Thursday, October 06, 2005

On 6th October in military 1973

On October 6th in military history….in 1973. Egypt and Syrian forces, under cover of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, launch a surprise attacks against Israeli positions in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. After the end of the Six-Day War in 1967, the various Arabs nations surrounding Israel (Egypt, Jordan and Syria) had been hoping for a way to win back their lost territory and also complete the destruction of the nation of Israel. Egypt and Syria decided to attack Israel during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, when the Israeli armed forces would be off on leave. Jordan, however, fearing another loss of land, declined to participate.

During the Six-Day War, The Israeli Air Force had decimated both the Arab ground forces. During the lull between the two wars, both the Syrian and Egyptian armed forces had built up batteries of SAM missiles on their sides of the cease fire lines. Also, before the Six-Day War, the combined Arab armies had announced the day that they would attack Israel, thereby enabling Israel to launch a pre-emptive attack. This time around, thru a campaign of misinformation on the part of the Arabs and complacency on the part of Israeli intelligence, the attack and its preparations were kept a secret to prevent another Israeli pre-emptive strike.

At the start of the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli army had built a number of forts along the Suez Canal. Called the Bar Lev Line, they were designed to prevent the Egyptians from crossing the Suez Canal. They were protected by large earth berms to protect them from artillery fire, which were assumed to be impenetrable. However, when the Egyptians attacked, they used water cannon to direct streams of water pumped from the Suez Canal against the berms which quickly reduced them to the point where the Egyptian forces could assault the forts. One by one, all the forts (except for one) were captured. Expecting a vicious armor counterattack, the Egyptians had equipped their forces with large numbers of wire-guided anti-tank missiles (NATO Code Name "Sagger"). When the Israeli tanks counterattacked, they were met not with Egyptian armor, but wave after wave of wire-guided anti-tank missiles for which the Israelis had no defense. The Egyptian Army was able to advance 15 kilometers into the Sinai and stopped, not wanting to leave the security of the SAM batteries located on the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal. As a result, there was a lull in the fighting, both sides reluctant to attack.

In the Golan Heights, the Syrian tank forces outnumbered the Israelis by about 1,400 to 180. The Syrian forces were able to meet with some success but also were reluctant to advance out of the safety of their SAM batteries. Israeli high command had given priority to the fighting in the Golan Heights since it posed the greatest threat to the security of the country. By the second day (8 October), Israeli forces had stopped the Syrian advance and started pushing the Syrians back. By 10 October, they had restored more or less the pre-war border. At this point, Golda Meir, the Israeli Prime Minister, decided to take the battle to the Syrians and authorized the Israeli Army to advance into Syria. For the next four days, until 14 October, the Israeli Army pushed into Syria to a point where they were 40 kilometers from Damascus and where using heavy artillery, they could shell the Syrian capital.

Back on the Egyptian front, the Egyptians brought their reserves across the canal and launched a massive counterattack on 14 October to take some of the pressure off the Syrians. The attack was an utter failure. The next day, 15 October, the Israelis launched their counterattack, named Operation Stouthearted Men. Instead of using tanks supported by air cover, they used infantry to infiltrate and destroy the Egyptian SAM batteries and anti-tank forces. The division lead by Major General Ariel Sharon attacked the "seam" between the Egyptian Second and Third Armies and was able to cross the Suez Canal. Egyptian armored counterattacks were repulsed using American M72 LAW anti-tank rockets. As soon as the infantry had neutralized the Egyptian SAM batteries and anti-tank forces, Israeli brought its superior tank and air forces to bear on the Egyptians.

The crossing of the Suez Canal by the Israelis caught the Egyptians with their proverbial "pants down". The Israelis were threatening to surround and destroy the Egyptian Third Army take the last road from the Suez to Cairo. On 22 October, the UN passed a cease-fire, which forced the Israelis to stop their advance and save the Egyptian Third Army. However, due to numerous violations of the cease-fire by Egypt, the Israelis decided that "when you have the enemy by the balls, their heart and minds will follow", and continue the attack. On 23 October, they succeeded in closing the pocket around the Egyptian Third Army and the road to Cairo was wide open.
The US was now in a position to "pull the Egyptian bacon out of the fire" (no disrespect to Muslim readers intended). At the start of the war, the US had been flying tons of military supplies to Israel. The US was able to convince the Israelis to pull back and allow humanitarian supplies to get thru to the Egyptian Third Army, thereby enabling the US to negotiate an end to the conflict and move Egypt out of Soviet influence into American influence.
By 26 October, all organized fighting had stopped and all forces had moved back to their pre-war boundaries. The Israelis lost 2,700 men killed, 7,200 wounded, 400 tanks destroyed and 100 aircraft shot down. The Egyptian/Syrian armies lost 15,000 dead, 35,000 wounded, 2,250 tanks destroyed or captured and 430 aircraft destroyed.
One of the nasty little secrets of the war was that Israel almost went "nuke". In the early days of the war, when it looked like Israel would be overrun, Prime Minister Golda Meir ordered that the Israeli nuclear bomb or bombs be moved out of storage and start to be assembled. However, as the tide turned towards Israel's favor, the order was countermanded and the nuclear bombs were placed back into storage. Luckily for the Arab world, Israel never used their nuclear arsenal. If they had, Mecca, Medina, Cairo, Riyadh, Baghdad and Damascus would probably be glass parking lots today.


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