Webster

The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Monday Music "Give it up By Kacey of K.C and the Sunshine Band

 This was supposed to "Drop" Monday Morning.....Well it didn't.....So we will have "Monday Music" on Tuesday!!!!!!  YAY!!!    Hey it happens., LOL

 Man this theme is still rolling.......

 I am continuing my string of "bugaloo" songs.  This discussion was started in the "Monster Hunter Nation, Hunters Unite", back in November of 2019? it is a Facebook group with enthusiast of the ILOH "International Lord of Hate" A.K.A Larry Correia.  We were talking about what song would we use if we looked out of our window or glanced at our security camera and saw this.....

One of the alphabet bois lining up to take down your house...What would be your "Valhalla" song and you would set it up to play as you load up magazines set up the Tannerite Rover, turn on the water irrigation system and fill it with gasoline instead of water and prepare yourself.

 I figured it would scar the alphabet boys if they come busting in and hearing a song about people standing for their beliefs and willing to fight for them no matter the cost, Good Music  unlike that crap they listen to now.  What can I say, My humor is warped....just a bit. Next week will be "Shoot To Thrill" by AC/DC..How Appropriate, LOL,  Now that should really cause some psych evals., hehehe, some poor ATF guy trying to explain the attraction to his mother because he is imaging himself as The savior of the American way rather than working for an agency that have the initials of a convenience store.  Now because we ain't gonna answer that door.  They can kick it in and start "the Dance"    I am very unhappy that the various .gov agencies have been weaponized by Obunger and continued to this day by the alphabet agencies because they don't like people that ain't on the democrat plantation.  Well I kinda like my freedom and stuff and that is anathema to the deep state and their operatives.

 


"Give It Up" was a hit song for KC and the Sunshine Band, although it was simply credited as KC in many countries, including the US. Following the backlash against many disco artists on the charts at the beginning of the 1980s, the song was a comeback hit for the act in the US, where it peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1984. The song had been an even bigger hit in the UK several months earlier, where it had hit No. 1 for three weeks in August 1983. It went on to become the 18th best-selling single of the year in the UK. It was the last of the act's hits in the US and UK, and the most successful of its 10 UK hits.


I used to catch the video on MTV and of course "Night Tracks" on NBC, I always thought the video and the song was cool and catchy and I always thought KC and the Sunshine Band was a neat band and they represented the 70's well and they were trying to get past the Disco backlash that was prevalent at the time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The DC-10 as an "Air Force One" Proposal.

 I ran across this article and it was something that I had never heard of, that a replacement for the venerable 707 might have been a DC-10.  Personally with the problems that the DC-10 had and as I recall, the FAA pulled the "Airworthy certificate" due to the cargo door issues for a bit until McDonald Douglass got it figured out and the airplane turned out to be a good airplane, but there was a stigma attached to the plane until more time elapsed and her safety record was comparable to other 2nd generation aircraft.

 


 

 Air Force One is the descriptor for any aircraft carrying the President of the United States, but to avgeeks it generally refers to the highly customized Boeing 747-200 (VC-25A) with the unique Raymond Loewy designed paint livery.  It is a powerful symbol of the United States of America,  and commands a presence wherever it travels.  Serving as a mobile command center for the President when he travels, it features over 4,000 square feet of space accommodating the President, his staff, and a small traveling press pool.  Many wonderful and detailed books have been written on the history of aircraft that have transported the President.

The Special Air Mission (SAM) VC-137 was a specially outfitted Boeing 707. It has been replaced by a 747. SAM 26000 is on display at the NMUSAF (NMUSAF Photo)
In 1985, the VC-137C was reaching nearly twenty-five years in service.  As a result, the United States Air Force (USAF) began to plan for a replacement aircraft.  After internal requirements had been set, the USAF began to send out request for proposals (RFP) to Boeing, Lockheed, and McDonnell Douglas.  General John Michael Loh was appointed to Air Force Director of Operational Requirements in 1985, and Loh’s job was to find a replacement aircraft and suitable proposals for the aging VC-137Cs.  There were really only two choices at the time of this new RFP from the USAF:  The Boeing 747 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10.  Lockheed’s L-1011 had ceased production, not to mention it barely met the endurance requirement the Air Force had set, and Lockheed wasn’t about to build an all new aircraft for the VC-137C replacement nor restart the L-1011 production line

 

Boeing of course offered the Boeing 747-200 aircraft, even though the Boeing 747-300 had entered service two years prior. The 747-200 had more in common with the current fleet of E-4B aircraft, the Advanced Airborne Command Post, that were flying for the USAF.  Boeing knew that with the E-4Bs flying, the current Presidential aircraft being a Boeing with four engines, and that the 747 easily met or exceeded all the operational requirements, it had the advantage to walk away with the contract award.  Boeing was also keenly aware that both Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas had no interest in competing for what they viewed as a sole-sourced competition that had already been decided in their view.  

What happened next was chronicled in Air and Space Weekly in a fascinating article by Lara Seligman back in 2016. Seligman interviewed Gen Loh for an article that discussed the latest acquisition of the Boeing 747-8i to fulfill the role as the next Air Force One. According to the article, Boeing met with Loh, and presented its proposal: two Boeing 747-200 aircraft retrofitted with all the custom fitment, countermeasures, and other operational requirements that the USAF requested at just under $1billion USD in 1985 ($2.4billion adjusted for inflation in 2020).  Boeing was in for a rude awakening.

 

The list price of the Boeing 747-200 in 1985 was $112million for green aircraft (new), or $224million for two aircraft, and this was the list price before discounting (which generally occurs).  Boeing was then adding nearly four times the cost of the aircraft for customization and fitment to meet the USAF’s requirements.  Loh was reportedly furious at the estimate, and knew that unless he had a viable and alternative proposal, he’d have very little leverage against Boeing’s proposal.

McDonnell Douglas was already 100% focused on their struggling C-17 airlifter.  Facing delays, cost overruns, and the threat of cancelation, Loh convinced McDonnell Douglas to compete for the Air Force One replacement.  Seligman reported that Loh already knew the DC-10 was a viable alternative to the 747, and with McDonnell Douglas struggling, Loh told McDonnell Douglas “Look, if you are interested in keeping your C-17 and building a strategic airlifter, I think you ought to be interested in bidding on Air Force One.”  What Loh knew that wasn’t quite clear to McDonnell Douglas was that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was considering cancellation of the C-17 project and would instead go with Boeing’s proposal for a new C-X alternative based on the 747.  

Model of C-10. Jim Keeshan Model collection

McDonnell Douglas submitted a proposal based on the DC-10. They produced a book in 1985 called “C-10 – The Presidential Aircraft” with details about their proposal.  The C-10 was centered around the DC-10-30 as the baseline aircraft because of its longer endurance range, time in service, and in-service reliability.   The offering had integrated air stairs at the center-main passenger and rear doors on the port side, and numerous options including inflight refueling.  For comparison purposes, McDonnell Douglas compared the C-10 to an ‘equivalent’ competitive aircraft: The Boeing 747SP, not the proposed 747-200.  The C-10 was also presented as an aircraft that can operate from many more airports that the 747SP could not.  Comfort, performance, and reliability were based on the commercial DC-10 counterpart.

