202nd Brigade (Airborne)
In four wars and numerous undeclared conflicts since 1948, Israel has become famous as an expert practitioner of highly mechanized combined arms warfare. Yet to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Israeli Defense Forces we must remember the origins of those forces.
In 1948, the Israeli portions of Palestine declared independence from Great Britain while under attack by their Arab neighbors. At the time, the Israeli armed forces were a loose confederation of self-defense militia, anti-British terrorists, and recent immigrants. A number of Israelis had training as small-unit leaders, both in the local defense forces and in the British Army of World War II. What Israel lacked were commanders and staff officers with experience or formal training in battalion or larger unit operations. Even after independence, Great Britain would allow only a few Israelis to attend British military schools. Moreover, until the 1960s Israel could find neither the funds nor the foreign suppliers to purchase large quantities of modern weapons.
As a result, the Israeli Army of 1948-56 was an amateur army, poorly trained and equipped. It relied on its strengths in small-unit leadership and individual initiative, strengths that were sufficient for self-defense until the Soviet Union began to supply Egypt with large quantities of modern heavy weapons. The honored elite of this light infantry army were the paratroopers of 202d Brigade, who conducted raids into Arab territory. Indeed, throughout its history Israel has always assigned the cream of its army recruits to the airborne brigades.
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