The First Line of Defense Against Egypt

The book by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amnon Reshef presents the story of the IDF 14th Armored Brigade in the Yom-Kippur War, and contains testimonies never before published

The Yom-Kippur War produced many books. This book, which is based on rigorous and highly detailed research, supported by reference sources and testimonies, presents an accurate description of the battles conducted by the IDF 14th Armored Brigade on the Sinai front during the Yom-Kippur War, which rank among the fiercest armor-versus-armor battles in history.

The author, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amnon Reshef, commanded the brigade in those days. The book is the product of research he was engaged in for several decades, in the context of which he uncovered aerial reconnaissance photographs, recordings of the communication networks, documents and testimonies never before published. Reshef drew the picture of the battles in the most accurate manner that is as close to the warlike reality as it can be.

On October 6, 1973, the day the war erupted, the brigade occupied a line that stretched over 200 kilometers. It did so with a total of 56 tanks and less than 1,000 troopers in the tanks, APCs and front-line forts. They were the first to absorb the Egyptian fording thrust that gushed eastward from the other side of the Suez Canal, heavily armed with anti-tank weapons and massively reinforced by tanks and artillery.

For 17 continuous days, the brigade never stopped fighting. It survived the enemy fording thrust while making desperate attempts to counter the efforts of the Egyptian force to establish bridgeheads while at the same time attempting to assist, and subsequently rescue the small IDF detachments holding the forts on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. The brigade took part in the blocking effort and then participated in the counterattack, captured the ‘Chinese Farm’ area, cleared the ‘Fording Corridor’, crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt and assisted in the consolidation of the IDF hold in the ‘Land of Goshen’.

In the course of the fighting, the Brigade lost 302 troopers and the majority of its command backbone was hit. Two battalion commanders were killed, six battalion commanders were injured and many company commanders were either killed or injured. The book contains poignant criticism of the IDF supreme command for their decision making and the moves they devised and initiated during the war.

The book consists of three layers: a chronological historic description of the fighting of the 14th Armored Brigade, a personal account describing the author’s doubts, feelings, emotions and decisions as well as an analysis of his performance, and a third layer of studies of the war, issues and thoughts for further deliberation.

The book provides a detailed description of the fighting and incorporates elaborate sections that describe the execution methods of the Egyptian forces, along with personal accounts of IDF troopers.

 A complete chapter of the book deals with the defense of the Sinai and describes the chain of events and the discussions that led to the Maoz fortification plan on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. Another chapter deals with Operation “Abirey Lev” and the lessons thereof. In this chapter, Maj. Gen. Reshef addresses the concerns of a possible communication breakdown between the political and military echelons before the hasty departure on the operation and the fear that it would be cancelled. He criticizes the operation order issued by the IDF regional command, the continuous fighting on the eastern bank of the Canal before the crossing, contrary to the Principles of War and the IDF combat doctrine and the persistent failure in providing suitable intelligence to the combat elements.

Additionally, a special chapter is devoted to the commander of the “crossing division” – Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon, and his superior field command and leadership skills. This chapter describes the relations between the IDF senior command and Sharon before and during the war and the implications of these relations on the conduct of operations.

The chapters of the book include, among other things, a theoretical background on defensive principles, a description of events and developments between the years 1968 and 1973, analysis of the IDF operational plans “Shovakh Yonim” and “Sela”, insights of commanders at various levels and the author’s conclusions.

In the preface to the book, Ehud Barak, formerly the IDF Chief of Staff, Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel, wrote “It is, first and foremost, the story of a field commander, a brigade commander who led his subordinates through the utmost ordeal in an exceptional manner.” Reshef conducted numerous stages of the fighting from inside the turret of his tank, while dividing his attention and concentration – as impossible as this may seem – between the management of his brigade’s combat operations and the direct command of his tank and crew. After the Yom-Kippur War, Reshef, who had passed through all of the command and staff positions in the IDF Armored Corps during his military service, went on to command an IDF armored division and was subsequently appointed as Commander of the IDF Armored Corps.

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