McDonnell Douglas showed the C-10 as 17% less expensive per flight vs the 747SP with an estimated operating cost of $30,000 for a 2,000 nautical mile trip (using $1 a gallon fuel cost from 1983), and that the maintenance and fuel costs as being 37% more efficient vs the Boeing aircraft (using a Boeing performance report #D6-33819).   McDonnell Douglas took another dig at the Boeing 747 by noting that it couldn’t utilize the existing hangars at Andrews AFB, and the USAF had already estimated new hangar facilities would add another $40 million to the cost of operating any 747.  The C-10 could use the existing hangar facilities

 

The C-10 even included a proposed floor plan, that featured a stateroom in the front of the aircraft, and a radio operating station in place of the forward galley (which had been moved to in front of the main door entrance).  Medical and conference facilities were mapped out, as well as sections identified for traveling staff, executives, and areas for media.  The rear featured a full galley as well as stairs to the lower deck, while the front galley had a lift to the lower deck.  

The Current Air Force One, SAM 28000, is a specially equipped Boeing 747, designated VC-25. Note: the call sign applies only when the President is on board. When the President is not aboard, the aircraft is identified by its tail number, 28000. (USAF Photo)
The McDonnell Douglas proposal was substantially lower than Boeing’s proposal, and had the desired effect that Loh had wanted: Boeing dropped the price in their proposal from nearly $1billion for two modified aircraft to just $249 million in a fixed-price contract according to Loh.  In the end, Loh’s pressure on McDonnell Douglas to submit a proposal for a VC-137C replacement was a win-win for both the USAF and McDonnell Douglas.

The USAF saved nearly $700million ($1.6billion adjusted for inflation in 2020), and it won brownie points for McDonnell Douglas at the USAF, negating a sole-source bid from Boeing.  Boeing was awarded the newly designated VC-25 contract to build the replacement aircraft for the VC-137s and the rest is history.

In the end however, Seligman notes in her article that the Boeing had to absorb nearly $600 million in unforeseen costs before the first VC-25 was delivered and entered service, bringing that actual cost of each aircraft to approximately $425million each.  This figure doesn’t include the upgrades to the VC-25 fleet over the years after delivery.  Loh maintained in the article that every Presidential aircraft, every single part from the airframe to the rivets should have competitive bids to ensure the USAF (and the taxpayer) receives value for their money.

The C-10 never became Air Force One. It was a long shot from the beginning. With less space, just three engines, and a mixed public perception of the jet, the odds were not in McDonnell Douglas’ favor. It remains a unique footnote in aviation history, leaving many avgeeks to wonder what could have been after all these years

 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Door to Door.......Really? And other rants and musings.....

 This rant has been percolating and there is bad language ahead.....I am slightly *Miffed*...


 I saw this in the news,  This ties is the the push that apparently the Xiden administration also wants to go door to door and "Verify everyone's vaccination status" and those people that ain't vaccinated, to "encourage" them to get vaccinated.  There is a groundswell amongst the liberal left to punish those that ain't vaccinated and those that don't want to be vaccinated.  They want to get them fired from their jobs, punish them in society, and have them move to areas where others like them also can "Stew in their own unvaccinated filth" and keep them together away from civilized society for the benefit of society and if they have to travel amongst the vaccinated, they have to wear some article on their clothes to identify them as "antivaxxers" to the rest of society so they can be shunned and mocked.

 


     I don't know, but I remember version 1.0 of this software and I wasn't impressed it ultimately  crashed after causing a lot of problems, and I don't want to experience the 2nd version either.   My tolerance is getting smaller and smaller as is my patience.  So far my employer isn't requiring it of me, but oh boy are they pushing it though with cash giveaways and other things.

  

     Another rant is that the Donks  have created a hell of a crime wave and now they are trying to blame the GOP and the legal gun owners for their own fucking things up.  As you can tell, I am really pissed off about this and the damm lapdog media that at one time was educated under the standards of Edward R. Murrow and other Titans of media have become little more than lapdogs and shills for one political party and one ideology, My how the mighty have fallen....

   Another thing the Xiden administration did was get Involved with Xidens son "Selling Artwork" and they set it up to avoid any ethic issues and the buyers are to remain "anonymous" .....Really?    If us regular people tried that stuff, we would get rode out of town on a rail and we would be fired for soo many ethic violations it would be a nightmare, but for some reason, he skates ........again.


        The liberal democrats are pushing "Critical Race Theory" basically the theory that the United States is a inherently racist country and that everything bad that happens to POC's is on account of inherent racism and that white people are responsible for fomenting systemic racism on everybody else to maintain their spot on top of the pyramid and what is worse is that they are pushing this crap on our troops 

    We have Russia and China modernizing their military and training together and I read a report from the Japanese warning us that the Chinese are planning a "Pearl Harbor Style" attack and we are busy purging a huge chunk of soldiers out of our ranks because they hold traditional American values?.  I am a student of History and I recall the purges that Stalin did to the Red Army in the late 1930's and got rid of good officers and promoted "politically reliable people instead and the Soviet Union paid for that in the great Winter war with Finland and when Germany invaded in Operation Barbarossa and the Red Army collapsed and the Germans came almost to the gates of Moscow.  Now we have Officers that are more concerned about pleasing their political masters than doing the right thing, they are more concerned about getting that next star, that next rank as they totally screw over the country as long as they are taken care of.  What happened to "Duty, Honor, Country"?   Now it is Me, Me, Me...We are screwed if we get into a war, we will not have time to repair the damage done by these self serving  traitorous leeches.  With the Speed of modern war, we will get our ass handed to us and be forced to capitulate and a huge section of of our population that supports  CRT will rejoice in this.


What is worse, they are doing this crap to our kids, they are poisoning a generation of kids, they are telling all the black kids that no matter what happens, they will suck, and that will make them bitter and hateful, and they will tell all the white kids that no matter how good that they are, they are representative of an evil people that is responsible for all the evil in the world and that have to atone for it.  What kind of a guilt trip you want to lay on a kid with that load of crap?   Really?  You are gong to poison several generations of kids and poison race relations like nothing you have ever seen.


And don't even get me going on all these spoiled rotten athletes that live better than 95% of the rest of the world, but they have to virtue signal and denigrate  the country and flag that they are suppose to represent.  If this place is soo damm bad, then f**king leave, go to Africa or South America or China and see how people REALLY live and how much freedom you don't have the moment you say something that goes against whatever the ruling junta says and watch your entitled ass get thrown into a camp or raped and murdered.   Jeez   I am really tired of this crap.



Friday, July 9, 2021

More goings at Casa De Garabaldi

 Several things going on, We had Fathers day recently and my son being a good kid that he is treated his Dad to club level Atlanta United tickets, I was surprised and touched that he did that and I asked him "Why?" and he looked kinda at his feet and said "Well this is your first Fathers Day without your Dad and I wanted to do something nice for you."  I was extremely touched, I have a good Son and I am proud of him and that a teenager had a bit of empathy was telling.

  Our first stop was our usual stop, the Krasnovian Embassy of Waffles and Friendship. Then off to the Benz to watch the Game,

The seats were really good, but with people standing, you couldn't sit down so you were almost obligated to stand unless you wanted to watch the action on the Jumbotron.


