Egyptian General Mohamed Fawzi: part III: reflections on mistakes made in planning, training, equipping, and organizing Egyptian combat formations prior to the 1967 six-day war.
At the National Defense University, we strive to provide America's senior military and civilian leaders an education grounded in the complexities of a globalized world. CDR Aboul-Enein's course on Islam, Islamist political theory, and militant Islamist ideology contributes to that through the immersion of his students in the nuances of Islam and its differing ideologies. In addition, using his personal knowledge of the region, CDR Aboul-Enein has been instrumental in helping students understand the changes brought about by recent events in the Mideast referred to by some as the "Arab Spring." His writings, such as the one you are about to read, continue his efforts to ensure the most comprehensive education possible for our military and civilian leadership in this complex and constantly changing region of the world. I applaud INFANTRY Magazine for providing CDR Aboul-Enein a forum for this multi-part work and look forward to the debate and discussion it will produce.
--MG Joseph D. Brown IV, U.S. Air Force
Commandant of ICAF, National Defense University, Washington, D.C.
As tensions with Israel escalated throughout the latter half of the 1960s, Egypt attempted to prepare for war, yet was unsuccessful. In his memoirs, General Mohamed Fawzi details the country's unpreparedness through its lack of military training, the chaos of Egypt's leadership, and Israel's ability to formulate precise and successful military strategy. It becomes evident in Fawzi's memoirs that Egypt was doomed to lose the 1967 war against Israel, and that all of its internal and external complicated dynamics finally culminated in Israel's swift victory.
The Absence of Adequate and Essential Training for the 1967 War
Fawzi wrote that consistent and hard training is the measure of competence of any armed forces. His memoirs show an appreciation of the way training helps integrate reserve and active units through peacetime exercises and military education. Placing combat units in various tactical and operational exercises tests readiness as well as command and control. War Minister Field Marshal Abdel-Hakim Amer delegated responsibility for the training of the armed forces but never followed up or held anyone accountable for training the Egyptian military. As army commander in chief, Fawzi commissioned a training report detailing the need to create training requirements for each rank of soldier up to officer. This training should be coupled with units and divisional training, and eventually reach the level of combined services training. The report was endorsed by Amer and sent to the Military Training Department for execution. However, it was never followed up with or acted upon. Instead, training commenced each calendar year at the unit level, culminating with a massive multi-divisional exercise in May, but even this was scaled down from 1965 to 1967. Egyptian planners deluded themselves that the Yemen War (1962-1967) represented live field training for Egyptian combat arms. Fawzi argued that the Yemen War, a guerilla war, was not an adequate substitute for preparing for a conventional war with the Israelis. The Yemen War and a war with Israel were two different tactical, operational, and strategic environments.
From 1964 to 1967, combat units in Egypt were exercised mainly in defensive warfare, and Fawzi compared this to developing a human Maginot Line. Units were not properly trained for offensive warfare. Fawzi told readers that from 1965 to 1966, not one Egyptian tank fired a shot in a combined armor and infantry exercise. Only 11 percent of fuel allocated for training was used in that training year. Amer had the opportunity to notice this fact when he visited frontline units deployed in the Sinai and Suez Canal. He visited the units three times between 1962 and 1967, yet he failed to alter anything. Fawzi's reviews of exercise reports leading to the 1967 Six-Day War note that the reports were written to please senior leaders and that bad news was completely hidden. Some reports contained Arab nationalist and socialist slogans, as if field commanders were being evaluated for political loyalty and not for combat effectiveness.
Another Achilles' heel of Egyptian combat arms was illiteracy. Only nine percent of personnel within the army had high school diplomas--18 percent in the navy and 21 percent in the air force. Those who joined the armed forces with a high school education completed high school with a barely passing grade, the equivalent of a "D" in an American grade system. Fawzi noted his concern over the qualitative education of Egyptian soldiers in an age of increasingly complex weapons systems being provided at the time from the Soviets. One argument against recruiting educated and technically trained personnel was that it would be a security risk to the Egyptian regime. The armed forces before the 1967 war had no motto, mission statement, or general objectives. Complicating matters were the two million man national guard, an Egyptian popular army at the time. The entire force experienced a shortage of medical, technical, and logistical units. The Egyptian air force (EAF) showed acute shortcomings in trained pilots. New planes simply went into storage, and Fawzi mentioned that an entire wing of Sukhoi-7 fighters remained in their crates. There wasn't an armed forces inspector general office before 1967. Fawzi wrote that there was a:
* 40 percent shortage of men;
* 30 percent shortage in small arms;
* 45 percent shortage in tanks;
* 24 percent shortage in artillery; and
* 70 percent shortage in transport capabilities.
