Yom Kippur War: The Price of Israeli Hubris

On October 8, 1973, shortly after 5 P.M., an Israel Defense Forces tank company ascended an Egyptian dune in Sinai, just before darkness, closing in to capture it. Within just a few minutes, the entire company of eight tanks was put out of commission. The deputy company commander’s tank was destroyed and four crew members inside were reported missing. The company commander’s tank was also hit, and descended from the hill.

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“What happened to us there? How did it happen that a fresh young company, whose commanders and soldiers embarked on the battle full of enthusiasm, crashed within less than half an hour?” wondered Oded Megiddo, the company commander, in a conversation with Haaretz this week. “We arrived at the battle with the enthusiasm of combat-hungry young bulls, who had just joined the front and whose greatest fear was missing the ‘action’ of the war,” he added.

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Megiddo, 70, was born in Tel Aviv, fought in the Six-Day War and in the War of Attrition, and in 1972 was discharged from active duty. In October 1973, at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, 46 years ago this week, he was called to command a tank company of reservists on the Suez Canal front. Company M of Tank Battalion 257, Brigade 421 in Ariel Sharon’s division. He was 24 years old.

The company’s failure to capture the Egyptian dune was for him a symptom and a characteristic of how the IDF functioned against the Egyptian army during the early days of the war. Faulty functioning, he says, which was characterized by chaos and resulted in failure all along the front.