   Then we went here to the club area to get food and drinks, no pushy crowds and the bathrooms were clean...I can see why people pay extra for club seats.  And while I was there I did buy a hat

I needed something that goes with my "Lucky Shamrock" Atlanta United Scarf, that I wear to the games along with my Dutch Camouflage goretex jacket that was one of my souvenirs that I had collected during my time stationed in Germany.  It pays to lose over 120 pounds and I can wear stuff that I haven't worn on over 20 years. 


 

     Now I had gotten a couple of things for the my Focus, First off, remember my Post I did changing my foglights from incandescent to LED, Well I did another mod on the car, I changed the foglight covers to the "basketweave" style.  That is what the European Focus Mark 3.5 uses.  The cars share a lot of components and styles, but there are some differences.

     I also decided to work in my bonus room, that is the room that has all my books, Military souvenirs and other things in, I spent several hours putting stuff away, and squaring the room away so it looked decent again.  I have been meaning to do it for a long time and finally did it.   While I was doing it, I was playing my old cassette player from the traditional stereo that we GI's always buy from the PX playing music from the 80's CD's that I burned to cassette while I drove the Autobahn.  

Well back to the Focus again, I had ordered a month prior LED high beams to replace the factory bulbs, and so I pulled out the owners manual...


 Then I turned on the headlights including the Highbeams, I wanted to make sure that they would work without my cranking up the car...

   On my Truck and older vehicles, you can turn on the lights without any fuss, but the new cars like my Focus are more computer sensitive so I wanted to make sure.

      I opened the box of H11 LED bulbs for my High beams....

   The Headlights assembly are held in place with 2 torx screws.  I started loosening the first one...As you can tell, I am wearing gloves, as per habit I wear gloves as to not leave a residue on the bulbs from my skin which will shorten the lifespan of the bulb.

     


   I then started loosening the second one......

         I then grouped the screws in a cubby on the fascia above the radiator as to not lose them.


  And slid the Headlight assembly forward, compared to earlier cars, this was easy.  I am glad I recall on some of the earlier cars, changing lightbulbs can be quite an endeavor.


I immediately located the cover for the highbeam on the drivers side...opened it up..

    Ruh Roh Shaggy, it don't match the plug that I thought it would...so I fish the bulb out...

   It don't match........crap....what did I mess up....  I did some digging and discovered that the LED bulbs I bought for my Highbeams will work for my "lowbeams"...Oh Well I changed my Lowbeams instead...

      This is what it looked like plugged it, it is literally "Plug and Play".


  I put it back in place, and it slid in easily..So I walked around and turned it on...


   It works, you can see the difference between the bulbs. 


   I went and repeated the process, this is what the light looks like inside the headlight assembly housing before I put the cover back on.


I repeat the process on the other side, this is my tightening the torx screws on the headlight housing.

  Tightening the 2nd Torx screw......

   Looks a bit different with the LED headlights, I will order some H1 LED headlights to "do" the highbeams.  

    This is the pic of the car with the LED headlight and foglights....it was a cheap and easy mod on the car.

 


       I had decided to build a shadowbox with the flag from my Dads memorial service, and I had put it together, and I had sent some pics to Old NFO for some ideas, and he made some really good suggestions and I incorporated them into it and it made it look really good, Thanks Jim.    I don't have all his unit patches, but I will eventually get them.  I had "squiggled" out the name for obvious reasons, I am very proud of my Dad, but I do prize my anonymity.   



Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Navy PBR Boats in Vietnam

 I remembered seeing a PBR at Patriots Point when my son was in the cub scouts, the entire place is worth the visit and the time.  Especially when the scouts can stay overnight on the U.S.S. Yorktown.  granted it was in Enlisted quarters with the steel decks but still it ranked up there in the "cool" factor.  I remember seeing a PBR on the TV for the first time in the Movie "Apocalypse Now" when Martin Sheen character rode in one to go kill the rogue colonel.  I had remembered asking my Dad if he had rode in one of those in the course of his duties and he had commented that he did as part of his duties with the "Tropic Lightning"during his first tour.  All he said was "it was interesting". 

 


The U.S. Navy deployed a variety of small boats to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but perhaps the best known of these is the river patrol boat. The “patrol boat: riverine,” or Navy PBR, was the first watercraft built for the so-called brown water navy in Vietnam. During the height of the conflict, Navy personnel scouted the rivers and canals of the sprawling Mekong Delta for communist guerrilla forces, arms, and ammunition. In addition to patrolling, Navy PBRs participated with Navy and Army troops in hit-and-run raids, reconnaissance patrols, and day and night ambushes.

The origins of the Navy PBR can be traced to Hatteras Yacht Company of New Bern, North Carolina, which in 1965 responded to a U.S. Navy request for a prototype for a small patrol boat to operate in shallow waters. The Navy’s Bureau of Ships sought a prototype for what it designated as “patrol boat, river” that could achieve speeds between 25 to 30 knots, draw only nine inches of water, and skim over sandbars. The boat would be crewed by four sailors and have heavy armament. Its armament would consist of a twin .50-caliber machine gun in an armored forward turret, as well as a .30-caliber mounted gun in the aft section. Additionally, the boat would need to be able to reverse direction, turn on a dime, and come to a quick stop from full speed within a few boat lengths.

Hatteras stated its intention to build a 28-foot fiberglass hull powered by water-jet pumps as opposed to screw propellers. The water pumps would enable the new boat to go into shallow water. The Navy put the PBR contract out for bid, and eight companies responded with bids. United Boat Builders of Bellingham, Washington, ultimately won the contract. The company built the PBR around its existing 31-foot fiberglass hull. This boat became PBR Mark I. The Navy initially requested 120 PBRs. Eighty of the Navy PBRs were assigned to the Mekong Delta and 40 to the Rung Sat Special Zone south of Saigon

The dark-green Mark I was powered by twin General Motors 220-horsepower diesel engines and water jet pumps supplied by Jacuzzi Brothers. The jet pumps shot out streams of water from nozzles located below the waterline on the stern. The jets of water had sufficient thrust to propel the boat. Steering was accomplished by rotating the nozzles left or right. For stern propulsion, a so-called u-gate slipped down over the nozzles and rerouted the flow 180 degrees, which propelled the boat backward. When fully loaded, the boat topped out at 14,600 pounds and could reach a speed of 25.7 knots.

The builder installed ceramic armor designed to deflect bullets up to .30 caliber around the coxswain’s flat and at the weapons stations. The boat’s heaviest weapon, the twin .50 caliber, was installed in an open turret in the bow. In the fantail area, a single machine gun was affixed to a pedestal. Amidships on both sides of the boat were open-ended receptacles to which could be mounted either an M-60 machine gun or an MK-18 grenade launcher. A similar receptacle built into the aft machine mount allowed an MK-18 to be piggybacked with the stern machine gun.

In addition to the mounted machine guns, the crew also took along M16 rifles, M-79 grenade launchers, handguns, and hand grenades. The boat came equipped with a Raytheon 1900/N radar system and two AN/VRC046 FM radios.

Crewman aboard a fiberglass-hulled Mark II River Patrol Boat watch closely for enemy activity during a mission in the Mekong Delta. Navy PBRs worked together with helicopters and ground units to interdict the flow of enemy troops and supplies on rivers and canals.
Crewman aboard a fiberglass-hulled Mark II River Patrol Boat watch closely for enemy activity during a mission in the Mekong Delta. Navy PBRs worked together with helicopters and ground units to interdict the flow of enemy troops and supplies on rivers and canals.

