The Six Day War: Day One

June 5th was the beginning.

Operation Focus was launched just before 8 a.m. when Israeli fighter bombers took off and headed out to sea. The goal was to grab control of the air as soon as possible, so that Israel’s air force could assist forces on the ground. Of course, the air strike was also timed to happen as the Egyptian High Command was commuting to their offices - and stuck in traffic at 8:45.

A half an hour after Israel’s Air Force takes off, General Gavish orders the army to engage Egyptian forces massed on Israel’s southern border.

Units of the Israeli army on the Jordanian and Syrian fronts were ordered to hold their defensive positions at all costs. The hope was that a quick defeat of the Egyptian army would keep the Jordanians and Syrians out of the war.  

In just two sorties, Israeli air power had neutralized Egyptian airbases and destroyed the majority of Egypt’s military aircraft on the ground. By noon, Jordan and Syria had entered the war, but early successes allowed the Israeli Air Force to redirect aircraft to attack and neutralize Jordanian and Syrian air fields.  

Most sources confirm that Israel was very interested in keeping Jordan out of the war altogether and had been sending messages to that effect, asking them to maintain their defensive posture. The Jordanian army was small but extremely well trained and had a high level of moral. Furthermore, the Jordanian army needed only eight miles to advance to cut Israel in half.

Unfortunately, Gamal Abdel Nasser was more persuasive, claiming that Egypt was winning its battles in the Sinai. Nasser told King Hussein that his armies were pushing back across the border into Israel and that he’d better get in on the victory – or look like a fool. 

Israeli intelligence intercepted Jordan’s agreement to enter the war, and Israeli population centers came under attack by Jordanian artillery. In response, at 3 p.m., Israeli armor crossed into the northern part of the West Bank, near Jenin. General Uzi Narkis also ordered the Har El* Brigade, near Jerusalem, to take Jordanian fortifications on Radar Hill. After one of the toughest battles of the Six Day War, Radar Hill falls by 7:30 p.m.

The way to Jerusalem was open.

*Har El means Mountain of God in Hebrew.   

3 thoughts on “The Six Day War: Day One

  1. There are actually some very interesting videos on the Time Magazine website..Somehow my computer was unable to view them smoothly..this annoying war between Macintosh and Microsoft has got to end.

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