Thank you Camera.
I hadn't realised the prime concern was spare parts for the Centurions, rather than ammunition. Nor did I realise that Tal was opposed to tank only formations. I had assumed he was one of the proponents, not in opposition to them. Some fascinating stuff!
Before posting Session 53, it might be useful to remind why the armored brigades were depleted from their mechanized infantry and their organic artillery.
Originally Posted by Marsh
In the Six-Days War, after the first breakthrough battles, the brigades of the IDF rushed towards the Suez Canal. The result of this blitzkrieg was that the mechanized infantry and the artillery lagged behind the Pattons and the Centurions, because they were mounted on M-3 half-trucks, which's mobility was inferior. For this reason, after the breakthrough battles against of the Egyptian compounds, their contribution to the remaining battles was secondary.
Gen Tal presentation the lessons of the Six-Days War to the commission were correct, but there was an additional lesson that he did not mention: the IDF should acquire APCs that could sustain the mobility of its tanks. However, though the IDF grew considerably in size between 1967 and 1973, it lacked the funds to buy thousand of M-113s. The army had other priorities: more aircrafts for the air force, modernization of the navy, more tanks… The few hundreds of M-113s that were bought were allocated to the recon battalions of the divisions and to the HQs of the divisions and the brigades.
The people who advocated the depletion of the armored brigades from their support elements — mounted on half-trucks — had in mind a reedition of the Six-Days War.
Last edited by Camera; 1 Week Ago at 02:05 PM.
General Tal's testimony at the Agrant Commission - Session 53 - Part 1 (Post 19)
Two former COS sieged in the Agranat Commission. It might be useful to present them briefly.
Lt-Gen (reserve) Yigal Yadin was born in 1917 in Jerusalem. In 1933, he was mobilized to the Haganah at the age of 16. During the War of Independence, in 1948, he was the head of AGAM, [the Operations Branch of the IDF]. At this appointment, he was number 2 of the army, but he commanded de facto the IDF during the war, because the COS, Ya’acov Dori, was sick. In 1949, Yadin was appointed as the second COS of the IDF at the age of 32. He was the youngest COS in the history of the IDF. After he retreated from the army, he devoted himself to archeology.
Lt-Gen (reserve) Chaim Laskov was born in Belarus in 1919. His family immigrated to Palestine of the British mandate in 1925. As a teenager, he volunteered to the Haganah and was greatly influenced by the personality of Captain Orde Charles Wingate who established the ‘Special Night Squads’ in 1938. Like Israel Tal, he volunteered to the British Army in 1940. At the end of WW2 he had the rank of Major.
He was the head of the Instruction Branch of the IDF in 1948 and commanded various units in the war. He served as the Commander of the Air Force between 1951-53, though he was not a pilot.
Laskov learnt the lessons of WW2 and contributed to establish the armored doctrine of the IDF. Contrary to commanders that were issued from the Haganah, and who considered that the role of the armor is to support the infantry, he saw the armor as the main force of the ground battle. His thesis proved its value in the 1956 war.
In 1958, he was appointed the 5th COS of the IDF. After he retreated from the army, he worked as the director general of the Ports Authority.
[SIZE=4]TESTIMONY MAJ-GEN ISRAEL TAL[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]January 28th, 1974
Stenographic pages 3697 - 3704
In the beginning of the session, Gen. Tal elaborates again on what he considers as faulty constitutional procedures in the decision-making of the upper echelons of the state, and on the lack of national bodies that make strategic assessments, and so on. Tal brings additional examples to sustain his point. I don’t translate this part of the testimony.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: You talked a lot about the procedures of acknowledgement between the General Staff and the upper echelons of the decision-makers. At this stage, I’m rather worried by the procedures of acknowledgement between the General Staff and the lower echelons of the decision-makers.
I’ll give you an example. During our last session, it appeared that General Gonen, [Commander of Southern Command since August 1973], was not aware of one of the greatest achievements of AMAN: a year, a year and a half, before of the war, it obtained the detailed plan of the Egyptian offensive. General Gonen told us that, though he became the commander of Southern Command, he never saw this plan, and ignored its existence.
He also ignored that AMAN has obtained a document [FEW CENSORED WORDS], at ‘great risks’, as Lt-Gen Laskov calls it, which includes the precise schedule of the shelling by the Egyptian artillery, prior to the Egyptian crossing. […] When we asked all the witnesses, including Gen Gonen, how they have imagined that the Egyptian shelling would be, they said [that they thought that] it would last an hour or two, while this document included a precise schedule for a 38 minutes shelling. It described what was going to happen each 8 minutes. The commander who was responsible for this front, [Gonen], stated that he ignored the existence of both documents.
Can you tell us how such thing could happen? Why a commander of the IDF was not given this material when he got his assignment?
GENERAL TAL: I don’t know the details regarding the special case of Gonen, but I can tell you how the institutional procedure works.
When AMAN has this such of information, it edits a brochure that is distributed to all the commanders of the regional commands, to all the institutions of the General Staff and to the relevant schools of the IDF. Furthermore, the schools prepare drills on the basis of these documents.
The case of General Gonen seems strange to me, because he was the head of the Instruction Branch, [until August 1973, before he became the Commander of Southern Command], so these plans did reach him, forcefully.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: I’m speaking about the operational plan of the Egyptian crossing, which includes the moves [of their units] and their divisions.
GENERAL TAL: I think that we are speaking about the same document. […] The detailed brochure of AMAN was based on a drill of the crossing. If I’m not mistaken, this is the document you are referring to. It was also distributed to the branches of the General Staff, including the Instruction Branch, since this branch has a department that contributes to the development of [our] combat doctrine.
In addition, when the chief of a regional command is appointed, there is a briefing in which he receives all the important documents. Furthermore, [though the commander changes], the staff in the HQs of the regional command remains the same. And the staff is aware of these issues.
So, if you ask me to answer from an institutional perspective: the information is dispatched to all the relevant bodies of the General Staff, to the regional command, and it is also transmitted during the briefing between the former commander and his successor.
JUDGE LANDAU: We are speaking about this plan. (He shows a plan to General Tal).
GENERAL TAL: There was another context in which the generals of the IDF saw it: during the meetings of the General Staff. […] If I’m not mistaken, you can find it in the report of AMAN that I gave to you — it was an integral part of the [annual] assessment [of the General Staff].
In addition to the procedures that I described, AMAN transmits the document automatically […] to all the intelligence officers. In other words, the Chief of Southern Command sees the document in the General Staff; he sees it during the operational planning; and the intelligence officer of Southern Command receives the document as well.
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: [If there is a war], such information becomes relevant 3-5 months after it was dispatched. Who makes sure that the information continues to be considered as relevant in September, though it was dispatched in May?
GENERAL TAL: It’s guaranteed by the procedure that I described in the past sessions: the planning of the combats. One of your questions was: ‘how the plans are drawn in the General Staff?’ The information is taken into account in the operational plans and the assessments of the situation. New operational plans are made continuously. In the moment that there is a change in the order of battle, or if we receive a new information, […] we update the operational plans. These things were done continuously in the General Staff.
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: This brings us to the most important question. Was there an operational plan that was based on the plan [of the Egyptian crossing]?
GENERAL TAL: Sir, in the years 1970-71, I had an emergency assignment as the commander of a [reserve] division in Southern Command. In these years, I worked in the Ministry of Defense, [on the Merkava project], and had this emergency assignment. And I can to tell you that our operational plans in Southern Command […] were already based on the schematic intelligence information regarding the Egyptian crossing.
