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Operation Nickel Grass [Yom Kippur War]

On 6 October 1973 Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel. The Egyptian 3rd Army surprised the Israeli Defense Force by attacking across the Suez Canal. Egyptian forces gained a significant foothold in the Sinai and began to drive deeper until a determined defense andcounterattack drove them back.

To achieve the initial surprise, Egyptian forces conducted deception operations of strategic, operational, and tactical significance to exploit Israeli weaknesses. At the strategic level, they conveyed the notions that they would not attack without both a concerted Arab effort and an ability to neutralize the Israeli Air Force, and that tactical preparations were merely in response to feared Israeli retaliation for Arab terrorist activity. At the operational level, Egyptian forces portrayed their mobilization, force buildup, and maneuvers as part of their annual exercises. Egyptian exercises portraying an intent to cross the canal were repeated until the Israelis became conditioned to them and therefore did not react when the actual attack occurred. At the tactical level, Egyptian forces expertly camouflaged their equipment, denying information to Israeli observers and creating a false impression of the purpose of the increased activity.

For their part, Israeli forces were overconfident and indecisive at the operational and strategic levels. In spite of the deception, tactical observers reported with increasing urgency that the Egyptian buildup and activity were significant. Their reports caused concern, but no action. Egyptian forces exploited these vulnerabilities and timed the attack to occur on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when they perceived the response of Israeli forces would be reduced.

As a result of their deception efforts, synchronized with other operations of the force, Egyptian forces quickly and decisively overwhelmed Israeli forces in the early stages of the Yom Kippur War.

US Navy forces quickly sortied in response to the war, with two CVBGs (Independence and Roosevelt) and an amphibious force in the Mediteranean and a CVBG (Kennedy) in the Eastern Atlantic. On 25 October U.S. forces went on Defense Condition (DEFCON) III alert status, as possible intervention by the Soviet Union was feared. The Kennedy CVBG and additional amphibious forces entered the Mediterranean.

On 14 October the US Air Force began Operation Nickel Grass, a major airlift to Israel. Ending on 14 November, the airlift transported 22,395 tons of supplies. The airlift was significant because it offset the Soviet airlift to Egypt and Syria, it overcame Israel's critical shortage in certain military items, and it strengthened Israel's overall military position.

On 26 October, CINCSAC and CINCONAD reverted to normal DEFCON status. On 31 October USEUCOM (less the Sixth Fleet) went off DEFCON III status. The Sixth Fleet resumed its normal DEFCON status on 17 November.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 14:05:48 ZULU