Israel: Panzer beherrschen das Gefechtsfeld

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  • Vor 47 Jahren, vom 6.–24. Oktober 1973, verteidigte Israels Armee im Yom-Kippur-Krieg die Existenz des Staates Israel. Am 6. Oktober jenes Jahres, am Yom Kippur, dem höchsten Feiertag, griffen um 13.58 Uhr Ägypten und Syrien überraschend an. Israel verlor mehr als 2’800 Soldaten, gewann den Krieg aber an beiden Fronten.
  • Mehr noch als den Sechs-Tage-Krieg vom 5.–10. Juni 1967 fand der Yom-Kippur-Krieg in Büchern, Filmen und Chroniken Niederschlag. Zu den packenden Schilderungen zählen die Augenzeugenberichte von Soldaten. Zum 47. Jahrestag des Kriegsbeginns veröffentlichen die israelischen Streitkräfte die Erinnerungen des späteren Oberstleutnants Avi Gur, der am Suezkanal Ägyptens Angriff in der 401. Panzerbrigade als stellvertretender Kommandant einer Panzerkompanie erlebte. Nachdem der Kommandant gefallen war, übernahm er die Panzereinheit.
  • Obwohl Israels Panzerkorps in den ersten Kriegstagen durch neue Sagger-Raketen schwere Verluste erlitt und die Weltpresse den Kampfpanzer viel zu früh totsagte, entschieden nach einem Taktikwechsel mitten im Krieg Israels Panzerdivisionen am Suezkanal und auf dem Golan den Krieg.
  • Am dritten Kampftag stellte der geniale Panzertaktiker Israel Tal, Stellvertreter des Gneralstabschefs David “Dado” Elazar, auch er Panzeroffizier, die Doktrin vom exklusiven Kampfpanzergefecht auf den Kampf der verbundenen Waffen um; das gab letztlich den Ausschlag zugunsten der Verteidiger, die an beiden Fronten zum Angriff übergegangen waren.

Es folgt der Augenzeugenbericht von Avi Gur, angereichert von den Aufnahmen, die er im Laufe des Krieges selber schoss.

Yom Kippur War: Through The Eyes of a Soldier

On Yom Kippur, 47 years ago, Israel was attacked by a coalition of Arab states, and was catapulted into war. For three weeks, Israeli soldiers fought tirelessly to defend their country from invading forces. Lt. Col. Avi Gur was a young officer at the time, fighting in the 401st Armored Brigade on the southern front. The following photos were taken by Lt. Col. (Res.) Avi Gur during the Yom Kippur War. He explains what took place, in his own words:

When the war began, I was on the front line. I was the deputy commander of a company in the Suez Canal and our goal was to hold back the Egyptian forces and keep them from carrying out acts of war against Israel. A few hours later, my commander was killed and I became the company commander.”

“This is a picture of my battalion commander, Lt. Col. Emanuel Sakal, from the first week of the war. The image reflects the IDF’s doctrine, according to which the commander is in the field side-by-side with the forces. This motivates the troops. Once I hit an enemy’s tank and he saw it in real time and complimented me on the radio.”

“During the war, he asked me to mislead the Egyptian forces by getting them to think that we were going to attack from the south even though we were going to attack from the north. This was very hard for me because being successful meant getting them to fire at me. So what I did was drive in a zigzag motion in the sand, forming a huge cloud of dust. How did we survive? I don’t know. Some call it divine protection and others call it luck. After they started firing at us he said ‘we have achieved our goal’, and we quietly and carefully drove back.”

The Yom Kippur War began on October 6, 1973. Thinking that the IDF would not be prepared to defend Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year, a coalition of enemy forces led by Egypt and Syria coordinated surprise attacks, invading the Golan Heights in northern Israel, and the Suez Canal in the south. The Israel Defense Forces was significantly outnumbered. It had far less equipment than the attacking countries, and little time to quickly develop a battle strategy.

“This picture shows the strength of one tank that could hit a target from more than a kilometer away. In the picture, you can see my tank cannon, and the black smoke in the background is the target we hit.”

“When we ran to the tanks, I had a camera hanging around my neck. It was an unusual sight, because not many people had cameras at all back then. We started moving and there were Egyptian planes attacking us from above. Tanks were firing at us from the ground and Egyptian commando forces crossed the canal and fired anti-tank missiles. It was like the wild west – whoever shoots first, stays alive.”

“You have to imagine thirty tanks securing an area of 143 km. We stood alone facing thousands of soldiers and weapons. For every thirty enemy soldiers, there was one Israeli soldier. The ratio is simply unproportional. But we, the Israeli soldiers, even though we stood before thousands, we did not run away. We fought professionally and wisely. People had no choice but to be heroes.”

“This is the drama. Even at night you had to be on alert. The Egyptian artillery was 30 times stronger than ours.”