Without adequate training or supplies, the Egyptians entered into the 1967 Six-Day War at an obvious disadvantage to Israel. Before the start of the war on 5 June 1967, the EAF had 260 planes and 150 pilots concentrated at 10 airbases, with four of these bases in the Sinai and three in the Suez Canal Zone. The remaining fighters and bombers were concentrated along the Nile Delta and within Egypt proper. Fawzi wrote that 74 Sukhoi bombers and 21 MiG fighters remained in crates or under construction. Most Egyptian airbases had only one runway, and many of the fighters and bombers were parked on the runway and had barely been flown due to the shortage of technicians and maintenance personnel. Air defense consisted of 27 SAM-1 and SAM-2 and 100 85mm and 37mm anti-air batteries. Only six anti-air guns were allocated to protecting ground formations, and all SAM missile batteries were assigned to protect urban centers.
Egyptian naval assets before the Six-Day War consisted of 80 warships (destroyers, frigates, minesweepers, submarines, troop carriers, and torpedo boats). These were mainly concentrated in Alexandria, and 50 percent of these naval assets were not ready to deploy. The Yemen War had absorbed a frigate, troop carrier, and minesweeper. No maritime reconnaissance capability existed. Clearly, Egypt was grievously unprepared for war due to the lack of training and equipment.
Failure of Arms Training
Fawzi wrote that the failure to train officers and troops on new Soviet equipment ran deep. Some. units had not trained on weapons of any kind since the 1956 Suez Crisis. Reserve units, such as the one used to concentrate forces in the Sinai, had severe shortages of weapons, equipment, and radios. Units that did train were only able to conduct one type of operation. For instance, the 11th Infantry Division was trained in 1966 to defend El-Arish and could not conduct any improvised offensive operation or counterattack. Of 120,000 reserve units called up on 15 May, only 80,000 responded at all. Fawzi highlighted that there wasn't a rehearsal of forces in preparing for an Israeli attack. Forces were deployed and moved haphazardly. For example, the 14th Infantry Division moved from Cairo to Jebel Libna on 18 May, and when they began to set up a perimeter, the entire division was moved again, this time to Sheikh Zuwaid on 27 May, and then finally to al-Husnah on 2 June. They moved four times and 500 kilometers before the outbreak of the war. The 1st Light Infantry Battalion moved twice (150 kilometers). The 141st Armored Division was recalled from Yemen, and with no re-acclimatization, redeployed to Jebel Libna, reaching this sector on 4 June and entering the combat zone the first day of the Six-Day War on 5 June.
Chaos of Command
Fawzi's memoirs offer perhaps the clearest analysis of the chaos of Amer's command architecture. On 16 May, Amer appointed Field Marshal Abdel-Mohsen Murtaji as theater commander of the Sinai-Israel front. At the time, Murtaji was army chief of staff and commander in chief for ground forces. Fawzi revealed that there was no concept of organization for the theater commander within the Egyptian chain of command until Amer appointed Murtaji. To make matters worse, between May and 5 June 1967, Amer replaced 12 field commanders and field chiefs of staff Amer compromised with President Gamal Abdel-Nasser on a mass military demonstration and felt that no actual combat operations would take place; he therefore went about concentrating as many combat units as possible into the Sinai. Amer conceptualized 10,000 officers, 130,000 regulars, and 80,000 reserve troops. The Egyptian military chief hyper-focused on numbers and not coordination, counterattack, or even static defense.