Stenographic pages 3708 - 3718
The commission asks Tal more precisions regarding the defensive plans of the IDF: plan ‘Sela’, [Rock], the defense plan with a partial mobilization of the reserve troops; the doctrine of defense by the regular army in the case of a surprise attack, and so on.
I don’t translate this part of the testimony.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: […] You told us what you’ve said during a discussion with the COS, on September 30, and gave us the page from the notebook of the head of his office. […] There was a contradiction between what you said in your testimony and what was noted [in the notebook]. We asked you to provide us with additional material, if you can. […]
GENERAL TAL: Yes. […] I brought you a photocopy of the notebook in which the head of the office of the COS noted some points.
I told you that these were not stenographic notes and that they do not include all what I’ve said in that meeting. So, I asked three people who were present at the meeting to put on paper what they remember from what I’ve said. These three people are: the head of the Air Department, the head of the Air Intelligence [and the head of AMAN].
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: They were all present at the debate of October 30?
GENERAL TAL: Yes. They were present.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Who is the head of the Air Department?
GENERAL TAL: Brig-Gen Harari.
In the previous sessions, I told you what were my arguments: that president Assad delayed the attack from May to September, because he considered that the Syrian army lacked equipment; since then, the Syrian army was equipped, for instance, with bridging tanks (to cross our AT-trench), with an array of SAMs, with more tanks; I reminded them [at the meeting] that there was a symposium with a Soviet general and Syrian generals, during which the Soviet general convinced the Syrians that they had the strength to launch an attack. […]
So, I asked the head of AMAN, the head of the Air Department, and the head of Air Intelligence, to write me a letter in which they say what they remember about my arguments in that meeting.
General Zeira, [head of AMAN], did not give me his letter yet. I should receive it tomorrow and could transfer it to the commission. But I have already the letters of the two other officers. If you allow me, I will read them, and then I’ll give them to you.
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: Yes.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Did they know that [their letters] would be submitted to the commission?
GENERAL TAL: I told them that — in the context of the investigation by the commission — I ask them to write what they remember, because there are no stenographic notes from that meeting.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: In other words, if we call them to testify, they will confirm that they knew why they put it on paper?
GENERAL TAL: They knew why I asked them to write the letters.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Perfect.
JUDGE LANDAU: Did you only asked them to write what they remember, or did you also remind them what you’ve said [in that meeting]?
GENERAL TAL: I asked them to write only what they remember. I asked them to write a draft.
JUDGE LANDAU: And then, did they correct their drafts?
GENERAL TAL: No. Actually, they did not correct them. After they wrote their drafts, Major Yigal Lotan, [head of the office of Tal], took the drafts and went to type them. During this time, they drunk a coffee with me and we discussed the issue.
JUDGE LANDAU: Okay.
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: Did you tell them what you have told the commission?
GENERAL TAL: Not before they wrote their letters. I can read you the letter of the head of the Air Department:
‘Subject: a debate about the assessment of the situation at Northern Command, in the office of the COS, September 30th, 1973.
‘Following your request, I sum up the arguments that you expressed at this debate, as far as I remember them.
‘Your main opinion was that [the Syrian deployment] is not for a reaction to the shot down of the 13 Syrian MIGs, but for a possible attack. So, we should get ready.
‘Your arguments were based on: information that the war was delayed from May to September; the build up of the Syrian array of SAMs that limits the capability of the AF to attack, in addition to its limitations during the winter.’
[Tal to the commission]: For instance, he remembered this detail that I’ve forgotten. When he reminded it to me, I remembered it.
[Tal reads from the letter]:
‘[Your other two arguments were] the Syrian emergency deployment and the drill in Egypt.
‘You assessed that the Syrians might be ready to suffer heavy damage in their rear, if they could have some achievements on the Golan. […]’
[Tal to the commission]: This is another detail that he remembered and that I’ve forgotten. When he reminded it to me, I remembered it.
[Tal reads from the letter]:
‘You warned about the inferiority of our forces on the Golan. As far as I remember, you recommended […] to reinforce them immediately with regular units and, even, to consider their reinforcement with reserve troops’.
[Tal to the commission]: This is what [Brig-Gen Harari] remembered. […] Brig-Gen Raphael Har-Lev […] wrote…
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: It's the letter of the head of the Air Intelligence?
GENERAL TAL: Yes. […] He wrote:
‘Following your request, I write about the debate that was held with the COS on September 30. In this debate, you spoke about the state of readiness prior to Yom Kippur and the significance of the indications that we have observed in Egypt and Syria.
‘As far as I remember, during this debate, you raised the following points:
‘A) We are facing a war and not an increase of a state of readiness for a retaliation.
‘B) You pointed at the following indications: 1/ Assad, the Syrian president, delayed the war from May to September, since he lacked equipment. 2/ In July-August, the build up of a serious array of SAMs was completed on the Syrian front. 3/ The whole Syrian army was in an emergency deployment, and it wasn’t a drill. 4/ There was a big drill in Egypt and the entire army was deployed along the frontline.
‘You said that, on the Golan, our forces were not sufficient to face a Syrian attack and that, in your opinion, for each Syrian brigade, there was a single Israeli platoon of tanks. You suggested to mobilize the reserves and to deploy them on the Golan. The COS did not authorize the mobilization of the reserves. On the other hand, he was ready to reinforce [the front] with regular units: [to move] Brigade 7 to the Golan.’
[Tal to the commission]: I still stick to what I told you. Nevertheless, they remembered many elements that I’ve told you.
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: You can give us the letters. They are registered under n°236 and 237.
GENERAL TAL: Should I send you the letter of the head of AGAM?
I mean, should he write it directly to the commission or should I transfer you his letter?
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: […] If he wants, he can write directly to the commission. But since you asked him to write his letter to you, and he promised you to do it, you can send it to us when you’ll get it.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: In any case, we can interrogate him.
GENERAL TAL: His letter is important, since — as I told to the commission — I was worried, on September 30, after the debate [with the COS]. And then I cancelled other meetings and, for the first time, I asked the head of AMAN and the head of his Research Department to meet me and tried to convince them. For this reason, I asked him to write this letter.
JUDGE LANDAU: Regarding this meeting […] what was their answer to your arguments […]?
GENERAL TAL: I repeated to them the same arguments about the intentions of the enemy. But I underlined to them, more than I did during the meeting with the COS, what would be the terrible consequences, if their [assessment] was mistaken. I gave them a worrisome description of how the battlefield would look like, if they were mistaken.
JUDGE LANDAU: How did they react to your terrible prediction?
GENERAL TAL: They said that they thank me for my provocation; that they always appreciate when someone insists and encourages them to proceed with a self-introspection.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: One of their arguments was probably their main concept that the Syrians would never attack without Egypt, and that there’s a drill in Egypt.
GENERAL TAL: Furthermore, that the Egyptians have no reason to start a war — this was written in the notebook of the COS, and the head of AMAN and the others said it. And that the Syrians won’t fight without the Egyptians. […]
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: There’s another element about this issue. […] Even if [they thought] that you were over pessimistic, they should have considered again the basic facts regarding the balance of forces [on the front] […]and the risk of not mobilizing [the reserves].
GENERAL TAL: I told you that, in my opinion, this is a commander’s decision. As far as I remember, AMAN was not opposed to an increase of our state of readiness […], they did not argue against it. They just sustained that there won’t be a war, in their opinion, though they had no explanation to some things, such as the move of aircrafts to advanced airfields. But they did not argue against a reinforcement of our troops on the fronts.
