October History (Yom Kippur)
I have another installment for Ramblings and this month begins with the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. It was October 6 1973 when Israel ended up in a war with Egypt and Syria. Both of these countries were supplied and assisted by other Arab allies. Egypt and Syria opened up a two front war which put Israel in crisis for almost twenty one days. The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Israeli-occupied territories of the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The Arabs attacked on Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement the holiest day of prayer and fasting in the Jewish calendar knowing that the military of Israel would be participating in the religious celebrations associated with Yom Kippur.
The Egyptians launched a successful crossing of the Suez Canal, and their forces advanced virtually unopposed into the Sinai Peninsula. They moved up to 15 miles inland of the most advanced Israeli troops in the Sinai. Meanwhile the Syrians coordinated their attack in the north at the Golan Heights and made major gains into Israeli-held territory. By the end of October 7th, the military signs were ominous for Israel.
After three days, Israel mobilized its reserve forces and managed to halt the Egyptian offensive, settling into a virtual stalemate. Israeli forces in the north managed to push the Syrians back to the pre-war ceasefire lines. They then launched a four-day counter-offensive and within a week, Israeli artillery was shelling the outskirts of Damascus.
Egyptian president Anwar Sadat started to worry about his ally Syria, so he ordered the Egyptians to go back on the offensive but the Israelis quickly repulsed the attack and counterattacked at the seam between two Egyptian armies. They crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt, and began advancing southward and westward towards Cairo suffering heavy casualties on both sides.
By October 24, the Israelis improved their positions and encircled Egypt’s Third Army and the city of Suez. This development led to tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union which brought a ceasefire October 25 to end the war.
In one sense Yom Kippur was like Pearl Harbor to Israel. They were caught napping and suffered a heavy price but like the U.S. they rallied and managed to take the offensive and gain the upper hand.