On 26 May, the United States Ambassador to Egypt delivered a message from President Lyndon Johnson to Nasser, urging Egypt not to initiate hostilities. The Johnson Administration extended an invitation to Vice President Zakariyah Moheiddine to come to Washington, D.C., for talks on the emerging crisis. The Soviet Ambassador to Egypt requested a 3 a.m. meeting with Nasser to deliver a message from the Soviet Premier, urging Egypt not to initiate hostilities. French Premier Charles DeGaulle announced that French policy of support would be based on who was the aggressor.
During this time, War Minister Shams Badran was in Moscow to present Egypt's case for closing the Aqaba Gulf and to illicit political leverage against Israel. Soviet Defense Minister Marshal Andrei Grechko (who served as defense minister from 1967 to 1976) expressed solidarity with Egypt, and Badran read too much into such grandiosity and interpreted this to mean that the Soviets would directly intervene on the side of Egypt. This shaped Nasser's thinking, as Nasser, Badran and Amer discussed Badran's Moscow trip and the meaning of Grechko's farewell pledge of solidarity. Nasser had delayed speeches to parliament, the Arab Lawyer's Association, Arab Labor Association, and the press until he heard from Badran about his trip to Moscow. Fawzi stressed that after getting news of Grechko's pledge, Nasser hardened his rhetoric, announcing, "The Soviet Union stands with us in this battle and will not allow any nation to interfere." Badran reassured the cabinet, the Council of Ministers, adding "if the American Mediterranean fleet enters the war on the side of Israel, our TU-16s and torpedo boats can destroy America's largest carriers."
The tempo of enthusiasm and wishful thinking compelled Jordan's King Hussein to visit Cairo on 31 May. Fawzi wrote that Nasser was bolstered psychologically by all the frontline Arab states surrounding Israel and prepared for hostilities. There were statements of support from Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, with pledges of aid, troops, equipment, and financial support from Kuwait, Iraq, and Algeria, which announced intentions to send forces to Egypt. Sudan sent a token ground force, while both Kuwait and Iraq sent small contingents of air and ground forces to Jordan. Egyptian leaders focused on the euphoria of support and not actual capabilities of forces sent or pledged.
Military War Plans
Fawzi offered one of the most intimate accounts of Nasser and Amer's discussions on Egyptian troop deployments. As early as 1965, while awaiting the return of battle-hardened forces from Yemen to Egypt's Port Tawfik, they entertained the idea of redeploying combat-tested forces returning to Suez and Sharm al-Sheikh. Nasser saw the redeployment as political language that would shake the world, but it was decided that these forces needed to have time to reacclimate to Egyptian society after more than a year or more of guerilla warfare. In 1966, while Amer was visiting Pakistan, he sent an encrypted message to Nasser urging the deployment of rested units from Yemen into the Sinai. He added that this should be accompanied by Nasser threatening the closure of the Tiran Strait. This encrypted note began a series of actions that would end with the 1967 debacle.
The leadership in Egypt, pressed by Nasser, wanted a withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from the Sinai. Nasser announced this publicly after Israeli Prime Minister Levi Ishkol made threatening remarks against Syria. In addition, the Syrian Defense Minister informed Amer of a buildup of 11-13 Israeli divisions along the Syrian border. The Egyptian armed forces were surprised by a 14 May 1967 general order for mobilization at 11 a.m. At noon, orders were given that began movement of forces to the Sinai, which were to be completed within 72 hours. This sent Egyptian staff planners into chaos, as such a mobilization was not trained or planned for until the order was issued on 14 May. Adding to the chaos of deployment was that the orders were issued from Amer's secretariat office and not the National Defense Council. Rumors flew as a lack of direction was forthcoming from Amer. One powerful rumor among Egypt's generals was that the deployment was more of a demonstration on behalf of Syria and to honor the 1966 Joint Defense Pact. There was widespread delusion that no combat would occur while evicting UNEF, and controlling the Aqaba Gulf would occur short of war.
Fawzi was dispatched to Damascus on 14 May to evaluate the extent of Israeli deployments on the Syrian border and to examine Soviet intelligence provided to the Syrians. Fawzi wrote that there was no indication of an Israeli troop concentration when he toured Golan Heights or even when he evaluated Soviet reconnaissance photos taken on 12 and 13 May. On 15 May, Fawzi returned to Cairo and reported his findings to Amer. Before Nasser issued his order to deploy forces to the Sinai, Fawzi estimated that only a tenth of Egypt's infantry and armor was deployed in the Sinai, representing one corps and one armored division.