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: If so, when you asked to meet the head of AMAN, you did not go to the right person. You should have fight for your opinion in the place where the commander’s decision was made. […]
GENERAL TAL: A) You are right. B) Later, I had culpability feelings, [because I didn’t do it].
Since my opinion was rejected at the level of the commander’s decision, I thought that if the professionals, the men of the intelligence, revise their assessment to a less optimistic one, it might have an influence [on the decision-maker]. I was sure that it would have an influence. I never saw the COS disregarding their pessimistic assessments. AMAN’s warnings were always taken seriously. The problem, in this case, was that AMAN wasn’t warning. AMAN said that this was not [going to be] a war. And I told you already, in the previous sessions, that for me, we had a sufficient alert, that for me, the assessment [of AMAN] did not constitute an alert.
[CAMERA: BTW, the COS will say in its testimony, in the aftermath, at session 54, that he does not remember that Gen Tal held such arguments and made such suggestions at the meeting of September 30th].
Last edited by Camera; 1 Week Ago at 02:00 PM.
Reason: grammar & spelling
General Tal's testimony at the Agrant Commission - Session 53 - Part 2 (Post 20)
TESTIMONY MAJ-GEN ISRAEL TAL[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]SESSION 53 (continued)[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]January 28th, 1974[SIZE=4] (continued)[/SIZE]
[CAMERA: Tal is asked to describe, from his own perspective, the battles of the stage of containment].
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: Now, we arrive to October 6.
GENERAL TAL: I described already the process of mobilization.
I remind you that all the units of the IDF should have been deployed after 96 hours. And because of the situation and the lack of alert, we had to improvise and to bring almost all of the units to the battlefield within 36 hours.
In October 6, the Egyptians had 2,640 tanks; the Syrians 2,100 tanks; the Jordanians 480 tanks. Together, they had 5,220 tanks. We had 2,119 tanks.
In Southern Command and in Solomon Command, [the region of Sharm a-Sheikh], we had 323 tanks, on October 6. I’m sure that the commission heard other numbers regarding Sinai, so I underline that the number of 323 tanks includes the tanks of Solomon Command. On the Golan, we had 175 tanks. On the Jordanian border, 40 tanks. Together, we had 538 tanks on October 6. In other words, from the 2,119 tanks of the IDF, 538 were in a state of readiness with their crews, in the various sectors.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: It’s exactly 25% [of the inventory].
GENERAL TAL: Yes. […] As I said already, since we sent the reserve units to the front drop-by-drop, we never had more 1,200 operational tanks, at any given moment, during the war. […] Though we sent the forces very quickly to the fronts, we never managed to create a big concentration of force in a given sector. In the Egyptian front, in Sinai, the apogee that we reached, during the containment stage, was of 800 tanks. And the apogee on the Golan was of 400-410 tanks. Actually, most of the time, we had much less tanks on these fronts. I’m speaking about the number of tanks up to October 14, [date of the end of the containment stage in Sinai].
On October 6, while I was busy with the mobilization, the Syrian-Egyptian attack has started. According to my diary, [made of notes taken by the representative of the History Department], it occurred at 13:50. In 13:50, the commander of the Air Force called me and told me: ‘The engines of the aircrafts are put off in the airbases in Syria and Egypt’.
If they put off the engines of all their aircrafts, it was clear that the war starts. Off course, it was a surprise, since no one expected it to happen in the afternoon, but in the evening.
I run to the commanding post of the Commander of the Air Force. And we visualized on the control desks the attacks [of the enemy aircrafts] in various sectors.
GENERAL TAL: […] I brought you another folder. It’s the folder of the Discussion Groups of the General Staff in October 6.
In 10:00, there was a discussion with the COS. In 11:00, with the MOD and in 12:00, with me, [head of [AGAM]. Of course, everybody was present at these discussion groups.
I’ll give you the main points. In 10:00, at the discussion group with the COS, I reported that tomorrow we will have two additional armored brigades on the Golan and that we refresh our plans for an offensive in the south. Southern Command was ordered to prepare its offensive plans.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: What were the codes of these plans?
GENERAL TAL: ‘Tzefania’ and ‘Ben Hail’. I reported that we would have 950 tanks in Sinai, when divisions 143 and 164 will reach the front. The COS ordered to mobilize all the armored brigades. I announced that with the fleet of our tank transporters, it was possible to bring to the front 2 armored brigades in 24 hours.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: It means that the capacity of the transporters was of 2 brigades per 24 hours?
GENERAL TAL: Yes. The COS announced that the preemptive air strikes were not approved.
In 11:00, discussion group with the MOD. […] The MOD said that the air force was authorized only to send patrols. […] He said that there was no certainty that the enemy will attack, since we sent him a message, through the US, saying that we were aware of its intentions. The MOD said that this message might deter the enemy. […] He gave instructions to the air force to take care, in priority, of the Syrian air force, instead of the Egyptian, if the war starts.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Can you read the sentence of the MOD that limits the action of the air force to air patrols?
GENERAL TAL: I’m reading from a sum up of the stenographic pages of the discussion group. The sum up was made by the History Department. I recommend to the commission to ask for the full stenography of all the discussion groups.
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: To ask them from the Minister?
GENERAL TAL: No, from the General Staff. When I speak about discussion groups, it’s always at the HQs of the General Staff.
The COS said that in the night of October 6/7, we would contain, as well as in October 7. And that we will try to launch an offensive on October 8 or 9.
JUDGE LANDAU: At 12:00, there was your discussion group. You gave us already its stenographic pages.
GENERAL TAL: Right.
JUDGE LANDAU: There was, apparently, a change of mood between 10:00 and 12:00. In 10:00, you spoke about offensive plans. In 12:00, you foresee a great danger and you instruct the generals to forget about offensive, because there’s urgency. Am I right?
GENERAL TAL: It’s true. I realized that we would not have enough time to create concentrations of forces. I’m giving you the folder.
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: It is registered under n°239.
GENERAL TAL: I suggest to tell you the outlines on how the battles were commanded in October 6, and then to focus on the important facts. Because if I’ll detail everything, hour after hour, it will take us a week.
We started to have a picture of the battle from the following sources:
• Interception of the communications of the enemy by the intelligence. Of course, all the information [FEW CENSORED WORDS] about their air forces, and so on.
• We immediately started to listen to the networks of all [our] brigades.
• Personally, I was in contact with the commanders of the divisions and, later, with the regional commanders, once they reached their HQs [CAMERA: They were at the HQs of the General Staff when the war has started].
• The COS was, of course, in contact with me all the time.
This is how we got an idea about the situation on the battlefield.
Clearly, there was a fog of war. […] For instance, Albert Mendler, [commander of Sinai Division], told me that the [enemy’s] breakthrough was all along his sector, that there were battles all along his sector, and that he couldn’t identify, yet, the locations of the main efforts [of the enemy]. It was the same on the Golan. Progressively, the picture became clearer. At 14:45, I gave an order to the Chief of the Communications Corps to jam the radio networks of the Syrian tanks. The jam was effective, and we repeated it many times.
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: It was executed effectively, you say?
GENERAL TAL: Yes. In 14:35, we knew already that the Egyptians have crossed the canal near the Big Bitter Lake. […] In 15:10, the MOD came to see me and I briefed him about the situation.
At 16:30, there was a discussion group of the General Staff with the COS.
The COS said that the main efforts should focus on the sector of the canal, that it was useless to speak about attacks on Port Said or Port Fuad, and that the forts should be evacuated if necessary. If we will manage to contain the enemy by October 7, we might launch an attack, ‘Tzefania’ or ‘Ben Hail’, on October 8.