“When we ran to the tanks, I had a camera hanging around my neck. It was an unusual sight, because not many people had cameras at all back then. We started moving and there were Egyptian planes attacking us from above. Tanks were firing at us from the ground and Egyptian commando forces crossed the canal and fired anti-tank missiles. It was like the wild west – whoever shoots first, stays alive.”

“The company commander of the unit to the south of us reporting to our battalion commander”.

On the second day of the war, tens of thousands of Egyptian troops crossed the canal with hundreds of tanks, and the armored units suffered great losses. Thinking back, Avi remembers with pain the fallen soldiers:

“You see your friends being killed…You see people, your friends, wounded… but we kept fighting.”

“The tank cannon. The black smoke in the background are targets we fired at.”

“The Browning 0.3 machine gun can fire continuously for over 10 seconds, and therefore we used it to shoot at Egyptian commando forces…”

After days of battle, the IDF began a series of counter attacks on Egyptian Forces. The offensive was code-named Operation “STOUTHERTED MEN” or, alternatively, Operation “VALIANT”.

“At one point, we received an order to cross the canal. That was the first time I reached for my dog tags because I wasn’t sure I would stay alive. Why? Because my tank had to drive over an unstable bridge. Also, when you’re on the bridge, you’re stuck there. You can’t go left and right, and you become an easy target.”

“An Egyptian missile base that we conquered after it was abandoned by Egyptian soldiers”.

“There were times when I was agitated, but I was able to project calmness to my soldiers. I used to sing to them in our internal communications network. When we all met recently, they told me that hearing my voice reassured them.”

Toward the end of the war, Israeli forces encircled the Egyptian Third Army:

“The 401st Armored Brigade took part in one of the greatest military achievements of the war: encircling the Egyptian Third Army. It wasn’t easy to do, but it was incredible…The key word in my opinion is victory, and we were victorious because of the execution of our missions and thanks to the heroism of the soldiers.”

 

Ein Wort noch zu den Fotos. Diese sind schlicht sensationell und einzigartig, aufgenommen im Kampf vom Kommandanten einer M-60-Panzerkompanie.

  • Bild 1: Avi Gurs Bat Kdt, Lt Col Emanuel Sakal, führte im Oktober 1973 das 52. Bataillon der 401. Panzerdivision. Einmal zerstörte sein Bataillon ein gesamtes ägyptisches Panzerbataillon. Für seine a.o. Leistung erhielt Sakal die Medal of Courage, Israels zweithöchsten Tapferkeitsorden, gleich nach der Medal of Valour.

Medal of Courage.

  • Sakal übernahm dann die 252. Sinai-Panzerbrigade und stieg dann als Generalmajor zum Kommandanten des Armee-Hauptquartiers auf. Nachdem er in Ehren aus der Armee ausgeschieden war, wurde er Direktor der Trans-Israel-Pipeline, welche die Häfen von Eilat und Ashkelon miteinander verbindet (mit einem Ast nach Givati). Sakal verteidigte sein Land in fünf Kriegen: 1967, 1969/70 (Abnützungskrieg), 1973, 1982 (Erster Libanon-Krieg), ab 1987 (Erste Intifada).

Trans-Israel-Pipeline Eilat–Ashkelon.

  • Bild 2 gibt einen Eindruck vom mehrheitlich flachen Gelände der Sinai-Sandwüste und der Einsatzdistanz des M-60-Patton.
  • Bild 3: Die Nachtszene dokumentiert die unablässigen Gefechte bei Dunkelheit. Am Himmel Beleuchtungsgranaten der israelischen Artillerie.
  • Bild 4: Abschuss eines ägyptischen Panzers auf deutlich kürzere Distanz als der Tank auf Bild 2. Der M-113-Schützenpanzer rechts bezeugt den Kampf der verbundenen Waffen. General Tal hatte angeordnet: Kampfpanzer greifen nicht mehr wie 1967 exklusiv an, sondern im Verbund mit Panzergrenadieren in und mit ihren Schützenpanzern.
  • Bild 5 erinnert an das Browning 0.3 Maschinengewehr der israelischen Armee.
  • Bild 6 ist ein zeitgeschichtliches Dokument. Nach der Überquerung des Suezkanals lautete der erste Auftrag der 401. Panzerbrigade: “Zerstört die feindlichen SAM-Flab-Stellungen.” Wie die Sagger-Pzaw-Raketen den israelischen Kampfpanzern schwer zugesetzt hatten, holten in der Kriegsphase 1 sowjetische SAM-2, SAM-3, SAM-6 und SAM-7-Raketen viele israelische Skyhawks, Phantoms und Mirages vom Himmel. Mit der kompletten Zerstörung der ägyptischen SAM-Stützpunkte auf dem Westufer des Kanals erlangte Israel endlich die gewohnte Luftüberlegenheit. So schlossen zwei Panzerdivisionen die ganze 3. Feldarmee des Gegners ein.