On 15 May, Amer ordered the concentration of ground forces to be completed within 48 hours. Upon arrival in the Sinai, units were not given follow-on orders, and so the general staff relied on Plan Qahir, which was approved in 1966. However, the problem was that only part of Egyptian combat units had trained for this plan. The result was mass formations concentrated on ill-prepared terrain with no orders. An initial 3,595 officers and 66,675 troops were thrown into the Sinai without training, preparation, or orders.
On 16 May 1967, Amer sent a letter, via Fawzi, to the LTNEF commander, Indian General Riqqi, demanding the withdrawal of his forces from the Sinai. The next day, General Riqqi informed Amer that he was unable to withdraw UNEF unless ordered by the UN Secretary General U Thant. Incredibly, on 18 May, the UN Secretary General ordered the withdrawal of UNEF.
On 18 May, Egypt began a hodgepodge deployment into the Sinai, and Nasser convened a meeting with his military chiefs. Nasser pondered the idea of blockading the Gulf of Aqaba. Among the subtle nuances discussed by Fawzi was the question of whether Nasser's gambit to close the gulf was a nationalist or national objective. Fawzi argued that Nasser's strategic thinking was influenced not by national but by nationalist goals. This meant that it was shaped not by the interests of Egypt, but by those of Egypt and the wider pan-Arab national movement that Nasser felt he embodied. Fawzi and the deputy chief of operations briefed Nasser on the feasibility of an Aqaba Gulf blockade. They concluded that the drawdown of combat forces in Yemen, which required naval assets to move men and equipment coupled with protecting the Sinai and Mediterranean coasts, made a total blockade unfeasible.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
What came out of the 18 May general staff meeting with Nasser was a plan to conduct a mass, combined arms demonstration but not an outright plan for an offensive against Israel. A battalion of paratroopers, artillery, border guards, and mechanized armor was sent into the Sinai. Logistical units were pulled from other formations and placed around this newly created four-battalion combined arms force. A 130mm coastal artillery unit, a M1G-19 wing stationed at Ghardaga airbase, warplanes with a naval task force of two transports, one destroyer, one frigate, and several Stix missile and mine-laying boats were added to this force. Fawzi wrote that communication among sea, air, and land combat units and headquarters was poor. Field commanders' orders were countermanded by higher headquarters of ground, air, and naval assets in Cairo and Alexandria, which complicated matters.
The political decision to close the Aqaba Gulf occurred on 17 May 1967 and was timed to coordinate with the visit of UN General Secretary U Thant. Nasser publicly asserted that Aqaba was closed to Israeli shipping and all nations shipping strategic materials to Israel. Even as Nasser made these assertions, both he and Amer affirmed the concept of freedom of the seas and navigation. However, on 22 May, Egyptian naval ships were ordered to intercept and search cargo bound ships entering the Tiran Strait. Amer and Nasser had different tactical visions, with Nasser opting for a military demonstration and Amer wanting a gradual military escalation. Their debate also focused on control versus closure of the Tiran Strait. No final operational or tactical guidance was issued, and as a result the commanding general of the Sharm el-Sheikh sector asked for rules of engagement to enforce Nasser's public order of conducting the blockage of the Aqaba Gulf. Fawzi highlighted the questions coming from field commanders in the Sinai:
* Do they engage foreign, Israeli, or both merchant shipping?
* Do they engage foreign shipping for cargo-bound ships to Israel?
* Are oil tankers bound for Israel permitted?
* If merchant ships are escorted by destroyer escorts, are they to engage the warships?
* If Israeli merchant ships are reflagged, are they to engage them?
* Are they to engage leased merchant ships bound for Israel?
These questions and more descended on Amer's office between 20-23 May. Nasser's public assertions became a public declaration to close the Aqaba Gulf on 23 May. That same day, classified orders from Amer's office (not the general staff) were given to intercept all cargo vessels bound for the Israeli port of Eilat. These vessels were to be given warning shots, and if they did not respond they were to be sunk. If escorted by warships, they were not to be intercepted even if they were Israeli flagged. On 2 June, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, and the United States joined to assert freedom of navigation and declared they would challenge the blockade. The stage was set for a massive showdown that, to a minor degree, mirrored the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the United States threatening to intercept Soviet ships bound for Cuba.