GENERAL TAL: [In the evening], we were busy in deploying secondary forces, [infantry and paratroopers], in order to secure facilities in Southern Command, because we were concerned by the airborne commandos, etc. We reinforced the air base at Sharm a-Sheikh, the water supply station, the advanced HQs of Southern Command at Um-Hashiba…
At 21:40, I transferred to Central Command the responsibility over the Arava region and over Regional Brigade 612, [in Beit She’an region], in order to free Southern and Northern Command [from these regions that were not in war] so they could focus on the management of the battles. Since Central Command was not in war, I transferred the Arava, the region north to Eilat, and the sector of Beit She’an under its responsibility.
I continued to channel reinforcements to various sectors in Southern Command, not only of tanks, but also of various infantry companies.
At 23:15, I had a phone call with Arik Sharon and heard his reports regarding [the mobilization of] his division.
At 23:40, I ordered the air force […] to transfer with helicopters elite infantry of Unit 169 to Baluza, in order to reinforce it against airborne commandos, etc. Other elements of this unit were transferred to Salomon region with their recoilless guns, mounted on jeeps. I also sent our amphibious force, called ‘White-Bear’, to Solomon region. All these instructions were given at midnight, in accordance with the evolution of the battles.
These were the main things for October 6. Besides the start of the war and the way it has started, there were no dramatic things. There was a fog of war, mobilization, organization and deployment of reinforcements.
Stenographic page 3775
GENERAL TAL: It was clear that in Northern Command the situation was not good. There were talks to send me there to be near its commander. I was told to get ready. Meanwhile, in October 7, I was told that Brig-Gen (res) Bar Lev was sent there. […] In October 8, in the morning, the COS told me to go there, anyway.
I arrived at the HQ of Northern Command and met Bar Lev.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: In the morning?
GENERAL TAL: Yes, in the morning. I took an airplane and then with helicopter, at 07:50. And I saw, on the map of operations, how the commander was managing the battle.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: You met the commander of Northern Command, [Gen Hoffi], as well as Bar Lev?
GENERAL TAL: Yes, Bar Lev too. So I saw the marks on the map and they showed that our forces were advancing. The enemy was still on the Golan plateau, but it was pushed back. In other words, we were advancing and pushing him back.
I did not understand very well the relation between what I saw on the map and what I was hearing on the radio networks. So, I asked to be given a communications officer, an intelligence officer, and some radio receivers. And I started to listen to the networks of the various brigades. I started with Division 146, on the southern sector.
The battle went smoothly and the division was advancing. Then, I started to listen to the central sector…
I was surprised to discover that the Syrians […] were not far from the road Qunaitra- Benot Yaacov Bridge. They were close to the Jordan River. [In this sector], the situation on the ground was actually different then [the marks on] the map, which served Northern Command to manage the battle. I listened to the battle during an hour and I realized that the situation was very dangerous. A Syrian brigade has penetrated deeply inside our territory.
I contacted on the radio network the commander of the [Israeli] brigade, Uri Rom. With some indications, I made him understand who I was and asked him to report about his situation. I realized that I’ve read the situation correctly and that the Syrian effort has created a deep penetration inside our territory. With a further push, they would have reached the Jordan River.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: It was as deep as that?
GENERAL TAL: They almost reached the Custom’s House.
JUDGE LANDAU: 2 km from the Custom’s House?
GENERAL TAL: No, no. I said ‘almost’, because I don’t remember how far they were.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: General Hoffi said that they never came closer than 2 km [from the Custom’s House].
GENERAL TAL: It’s possible. Anyway, they were west to Syndiana. I asked the brigade commander what he was going to do. He explained to me that it was going to be hard, because he had few tanks. He had 20 tanks, more or less. He told me that he has the intention to split his force, to hold the enemy with half of his tanks, [from positions] parallel to the road. And to send the other half of his tanks to the west and, then to make them turn to the left so they would stand in front of the Syrians. In other words, Uri Rom had the intention to outflank the Syrians. I liked the idea. I encouraged him to carry it on and told him that, from now on, everything was depending on him.
Then, I went to see Bar Lev and briefed him about the situation. I asked him to explain it to Gen Hoffi. Bar Lev told me that I should do it, because I was the deputy COS. I told him: ‘Right, but you are Lt-General, so you should tell him.’ To be short, he insisted, so I briefed Hoffi.
Hoffi updated the marks on his map. The battle continued until the evening and Uri Rom managed to stop the Syrians and to destroy their brigade.
After the war, Rafael Eitan, [who was the commander of Division 36], told me that he has listened to my conversion [with the brigade commander] on the radio network.
I told you this story, because it shows that the situation in the north was still critical on October 8th, though the Command was busy with the counter offensive. This [Syrian] push was dangerous. During my presence at Northern Command, we employed a lot of electronic warfare. Following the requests of Hoffi, I called the HQs of the General Staff and discussed the issue with Zeira, the head of AMAN. And we employed a lot of EW, during the battles, according to their evolution.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Did you employ deception?
GENERAL TAL: No, jamming. But as we were listening to their radio networks […], we had to check with Zeira if it was worthy to jam them instead of collecting information by listening to them. […] So, I coordinated it with Zeira and we jammed the Syrian networks.
JUDGE LANDAU: I don’t understand the situation. You were in the advanced HQs of Northern Command, at Mount Cana’an. Why the Commander needed you, or Bar Lev, to explain him the situation? Wasn’t he commanding the battle?
GENERAL TAL: Yes, but the commander managed many units. So, he was in contact with the commanders of the divisions, and knew what they told him. What I did was to listen to the radio networks of the battalions and the brigades. So, I knew what was going on from a primary source. The information did not reach me through intermediaries.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: The commander did not listen to the networks of the brigades?
GENERAL TAL: He could not listen to everything, but only to the main effort [the divisions]. But when the work of the staff is perfect, someone in the HQs has to monitor the networks of the brigades and the battalions in order to report to the commander if something special is occurring. But at this stage, they did not do it.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: Information about a dangerous breakthrough should have been transmitted to the commander of the division.
GENERAL TAL: Yes.
JUDGE LANDAU: And from him to the Commander of Northern Command.
GENERAL TAL: Yes. The commander of the division managed the battle and probably assumed that the upper ranks knew about the situation. Furthermore, maybe he acknowledged them and they forgot about it or did not update correctly their map. The managing of a battle is not something that is methodical. Often, it requires a lot of intuition.
JUDGE LANDAU: Therefore, it’s good to have someone who listens to the radio networks.
GENERAL TAL: Of course. For instance, I told you that when the war has started, the first thing that we did, in the General Staff, was to organize the monitoring of the networks of all the brigades and the battalions.
I can give you an example. In the first day of the war, we received information from Southern Command that an Egyptian armored brigade has almost reached the Gidi pass and that Brigade 401, the Brigade of Dan Shomron, was destroyed. So, we were very worried. The MOD asked me to check the report. I connected to the network of the brigade and heard Shomron dispatching orders calmly. I heard his battalion commanders reporting that they were destroying the enemy. It appeared that [Shomron] was destroying an enemy brigade. It was not an armored brigade, but a brigade of amphibious APCs and PT-76s, and actually, he reached the forts that night.
In other words, if you monitor the communications of the lower ranks, you often know what’s happening, but there’s no battle in which the commander knows everything. He knows what has happened only after the end of the battle.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Is the monitoring of the networks a permanent procedure in the IDF?
