Skip to comments.Kazakhstani Veteran of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War
Posted on 07/23/2005 2:27:54 AM PDT by struwwelpeter
"I was born in the Taldykurganskaya district in 1952," Danakan said. "When called up for military service, I was sent first to Amur, in the air defense forces. After about a half-year they sent us through an intensive training course. A bit later we found out that we were to be sent to 'a hot spot'. They didn't say which one, but we all thought it was going to be Vietnam. Our deployment day arrived and we were dressed up in civilian clothes and told that from then on, oficially we were sports instructors. Then we boarded a ship, but we didn't end up in Vietnam. Our ship docked at the port of Alexandria."
Even today, little is known about the USSR's role in the Arab-Israeli wars. Officially, there were no Soviet soldiers in the Near East. The Soviet Union actively assisted the Arab nations, sending weapons and equipment, what else could they do? The Soviet Union just could not stand by while their eternal enemy, the USA, lavished forces and materials in support of the new Israeli government, which was waging war to the left and right almost from her first day. The first war between Israel and the Arab world began in 1948, when the Israelis seized 7000 square kilometers of Palestine. Nine hundred thousand Arab residents were driven from this territory, even though the land had been assigned to them by a 1947 UN resolution. In addition, Israel grabbed the western half of Jerusalem, despite a UN demand that Jerusalem remain an independent administrative entity. The eastern half of Jerusalem at that time went to Jordan. In 1967, Israel seized the other part of the holy city. Thus, it was not difficult for the Soviet Union to justify helping 'fraternal peoples in a just struggle against Israeli extremists and their overseas accomplices'.
"Our unit had two missions: testing new weapons systems and instructing the local personnel," the soldier-internationalist recalled. "I remember we were paid in Egyptian pounds. A plain sergeant got as much as an Egyptian engineer. Officers got a lot more. A lot of them bought cars when they got home."
Before their attack on Israel, Egypt made a pact with Syria. As a result, the armies of the two outnumbered that of Israel three to one, in both men and armor, and the first days of the war went poorly for the Israelis. Soon euphoria gripped the Egyptian and Syrian commanders. They ceased listening to their Soviet advisers, and began to make fatal errors. In particular, they stretched their forces too thin, creating a broad, but shallow front. General Sharon exploited this, and with only seven tanks he broke through the front, crossed the Suez canal, and headed straight for the Egyptian capital, Cairo. With reinforcement he could have seized Cairo and, who knows? Perhaps even joined Egypt to Israel, or some large part of it. When Sharon was only 100 kilometers from Cairo, however, the US ordered Israeli forces to proceed no further, otherwise the Soviet Union may have entered the war, and it would not have been a handful of sportsmen in a conspiracy, but the regular army. Soviet air divisions were on alert, and a large part of the air transportation command was preparing for troop deployments to the Near East. Soviet ships were nearing the Egyptian shores as well.
|Sergey Tereshchenko, photo Valeriya Kalieva|
A related thread here: Russia's secret wars
An Egyptian tragedy
And then there occurred a whole bunch of catastrophies, as if to spite headquarters. The Jews stole a brand-new radio-location station, using a helicopter. The flew in across the canal, smashed the weak guard detail, hooked the wagon up to the helicopter and just flew off with it. We set up a new air-defense station, but the enemy would just not give up. They flew in before we got them in operation, and blew them to bits. Many of our air-defense officers were killed.
Another big event: three torpedo boats left Port Said to lay some AMD-500 sea-bottom mines. The first boat flopped around and then broke off. The second dropped its mine and then blew up; nothing was left. The third boat turned and took off to who knows where - we searched for it for a long time. The (Egyptian) command had been following them, to review their heroism, but was located on the second torpedo boat which blew up. The Arabs had been laying these mines on their own, without our instructors.
And so, our Soviet command steps in. It's an emergency situation. The entire Directorate of Mines and Torpedoes arrives from Moscow, and the hotel 'Hyde Park' is full of these specialists, though many never made it out of the bar. After this, the Arabs didn't trust our weapons anymore. Bagir (the officer he was seconded to) would follow me around, whinnying like a horse: "I've got six torpedoes at ready and six in reserve. Twelve altogether," and the he'd look at me, to see what I'd say, waiting.
And so, the Egyptians decided to conduct a test. They decided that they would secretly select a boat, point to a torpedo and order it fired. I saw how Bagir was so afraid that he'd be the one. What if it blows up again? But they chose another boat, it launched the torpedo and all went alright. The Egyptian commander came by, bringing with him a piece of the exploded torpedo: "Wow, Mister Volodya!" Why this "Wow!"? He was carrying around this hunk of metal, and shaking all over. Children.