The hull could be repaired quickly and easily. It was designed so that enemy rounds would pass through it without exploding. There was no solid surface that would cause detonation.

The Navy PBR Mark I was not immune to problems. When fully loaded, the Mark I drew 22.5 inches of water, which greatly exceeded the nine inches originally requested. Added to that, the Mark I never attained the desired speed of 25 knots. This was because the jet pumps put a heavy strain on the boat’s diesel engines. Added to this, Styrofoam blocks that kept the boat high in the water frequently became waterlogged as a result of seepage through the hull.

The four-man crew for the Navy PBR included a first-class petty officer who served as the boat’s captain. Owing to battle casualties and other reasons, both chiefs and second-class petty officers also captained the boats. The other crew members were an engineman, a gunner’s mate, and a seaman.

Large numbers of communist forces operated in the Mekong Delta region, not only because it contained half of South Vietnam’s population and was responsible for half of the country’s rice production, but also because of its close proximity to Saigon. The communists routinely transported men and supplies through its 3,000 miles of waterways. As they did so, the communists actively recruited in the region and extorted funds from the local people to finance their operations. Communist forces carried out an estimated 1,000 small-scale attacks each month in 1966 on government posts and villages in the Mekong Delta.

A sailor mans his twin air-cooled, belt-fed .50 caliber machine gun mount while patrolling for Viet Cong activity. The weapon was positioned in an armored forward turret.
A sailor mans his twin air-cooled, belt-fed .50 caliber machine gun mount while patrolling for Viet Cong activity. The weapon was positioned in an armored forward turret.

One of the fundamental tactics developed for the Navy PBRs was to operate in pairs while conducting patrols. The two boats would travel in a column, with the trailing boat following 400 to 600 yards behind the lead boat. This way the two boats were close enough to cover each other. The crews conducted patrols and searches during the day and at night. When searching a vessel at night, the boat conducting the search approached the suspect craft at high speed, illuminated the vessel, and ordered all occupants to show themselves on the near side of the watercraft.

The PBRs sought to stay in the middle of the channel to maintain as much distance between the boat and shore as possible in case enemy forces were lurking in the foliage. During a search, the crew of the PBR kept a .50-caliber machine gun trained on the shore opposite the vessel being searched in case it was fired upon from behind.

The U.S. Navy launched Operation Game Warden on December 18, 1965, and established a River Patrol Force in South Vietnam to maintain military curfews and implement the interdiction program in both the Mekong Delta and Rung Sat Special Zone. As part of the program, PBR crews routinely stopped and searched suspect sampans to see if they were transporting guerrilla troops or smuggling military provisions for communist forces.

The River Patrol Force, also known as Task Force 116, was composed of a number of river divisions. Each division had two 10-boat sections. The River Patrol Force operated from LSTs (landing ships, tank) that served as floating bases complete with troop quarters. The PBRs served as the core watercraft for these riverine divisions. The first batch of Navy PBRs arrived in country in March 1966 during the continuing buildup of U.S. forces in South Vietnam.

A flotilla of Navy PBRs fires on enemy positions during Operation Bold Dragon III in March 1969. PBRs were capable of delivering Navy SEAL teams and other ground troops to remote locations in the Mekong Delta.
A flotilla of Navy PBRs fires on enemy positions during Operation Bold Dragon III in March 1969. PBRs were capable of delivering Navy SEAL teams and other ground troops to remote locations in the Mekong Delta.

To furnish close air support for the PBRs in the delta, the Navy activated Helicopter Attack Squadron 3 at Vung Tau. In addition, Navy SEAL platoons operated with the River Patrol Force, giving it the ability to conduct clandestine intelligence operations.

Navy PBR crews routinely used tape recorders and loudspeakers to announce curfew hours and issue instructions to Viet Cong who might wish to defect. They also performed humanitarian missions, such as transporting medical personnel to isolated villages and wounded villagers to field hospitals.

After their initial experience using their new watercraft, PBR crews made some key improvements to the weapons systems on the boats. First and foremost, they replaced the .30-caliber machine gun aft with a .50-caliber to reduce the necessity of having to carry two different types of ammunition. They also added an M-18 grenade launcher and stripped most of the armor from the forward machine-gun position to improve the gunner’s field of vision.

 


A joint service Mobile Riverine Force began operating in June 1967. The principal organizational elements of the force were Navy Task Force 117 and the U.S. Army’s Ninth Infantry Division’s Riverine Forces. The riverine force was capable of deploying 150 miles from its base within 24 hours. It possessed a 5,000-man combat force that could engage the enemy immediately upon arrival at its destination. The riverine force’s initial anchorage was at Vung Tau on the coast southeast of Saigon, but it eventually moved to Dong Tam in the upper Mekong Delta.

The advent of the Mobile Riverine Force in the delta marked a shift in the balance of power in the region, with the allies gaining superiority over the communists. The Riverine Force fought five major actions during 1967, in which it killed 1,000 communist troops. The enemy frequently fought in battalion strength in the larger of these engagements. In addition to small arms, they used a variety of heavy weapons, including machine guns, rocket launchers, and recoilless rifles.

Navy PBR boats cruise past Tan Dinh Island, trying to draw fire from enemy fortifications along the river bank. Once the boat crews had pinpointed the enemy positions, helicopter gunships would attack the strongpoints from overhead.
Navy PBR boats cruise past Tan Dinh Island, trying to draw fire from enemy fortifications along the river bank. Once the boat crews had pinpointed the enemy positions, helicopter gunships would attack the strongpoints from overhead.

The Mobile Riverine Force conducted a series of major combat operations, including Coronado I through XI from 1967-1968, Giant Slingshot from 1968-1969, and Sealords from 1968-1971. The purpose of these operations was to isolate and destroy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units and dismantle their infrastructure in the Mekong Delta and the Capital Military District.

Armored PBRs of the Mobile Riverine Force on a mission in the Mekong Delta in 1967. A 5,000-man rapid-reaction force was established that year to deal with large-scale enemy threats.
Armored PBRs of the Mobile Riverine Force on a mission in the Mekong Delta in 1967. A 5,000-man rapid-reaction force was established that year to deal with large-scale enemy threats.

In September 1967, the River Patrol Force obtained a new, completely modified Navy PBR, the Mark II. The new model had larger, improved water jet pumps made from a metal less prone to corrosion. Additionally, the boats boasted a new circuitry system for the forward twin .50-caliber machine guns. The boat was also capable of much higher speeds than its predecessor. Not long after the introduction of the Mark II, a new Alfa model was introduced with even more upgrades. By early 1969 there were 250 river patrol boats in South Vietnam, including 130 Mark II and Mark II Alfa PBRs, as well as 120 Mark I PBRs.

Communist troops attacked more than 100 of South Vietnam’s cities and towns on January 31, 1968, during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year holiday known as Tet. The size and the ferocity of the Tet Offensive put U.S. and South Vietnamese forces on the defensive.