Fawzi wrote of Nasser's historic visit on 22 May to Bir Gifgafa and lnchass air bases in Egypt. The latter contained the largest concentrations of MiG-21 fighters. Nasser was joined by Amer and Air Marshal Sidqui Mahmoud. The pilots conducted a scramble drill for the Egyptian leader, after which Nasser discussed the political situations with his pilots. Oddly, in his remarks he never mentioned a conflict with Israel. The Egyptian leader thought he could take Israel, the United States, and the Soviet Union to the brink and never considered the tipping point that would lead to an Israeli strike. That week Amer ordered the 7th Infantry Group and 14th Armored Division to Rafah in Gaza. The 113th Infantry Division in Kuntilla was deployed defensively with no thought of maneuver. In addition, an improvised force led by Major General Saadedine al-Shazli that combined special forces, infantry, and armored brigades was deployed between Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid in order to harass communication lines for forces crossing the Sinai from Gaza. Combining these different brigades and getting them integrated in the field would take practice and repeated exercises, something the Egyptians did not do until on the eve of the Six-Day War. In the United States, it would take months to integrate the staffs of a new amphibious squadron with a Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) in what is known as pre-deployment work-ups. Some are conducted in the expeditionary warfare training group as tabletop exercises, and others are conducted underway.
Intelligence Reports' Effect on Psychology of Egyptian Leadership
Fawzi discussed 15 intelligence reports that shaped the thinking of Egypt's military and political leadership. They offered lessons on how reports were psychologically and cognitively processed. Only three will be highlighted; they are:
15 May: An intelligence report revealed a concentration of Israeli combat formations along the Syrian border of between five and seven divisions. This turned out to be false, shaped by Syrian and Soviet desires to pressure the Israelis after the trouncing Syrian air forces had taken earlier that month at the hands of the Israelis.
17 May: Civilian morale in Israel was in a low state; this was a fallacy.
18 May: Overestimation of IDF units devoted to the Egyptian front. One took the Syrian deployment of Israeli forces with six infantry divisions, an armored division, and one tank battalion. This far exceeded Israel's ground order of battle, yet Egyptian planners wanted to accept that Israeli forces existed on both the Egyptian and Syrian borders.
Based on this intelligence, Fawzi discussed the conferences convened to discuss these reports. A 15 May conference began at 8:30 p.m. and focused on reinforcing Gaza and the southern Sinai sector of Kunteila. The debates zeroed in on the limited roads that bisected the Sinai from west to east. The general staff discussions began with the chief of military operations, who discussed the need for aerial strikes into Israel. Amer interjected and ordered such discussions to be suppressed. The general staff was incensed at limiting Egyptian options, particularly since Amer signed the aerial strike portion of an Egyptian offensive against Israel, called Plan Asad (Lion). Fawzi also highlighted the 28 May conference, which convened at 9 p.m. with a discussion on the defense and blockade of the Aqaba Gulf. At this meeting Zakariyah Moheiddine, a member of the 1952 Revolutionary Free Officers, was designated chief of civil defense. Moheiddine was Egyptian vice president, and scheduled to meet American President Lyndon Johnson the first week of June. Amer's ability to give orders to Egypt's vice president demonstrates the power Amer had within Nasser's government. In addition, Amer issued countermanding orders that the defense of the Sinai would be phased and gradual, and plans for an Egyptian counterstrike should the Israelis attack first were stood down.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
On 2 June 1967, a meeting with Nasser convened. Fawzi considered this to be the most important meeting. Nasser ended the discussion declaring that Israel would strike first between 4-5 June. The general staff focused on developing a counter-strike package with Mahmoud estimating that Egypt could sustain a 20-percent loss from an Israeli first strike. The Egyptian air marshal briefed other chiefs of the possibility in which the Egyptian air force would be wiped out and advocated weighing the benefits of an Egyptian first strike versus world opinion. Nasser chose to focus on the optimistic 20 percent loss rate as being an adequate price for going to war with Israel and by extension with the United States. On 3 June, Sidqui and Amer discussed moving fighter planes to the rear (Egypt proper versus the Sinai) and the need to disperse air assets. Sidqui argued that moving fighter planes from the Sinai to Egypt proper would demoralize the pilots. They discussed the issue of the Egyptian air force's capability of absorbing a first strike. The discussions between the two then focused on Amer's itinerary on 5 June 1967 to visit combat units in the Sinai. He was scheduled to arrive at the Bir Tamada Air Field between 8 and 9 a.m. That morning Israel attacked Egypt. Amer and his senior aides were on their way to the Sinai in a military plane as Israeli jets roared towards the Mediterranean to loop around into Egypt and the Sinai, conducting one of the most decisive aerial attacks in military history.
