The IDF distributed a revised version of research that its
Historical Branch conducted in 1992 on the Yom Kippur War.
The report has not been released up until now, due to the
opposition of various retired senior officers who were
involved in the war. However, a year ago, Chief of Staff
Moshe Ya'alon ordered that the research be updated and
The research, authored by Lt. Colonel (res.) Elhanan Oren,
was sent to the media last week, and the IDF is planning to
make it available to the public in the near future.
The History of the Yom Kippur War is based on research
originally classified as secret, but later downgraded to
confidential, in 1998, so more people could have access to
In the introduction to the volume, which is not classified,
the head of the Historical Branch, Colonel Shaul Shai, says
it is "meant to provide the reader with a broad overview, a
bird's eye view" of the war. However, browsing through the
book and comparing it to classified research on the war
provides less of a bird's eye view and more of a view of a
Criticism of the commander of Division 143 in October 1973,
Ariel Sharon, which characterized the 1992 edition, was
softened in the 2004 edition.
Extensive chapters from the two formerly secret volumes
edited by Oren, whose conclusion was that Israel failed to
prevent the war and emerged from it with military gains that
"were only partially related to the war aims, as they were
defined," were published in 2003, marking the war's 30th
Only then after that did Ya'alon authorize updating the
research that led to the recent release.
The new volume includes considerable criticism of the Air
Force and the way it was employed by the General Staff in the
early stages of the war. According to the original battle
plan, the Air Force was to establish air superiority on the
Egyptian front at the outset. Instead, because of the
pressure that was experienced on the Golan Heights from
Syria, the Air Force was ordered to split its activity
between the northern and the southern fronts, so that it did
half a job in both but a complete job in neither.
The report concludes that it is "worthwhile" to review the
considerations and the decisions that were taken by the
General Staff (Mateh Klali) in using the Air Force,
"even after taking account of the impressions created by the
reports and warnings from the front, that were darker than
The report notes that at 7 am on the second day of the war,
October 7, the Air Force was just beginning its operation
Taggar that included over 100 missions against AA batteries
and ground-to-air rocket installations, as well as attacks
against Egyptian air bases, when dire reports arrived from
the Syrian front that led Chief of Staff David Elazar to
transfer the main air effort to the north.
The hasty and ill-planned effort in the north began without
normal preliminary steps such as special flights to
photograph enemy positions and artillery bombardment. The air
operations were a near failure, with only two Syrian rocket
emplacements knocked out permanently and a third disabled for
only two days. Six planes were lost.
No sooner had that disastrous attack ended than the Air Force
was sent to the south, but not to carry out its original
plan. Rather it was sent to attack bridges over the Suez
Canal laid by the Egyptian military, as well as enemy supply
convoys. Even though the area was covered by enemy AA
batteries, this attack was successful. Seven bridges were
destroyed and another six were crippled. The Egyptian Third
Army was delayed by a full day, and it eventually found
itself effectively boxed in on the east bank of the canal.
The whipsaw of the Air Force resulted in the worst day of
losses for the entire war. Altogether 22 planes were shot
down, 13 from rockets, eight by ground fire and one in a
On subsequent days, Air Force was also not used in the way
that in retrospect seems most reasonable. Nonetheless,
besiyata deShmaya, the Air Force did establish
superiority over the enemy air forces, and prevented any
bombing of Israeli cities. In the end, the Air Force provided
crucial cover that allowed the reserve forces to get
organized and to go to reinforce the troops in the field.
The report also covers the confusion and cross-purpose action
that prevailed between General Ariel Sharon who commanded
Division 143 and was ordered to prepare just for defense.
Instead he attacked at various points, not always
successfully. Later he argued that he only attacked in the
context of preparing his defenses, but that was not the
impression he gave at the time to the commanders in the
In short, the more one hears the details of what happened,
the more one has to conclude that the most important ally in
war is Hashem Elokecho.