GENERAL TAL: It’s an integral part of the doctrine of the IDF.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: I repeat the question of judge Landau. So how it happened that Southern Command didn’t know that Shomron was destroying a brigade instead of being destroyed? And how it happened that General Hoffi ignored that the [Syrians] have reached Syndiana?
GENERAL TAL: For Southern Command […], on October 6, their advanced HQs weren't at Um-Hashiba yet. Gonen arrived there at night. In other words, I presume that the system of control and command was not stabilized yet. I say it with reserves, because as long as I know, Gonen commanded firstly from the HQs in Be’er Sheva, since he was with the COS, in the HQs of the General Staff, until the start of the war. And, as far as I know, he arrived to Um-Hashiba only at night, with a helicopter. There were airborne commando attacks, and so on. So, I think that the situation was stabilized there only in that night.
When I visited the HQs several times, later, during the war […], I saw them functioning very well. They listened of the radio networks of all the brigades, in all the sectors. But I assume that in the first day, it did not function well, yet.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: In the north, you say that it occurred on Monday, [October 8]. Do you think they were not well organized? And why?
GENERAL TAL: On October 8th, the advanced HQs of Northern Command were not organized very well. It was established in a big hall. There were many people. I didn’t check and did not notice if they were listening to the networks or not. […] In the South, I saw the system functioning and had the occasion to use it.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: The Commander said that he was listening to the networks, so he had to know what was going on.
GENERAL TAL: I don’t say that he did not listen. I said that in the specific case of Uri Rom, I realized that the Syrians tanks have penetrated [deep inside our territory].
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Maybe at the main HQs, in Nazareth, they were listening but it had no effect?
GENERAL TAL: Maybe. The only thing that I know is that the map showed, in this sector, a different picture from the reality on the ground.
On October 9th, very early in the morning, I think that it was at dawn, at 04:30, the MOD came with General Gandhi, the aid of the COS. They gathered the COS and few other officers. I wasn’t there in the beginning of the meeting, but I understood that they brought very tough impressions regarding the situation in the south and in the north. There was a consultation. The MOD gave instruction to check various things.
[CAMERA: The ‘tough impressions’ were due to the failed counter-attack of October 8th, in the south, and the failed at of Golani Brigade to recapture the Hermon, in the north. The MOD was very alarmed, nevertheless, it appeared later that the situation was not as dramatic as the MOD thought.]
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: You didn’t participate to this consultation?
GENERAL TAL: No. When I was called, it was finished and the MOD went away.
So, they called the Commander of the Air Force and the other people who were not present [when the MOD was there], and the COS organized an ordered forum. The information brought by the MOD was transmitted and we started to discuss it.
The COS said that the picture that we had the day before, [October 8], was over optimistic, because the reports that we have received [were not accurate]. The counter-attacks, in the south and in the north, were unsuccessful.
Later, it clearly appeared that we lost many tanks. I don’t remember how many, but Monday wasn’t a good day. […] So, the COS said that the situation was really bad, […] and that we were fighting, in fact, for our existence. The atmosphere was of a very severe crisis.
The operational instructions were: we don’t retreat from the Golan at any price. If we have no choice, we should retreat in Sinai — in order to avoid the attrition of our forces — to an alternative line: Sharem a-Sheikh-Santa Catherine-Eilat-El Arish.
In the south, we won’t plan any counter-attacks in order to avoid attrition to our forces. And the MOD gave a list of the generals that we should consider to replace.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: He gave their names?
GENERAL TAL: Yes, he gave the names of those that he believed that should be replaced. The issue was not discussed during the meeting with the COS. We were just given this information, so I understood that we were just asked to think about it, but were not ordered to execute [the replacement of the generals].
We discussed the mobilization of the Jewry of the world — pilots, tank crews and so on, because the assessment was that if our situation was so bad and if we face a war for our existence, there would be no cease-fire. The Egyptians and the Syrians would reject a cease-fire and the war would be long. […] The MOD said that the moral of the population might collapse, when it will know about the situation; that we should deter King Hussein in order to keep Jordan out of the war; that we should mobilize old men and the youth, under the age of mobilization. […]
We discussed the situation briefly and decided that we will continue to fight a defensive war in the south and that we will launch an offensive in the north. [A CENSORED SENTENCE].
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: An element is missing. You said earlier that there would be no attacks anywhere.
GENERAL TAL: In the south.
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: Okay. And you said earlier that in the north, there would be no retreat. Now, you say that there would be an offensive.
GENERAL TAL: […] The intention was that even if we lose territory in the south, we should not attrition our forces. In the north, on the other hand, we should stand firm, because we have nowhere to retreat. […] Everybody endorsed the conclusion of the COS that, in the south we should defend […] and in the north, we should try to launch an offensive.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: It meant [FEW CENSORED WORDS] against Syria?
GENERAL TAL: I’m going to elaborate about it. The issue was how to achieve cease-fire and how to force them to accept a cease-fire. […] Many things were considered. We considered bombing Damascus in order to enforce a cease-fire. We considered that it might provoke a Russian intervention, Russian threats, etc.
[TWO THIRDS OF THE PAGE ARE CENSORED]
I requested to be given the command […] of the southern front. I told the COS: ‘I’m going to ask you something. If you would be inclined to give me a positive answer, you should say it right away. But if you would be inclined to give me a negative answer, I ask you to not answer immediately, but to think firstly about what I’m going to say’. Then, I told him: ‘I request to be given the command over the divisions in the south’. The COS did not answer me.
Later, I learnt that he suggested appointing someone in the south. […] It was decided to appoint Lt-Gen Bar Lev. I don’t know at what level the decision was made; I presume that by the prime minister. […] Later, I was told […] that the MOD refused to appoint me to Southern Command, because he considered that I was necessary in the General Staff. Anyway, maybe the origin of the idea, and the imitative to send Bar Lev to the south, was born in that meeting.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: You remained at Northern Command with General Hoffi?
GENERAL TAL: No. I remained in the HQs of the General Staff. What I told you about Northern Command has occurred on October 8th. This dramatic meeting, and the atmosphere of crisis in the HQs of the General Staff, was on October 9, at 04:30.
JUDGE LANDAU: In other words, the idea to retreat to a new line [in the south] was rejected. It was decided to remain in the same place.
GENERAL TAL: It was decided to remain in the same place, but we decided to prepare alternative lines in the south and in the north, in order to have a place to which we could retreat if the worst would happen.
STATE CONTROLLER NEBENTZAHEL: I understand from what you said — though you did not want to say it explicitly — that you thought that it was necessary to replace the commander of Southern Command. […]
GENERAL TAL: I’ll explain it to you, precisely. In that meeting, I saw that desperate steps were considered, while I advocated that the ordinary army could contain [the enemy]. I suggested appointing me [as a commander of the front], not because I thought that it was necessary to replace the Chief of Southern Command, but because I wanted to give credit to my assessment that containment by the ordinary army was possible. I had the feeling that it was possible, so I felt that it was necessary to propose my services.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: Lt-Gen Bar Lev was not sent as the commander of the Southern Front, but as an advisor. What was, actually, his exact status?
GENERAL TAL: As far as I understood, he was the representative of the COS, or of the HQs of the General Staff, at Southern Command. He had authority over the commander [of Southern Command]. This is a complex issue, and I should update myself, if it’s necessary.
