The Six Day War: Day Two

Day two of the war dawns.

Day One was an unparalleled success, and the question was whether day two would be as unqualified a victory.

One of the most famous sayings attributed to military battle plans is this one:

No plan survives the first enemy contact*
       — Helmut von Moltke, the Elder (1800-1891)

The plan had already had one failure. The goal was to avoid combat with the Jordanians. That part had failed already. But, the great power of Israeli war fighting, and the Israelis themselves, was flexibility. Provision had already been made for the opening of the Jordanian front, and Israeli units were making steady progress.

Imagine the mindset of the commanders as they met with one success after another. When was the plan going to fail?

Commanders on the Israeli front were meeting every single objective on, or ahead of, schedule. But, it would be the Jordanian front that would bring the greatest concern on Day Two.

One of the cruelest battles of the war began at 2:30 a.m. at Ammunition Hill, near the Old City of Jerusalem. In attempt to rescue the units cut off on Mount Scopus, a company from a reserve battalion of paratroopers was sent in to take the Jordanian fortifications near the Jordanian police school.  A reinforced company of 150 Jordanian soldiers held Ammunition Hill and refused to surrender. The next three and half hours was the ugliest in trench warfare and the Jordanians fought to the last man.

Just as the battle for Ammunition Hill was winding down, combat in the north of the West Bank was heating up. In attempt to pry the 45th Brigade of the Israeli Army from Jenin, the 40th Brigade of the Jordan Legion began its counterattack at 6 a.m. The Israeli advance in the north would be stalled for the next eleven hours as both sides fought for control of the Dotan Valley. It wasn’t until 5 p.m. that the Israeli army would be able to restart its advance.

Meanwhile, the conquest of Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Sinai was moving along quickly. By the end of the day, both the Egyptian and Jordanian armies were beginning their first organized retreat.

As Day Two came to a close, the commanders of the Israeli army were finally coming to realize that they were going to make it. It would be several days later before the rest of Israel would see it for themselves.  

The best was yet to come.

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*Translated from German. The original quote was:

Kein Plan überlebt die erste Feindberührung.

Most of the time, it is incorrectly translated as:

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

It’s the same idea, but fussy amateur military historians like yours truly are horrified by such inaccuracies.

   — JL