Fawzi Reflects on Egyptian Combat Readiness on the Eve of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War
According to Fawzi's detailed recollections, in the 21 days leading to 5 June 1967, the Egyptian army was not in any state of readiness for war. On 5 June 1967, General Tawfik Abdel-Nabi, the military attache to Pakistan, arrived to take command of a specialized anti-tank battalion. His new battalion had no heavy armor, mechanized armor, or even vehicles necessary for the unit to conduct its assigned mission. Its weapons were so paltry that it could not be called an anti-tank battalion. From Yemen, the first elements of the 18th Infantry Corps began to arrive. Field Marshal Murtaji and General Salah Mohsen, his field commander in the Sinai, spent the morning focused on Amer's itinerary. Sixteen communications battalions needed for the deployed Egyptian infantry corps and reserves remained behind the west bank of the Suez Canal on the Egyptian side, and therefore had not been set up to communicate in the field.
Discussion of Indication and Warning Messages of 5 June 1967
The Egyptian War Ministry in Cairo received two warnings from military intelligence in Arish from Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim Salama, who dispatched a message of an Israeli attack at 7 a.m. on 5 June 1967. It reached the general staff at 9:40 a.m. The second warning message came from General Abdel-Moneim Riad, future Egyptian chief of the general staff in Jordan. At the time he acted as forward commander and Egyptian representative to the Jordanian general staff in Amman, part of the conceptual Unified Arab Command. This message was a result of the Jordanian listening post in Ajloun, where it began to detect Israeli movements at 4 a.m. which then sent warnings to Egyptian posts in Arish. The Egyptian intelligence officers did not forward this message until 7 a.m. The Israeli attack began at 8 a.m. Frontline ground units in the Sinai did not grasp it was an Israeli attack until 8:30 a.m., when Israeli jets were bombing and strafing their positions.
Fawzi estimated that 85 percent of the Egyptian air force was wiped out in four hours. He engaged in conspiracies popular among Egyptians of the time trying to make sense of the depth of defeat. Fawzi explained Israeli military competence and asserted that the U.S. Navy 6th Fleet provided air cover for Israeli assets, allowing the bulk of the Israeli air force to attack Egypt. This conspiracy is slightly better than Nasser's public declarations after the 1967 War, which asserted that American warplanes attacked Egypt. Fawzi believed that the Israelis planned and trained for the 1967 airstrike a decade earlier, and that it took that long to perfect. This comment by Fawzi is likely a case of mirror-imaging Egyptian abilities onto the Israelis.
The Aerial Attack
Fawzi discussed the Israeli aerial attack as being divided into two main thrusts; each would contain a combination of approximately 80 fighter jets and bombers. The first attack group concentrated on the Sinai, with a focus on radar installations, Suez Canal air bases, and four Sinai airfields. The second attack group focused on the rest of Egypt, with a focus on Cairo airfields. Fawzi's memoir is filled with tactical criticism and questions that reveal an Egyptian military mind who has spent years pondering the 1967 war. Questions include:
* Why didn't Egyptian commanders immediately enact Plan Fahd (Leopard) to get a few Egyptian warplanes aloft? Fawzi discovered that Egyptian warplanes were not armed and fueled, but he does not explain why. It is likely Fawzi knew that Nasser's regime was concerned more with internal coups than with external threats, and therefore warplanes were not fueled or armed.