In the Mekong Delta region, the communists attacked 64 district capitals. The Tet Offensive resulted in an uptick in riverine units being used for fire support, troop transport, and amphibious assault. Up until Tet, PBRs typically called for naval or aerial assistance and then withdrew until help arrived before re-engaging the enemy; however, the Navy loosened the rules of engagement during Tet: If the patrol officer in charge of the PBR decided his boat could stand and fight, he had the discretion to do so. Another change in doctrine occurred regarding where the PBRs patrolled. Before Tet, PBRs generally stayed in the main rivers of the delta region, but during the communist offensive they began to operate in canals and other narrow waterways.

A SEAL team debarks from a PBR to destroy bunkers and round up Viet Cong during a raid in Kien Hoa Province. PBRs were powered by water-jet pumps, as opposed to screw propellers, which enabled them to operate in extremely shallow water.
A SEAL team debarks from a PBR to destroy bunkers and round up Viet Cong during a raid in Kien Hoa Province. PBRs were powered by water-jet pumps, as opposed to screw propellers, which enabled them to operate in extremely shallow water.

The PBRs in the Vietnam War played a key role in riverine operations and achieved positive combat results. In the course of their patrols and operations, U.S. Navy riverine forces killed 3,000 communist soldiers and sank, damaged, or captured upward of 6,500 boats.

Some key statistics offer insight into the hazards of PBR service. One of every three PBR sailors was wounded during his tour of duty. Yet this in no way deterred the volunteers who clamored to serve aboard the boats. Volunteers for the PBRs came from all U.S. Navy rates, ratings, and ranks. Furthermore, morale among the PBR crews remained high throughout the conflict.

For these reasons, the Navy PBR crews that served during the Vietnam War were highly respected by sailors and soldiers alike. “We were volunteers [and] patriots,” said Petty Officer Jere Beery, reflecting on his service on a PBR. “We were gung-ho as hell. We looked for trouble.”


 

 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Battle of Abu Agheila during the Six Day War.

 I first read about the Six Day war in High School when Israel launched a preemptive strike against several Arab countries that were planning on attacking them, but the Israelis struck first because they knew if the Arab countries got their act together and struck together, it would overwhelm their defenses and push them into the sea and crush the Israeli State which was the dream of the Pan Arab alliance.

 

 


 

By the summer of 1967, the modern state of Israel laid claim to a short but bloody history. After declaring independence in spring 1948, the nascent Jewish state was invaded by a coalition of Arab nations bent on the destruction of Jewish settlements. Following a brief but fierce war that saw the death of nearly one percent of its population, Israel secured a grudging armistice with the Arab belligerents. The agreement brought an end to large-scale fighting, but failed to secure Arab recognition of Israeli independence, making further conflict inevitable.

In less than a decade, Israel once again found itself locked in a shooting war with its largest Arab neighbor. In response to Egyptian blockades of the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba, Israel launched an invasion of the Sinai Peninsula on October 29, 1956. The attack was coordinated with the British and the French, who dropped airborne forces near the Suez in the hopes of seizing the canal.

The affair ended in an embarrassing foreign-relations disaster for Great Britain and France as they were forced to accept a cease-fire due to pressure from the United States and the United Nations. Israeli forces had been stunningly successful during the ground campaign, seizing Sinai in short order. The IDF, though, had not been able to capture one of the most heavily defended of the Egyptian positions, the strategically vital high ground near the seemingly insignificant crossroads of Abu Agheila. The position was taken only after being abandoned by the Egyptians.

That brief war, though, was not without long-term ramifications. The fact that Britain and France had been forced to withdraw their troops due to political pressure only emboldened the Egyptians, and anti-Israeli rhetoric ramped up in the years that followed. As a result, the peacekeepers of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) were garrisoned in Sinai in order to keep the belligerents at arm’s length.

At the time, Egypt was experiencing a wave of nationalist fervor, largely due to the ascendance of Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, one of the most charismatic leaders in the Middle East. Nasser had assumed the presidency of Egypt in 1954, just two years after he had helped orchestrate a successful coup. Nasser used powerful rhetoric that espoused greater unity for the Arab world, retribution for displaced Palestinians, and the reduction of the State of Israel.

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Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser believed the United States would restrain Israel from making an attack on Egypt.

Nasser’s magnetic charm also crossed national boundaries, and his promotion of pan-Arab unity found a wide audience across the region. By the mid-1960s, Nasser’s mounting influence in the Arab world was a source of grave alarm to Israel’s intelligence services. By 1964, IDF analysts predicted that a renewed war with an emboldened Egyptian army would likely occur as early as 1967.

Due to his previous professional contacts within the Egyptian Army, Nasser promoted a number of personal cronies to the highest ranks, chief among them Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer. Former vice president of Egypt and overall commander of Egyptian forces, Amer had seen extensive combat service. First commissioned in the Egyptian army in 1939, Amer had served against Israel in both 1948 and 1956 and had commanded Egyptian troops that intervened in the North Yemen Civil War.

Unfortunately, cronyism and statist paranoia gripped much of the Egyptian senior officer corps. Amer likewise appointed personal cronies or conferred promotion based on political considerations. A number of senior officers were known to possess a greater interest in Cairo nightlife than the military arts. Intelligence operatives spent much of their time monitoring suspect Egyptian officers rather than gathering intelligence on the Israelis. Ultimately, the misplaced focus on politics ensured that the Egyptian senior command bore a greater resemblance to an elite club of uniformed sycophants than a cadre of professional combat leaders.

Despite the shortcomings of the high brass, the Egyptian military possessed a vast arsenal of fearsome weaponry due to an alliance with the Soviet Union. Nasser’s increasingly hostile stance to the Western powers made him an attractive ally to the Soviets, who regarded him as a non-capitalist revolutionary democrat. Nasser and Amer were designated as Heroes of the Soviet Union in 1964 and awarded accompanying medals.

Such symbolic honorifics were accompanied with more concrete support in the form of modern weaponry. Since the close of the Sinai conflict, the Soviets had bestowed billions of dollars worth of military aid on the Arab states. The Arabs in the region fielded 1,700 tanks, 2,400 pieces of artillery, and 500 jet aircraft. Nearly half of the armaments went to Egypt, Israel’s most dangerous foe. Greater Arab unity likewise increased the threat to Israel. In October 1966, for example, Egypt and Syria secured a diplomatic rapprochement and signed a mutual defense pact.

The explosive combination of Arab military alliance and anti-Zionist rhetoric resulted in a dangerous powder keg for the greater Middle East. Misled by erroneous Syrian intelligence that pointed to an Israeli buildup on its northern border, Nasser and his generals grew increasingly jingoistic during the spring of 1967. On May 19, Nasser made the ominous move of requesting the removal of the 3,500 United Nations peacekeepers stationed in Sinai. With United Nation troops out of the way, Egypt began preparations for an inevitable war in Sinai.

The Middle East faced an irreversible crisis when Egypt ordered the closure of the Straits of Tiran—the strategic waterway that controlled the Gulf of Aqaba—on May 21, 1967. With Israeli access to the Gulf of Aqaba denied, Israel’s southern port of Eilat was entirely cut off from international waters. Widely regarded as an act of war, the closure of the Straits of Tiran was almost certain to result in conflict, and Nasser was unambiguous regarding the intention of his decision. “It will be total, and the objective will be Israel’s destruction,” he said, referring to a possible outbreak of war.

