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Zke battie for Suez Gtg occurred during the closing daus of the

1973 October War. Suez Ci@ was tacticaiig importan~ sitting

ostride the Third Eguption Arm@ on~ line of comm~ication. It
was strategical~ importan4 controlling the entrance to the Suez
CanaL It was politicaiig importan~ being the keg to ciaiow of both
belligerent. The battle wos won bu the Eggpti~ armu who% lead-
ers had studied their enemg well and wkow oddiers fought with

HE battle for Suez city in the 1973
Arab-Israeli conflict can best be ap-
preciated when it is examined within the

context of the overall military-political
situation. Coming as it did at the end of
1 the 1973 October War, a brief timetabIe
~w~- of major evente of tihewar is in ordw.

6 October 1973: 1400 War S&tS on Gob rindSinaifronts.

6-8 Octobe= Egyptian crossing of SuezCanaland Syrianattackinto
Gobmboth achievedramaticsuccess,
8 October IsraeIicountmattacksfailmiserablyinSinaiandachieve ~
considerablesuccessintbe GokurHeights.
D- 9 Octobe~ Stabifimtionof Sinaifrontbegiw lastbig Syrianattack
is brokenin Gofan.
10Octoben Israelrecapturesaflof Gofan.
11-13 Octobe~ tsraelattacks into Syria. Stabilizationof Syrianfront
begin%IsraefiDefenseForces(IDF}begbrto trrmeferair
andgroundassets tmSk@ front. In trouble,SyriateUs
Egyptto increescpressure.
i Dawm One of the largest tenk battles in history as 7
* 14be Egypt attacks out of tbe bridgehead.Egypt suffers
15 Octobex PM:Battleof Chinesefarmbegins.
16 Octoben 120028 IDF tanksferriedacrosscanalattack west in
smallteamsto expandbridgeheadanddestroysurface
to-airmissile(SAM)sitxs. Egypt recognizesa crossing
by lsrael,but believesthat it is fimitedta six or seven
i 17October: IDF pontoon bridge completed. Counterattackby
Egyptianarmorbrigadeon EastBankis defested.
~ 18-22 Octobe~ fkrcondandthirdIDF bridgescompleted;Israelisattack *
north towsrd Ismailia,srmtb towardCairo-Suezroad.
Egyptiansbegbrto stockpilemoundsof suppfiesin Suez
City, transportingby camel,horse and car. Until the
21st. Emmt was not awareof the magnitudeof tbe
lsraefi c;o&ing. Peaceinitiativesby the-UnitedStates
to Egypt, Israel,USSRundertaken by fCissinger.Sadst
not fulfyawareof the dangerto ThirdArmy. Egyptian
SAM umbrdfa weakening.United States is caught in
superpowerconfrontationwith USSR. Israel not fully
awarethat UnitedStatesintendsh step thewarat this
poirrc Israelintenton destructionor captureof Third
eutii sporadically. !
_ 22Ott.abet UnitedNstions(UN~SecurityCounciImeetingimposes
ceasefire and cessationof sIIndfitaryactivity at 1852. v -*
Both sides realizeidly tfrstwarie mar end 8nd try to *.
extendareasof controlfor propagandaandpofiticslpur-
~ses. Egypt cays that smallraidingptiles haveirdil-
trated on the West Bankof the canaland are on the w
verge of elimination.,Israelclaims to hsve surrounded
the ThirdArmy and to controla bu~ chunkof Egypt.
23October: IsracJattemptsto completeits encirclement of tfv?Third
Army.Egypt fightsh clearfinesof ccanmunications for s

