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Soldier in the Sinai

Soldier in the Sinai: A General's Account of the Yom Kippur War

Emanuel Sakal
Translated by Moshe Tlamim
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 592
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  • Book Info
    Soldier in the Sinai
    Book Description:

    In surprise attacks on Israel in October 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights, igniting what became known as the Yom Kippur War. In the north, Israel succeeded in blocking the Syrian advance, but in the south, it failed to achieve an operational decision in the defense campaign. In Soldier in the Sinai, mobile and armored warfare expert Major General Emanuel Sakal analyzes the operational and strategic decisions made by Israel's political and military leadership and assesses the causes of the defense's first-phase failure.

    Prior to the conflict, the government approved the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) strategy, dubbed "the regulars will hold." This plan assumed that the IDF regulars on the front lines, supported by the Israeli Air Force, would effectively counter the Arab attack even if deterrence failed. Employing operations research, simulation, and computerized war games, Sakal examines the virtual results of an alternative approach by the Israeli military and explains how ineffective air support, an inadequate tank strategy, and a delay in mobilizing its reserves crippled the country's air force.

    An intriguing and detailed evaluation of Israel's flawed defense, Soldier in the Sinai offers a firsthand account of military strategy from a general who commanded a regular tank battalion that fought in the most desperate battles of the conflict. Based on extensive research, including interviews with the principal officers involved, this book provides a meticulous critique of the faulty assumptions and lack of planning that contributed to the disastrous early battles of the Yom Kippur War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5081-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Israel Tal

    When the Yom Kippur War broke out, Israel found itself fighting a strategic defensive campaign on two fronts: on the Golan Heights against the Syrian invasion, and on the Suez Canal against the Egyptian onslaught. In the north, Israel succeeded in blocking the Syrian advance. In Sinai, the first stage of the defensive battle ended without Israel achieving an operational decision. The author, Major General Emanuel Sakal (Ret.), has analyzed the defensive battle in the south and posits eight reasons for its failure:

    1. The disproportionate number of Egyptian troops and Israeli regulars.

    2. The delay in mobilizing Israel Defense Forces (IDF)...

  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Between the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel’s political and military leadership believed its military strength would deter the Arab states—especially Egypt and Syria—from launching a war to recoup their losses in the Six-Day War. Belief in deterrence notwithstanding, no one dismissed the possibility that the Arabs might try to break the political deadlock by undertaking a military move that would force the superpowers to pressure Israel to make concessions and give up territory. The Arabs were aware that, if they did so, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would probably annihilate their armies again,...

  6. 1 Development of the Defense Concept in Western Sinai
    (pp. 9-78)

    The concept of defense in Western Sinai developed according to circumstance and need. It began with routine operational drills when fighting resumed on the Suez Canal in July 1967 and evolved as Egyptian hostilities intensified and the number of Israeli casualties climbed.

    The War of Attrition and the construction of the defensive line (strongholds) on the banks of the canal were a turning point in the IDF’s war-fighting concept. As military and political circumstances changed and troop deployments shifted, that concept transformed from a classic offensive doctrine to a predominantly static, defensive one. Short- and long-range raids into Egypt and...

  7. 2 Initial Blunders
    (pp. 79-110)

    The IDF units that were hurled headlong into the fighting at midday on October 6, 1973, and the other units that joined them later bore the burden (whether they were aware of it or not) of the initial blunders that influenced the defensive battle and ultimately the whole campaign. Some of the mistakes had been present in the IDF since its founding; others surfaced in the interval between the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, especially in the weeks, days, and even hours before hostilities erupted. They permeated all areas of the IDF and the defense establishment on the...

  8. 3 Ground Forces in the Defensive Battle
    (pp. 111-324)

    On the morning of Yom Kippur, none of the 436 men and officers in the sixteen strongholds on the Bar-Lev Line or the troops of 14th Armored Brigade holding the line could have imagined what the day would bring. It began with routine quiet on the canal. Patrols went out; observers were posted; the dirt roads were checked, as they were every morning, for suspicious tracks. There was no indication of what would happen in a few hours.

    The commanders of the tank battalions (14th Brigade on the line and 401st and 460th Brigades in the rear) received no warning...

  9. Maps and figures
    (pp. None)
  10. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  11. 4 Air Support for the Ground Forces
    (pp. 325-410)

    In the final months of the War of Attrition, the Egyptians built a tight air defense system with Soviet help and advanced it to the Canal Zone during the cease-fire on the nights of August 7–8 and 8–9, 1970. This new reality posed a daunting challenge to future combat operations for the IDF in general and the IAF in particular.

    The cease-fire precluded an Israeli attack, but during the three years of quiet on the canal, the IAF carefully studied the problem, developed a combat doctrine, procured weapons, intensified training, and devised operational plans to destroy the Egyptian...

  12. 5 The Preemptive Strike that Wasn’t
    (pp. 411-456)

    Until 1955, Israel’s warfare doctrine had no offensive concept, since it assumed that the Arabs would initiate the next war. Only after the 1956 Sinai Campaign, during which the IDF delivered the first strike and transferred the war to enemy territory, did the security concept include a preemptive strike principle in the event Israel was threatened. Between 1956 and 1967 the security concept was predicated on the principle that offense is the preferred shape of battle: leapfrog over the defensive stage, seize the initiative, and transfer the fighting to enemy territory—in other words, launch a preemptive war. The force...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 457-458)

    Forty-one years have passed since the Yom Kippur War, and the sights and sounds are still present. As the years go by, the list of studies and books grows, revealing newly discovered details.

    This book abounds with descriptions of the oversights and miscalculations of the political leaders and senior military commanders in the application of forces and the conduct of operations. Both levels were responsible for the regulars’ inability to hold and their failure to succeed in their mission of not yielding one step, given the absurd balance of forces. The concept fostered by the IDF—the regulars will hold!...

  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 459-462)
  15. Appendix 1. The 252nd Division’s Order of Battle, 14:00, October 6, 1973
    (pp. 463-466)
  16. Appendix 2. The Strongholds: Location and Manning
    (pp. 467-468)
  17. Appendix 3. The Egyptian Ground Forces’ Order of Battle
    (pp. 469-470)
  18. Appendix 4. Report on the 526-T Photo Sortie, October 4, 1973
    (pp. 471-472)
  19. Appendix 5. Order for the Alert in 14th Brigade/252nd Division, October 3, 1973
    (pp. 473-474)
  20. Appendix 6. The Strongholds: Manpower, Casualties, and Fate
    (pp. 475-478)
  21. Appendix 7. The 252nd Division’s Tank Order of Battle, October 7, 1973
    (pp. 479-480)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 481-504)
  23. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 505-510)
  24. Index
    (pp. 511-548)