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The Yom Kippur War: The Arab-Israeli War of 1973

by Simon Dunstan, Osprey, Oxford, England, 2007, $24.95.

As astonishing as the Six-Day War of June 1967 had been, the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 was no less dramatic. Six years after inflicting humiliating defeats on Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian forces and occupying the Sinai and Golan Heights, Israel suddenly found itself under surprise attack from the north and south—and fighting for its very existence. Egyptian troops and tanks crossed the Suez Canal, overran the fortified Bar-Lev Line and moved inland to engage their Israeli counterparts in the largest armored engagements since World War II. In the Golan, the fighting made up for its narrower scope with intensity as two Israeli armored brigades made one of history’s epic stands to hold off a Syrian onslaught bolstered by contingents from other Arab nations.

Thirty-five years after the conflict, British armored warfare expert Simon Dunstan presents a concise and comprehensive summary. As with other such compendia from Osprey, the format requires—and gets—as balanced a picture as possible of the leaders, strategies, preparations, operations and outcomes of this brief yet complex war.

In the end, Israeli courage, ingenuity and command flexibility reversed the situations on both fronts. In contrast to 1967, the cost of that tactical victory in lives and the monetary equivalent of Israel’s annual gross national product was staggering. On the other side, Arab soldiers—especially Egyptian infantrymen using Soviet-developed, rocket-propelled grenades and antitank missiles, regained their self-respect.

In the longer run, on March 26, 1979, Egypt was able to secure a separate peace with Israel that culminated in withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Sinai Peninsula three years later. Syria maintains an uneasy cease-fire, while the Golan Heights remain in Israeli hands. Eclipsing the overt military events of 1973 is the messier war of terror and counterterror between the Israelis and Palestinians that has since come to the fore.

A concluding chapter describes the sights if one chooses to visit the battlefields today, with the disclaimer that access to the Golan Heights remains limited and hazardous along a border marked by a cease-fire but in an extant state of war— and still riddled with landmines.


Originally published in the December 2007 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here