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Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday morning quarterbacking of the Six Day War

Monday morning quarterbacking of a successful war is rare. What it demonstrates is that every war is fought the wrong way and there was a better way to do it. But the fact is that the Six Day War  was a decisive victory, and the IDF did not stop after twelve casualties in Ammunition hill, as they did in Bint Jbail.
 Eviathar H. Ben-Zedeff 14.05.2007 0:35


Ammunition Hill

We were standing near our jeeps between the huge palm trees at the entrance to El-Arish. Captain Shimon, commander of our infantry reserves Recce, returned without Lieutenant Danny, his deputy. All the men were quiet, shocked. Many cried silently

There, forty years ago, we heard about the liberation of Jerusalem. We were entrenched in the sand and our agony, and wanted to cherish Danny's memory.
In 1967, I was a war correspondent with the veteran Recce Company. My brothers-in-arms were old guys. I was barely eighteen years old. Most of them were much older than me, and served as my mentors.
Since then, I have been trying to understand the military lessons of the battle to liberate Jerusalem.

The Battle of Jerusalem in the 1947-48 Israeli War of Independence is a sad story of a partial Jewish defeat in which the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was conquered by Jordan.

Following the armistice, the Etzioni 6th Brigade was reorganized into the IDF's 16th Infantry (Reserves) Jerusalem Brigade. The 16th Brigade managed the confrontation line with Jordan, including the bi-weekly convoy to supply the Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus.

During a tense incident in July-August 1961, an Israeli plan was created to send the 1st Infantry Golani Brigade and 35th Paratroopers Brigade to seize a passage to Mt. Scopus through the Sheikh Jerakh quarter held by
The operation was aborted, but the Jordanians identified their vulnerability, and fortified their posts in northern Jerusalem to prevent any Israeli military movement in this direction. As a result of the Jordanian fortifications, the Israeli plans were changed. Israeli troops, accompanied by Sherman tanks, would move south, and envelop the old city from the Government House northwards.
On June 5 1967, Major-General Uzi Narkiss, the Commanding Officer of the IDF's Central Command, had forgotten the revised plan. Colonel Motta Gur, commander of the IDF's 55th Para (Reserves) Brigade, did not know of the revised plan since he was slated to lead an airborne operation to take El-Arish on the Sinai Mediterranean shore.
Unfortunately, Gur remembered the summer 1961 plan to seize a passage to Mt. Scopus, and his men
executed that plan despite the heavy Jordanian fortification of the northern line in Jerusalem. The 55th headquarters did not accept advice, data, intelligence, or maps offered by the officers of the 16th Infantry. The 55th headquarters officers preferred to conceive and conduct the operation by themselves.

An Unnecessary Battle
Assigned to take the Jordanian post on the Ammunition Hill, the IDF's 10th Armored (Reserves) Harel Brigade had stood only about 400 yards off the Jordanian post. The 10th was led by a regular company riding Centurion tanks from the IDF's famous 7th Armored Brigade. Had the leading tanks gotten the orders, they would have turned and attacked the Jordanians from the East – their unfortified side. At a range of about 400 yards,
Jordanian targets would have been easy to kill.
The IDF could have penetrated the Jordanian line by other routes and by other means. Penetrating a fortified urban line is much easier when the attacking forces are supported by heavy weapons and aircraft. Yet, the commanders of the 55th did not use the tanks that accompanied their own brigade, or the neighboring tank battalions from the 10th. They did not call for close air support, artillery, or their own 120mm heavy mortars. Thus, the commanders of the 55th made the battle tougher than it should have been. The brave men of the 55th won the battle by showing the highest valor, courage, and sacrifice.

Lack of Professionalism
The IDF prefers create and tell mythical stories about its battles. From the battle for the Ammunition Hill in June 1967 to the battle for Bint Jbail in July 2006, IDF troops have used bravery to compensate for inadequate plans approved by incompetent commanders. To compound this sad situation, the IDF refrains from studying its campaigns and learning their lessons. And, thus, the IDF repeats its operational failures by approaching new campaigns with the old failed methods.

After a famous battle in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the commanding officer of an Armored Brigade said, "We were nuts, and therefore, we were forced to be brave." Unfortunately, this is the succinct summary of the last four decades of Israeli military history.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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