GENERAL TAL: […] After this dramatic meeting, I traveled to the HQs of Southern Command. I was there near Gonen. I had to fly back to the HQs of the General Staff, but the COS phoned me and asked me to stay until 02:00 in the morning. He didn’t say why. Later, the COS phoned me again and told me that he was going to send Bar Lev. He asked me to remain there, to explain the issue to General Gonen and to make him accept the situation with good spirit. The COS asked me to be present when Bar will arrive, at 02:00 in the morning, and to make sure that the ‘marriage’ between the two would be successful.
I took Shmuel [Gonen] to a sided room in HQs and told him. […] He was furious, chocked and offended. Since we were friends, I told him gently about a precedent from the Six-Days War, when there was an intention to appoint Dayan as Commander of Southern Command. At the time, I commanded a division and Yeshayau Gavish, the Commander [of Southern Command], called me and consulted me. I told Gavish that he should accept the situation with good spirit, because Dayan was his former COS, he was a Lt-General, and it is not a shame to be the deputy of a Lt-General, etc.
I told Shmuel [Gonen] that the main challenge for the people of Israel is on this front. The situation is critical, it’s a war for our survival and the fate of the Jewish People depends on the outcome [of the war] on this front.
[I told Gonen]: ‘You should be happy to be removed from this [heavy] responsibility. And you have no reason to be ashamed, since they send a man who was your COS when you were just a Colonel, and was your General when you were only a company commander. I recommend you to stay with him and work as his deputy.’
Gonen said that he would not accept that. He was agitated and said that he’ll go home, and so on. But he calmed down, since we spent many hours together until the arrival of Bar Lev.
Last edited by Camera; 1 Week Ago at 07:02 PM.
Reason: grammar & spelling
General Tal's testimony at the Agrant Commission - Session 53 - Part 3 (Post 21)
TESTIMONY MAJ-GEN ISRAEL TAL[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]SESSION 53 (continued)[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]January 28th, 1974[SIZE=4] (continued)[/SIZE]
GENERAL TAL: There’s a public sensibility about the issue of the surrounding of the ‘Mezach’ fort. I remind it, because the initiative came from us, the HQs of the General Staff.
On October 12th, it was brought to my attention that the fight at this fort was still continuing. There were 15 wounded and 5 KIAs, as far as I remember. And I thought that we were asking too much from this small group of soldiers, since there were 15 wounded there.
There were few combatants left, but I don’t remember their number. […] We have tried to evacuate them by the sea, but it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to do it. I recommended telling them to surrender. The COS approved my proposal and told me to speak with Bar Lev. I phoned to Bar Lev and asked him to check with the men what they think about this suggestion. A bit later, the answer was positive. They had 15 wounded that could die and there was no purpose to continue the fight just for the honor of the flag. Since October 6, they fought bravely and defended themselves against the repeated attacks of the Egyptians.
We decided to tell them to surrender but then, the MOD intervened. From this point on, the MOD, the COS, Southern Command and the Manpower Branch dealt with the issue. They wanted to involve the Red Cross, etc. So it became a complex process of negotiations and the men were not told to surrender. Actually, this instruction was cancelled and they were told to decide by themselves what they should do. In other words, they had to endorse the moral responsibility for the decision.
I remind all this, because I read in the newspaper that, after he returned from captivity, the commander of the fort was bitter about it. When we took the initiative in the HQs, […] I insisted that they should be told to surrender and that the moral responsibility should be ours’; so no one could point a finger at them, one day, and say that they decided to surrender. I’m sorry that it ended that way, but since this episode — that had no influence on the outcome of the war — interests the public, I found it necessary to speak about it.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: I want to remind you that abandoning an outpost is illegal in our law, in the British law and the American law. When Lt-Gen Yadin was COS, the approval of a surrender was illegal.
I don’t think that there’s a military law that authorizes a commander to tell a group of soldiers to surrender. The political level has this right, but not the military level. The only order that a commander can give to his men is ‘each one for himself’, so they can try to escape, if it’s possible, or to resist, or to kill more enemies, etc. [To Yadin] Do you remember the case?
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: What case? Can you remind me?
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: I don’t remember it exactly, but I came to see you and I told you…
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: It was the case of Gush Etzion?
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: […] It was possibly that case […], but an order to surrender was illegal in the British army. Only the political level could give this order. And I asked you: ‘What are your suggestions?’ Your answer was that we could only give the order ‘each one for himself’.
GENERAL TAL: I think that you are right. In this case, […] the COS involved the MOD, and finally the instructions were given by the MOD. We considered giving the order ‘each one for himself’, but it was clear that they would have to abandon the 15 wounded to the enemy that would have killed them. Such is our enemy, so we wanted to make sure that they won’t be murdered. This was a special case.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: They killed 2 of them, anyway.
GENERAL TAL: So, the approval came from the political level. In the frame of the arrangements that were set, with the representative of the Red Cross, it was possible to check that they won’t be murdered. ‘Each one for himself’ was an impossible [order] with 15 wounded and 5 valid men. And I made my recommendation only after the attempt to evacuate them by the sea has failed, and it became clear that they would be either killed or vanquished, sooner or later.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: ‘Each one for himself’ is the right order, if there is a possibility [to execute it]. But in this case, there was a moral issue, because it was impossible [to leave the wounded]. There were only two options: to fight to the end and to be killed, or to surrender.
I think that it is clear that if someone has to make such decision, it’s fairer to give an order [to the soldiers than to ask them to decide by themselves].
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: The British surrender in Singapore was ordered by the political level.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Political is okay.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: It was also formulated in a way that authorized each soldier to flee, to escape or to kill Japanese, if he could. […] The order to Gen Mac Arthur, to leave the Philippines, was also political.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Okay, if the MOD gives the order [to surrender], it is a political order.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: No. They should have been ordered either ‘each one for himself’ or told that if they deal with the Red Cross, it’s okay. […] You cannot give them an order [to surrender], because one or two of them could maybe escape or kill some enemies during their escape, etc. For us, [in 1948?], the option to surrender did not exist. This is a legal-social subject of the highest importance.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: Anyway, if the MOD gives [the order] in the name of the political echelon, it’s okay.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: In the name of the political echelon, we give you the order to surrender? If the soldier manages to disobey this order and to join our troops, it’s great. He has the duty to try to escape and to join our troops, regardless of the situation. […]
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: I think that in the military history, the military establishment always took care to leave such orders to the political echelon.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: Commanders that surrendered or that ordered their soldiers to surrender, always faced trial when they returned from captivity.
Stenographic pages 3777 - 3792
[CAMERA: The commission asks Tal about the mess of the failed counter-attack in Sinai on October 8.
I don’t translate this excerpt, because Tal contribute much to clarify what has happened. For this episode, it’s better to refer to the testimonies of the commanders who were involved, such as the COS, Gonen, Adan, Sharon…
The article by Col. Eshel, that I posted on this thread a year ago, clears very well this complex story.
GENERAL TAL: Can I speak about the crossing?
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: No. The commission does not deal with the crossing. [It deals only with the defensive stage of the war.]
GENERAL TAL: I want to speak about it [in the context of the stage of containment].
On October 12, the situation on the southern front was more stable, though the Egyptian offensive wasn’t over.
A) We had more forces on the front.
B) We learned from the past experience and the three divisions held the line in a stabilized manner.
Lt-Gen Bar Lev came to the HQs of the General Staff with a plan of a crossing of the canal in the same location in which we crossed later.
In the same day, in which Bar Lev submitted his plan, the Commander of the Air Force told us that within two days the fleet of his aircrafts would reach a critical size. He quantified this critical size as 200-210 combat aircrafts.
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: What did it mean?