As diplomatic efforts (including proposed mediation) continued to fail, more Arab powers readied for war. In addition to Egypt and Syria, Jordan and Lebanon began mobilizing their armed forces. Even distant Muslim states including Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia either mobilized or contributed token forces to the fight against Israel. Ahmad ash-Shuqayri, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, gave voice to the mounting desire for war with an ominous public statement. “We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants,” he said. “As for the survivors, if there are any, the boats are ready to deport them.”

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A column of Egyptian tanks moves into the Sinai Desert on May 7, 1967, joining divisions already positioned on the Egyptian-Israeli border.

Despite the overall lax condition of the Egyptian Army, the Israeli high command harbored a deep respect for the fighting mettle of the average Egyptian soldier. Largely due to Israel’s experience in failing to crack the defenses of Abu Agheila in 1956, the Egyptians were particularly feared for their willingness to fight tenaciously from fortified positions. Russian military engineers helped the Egyptians construct imposing fieldworks at key strategic positions across the vast expanse of Sinai.

A virtual panic gripped the highest echelon’s of Israel’s government as the nation braced itself for what could become a struggle for survival. Because any conflict would inevitably result in the IDF waging a war on multiple fronts, Israeli military doctrine stressed initiative and aggressive tactics as a part of an overall strategy of destroying numerically superior Arab armies before they had a chance to respond. In many respects, Israeli tactics ironically copied the blitzkrieg of Nazi Germany in World War II.

In the years leading up to the Sinai Campaign in the Six Day War, the IDF was transformed into a more mobile force that gravitated toward an armor-dominated army, as opposed to an army made up of predominantly infantry. Brigadier General Israel Tal, commander of the Israeli Armored Corps, was a key developer of his nation’s armored doctrine. In large part due to Israel’s small population, Tal favored heavy tanks and firepower at the expense of lighter and faster tanks. Such an approach offered Israeli tank crews better protection, as well as the upper hand during long-range armored duels.

Due to friendly relations and consequent arms contracts with the Western powers, tanks such as the American Patton and the British Centurion fit the bill. Israeli tankers received rigorous training in maneuver and gunnery. “After the air force, armor is the factor that decides the fate of battles on land,” said Tal. “The task of armor is to carry the battle into the enemy’s territory and thus obtain a quick decision.”

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General Ariel Sharon, center, confers with his subordinates just days before Israel’s launch of a preemptive strike into the Sinai.

In any pending conflict, though, the vaunted Egyptian fieldworks in the vicinity of Abu Agheila could not simply be bypassed. With the assistance of Soviet advisors, Egyptian engineers had constructed a substantial barrier that would stall any potential Israeli advance with a robust defense in depth.

In front of the forward base at Umm Katif, Egyptian infantry manned two mutually supporting lines of trenches. The trenches were further bolstered by artillery positions, mortar pits, dug-in tanks, and bunkers. To the north, immense sand dunes, which were deemed impassable to armor, were considered effective flank protection. The eastern approaches to the position, the most likely avenue of an Israeli attack, were protected by wide belts of mine fields and barbed wire. Abu Agheila, which commanded the central route across Sinai, was likewise the most heavily fortified position on the peninsula.

Actually, the formidable task of cracking the defenses at Abu Agheila had commanded the attention of the Israeli high command since 1956. The Israeli Command and Staff College staged exercises each year against mock Abu Agheila fortifications, and the exercises were updated each year based on fresh intelligence of the ever-evolving Egyptian defenses. Most Israeli field commanders and staff officers were consequently familiar with the Abu Agheila defense complex. In keeping with Israeli doctrine, which promoted aggressive initiative from junior officers, participants in the program were encouraged to develop their own tactics in launching assaults.

Such intensive preparation for war, paired with reckless saber-rattling across the border, resulted in a fateful decision by the Israeli cabinet. In a series of tense meetings in a Tel Aviv bunker on June 4, Israeli military officers were nearly unanimous on the need to launch a preemptive attack on Egypt, which was continuing the Sinai buildup in preparation for launching its own attack. Quite understandably, the politicians demurred.

In the corner of the conference room, Brig. Gen. Ariel Sharon brooded. Sharon, who commanded one of the Israeli divisions mustered on the Sinai Front, was worried by the political indecision that left front-line troops in the lurch. Combat units were “moving here and there, crossing each other’s paths and taking up positions, only to move back from them a day later and take up different ones,” recalled Sharon. “The army did not look as if it knew what it was doing.”

Sharon took a grimmer view of the closure of the Straits of Tiran, and regarded it as a provocation that demanded an inevitable military response. “We have the power to destroy the Egyptian Army, but if we give in on the free-passage issue, we have opened the door to Israel’s destruction,” he said. “We will have to pay a far higher price in the future for something that we in any case had to do now.”

For the frontline commanders, continued diplomatic dawdling only invited a tougher fight. Every day that passed allowed the Egyptians more time to dig in and prepare. For his part, Sharon was exasperated by the waiting game. “The Army is ready as never before,” he said. “All this fawning to the powers, begging for help, undermines our case. If we want to survive here, we have to stand up for our rights.”

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Jordanian troops drill on the Israeli border on June 1, just a few days before the start of the war.

By the evening of June 4, such reasoning had swayed the government’s cabinet ministers, who, at last, opted for war. “The government has determined that the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan are deployed for a multi-front attack that threatens Israel’s existence,” stated the official orders. “It is therefore decided to launch a military strike aimed at liberating Israel from encirclement.”

Those orders unfolded with startling force early on the morning of June 5, 1967. In a desperate attempt to neutralize Egypt’s formidable air power, the Israeli Air Force launched a stunning series of preemptive attacks on enemy airfields throughout Egypt. Known as Operation Moked, the attack caught the Egyptians entirely by surprise. In a matter of hours, approximately 200 Israeli aircraft conducted multiple attacks that eventually destroyed 338 Egyptian aircraft, most of which were never able to get off the ground. Subsequent attacks destroyed all 29 aircraft of the Jordanian Air Force, as well as 61 Syrian planes.

With the Arab air fleets out of commission, the Israelis were free to push their ground forces into Sinai free from the threat of aerial attack. Overall command of the Sinai Front was assigned to Brig. Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish. Gavish had three ugdah (divisions) at his immediate disposal. The Israeli right flank along the Mediterranean coast was commanded by Brig. Gen. Israel Tal, who led a division that was to sweep along the primary coastal route across Sinai. In the center, Brig. Gen Avraham Yoffe, a tough veteran who had seen extensive combat since he was 16 years old, led two armored brigades. On the left, Ariel Sharon commanded an imposing ugdah, the 38th Armored Division, which was a mixed outfit of four brigades that included armor, infantry, airborne, and artillery units.

A career army man, Sharon was a barrel-chested bull of a warrior to whom fighting had become a way of life. A native Israeli who had been born in British Palestine in 1928, Sharon was just 14 when he joined the Haganah militia. During the Israeli War of Independence, he served as a junior officer. Prone to lead by example, he was badly wounded in action with Jordanian troops.

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The Israeli Air Force destroyed the Egyptian Air Force in a stunning pre-emptive strike on the first day of the war.

Sharon was given command of a special forces outfit, Unit 101, in 1953. His tenure at the head of the commandos, though, would leave an indelible stain on his career as an officer. In October 1953, Sharon led an operation into the Jordanian West Bank that targeted Palestinian terrorists. During the fighting, more than 60 civilians were reportedly killed.