* Of the few planes that escaped Cairo airfields during the attack, Fawzi asked how did the Israelis know of the few landing at Luxor air base? Luxor did not house any warplanes and was not in the initial Israeli attack plans, according to Fawzi. How he came to these conclusions was not discussed, but instead he pointed to the notion that Israelis had precise intelligence. He made no allowances for electronic reconnaissance of planes or the prowess of Israeli pilots to make independent judgments regarding fleeing Egyptian jet fighters.
* Why were orders not given to disperse the Egyptian air force to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Uzma Airbase in Libya, or Khartoum Airfield in Sudan? Fawzi described how the single initiative of a wing commander allowed a wing of Antonov-12 bombers to leave Cairo airbase for Khartoum and escape the Israeli air assault.
From Fawzi's perspective, the Israelis further subdivided their two attacks into two waves; one released bombs and fired missiles, and the second saturated the airbases with heavy machine gun fire. He is highly impressed with Israeli anti-runway cluster bombs, which Egyptian units experienced for the first time. Fawzi commented that they created craters in the runways, rendering the them unusable. He lamented that most Egyptian airfields consisted of one main runway, and to make matters worse there were no real Egyptian technical units dedicated to repair runways. Fawzi broke the Israeli air attack down into 45 minutes:
* 20 minutes to target
* 5 minutes to attack
* 20 minutes to return to refuel and reload
From Fawzi's view, the Israelis were able to reload and refuel in 7-10 minutes. Egyptians sacrificed dispersal for a concentration of air assets and an offensive strike policy with no real threat of effective retaliation.
Fawzi spent a couple of pages commenting on the bombing and strafing of the U.S. Navy ship USS Liberty (AGTR-5). Fawzi saw the American naval surveillance ship as electronically jamming the Egyptian radar and aiding Israeli fighter/bombers by vectoring them to Egyptian targets. He wrote that the USS Liberty was key to Israeli air success. However, the Israeli air force's misidentification of the USS Liberty resulted in 34 deaths and 171 injuries of U.S. Navy Sailors. While the Israelis focused on the USS Liberty, Fawzi claimed that this enabled 30 Egyptian fighters to be sent aloft, with 12 being shot down by the Israelis and the rest withdrawing to the closest haven. Fawzi's two-page focus on the USS Liberty is not uncommon among Egyptians wanting to write a more direct and active role for the United States in the Six-Day War. Fawzi could not believe that the Egyptians could be defeated so badly by the Israelis alone without the direct aid of the United States. Nasser even gave a speech during the 1967 war claiming American warplanes were attacking along with Israeli planes.
Fawzi's memoirs provide a clear analysis of why Egypt was so gravely unprepared for war against Israel in 1967, allowing Israel to quickly gain victory. With or without American aid to Israel during the war, Egypt was unprepared for combat due to a lack of training, equipment, artillery, and sound leadership. Although Egyptian military and political leaders attempted to create detailed war plans and strategies (such as Plan Qahir), the failed implementation of these plans left Egypt susceptible to Israeli attack and rapid defeat. Also, the gradual deterioration of the relationship between Nasser and Amer as Amer gained evermore power, left a void in Egypt where solid leadership should have guided the country. Fawzi made it clear that Egypt's half-hearted attempts at strategic planning did not stand a chance next to Israel's detailed and sound planning of nearly a decade. Most importantly, Fawzi stressed that it was not one single event that caused Egypt to lose the 1967 Six-Day War against Israel but several details over several decades that ultimately left Egypt weak and unable to defend itself.
CDR YOUSSEF ABOUL-ENEIN, U.S. NAVY
CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein is author of Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat, published by Naval Institute Press in June 2010. He teaches part time at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and has a passion for highlighting Arabic work of military significance to America's military readers. CDR Aboul-Enein wishes to thank Dorothy Corley, who recently graduated with her bachelor's degree in International Relations from Boston University, for her edits and discussion that enhanced this work. Finally, CDR Aboul-Enein wishes to express his appreciation for the National Defense University Library and the John T. Hughes Library for providing a quiet place to read and write this series.
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|Title Annotation:||Training Notes|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2012|
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