The study results did not support popular conceptions. 7Historical Evaluation and Research Organization. Comparative Analysis: Arab and Israeli Combat Performance. 1967 and 1973 Wars. Defense Nuclear Agency Report No. DNA001-76-A-0089-0001 (Washington, D.C., 1976). "The significant thing is that, although the differential was still close to the same-about (a) two-to-one factor in favor of the Israelis-the gap had not narrowed between 1967 and 1973; if anything it had widened. This is completely contradictory to the conventional reasoning, which has suggested that the Arabs did so much better in 1973 than in 1967 because they had learned from their 1967 lessons, and had utilized the time to improve themselves. while the Israelis, arrogant and overconfident, had not made comparable efforts."8 In other words, the Israeli combat unit was still nearly twice as effective as its Egyptian counterpart, all else being equal. It was the improved Egyptian leadership, especially at the GHQ level, which accounted for the difference in outcome in 1973. Although Israel generals had moments of brilliance, their overall performance was subpar. Their reluctance to cooperate was evident throughout the war. Sharon, in particular, regularly acted in a manner which would have resulted in relief in almost any other army. Instead, he was often rewarded by having the orders of his superiors countermanded. This singular breakdown in military discipline was the consequence of three factors: First, the Israeli policy of encouraging exceptional initiative and independence on the part of her commanders had other than beneficial results. Especially after the successes of 1967, each top military leader came to believe that he 8Ibid. p. 25. knew best how to win the war, and could do so without help if only given a little air support. Second, the habit of returning senior generals to wartime positions which placed them under the orders of junior and less experienced officers proved to be unfortunate. Gonen was not in an enviable position with subordinates of the ilk of Adan and Sharon. Finally, the politicization of the Israeli army had created a situation in which military requirements were often overwhelmed by domestic political considerations. Sharon was a senior member of the Likud party, and would be a dangerous adversary after the war if given ammunition. Both Bar-Lev and Dayan had to consider the political impacts of every order issued to Sharon. The results of this weakness in the Israeli command system were displayed throughout the war. The most striking example occurred when Southern Command acquiesed to Sharon's demands for has own northern front. This dilution of effort greatly weakened the attack to the south with no apparent gain in the north. Obviously, the Israeli command system also had many strengths. Most notable was the tradition of front line leadership. From the Minister of Defense down, the Israeli leaders were most often found at the point of action. As a consequence, they were able to make rapid decisions based on the immediate situation. The "conference in the sand dunes" on the 17th is perhaps most illustrative. In contrast, Ismail never visited the front lines, and Shazli ventured out only twice. CHAPTER VII CONCLUSIONS The attention given to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war is certainly well justified. The usual lessons, however, have almost become cliches. As Operation Valiant demonstrates, there is much to be learned from this conflict beyond "the need for combined arms operations" and "the lethality of the modern battlefield". Planning. Operation Valiant demonstrates the difficulty of planning during a high intensity war. Situations change rapidly, and planners must develop effective plans quickly and under the most demanding circumstances. Most current military training exercises, however, focus almost entirely on operations, with little planning in the field. This is an artificiality which should be remedied. The trend toward mission-type orders at the expense of detailed, objective based orders can also be dangerous. Neither type of order is always preferable. Each has its place. Planners must be able to recognize which is required, and he prepared to develop both. The Combined Arms System. Most military officers are convinced that combined arms operations are necessary. So were the Israelis after a October 1973. Unfortunately, the Israeli army was still not able to operate as a combined arms team because of the impediments put in place by pre-war training, organization, and equipment. The lesson is that a combined arms system is necessary, to include tactics, training, equipment, organization, and logistics. If all components are not trained, equipped, and organized as combined arms forces before the war, it will be very difficult to do so then. Command and Control. The modern battle is more obscure and is fought at a much quicker pace than previous actions. Consequently, command and control has become many times more difficult. Commanders and their staffs must be manned and trained to work 24-hours a day for long periods. Equally important is the need to be prepared to operate as far forward as possible. By shortening the physical separation between the point of action and the point of decision, and by gaining first-hand knowledge of the situation, the commander can gain a critical edge over his opponent. Water Crossing Operations. Operation Valiant reinforces the fact that water crossing operations are difficult to conduct. They can be made less so by following a few guidelines. A water crossing operation is complicated by the channelization and intermingling of units, and by the need to move over the obstacle without slowing. For