During the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Sharon commanded an elite unit of paratroopers that seized vital ground at the Mitla Pass. As a professional soldier, Sharon was regarded as a keen student and meticulous planner. On the battlefield, he earned the reputation as a hard-driving combat leader who was willing to personally lead his men into tough fighting.

Sharon’s objective was the imposing complex of Egyptian defenses around Abu Agheila, which commanded the central route across Sinai. The Egyptians were convinced that the main Israeli attack would be farther south, leading them to leave their forces spread woefully thin at Abu Agheila and the forward position of Umm Katif. Against the 8,000 Egyptians of the 2nd Infantry Division, Sharon had concentrated 14,000 Israeli troops.

Sharon also possessed a keen advantage in armor: 150 tanks consisting of a mix of Centurions, Super Shermans, and the lighter French AMX-13s. By comparison, the Egyptians could muster just 66 T-34’s. The Egyptians did possess an advantage in artillery, fielding a fearsome array of Soviet 122mm cannons and 152mm howitzers which easily outclassed the Israeli artillery. 

Sharon had developed a meticulous and audacious plan for the reduction of the impressive Egyptian defenses. A keen student of military tactics, he not surprisingly opted for a massive flanking movement against the Egyptian stronghold. Following an airborne assault aimed at silencing the enemy artillery, Israeli artillery would unleash a punishing barrage on Egyptian positions. Armored columns would harass the enemy’s flanks while the main thrust, largely consisting of infantry, would strike the Egyptians from the north. The main attack would use the cover of sand dunes which the Egyptians considered impassable.

Clearly aware that Israeli troops had been stalled by the Abu Agheila defenses in 1956, Sharon had formulated an extremely complex plan in the hopes of completely overwhelming the Egyptian defenders. The success of the entire plan, though, would depend on near-perfect timing, the coordination of various columns, and a dose of good luck.

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Israeli armor prepares for the advance into the Sinai Desert. The Israelis entered the Six-Day War with more than twice as many tanks as the Egyptians.

Sharon would have more than his share of good fortune in the unfolding battle. His main force crossed the border on June 5 and made for Abu Agheila. South of Umm Katif, Sharon launched a diversionary attack toward Egyptian positions at Qusaymah. Although he attacked Qusaymah with just two reserve battalions and a handful of tanks, the Egyptians became increasingly convinced that any direct attack on Abu Agheila was unlikely, and focused their attention on points south.

Taking advantage of the Egyptian confusion, Sharon put his complex plan in motion. On the right, Colonel Natke Nir’s task force struck off on one of the most crucial and dangerous parts of Sharon’s grand plan. Nir commanded an independent armored battalion, which was to swing to the north of the Umm Katif positions along an insignificant desert trail known as the Batur Track. His objectives were to reduce an Egyptian outpost at Point 181, then fall on the rear of Abu Agheila, seizing Ruafa Dam, cutting off the route of retreat and blocking the roads to any Egyptian reinforcements.

Nir commanded an assortment of heavily armed troops, which included mechanized infantry, mortar, and rocket teams, as well as reconnaissance and engineering units. The hard-hitting core of his unit consisted of 45 Centurion Mark V tanks, whose wide tracks made them well suited for the dangerous flank attack along the sandy wastes of the Batur Track. More important, the Centurions, armed with 105mm main guns, packed the necessary punch for a shooting match with Soviet-made armor.

Due to scant intelligence, Nir was unsure what resistance would be encountered at Point 181, but as his tanks approached the high ground, they received a warm reception and were driven back after fierce fighting. After calling in air support from the IAF, Nir struck again. While his infantry fixed the Egyptians from the front, Nir sent his armor on wide flanking attacks against the Egyptians.

In the face of the multi-pronged attack, Egyptian defenses at Point 181 collapsed, once again opening the Batur Track to Nir’s armor. The brutal fight for the position had cost Nir several of his subordinate officers and eight tanks.

The operation to seize Abu Agheila continued at sundown, when a daring helicopter-borne infantry attack was launched from Israeli positions. Sharon had planned for three waves of six helicopters to land 200 paratroopers in the enemy’s rear. The craft were carrying elements of the 80th Paratroop Brigade under the command of Colonel Matt. Matt’s elite paratroopers were tasked with the vital operation of silencing enemy artillery, consisting of deadly Soviet-made 130mm cannons, before the Egyptian guns could decimate Sharon’s advancing armor and infantry.

Sharon shared a special bond with his paratroopers. A former paratrooper himself, the general continued to don the red beret of the Israeli airborne. War correspondent Yael Dayan was present when Sharon conferred with Matt just prior to the attack. Sharon’s voice “changed some when he talked to the parachutists’ commander,” said Dayan. “He knew them all by first name, and they were his men, and somehow he gave me the feeling he was talking to a brother in whose hands he entrusted a hard job.”

Despite Sharon’s confidence in his paratroopers, the operation was indeed a hard job from the outset. During the flight to the landing zone, nearly half of the helicopter pilots lost their bearings in the darkness, veered far off course, and never succeeded in landing their loads of paratroopers at the designated target. After a harrowing flight over the desert, the rest of the helicopters touched down about two miles northwest of the Egyptian artillery park in terrain considered impassable to the Egyptians. Matt’s paratroopers, each of whom was laden with a heavy load of weaponry and equipment, began the arduous trek toward their target.

Although the paratroopers were highly conditioned warriors, they struggled under heavy loads as they trudged through the sand dunes. Urged on by their officers, the men pressed forward. With no warning, Egyptian artillery and mortar fire began landing on the planned route of attack, sending up great plumes of sand and dust. Matt kept his head despite the tremendous crash of artillery. “I guessed from the location of falling bombs that the enemy was firing blind, not having actually seen us, only hearing the unfamiliar noise of the helicopters in their rear area,” said Matt.

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Lt. Col. Mordecai Zippori’s 14th Armored Brigade eliminated Egyptian forward outposts at Abu Agheila in two hours of hard fighting.

Despite the occasional burst of Egyptian illumination rounds, the paratroopers struggled to find their way in the dark; but as Matt pressed forward, the enemy position was clearly located by the telltale muzzle flashes of Egyptian artillery. Matt and his men reached the perimeter of the Egyptian artillery park at 12:00 AM. They then formed up for the planned assault.

As the Israelis rushed forward, they could not believe their luck. The artillery position they were about to assault, which had no protective minefields or barbed wire, was wide open to attack. Matt had given orders to individually assault each enemy gun, and as the paratroopers entered the position, they split up to target their objectives. The Egyptian gun crews had been taken entirely by surprise and panicked in the confusion. The Israelis likewise targeted enemy ammunition bunkers, which were soon engulfed in flames. In minutes, the Egyptian gun crews had scattered in confusion, and much of the artillery was destroyed or disabled.

A convoy of Egyptian supply trucks, illuminated by their own headlights, arrived unexpectedly at the artillery park just as the Israelis had overrun the position. The disoriented Egyptian drivers had no warning and drove into the mouth of a deadly ambush. Riddled with Israeli small arms fire, trucks careened out of control or burst into flames.