At 1700 on 23 O~tober, the lead@ builtup areas, calls for mobile armored
tankcompanyfiom enerel Bren Adans forces attacking on roade in column. Sur-
division reached St ez City and at- prise, epeed, firepower and shock effect
tempted to enter by the gate on the are used by these forces to break through
Ismailia-Suez road. Itwas beaten off by the enemys defeneee, enabling the IDF
artillery fire from the Eaet Bank (di- to mop up from within the defendere
rected from talf buildings in Suez) and by position or behind it. In the Golan, the
direct fire from the gate. General Adan rocky terrain inhibits rapid croes+ountry
aeked General Gonenif he should attack movement and damagee tracks and sue-
Suez. The reply wae to attack if Suez wae peneion systems. In Sinai and in the
empty or lightly defended, but not if it deeert west of Suez, deep sand slowe
was heavily fortified and defended. cross-country movement considerably
At this point, Suez City was important and increases the chances of getting
for severaf reaeone. It sat aetride the etuck.
only fine of communication to the Third In the Sii-Day War of 1967, nearly all
Egyptian Armfi it contained 4moun- IDF attacks, both in the Golan and in
taine of supplies of elf typee for the Sinai, were made mounted and on roads.
Third Army (although the Israelis were In Jerusalem in 1967, the attack that iso-
ignorant of this); it controlled the lated the city and the break-in and cap-
entrance to the Suez Canal and wae itself ture of the Temple Mount wae made on
a port on the Gulf of Suez. An Ieraeli roade with tanks leading, infantry in
capture of Suez would squash Egypts armored personnel carriers (APCe) and
claims to be on the verge of eliminating half-tracks following considerably to the
the infiltrating raiding parties and rear. In fact, the operation order stated
would establish Israeli control over the that if enemy artillery fire wae particu-
area in the eyes of the UN forcee. (UN larly heavy, the tmrke would attack
Emergency Forcee (UNEF ) were tasked alone.
with implementing the cease-fire and Israels welldocumented success in the
marking zonee controlled by each army.) Six-Day War eerved to convince the IDF
On the other hand, failure by the Israelis that tanks can do it all, alone, and that a
to establish their control over the area rapid, violent attack right down the road
might lead to a situation where the wilf unhinge the defending enemy. This
UNEF recognized Sadate claims, and doctrine was apparently ahnost univer-
IDF succeeses minimized. sally accepted for both open terrain and
At this point, neither army was clearly in builtup areas. The Israelis brought
in control of the area west of Suez, this charge of the light brigade con-
including the Cairo-Suez road. The Ie- cept with them to Suez.
raelis were unaware of the extent of The great preponderance of buildmge
Egyptian preparation in Suez and hoped in Suez are two and three-story resi-
for a quick victory which would serve dences constructed of dried mud and
them well, both politically and psychw stucco. The larger government buildings
logically. Egypt was furious with Israel end some of the bueinesees are reinforced
for violating the cease-fire and was concrete and brick. The brick used in
determined not to lose Suez. Egypt ie said to be much etronger than
Ieraeli experience and doctrine for the type used in America.
attacking, whether in open terrain or in There are a number of large apartment


houses of kix ta eight ffoom, constructed form a broad avenue 200 meters wide,
of reinfor~ed concrete. These buildings leading to the heart of the city. The road
are in rows of four or six, and were, for from Adabmh enters the city from the
the most part, shot out in the upper south, then swinge west into an indus.
etoriee by Ieraefi artilIery during the trial area. Apparently, thie is not a good
war of attrition that foflowed the 1967 avenue of approach to the center of the
war. In residential areas, the buildings city.
are only 1 to 2 meters apart. The narrow There are numerous other gates inta
alle s formed by this arrangement are Suez, come of which are large enough for
near\ y always shaded and too narrow for vehicles. However, the larger ones had
easy passage of vehicles. (Vehicles can been blocked by rubble and mines, and
pass through some side streets, but will the smaller once were inadequate for
be forced to turn and double back several maneuver of an armored column. Along
times.) the Suez Canal to the eaet of the city,
Most buildings have flat roofs with dense vegetation prohibite observation
easy access from within. Window open- at ground level and would seriously
ings are universally free of glass or other .kupede off-road movement. Suez creek is
windows. Many buildings have porchee a marshy area impassable to vehiclee. An
on upper floors with large open windows. Israeli strongpoint, captured at the be-
This type of construction allows plenty ginning of the war, providee the ordy
of ventilation but stays shadowed. The point of intervisibfity between the city
effect is an excellent location for anti- end the East Bank (see map).
tank weapons. The problem with back- Egypt had begun to pkm for the d~
blast of recoillees weapons is minimal fense of Suez at Ieeet a year before the
compared to European-type construc- war. The description of wh t follows
tion. There are no underground passage- aPPlies equdy to Suez, Ie cilia and
ways, but the third dimeneion of the bat- Quentara (West). A parallel . %wy+ivff
tlefield is present in that in many areas, government had been establie 4 ed. In the
infantrymen can advance by eimply step event of war, the military godemor had
ping fi-om roof to roof. complete authority over efl military,
Although there are only a few main civilian and civil government aesete.
streets, they are very wide, in one case, Sixty percent of the population of Suez
at least 200 meters between buildinge on wae evacuated a year before the war.
either side of the street. These main Only essential civiliane remained. These
streets are etraight, allowing the use of were police, firemen, government offl-
antitank guided missiles (ATGMs) and ciale, bankers, store ownere, bakers,
other direc~fire weapons at ranges not pharmacists, hospital workere end the
ueually found in cities. like. Mifitary police from the Third
There are three main gates %0 the city: Army were tasked to control the main
one each on the road. to Ismailia, Cairo gates to the city. Civilians were given
end Adabiah. Outside the city, the road weapons training and were organized to
to Ismeilia is en asphalt road just wide defend the outer perimeter of the city,
enough to accommodate one column of less the three main gatee.
tapks. The road to Cairo is wide enough One mqnth before the start of the war,
for at least two columns of tanks outside the civilian militia were issued weapons
the city. Within the gates, it widens tQ and given stepped-up treiniqg. Smell