these reasons, tight control at the crossing sites and detailed planning are critical. Water crossings are not an end in themselves. They should be conceived and executed as a means to conduct follow-on operations. Attention must be given to the development of support routes which can carry the crossing force, the attack force, and all of the supplies needed. Because of the concentration of traffic into the crossing sites this implies, a detailed plan for traffic control is essential. Once over the water, the crossing force must be prepared to seize objectives which will support the follow-on assault force. If these are not assigned by higher headquarters, they should be mutually agreed upon by the crossing and assault force commanders. Politics and the Military Officer. It is currently faddish to emphasize the political aspects of warfare. Domestic politics, however, should have little place in the conduct of a battle. When a military officer, either by choice or necessity, begins to balance domestic politics impacts against military requirements, the war will be less well fought. The Will to Win. Despite its many faults, Operation Valiant succeeded. It succeeded because of the boldness and determination of the Israeli commanders and their men. Lackng this offensive spirit, Operation Valiant could have been a text book example of planning, command and control, and logistics support, and it would have failed. With it, the Israelis triumphed over the Egyptians and themselves. Military proficiency is critical in modern war. The will to win is essential. BIBLIOGRAPHY BOOKS Adan, Avraham. On the Banks of the Suez San Rafael, Ca: Presidio Press, 1980. General Adan's account of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War as he saw it. By far the most detailed account of the 1973 war in the Sinai. Despite an occasional tendency to be self-serving, the book is valuable for its depth and the personal portraits presented. Al-Haytham al-Ayoubi. "The Strategies of the Fourth Campaign" In Middle East Crucible: Studies on the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 ed. Naseer H. Aruri. Wilmette, III: The Medina University Press International, 1975. Discusses the political aspects of the War from the Egyptian point of view. Dupuy, Trevor N. Elusive Victory. The Arab-Israeli Wars. 1947-1974. New York: Harper & Row, 1978. The most objective book on the series of conflicts between Israel and the Arab states. Contains excellent analyses of the military aspects. Herzog, Chaim. The Arab-Israeli Wars New York: Random House, 1982. Account of the Arab-Israeli wars since the beginnings of the state of Israel from the Israeli point of view. Herzog, Chaim. The War of Atonement Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1975. One of the first books out on the 1973 War. Tends to be spotty in its coverage, and biased toward Israel. Contains good portraits of the principal Israeli personalities. Khalidi, Ahmed S. "The Military Balance, 1967-73" In Middle- East Crucible: Studies on the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 ed. Naseer H. Aruri. Wilmette, III: The Medina University Press International, 1975. A comparison of the military and economic strengths of Israel and the Arab states. Luttwak, Edward and Horowitz, Dan. The Israeli Army New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1975. Although the principal portions of this book were written just before the 1973 war, a chapter was added to include that conflict. Best source for history, organization, doctrine, and equipment of the Israeli army. O'Ballance, Edgar. No Victor. No Vanquished: The Yom Kippur War San Rafeal. Ca: Presidio Press. 1978. Leans most toward the Egyptians of any book by a western author. Con- tains excellent information from Egyptian sources, but is occasionally inaccurate. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. The 1973 Middle East War USAGSC Reference Book 100-2, Vol I [Fort Leavenworth, Ks, Aug 1976]. Prepared as a reference source for students at the USACGSC, contains excellent graphics and discussions of the military science aspects of the conflict. Willmott, H. P. "The Yom Kippur War", in War in Peace, ed. Sir Robert Thompson. New York: Crown Publishers, 1981. A sup- erior capsulization of the 1973 war. Excellent graphics. PERIODICALS Kosco, Willam C. "The 1973 Middle East War: An Engineers View" The Military Engineer, Nov-Dec 1979, pp. 394-399. An excellent report on the technical engineering aspects of both the Egyptian and Israeli Canal crossings. Best source of information concerning bridging equipment. Times [New York], 12 November 1973, p. 20, col. 1. A report of Sharon's views concerning the war. UNPUBLISHED SOURCES Brown, Robert E. "The Role of Field Artillery in the Yom Kippur War." Research Paper. Auburn Univ., 1977. A good analysis of the tactics, successes, and failures of field artillery in the 1973 war. Well documented. Erickson. Philmon A. Jr. "The 1973 War: Implications for U.S. Army Forces." Thesis. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 1978. Looks at the "lessons learned" from the 1973 war and considers their applicability to the NATO scenario. Historical Evaluation and Research Organization. "Comparative Analysis, Arab and Israeli Combat Performance. 1967 and 1973 Wars." Defense Nuclear Agency. Washington, D.C., 1976. A technical evaluaton of the relative performance of the Arab and Israel armies in 1967 and 1973. Highly objective, but the assumptions behind the evaluations are not sufficient to allow the reader to judge their worth. Colonel Dupuy, who wrote the book Elusive Victory mentioned earlier in this bibliography, was the evaluation team leader.
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