'Forty, forty, we know you'

By

As the great warrior lies in a Jerusalem hospital bed fighting for his life, or, indeed, perhaps already beyond that, it is worth while recalling the position he held in the minds of Israeli soldiers, for all that he was a very controversial figure in the country at large.

Ariel (Arik) Sharon had been forced out of active duty in the army, but through the intervention of Moshe Dayan, had been retained as the commander of a reserve division.  He was out of uniform three months when the Yom Kippur War started on October 6, 1973.

The Eqyptians had trained hard under new officers and under the tutelage of the Russians who supplied them with a battle plan and with new equipment, particularly the SA—6 antiaircraft missile and the Sagger anti—tank missile.  Opening with a surprise attack, the Egyptians carried out a maneuver the Israelis had thought impossible — crossing the Suez Canal in force. 

The canal line was thinly defended by a series of strongpoints called the Bar—Lev line, which were designed to be integrated with mobile defenses by tanks moving into the spaces between them.  The artillery attack by the Eqyptians (10,500 shells in the first minute, or 175 per second) was so devastating and the effectiveness of the Sagger missile against Israeli tanks was so great, that the soldiers — mostly civilian reservists — in the Bar—Lev line were cut off and surrounded.

This was the situation when Sharon arrived on the Suez front 18 hours after the war had begun.  He had come ahead of his armored division, driven in a pick—up truck   Israeli tanks were withdrawing all along the line as he came up.

Sharon strode into Tasa, the Israeli command post behind the Suez Canal, and asked to be put in radio contact with the forts in his area.  He identified himself only by his code name 'forty.'  Immediately, his conversation with one of the forts was cut in on by a soldier:

'Forty, forty.  We know you.  We know you will get us out of here.  Please come to us.'

Amidst defeat, death and fear....hope: Ariel Sharon had arrived at the front.

[quote from The Yom Kippur War by Abraham Rabinovich, p. 139]

Greg Richards   1 17 06

Doug Hanson adds:

There is widespread misconception about the effectiveness of the then—new Sagger anti—tank guided missile. The Sagger was neither a surprise to the IDF, nor was it as effective as media accounts painted it at the time.  What was surprising was the large numbers of the Sagger employed and the fact that Egyptian infantry were well disicplined and held their ground against IDF counter—attacks.  Also, IDF tanks went in without waiting for accompanying infantry, which in any case, were not as proficient in combined arms training as they needed to be.  Bottom—line: 75 percent of the over 850 IDF tanks knocked out in the Yom Kippur War were because of Egyptian and Syrian tank fire.

As the great warrior lies in a Jerusalem hospital bed fighting for his life, or, indeed, perhaps already beyond that, it is worth while recalling the position he held in the minds of Israeli soldiers, for all that he was a very controversial figure in the country at large.

Ariel (Arik) Sharon had been forced out of active duty in the army, but through the intervention of Moshe Dayan, had been retained as the commander of a reserve division.  He was out of uniform three months when the Yom Kippur War started on October 6, 1973.

The Eqyptians had trained hard under new officers and under the tutelage of the Russians who supplied them with a battle plan and with new equipment, particularly the SA—6 antiaircraft missile and the Sagger anti—tank missile.  Opening with a surprise attack, the Egyptians carried out a maneuver the Israelis had thought impossible — crossing the Suez Canal in force. 

The canal line was thinly defended by a series of strongpoints called the Bar—Lev line, which were designed to be integrated with mobile defenses by tanks moving into the spaces between them.  The artillery attack by the Eqyptians (10,500 shells in the first minute, or 175 per second) was so devastating and the effectiveness of the Sagger missile against Israeli tanks was so great, that the soldiers — mostly civilian reservists — in the Bar—Lev line were cut off and surrounded.

This was the situation when Sharon arrived on the Suez front 18 hours after the war had begun.  He had come ahead of his armored division, driven in a pick—up truck   Israeli tanks were withdrawing all along the line as he came up.

Sharon strode into Tasa, the Israeli command post behind the Suez Canal, and asked to be put in radio contact with the forts in his area.  He identified himself only by his code name 'forty.'  Immediately, his conversation with one of the forts was cut in on by a soldier:

'Forty, forty.  We know you.  We know you will get us out of here.  Please come to us.'

Amidst defeat, death and fear....hope: Ariel Sharon had arrived at the front.

[quote from The Yom Kippur War by Abraham Rabinovich, p. 139]

Greg Richards   1 17 06

Doug Hanson adds:

There is widespread misconception about the effectiveness of the then—new Sagger anti—tank guided missile. The Sagger was neither a surprise to the IDF, nor was it as effective as media accounts painted it at the time.  What was surprising was the large numbers of the Sagger employed and the fact that Egyptian infantry were well disicplined and held their ground against IDF counter—attacks.  Also, IDF tanks went in without waiting for accompanying infantry, which in any case, were not as proficient in combined arms training as they needed to be.  Bottom—line: 75 percent of the over 850 IDF tanks knocked out in the Yom Kippur War were because of Egyptian and Syrian tank fire.