30 Novembor



positions at the kill zAnes. Each bat-
talion was asked for one machinegun
team. Alf these requeste were fifled by
The Egyptian mifitary governor had
decided that the best way to eneure euc-
cese in the defense of Suez wae to draw
the Israelie into the kill zones before
engaging them. The second UN cease-
fire went into effect at 0700, 24
October. Shortly after the new cease-fire
went inta effect, the Israelis tired a
sort of reconnaissance-by-fire int.a Suez
as their attack formed up. The lack of
responee from Suez helped to convince
them that the defendera had fled, or were
gates were blocked with mines and very weak. At about 1330, the Israelis
rubble. Gates required for normal uee attacked down the Cairo-Suez road and
were prepared for demolition but not the Ismsifia road with an armored bri-
executed. Artillery and reconnaissance gade and at least a battalion of para-
teams were given designated poeitions in troops mounted in APCS and half-
selected tall buildings. Commend posts tracke.
and eupply pointe for criticsf items were The tanks led in column down the main
located in bank vaulte where they would s]reets followed by the mounted in-
be virtually guaranteed physicrd safety. fantry. Apparently, the attack wae made
Supply pointe for food and so forth were at high speed. When the main column
designated in etoree and werehousee. reached the kifl zone near the police sta-
Communications means of the mifitary tion, the firet three tanks were hit by
end civif government were centralized. RPGs, and the last vehicles in the COL
A number of kilf zonee were pre- umn were hit juet outeide the gate to the
pared within the city on main streete. city, partially blocking the road. The
Structures blocking pf.anned $ire were Israelis, reafiziig that they had mn into
razed to cleef fields of fire, and positions a trap, drove the remaining tanks and
were chosen in the bottom two floors of tracks off the main road onto eide streete
strongly constructed buildinge. Between in an attempt to get out of the kill zone.
16 and 21 October, an artillery defense ID a little over an hour, the pehicles were
plan was made in order to facilitate all hit. .
artillery eupport from the East Bank. Egyptian militia had good success
Two tenk battalion were positioned in with RPGs, Molotov cocktails, and the
the area of the bridge across the canal to ~arn grenade. Thie ie a shaped+harge
defend the bridge and provide over- grenade, shaped roughly like a fat wine
watcbing fire to the northeast of Suez. bottle, with a strong magnet on the base.
Each brigade of the n~w.surrounded The idee is to run up end place it on the
Third Army wae asked to eupply one side or rear of a tank, pull the pin and
Stigger team and three RPG teems to run. The Egyptians apparently had con-
defend the gates of Suez and to man the siderable success against half-tracks by

32 November

simply dropping the grenades into the the Cairo-Suez road by an Ieraeli road-
open half-track from second-floor block, the Ieraeli Defenee Forces tried
windowe. one more time to get into Suez, but gave
Some bits were registered by Egyptian up when they found that it wae still
Army Sagger teams, flying the ATGMe defended.
down the main street at a range of ab ut The Ieraeli attacks failed becauee ofi
600 meters. When Israeli vehiclee w% e Poor Ieraeli intelligence on defenees.

bit, their crewe jumped out and ran into No use, of maneuver, no dismounted
nearby buildinge. A large number forced infantry. (Tanks led the attack. )
their way into the police etation and c Poor knowledge of Suez maps, pho-
defended euccesefully until dark when tographs, reconnaissance.
Egyptian comrnandoe jumped onto the Good organization of the city by de-

roof from a nearby building and forced fenders.

the Israelis out of the building. QCoordk&tion between Egyptian mil-
The force that attacked down the itary defenders and militia enhanced
Ismailia-Suez road ran into a number of through training, cooperation and unity
ambuehes rather than one large kill zone, of command,
but the effect was the came. About 20 High morale and willingness to stay

tanks and armored vehiclee were de and fight among civil militia.
stroysd on the Cairo-Suez road and eight Effective use of weapons by de-
on the Iemailia road. The Ieraelie later fendereRPG, Hosam, Sagger, Molotov
admitted to 88 killed or captured soldiere cocktail.
and 28 tanks and armored vehicles de- Excellent epotting for Egyptian
stroyed in thie attack. Egyptian losses artillery used with reetreint.
were very light. Weak Israeli artillery (not much was

Adsne divieion spent 25 October prob- on the West Bank, and most of that was
ing the perimeter of the city for a week in the north near Ismsilia ).
spot. Apparently, it was looking for an Israeli air power not used. The Third

undefended opening. Ten more tanke Egyptian Armys air defense artillery
were destroyed, mostly juet outeide the umbrella provided partial coverage. Aleo,
city. Egyptian artillery support wae par- the Ieraeli Defense Forcee could not use
ticularly effective. It had not been ueed air in cloee support becauee they did not
at all in the battle on the 24th. know exactly where their own forces
On 28 October, juet prior to the arrival were.
of UN observers who had been held on a

Major Glenn F. Rogers Jr. is S3 of the 2d
Brigade, 3d Armored Division, in Gelnhausen,
West Germany. He received a masters degree
from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and IS a
1979 gmduate
of the USACGSC. His assign-
include serving as commander of a
mobih aduiso~ team in Vietnam and as an
officer for a tank battalion in
- .-


1979 33