While Matt was shocked by the carnage his men had inflicted, the operation to silence the Egyptian guns had been a remarkable success. For his part, Matt had regarded his assignment as sure to result in a tough fight, and he was elated with his success. As his men mopped up and gathered their dead and wounded, Matt received a radio communication from Sharon, who ordered the paratroopers evacuated. The main attack could proceed unfettered by the threat of an impenetrable Egyptian artillery screen

 

Israeli columns would make the most of the advantage. Sharon gave orders for his artillery to open fire on the Egyptians at 10:00 PM. His arsenal of firepower consisted of 105mm and 155mm howitzers, 120mm and 160mm mortars, and British 25-pounders. As he glanced across the desert, he issued legendary orders for his gunners. “Let everything tremble,” he said.

A sheet of flame lit up the desert floor as the guns opened up, raining down an unrelenting storm of fire on the Egyptian defenses. For nearly half an hour, the Israelis unleashed the most intense artillery bombardment in the history of the IDF. Even Sharon, a career soldier, was amazed by the tremendous show of firepower. “I have never seen such a fire in all my life,” he said.

In the hope that the fierce shelling had softened up the Egyptian defenses, Sharon unleashed the troops of his main assault. Thundering toward the Egyptian lines were the tanks of Lt. Col. Mordecai Zippori’s 14th Armored Brigade, containing two battalions of Super Sherman tanks mounting 105mm guns. Zippori’s task was to seize forward Egyptian observations posts and then use his armor as fire support for the infantry attack on the main Egyptian trenches. Zippori’s tankers had faced determined opposition at the forward Egyptian post at Tarat Umm Basis, which was occupied by the elite members of Egypt’s 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. The Egyptians broke after two hours of fierce fighting, and Zippori’s brigade continued to steamroll startled enemy outposts as it drove forward.

Israeli momentum, though, soon ground to a halt. Although the IAF began launching sorties against the enemy defensive complex centered on Abu Agheila, Egyptian artillery was able to maintain a heavy and accurate fire against the advancing Israeli armor. To avoid sending his tanks into a killing zone, Zippori ordered his tank crews to stop the advance.

Earlier that afternoon, Sharon ordered his infantry, the Kuti Brigade commanded by Colonel Yekutiel Adam, to cross the frontier and move toward Umm Katif. Adam’s three battalions, one of which was a part-time reserve outfit, had ridden to the front in a curious parade of civilian vehicles. After reaching Tarat Um Basis, the foot soldiers dismounted and trudged a dozen miles through sand dunes to the north of the enemy.

Adam’s brigade, which was tasked with assaulting the lines at Umm Katif, had taken up its assault positions on the Egyptian left by 10:00 PM. Adam opted to throw his two regular battalions into the initial assault and hold back his part-time reservists as a general reserve in case of emergency. Once again, the Egyptians would be confounded by the direction of the attack, which came from sand dunes that were considered impassable. To the north of the Umm Katif position, the Egyptians had planted no mines.

Rushing in from the dunes in the black of night, Adam’s men slammed hard into the trenches, quickly folding the Egyptian left. The Egyptians, though, quickly regrouped and put up a stiff fight; brutal hand-to-hand combat ensued in the trenches. The Egyptian colonel in command of the defenses, whose command bunker was located in the second line of trenches, frantically tried to order artillery strikes against the Israeli-occupied first trench. His position, though, was overrun by the advancing Israelis, who captured the command staff.

Despite the determined defense of much of the Egyptian infantry, the tactical surprise gained by the Israelis began to tell. Israeli infantry rapidly moved through the trenches. In the confusion of the night fighting, the foot soldiers averted friendly fire incidents by use of colored signaling flashlights. Each battalion had a specific color. One was red, another green, and yet another blue. By 1:00 AM on June 6, the Israelis sat astride the central route and began assaulting the southern half of the Umm Katif defenses. Clearly sensing that he was poised for victory, Adam ordered his reserve battalion into the fight.

The situation quickly degenerated for the Egyptians. Soon after Adam’s successful assault of the trenches, Israeli engineers succeeded in opening a hole in the minefields and barbed wire to the east of Umm Katif so that Israeli armor could advance. The operation would be a difficult one, though. As a lead platoon of tanks inched its way through the gap, one of the tanks struck a mine and was disabled, blocking the path. The engineers frantically worked to widen the breach for the remainder of the tanks. Only the mounting confusion in Egyptian ranks saved the stalled tanks from annihilation. Three hours later, Israeli tanks were pouring through the gap and widening the Israeli breach of the Umm Katif position.

After a harrowing nightlong journey through the sand dunes north of Abu Agheila, Natke Nir finally succeeded in getting his Centurion tanks in position for an assault on Egyptian troops stationed at Ruafa Dam. His attack, which rolled in from the west, came as a complete shock to the startled Egyptian defenders, whose attention had been focused on the main attack coming from the east. In short order, the Egyptian position collapsed, and Nir struck east in order to link up with the Israeli main body.

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Captured Egyptian armor parked in the Sinai desert. The Israelis’ remarkable victory had exceeded military planners’ most optimistic timetables.

At that point, the Egyptian defenses began to hopelessly unravel. For two hours, Egyptian tankers waged a determined but uncoordinated fight with the closing vise of advancing Israeli armor. By the early morning hours, only isolated detachments of Egyptians continued to fight, but they were quickly overwhelmed. The Egyptian defensive works of the Abu Agheila complex, once considered one of the strongest defensive positions in the world, had fallen in a single night of fierce fighting.

The loss of Abu Agheila, paired with startling Israeli victories farther north, brought about the entire collapse of the Egyptian defense of the Sinai Peninsula. In Cairo, a demoralized Field Marshall Amer panicked and ordered his entire army to give up the fight, make for the Suez Canal, and regroup on the west bank. By the early afternoon, Egyptian forces were in full flight to the west, with hard-driving Israeli armored columns hot on their heels.

Far from letting the Egyptians escape, the Israelis sent smaller armored forces in a mad dash for the few strategic passes through the mountains of western Sinai. Once again, decisive action enabled the Israelis to gain control of the only Egyptian escape routes. Although a good number of Egyptians escaped, the outcome of the fighting in Sinai had proved nothing short of catastrophic. The Egyptian Army had lost 80 percent of its tanks, artillery, and trucks. The Egyptians also suffered 11,000 men killed, wounded, or captured. In the Abu Agheila sector alone, the Egyptians lost 2,000 men and 60 tanks. In contrast, the Israelis lost 40 men and 19 tanks in that sector.

The remarkable victory in Sinai had outpaced the most optimistic of Israeli timetables and exceeded even the wildest dreams of Sharon. The 38th Armored Division’s remarkable success at Abu Agheila not only secured Ariel Sharon’s reputation as a cunning strategist, but also was a key factor in the crushing Israeli victory during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, which lasted less than a week. During the conflict, later styled the Six Day War, the IDF stormed to stunning wins on every front.

In addition to occupying the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, the Israelis crushed Syrian columns in the northeast, securing possession of the strategic Golan Heights. Israeli possession of the Golan ensured that Jewish farmers, who had faced perennial shelling from Syrian artillery on the heights, would enjoy a level of security heretofore unknown.

Similarly, the Israelis delivered crippling blows to enemy troops in the West Bank. Despite stubborn Jordanian fighting, the IDF badly wrecked Jordanian columns. The fighting left Israel in control of all territory west of the Jordan River, which included the holy city of Jerusalem, the most treasured prize in the Middle East.