Aviation & Military©

The Six Day War

From April through early June of 1967, the world's media reported a dramatic escalation of Middle Eastern tensions. On April 7, the Israelis shot down six Syrian MiGs. On May 14, Syria claimed Israel was massing troops on its border. On May 15, the Egyptians moved troops into the Sinai while Nasser demanded the withdrawal of the 4,500-man United Nations Emergency Forces separating the Israelis from the Egyptians. On May 22, Nasser declared the Straits of Tiran closed, blocking all shipping to and from Israel's Red Sea port of Eilat. On May 25, Iraq and Saudi Arabia moved troops to Israel's border, and on the 26th Nasser declared his intention to destroy Israel. On May 30, Jordan signed a pact with Egypt essentially uniting the two forces and placing Egypt in overall command. On June 4, Iraq signed a similar agreement. Egyptian, Syrians, and Jordanians appeared to be massing for an attack on Israel. Israel was preparing to respond or mount a preemptive attack.

For the Israelis, the numbers were daunting.

The Israelis had roughly 275,000 men available, most of them reservists called up because of the crisis. This represented almost 10 percent of Israel's 2.9 million people. In addition, Israel had roughly 200 combat aircraft and 1,000 tanks.

Jordan had 56,000 men, 24 Hawker Hunter aircraft, and 270 modern tanks focused mostly on the narrow choke point where Israel's eastern border is only nine miles from the Mediterranean. The Syrians had 50,000 soldiers on the Golan Heights, 125 combat aircraft, 250 tanks, and as many field guns, soon to be reinforced with Iraqi tanks. The Egyptians had 130,000 men, 900 tanks, 1,100 guns, and 420 combat aircraft. In addition, troops and materiel were available or en route from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia.

While the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Syrians were expected to be the principal fighters in any war with Israel, the combined Arab force available for action included up to 500,000 troops, 900 combat aircraft, and 5,000 tanks.

When war began on June 5, the pace was simply unbelievable. In just 132 hours - slightly less than six days - Israel destroyed its enemies' armies and quadrupled the geography under its control. The Egyptians lost 10,000 to 15,000 men, with another 5,000 missing. Jordan lost 700 men, with 6,000 wounded or missing. Syria lost 450 men and had 1,800 wounded. In contrast, Israel lost fewer than 800 men. The casualty ratio was an almost incredible 25 to 1. Israel held 5,000 Egyptian POWs, 365 Syrians, and 550 Jordanians. In contrast, 15 Israeli soldiers were POWs.

All but 15 percent of Egypt's military hardware was destroyed or captured, including 700 of its 900 tanks, 286 of its 420 combat aircraft, and all of its bombers. Jordan lost 179 tanks, 1062 guns, 3,166 vehicles, and nearly 20,000 assorted arms. Syria lost 118 tanks, 470 guns, and 1,200 vehicles, not counting the 40 tanks abandoned to the Israelis. Two-thirds of Syria's air force was destroyed. By contrast, Israel lost a total of 36 planes and 18 pilots, roughly 20 percent of its air power.

The Israelis had captured all of the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip and Sinai from Egypt. From roughly 20,000 square kilometers of territory, the Israelis had expanded their control to more than 88,000 square kilometers. Moreover, the speed with which the Sinai fell led to the joke during mid-June that one should "Visit Israel to see the pyramids." In control of the eastern side of the Suez Canal, the Israeli army was less than 100 miles from Giza.

Up to that time, it was one of the most lopsided military victories ever. And for many, including the author, it was an early exposure to the remarkable accomplishments of one of the smallest groups of people on the planet....

Read more in the book!