GENERAL TAL: It meant that with the rate of attrition, the Air Force would have only 200-210 within two days. This situation was described as critical: the AF would be able to carry out the tasks of air defense, but wouldn’t be able to carry out attacks and patrols.
On October 12, it was clear that the Egyptians won’t accept a cease-fire, as long as they are not defeated operationally or are not pressured by a serious threat. In this situation, the war would have continued for a long period of time, during which our forces would face attrition. There was a feeling that something drastic must be done, before the attrition of the AF reaches a critical stage. In other words, it was clear that we should take a major, strategic, decision.
I opposed the plan that Bar Lev submitted. He suggested to cross in the same night. The alternative that was discussed was to cross in the aftermath, on October 13. I don’t elaborate what were my arguments against this plan, because I will do it when I will tell you about the meeting that we had with the prime minister.
The COS realized that the decision on this issue is heavy. On one hand, the freeze of the situation would have perpetuated a very long war without a chance to win it. On the other hand, everybody understood that the gamble of a crossing would be huge. Therefore, the COS decided to submit the issue to the highest level, to the prime minister. We all went to see the prime minister.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: Who is ‘we all’?
GENERAL TAL: The officers of the General Staff, plus Lt-Gen Bar Lev, the Commander of the AF, the head of AMAN, General Aharon Yariv, and me.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: Who else from the General Staff?
GENERAL TAL: I will read for you who was present in this meeting: ‘The PM, and the ministers Alon, Galili, Dayan. Lt-Gen Bar Lev, […], Tzvi Zamir [Chief of the Mossad], […]’.
The meeting was held at 14:30. The COS opened it and explained the dilemma. If the crossing succeeds, it could force the Egyptians to agree to a cease-fire. If the crossing is unsuccessful, a long static war of attrition might follow and the war will not end at a foreseeable date.
The COS analyzed the balance of forces and what were our chances to strengthen ourselves [during a war of attrition]. He demonstrated that the rate of attrition would be higher […]. Therefore, the evolution of the balance of forces would not be in our favor. The COS elaborated on the specific problem of the air force, which’s situation would become critical in two days.
The Commander of the AF underlined that within two days, he might be unable to continue to provide support [to the ground forces]. The COS said that within two days the AF would be unable to execute its mission, if I’m not mistaken.
The COS explained that this dramatic decision could determine the outcome of the war. And for this reason, he had no recommendations to make, at this stage. In his opinion, the decision should be influenced by the political considerations. That’s why he asked the forum to discuss the issue.
After the speech of the COS, Bar Lev explained the situation in the south and proposed his plan in order to enforce a cease-fire, if I’m not mistaken. […] Anyway, he continued to recommend to carry out the crossing that same night, [October 12]. […]
I was asked to represent the opposition to Bar Lev’s plan.
I claimed: ‘The only tanks between the Egyptian army and Tel Aviv are the ones you want to engage in the crossing. Therefore, the risk is not only that we would loose this battle, but also the war, because if the gamble was unsuccessful, nothing would stand between the Egyptian army and Tel Aviv.’
I pointed at the huge risks. I pretended that it is impossible to launch a counter-offensive before the offensive [of the enemy] was stopped. I said that I’m not aware of a single case in military history in which an effective counter-offensive was carried out, before the offensive [of the enemy] was stopped. And the Egyptian offensive was not stopped yet, because the armored and the mechanized divisions of the Egyptian army didn’t cross [the canal] yet. In the next stage of the Egyptian offensive, their armor will cross the canal in order to reach the passes.
I pretended that the IDF was not trained for the operation that was proposed [by Bar Lev]:
• in order to reach the canal, the plan proposes an improvised breakthrough, through the offensive of the enemy;
• all the engineering work would be carried out on the canal during a battle of breakthrough with the enemy on our flanks;
• the crossing would be carried out with improvised crossing equipment — since the war has caught us before we could finish its construction — and with troops that were not trained for such crossing;
• on the other bank of the canal, we would meet the main concentrations of the Egyptian armor that were waiting for us.
I rejected this plan and argued that we should wait for the Egyptian armor to cross first; to let the Egyptians launch the final stage of their offensive and to beat them in a battle of tanks versus tanks. Then, the way will be paved for our crossing. In other words, we should cross after destroying their armor. Then, the crossing would be easier, because no concentrations of enemy armor would wait for us on the western bank of the canal.
I explained to the politicians that were present that the tank crews of the IDF were the best in the world and were virtuosi in tank VS tank battles. I told the prime minister: ‘We have an historical occasion to beat the Egyptian armor in a dramatic battle. Hundreds Egyptian tanks will be destroyed. It will be our first impressive victory in this war and it will end the Egyptian offensive. After that, we should cross’.
While we were debating and discussing, Tzvi Zamir, [the head of the Mossad], received a message: ‘the Egyptian armored divisions are going to cross the canal’. The prime minister said that this information brings a conclusion to the discussion. And my standpoint was adopted.
In October 14, the Egyptian armor crossed, indeed, almost without losses. Then, in the battle, we destroyed 270 tanks. For the Egyptians, it was enough. After this battle, they stopped their offensive. […]
The COS sent me to the south to supervise closely the battle, but our forces did not dare operating a bigger pull back in order to let the Egyptian armor to penetrate more deeply. I was with Sharon and Adan, [the commanders of the divisions], and I supplied them to let the Egyptians penetrate further [so we could destroy all their tanks]. […] I repeated my requests, but our guys considered that [pulling back] was shameful. They said: ‘Okay, we'll pull back’. And then, they pulled back their tanks an half an hill and let the Egyptians to penetrate 100 meters further, while I was asking them to retreat some 10 km, not just half hills.
Anyway, it was a very nice battle, and all our forces fought very well. We had almost no casualties. For instance, a single brigade destroyed 40 [Egyptian] tanks.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: The brigade of Reshef, [Brigade 14]?
GENERAL TAL: No. The bridge of Chaim Erez, [Brigade 421]. And they had lost only one tank. So, we destroyed 270 tanks with almost no losses for our forces.
We can say that this day marked the end of the Egyptian offensive.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: We have the stenographic pages of the meeting [with the prime minister]. I suppose that they confirm what you told us.
Yesterday, I read in the newspaper that Arik Sharon accuses Bar Lev to have aggravated our situation, because he refused to let Sharon to cross the canal earlier. Sharon said that Bar Lev championed the idea that we should wait for the Egyptian armor and destroy it, first. Sharon said that, this way, precious days were lost. What he said, contradicts your words.
GENERAL TAL: It was me who defended this idea, not Bar Lev. I was the one who refused the gamble and who argued that we should beat them first in a classic armored battle. Bar Lev came with the plan to cross.
JUDGE LANDAU: The Egyptians did not cross with tanks before October 12?
GENERAL TAL: They crossed with the tanks of their infantry divisions. They did not transfer the tanks of their armored and mechanized divisions.
JUDGE LANDAU: Against whom [the division of] Adan fought in the northern sector [of the canal]?
GENERAL TAL: Against the tanks of the infantry divisions.
In addition, in the northern sector, [the Egyptian] Division 23 was mechanized, if I’m not mistaken. I think that it had a mechanized brigade on our bank [of the canal]. Their Division 21, I think, had one armored brigade. In other words, their infantry was reinforced with some armored elements, but mainly by the organic armor of their infantry divisions. Their armored and mechanized divisions remained on the West Bank.
JUDGE LANDAU: The crossing, itself, is not included in the period of time that is investigated by the commission. But what was the state of readiness of the crossing equipment, including the Roller Bridge?
GENERAL TAL: The equipment was improvised. The war started during the build up of our crossing array. […] Most of the bridges were still in the factories. I think that we had two Roller Bridges [in Sinai]. The troops were not trained [to cross]. We were in the middle of the creation of a crossing school […]
I prepared a complete answer to this question and brought a lot of documents, including a film that you may want to see. If the war has started three months later, the IDF would have been well prepared for the crossing.
We spent on the crossing 70 millions Liras until January 1972, and the IDF still lacked the capability to cross. There were barges and elements of bridges that needed to have be towed by 8 tanks. Between January 1972 and October 1973, during a year and 10 months, we made the main progresses. The war caught us in the final stages of the organization of these systems. I have the documents to answer this question. Since I brought a film, and since I don’t know at which hour this session will end, I would like to show it to you, so I won’t have to bring the screening equipment again.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: I have a question for the next session.
If I look at the structure of our armored divisions, they are made only of armor. The division is made for battles of tanks VS tanks in which we have an advantage, because of our gunners, and so on. […] But it depends on air support, because it has few artillery and few of the other things that would make it versatile — for tanks VS tanks, for breakthrough, for fight against fortified compounds, against an array defended by anti-tank units, etc.
When the division faces these situations, it lacks mechanized infantry, mortars and 20 mm guns, AAA and other things. Therefore, its companies are small and its battalions are small. […] In addition, its companies and battalions, that were already built up on these small standards, were even smaller, because they were reduced by technical failures, since they reached the battlefield on their own trucks instead of being transported on trailers, which we had in sufficient numbers.
Before the very first shot, the division had a lot of HQs: HQ of the division, HQs of the brigades, and HQs of the battalions. After the first contact [with the enemy], when the division started to lose tanks, its small units became very small. At some moments, the divisions had 70 tanks, […], though they were organized with HQs for 200-400 tanks, if such tanks were available.
The HQs were fully manned, while the forces that were engaged in the first battles were equipped only for tanks VS tanks. The forces were too small to take repeated hits, in repeated battles.
When the forces were engaged in the defensive battle, it was done drop-by-drop, since this is what has occurred. There was no one in the regional command to take these forces, to organize and to concentrate them in a brigade-sized fist or a double-brigade sized fist that could break the enemy.
Is my impression of the situation correct?
GENERAL TAL: It’s correct, but it results of two different factors. The first factor is due to the surprise and [to the way the] mobilization was executed. For the second, the division had, as a multi-corps unit, all the support elements, the maintenance and the services, the armor, the engineering, the artillery. My critics…
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: Don’t elaborate now. Prepare well your answer for the next session.
GENERAL TAL: I have already an answer here with all the relevant papers. Do you want me to answer next time?
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: Yes, because this subject would necessitate a long answer. The concept that we had in the Six-Days War was changed by a concept that allocates the APCs to the HQs instead of the mechanized infantry.
GENERAL TAL: I’ll speak about it. I prepared an answer.
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: I have another question.
The law of the reserve service has an article that allows to call a reservist one day per month for briefings. Actually, it offered the General Staff an opportunity — that was not exploited — to triple the manpower of the HQs of the divisions and the HQs above them [with reserve officers]. This way, when some commanders were tired, others could take over, and others could provide assistance in the field. This way, fresh and skilled brains would have constantly supervised the same divisions in order to exploit at best any available unit in at battle.
Instead of this, a fatigue appeared. People say that they worked 18 hours a day to make you understand that their contribution was significant, while they could have worked only 6 hours and provide at least one good idea and have a rest in the remaining of the time.
Why this potential, to add vivacity during the war, was not exploited, while the law gave the possibility to prepare [the reserve officers for] it? There’s nothing more depressing than a tired commander, even if he is shaven.
LT-GEN (RES) YADIN: And most of them are not shaven.
GENERAL TAL: I will answer your questions next time. I would like to sum up what we said this afternoon. If you allow me, I think that my most important testimony is in the few words that I’m going to say.
Because of the failures of Yom Kippur, there are many wrong ideas about the fitness and the strength of the IDF. […] So to conclude and to answer to the last question, I say that all this war was improvised. The forces were distilled drop-by-drop in non-organic units. The logistical array was improvised. And there was a constant lack of concentration of forces, as Lt-Gen Laskov just said. […] We never operated more than 1,200 tanks in this war, though the IDF had 2,119 in its inventory.
In these conditions, we won operationally, thankfully to our qualitative superiority. […] First of all, thankfully to the courage, the initiative, the sacrifice and the dedication of the combatants, […] because our strategic situation was so severe in Yom Kippur, that I don’t know if there are many nations that could have saved themselves in such strategic situation. Secondly, by the improvised mobilization of this militia-army. In 36 hours, the whole army was on the fronts. It was a virtuosity that was almost miraculous. No one ever assessed that we could accomplish such thing during wartime. For that reason, the insults and the accusations that we hear from the public about the [mess of the] mobilization are an historical injustice, because the army deserves the greatest military distinction for its exploit that brought the reserves to the battlefield so quickly. […]
And when I speak about the superiority of our pilots, our tank crews and our sailors…
LT-GEN (RES) LASKOV: And our artillery gunners?
GENERAL TAL: Our infantry was also superior, but I want to be precise, my commander. Even when I say that all our corps were qualitatively superior, I don’t mean that they were the dominant factor of the victory. It’s a fact that this operational victory was achieved thankfully to the superiority of the pilots, the sailors and the tank crews.
I want to remind you that there wasn’t a single aerial battle that we did not win. There wasn’t a single armored battle that we didn’t win. The supremacy of the tank crews, the pilots and the sailors of the IDF was complete.
And our weapons were superior too. All in all, our aircrafts were better, as well as our ships. I don’t say the same about our tanks, but our ships with their systems of electronic-warfare are the best example of the idea of quality against quantity. Same thing for the planes. In other words, the State of Israel was saved thankfully to the qualitative edge of the IDF, which includes of course the human factor, and the excellent organization of our militia-army, and our qualitative superiority in other fields.
In other words, if a symposium of international experts had to analyze our inferior strategic position at the start of the war, it would have granted us, in my opinion, with a death sentence from any theoretical aspect of the art of war. The fact is that the outcome was so different, because the IDF is a very strong army. And the balance of force with the enemy was much greater to our advantage than what we’ve thought, thankfully to qualitative edge of the IDF. So, we should not flagellate ourselves for everything.
It seems to me that you, Mr. Landau, asked me a question regarding the quality and the quantity.
JUDGE LANDAU: I asked about the qualitative gap, but I’m afraid that you misunderstood my question.
GENERAL TAL: This was not my answer to your question. I prepared an answer about the qualitative gap. […] I prepared the documents to support it.
CHAIRMAN AGRANAT: Can you come Sunday morning?
GENERAL TAL: Yes.
(General Tal screens to the members of the commission a film about the Roller Bridge.)
[CENTER]End of session 53
Next session – Session 56[/CENTER]
Last edited by Camera; 1 Week Ago at 02:07 PM.
Reason: grammar & spelling
To change a bit, a war dramma produced in 2000:
KIPPUR (English subtitles)
Directed by Amos
The story is based on Gitai's personal experience during YKW. Gitai served as a reservist in an airborne medevac team which's helicopter was shot down. The film was screened at Cannes Festival.
On Belay... Climb on
ITN reports from the Golan:
Last edited by Camera; 1 Week Ago at 08:28 PM.
A documentary film by Susan Sontag
A documentary about Israel shot right after YKW. There are some interesting sequences from the northern and southern front. The film is observatory most of the time and includes some great footages.
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