The Yom Kippur War took the CIA by surprise
On October 6, 1973, the Yom Kippur war broke out between a coalition of Arab states and Israel. At 6 A.M. that morning, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, asleep in the Waldorf, was taken by surprise by the Arab attack — as were the CIA and the rest of the world.
There are all kinds of interpretations as to how and why the war began, and how it ended. Some say that the Arab states believed the Israel Defense Force (IDF) would not be able to defend Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year, so they conducted a surprise attack on Saturday, October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur. Eighteen days later, the war ended on October 24, 1973, with a ceasefire agreement.
But wait a minute! Other experts say that it was Israel who started the Six-Day War, that it began with a preemptive Israeli air assault against Egypt and Syria. An Israeli ground offensive was also launched in the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. These territories were all captured by Israel, though the Sinai Peninsula was later returned to Egypt.
When the dust settled, the battlefield was cluttered with bereavement: 2,569 Israelis were killed and 7,500 wounded; Syria lost an estimated 3,500 dead, with 21,000 wounded; and Egypt had an estimated 15,000 killed and 30,000 wounded.
The war did have far-reaching implications, and an eventual peace process between Egypt and Israel began. The talks resulted in the return of the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for lasting peace.
Most experts say that Israel won the war, thanks to the U.S. When Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise attack on Israeli forces in the Sinai and the Golan Heights, Israel eventually repelled the attack and regained lost ground due to a massive U.S. airlift of weapons in an operation called Nickel Grass. Many believe Israel would not have survived the coordinated and surprise attack from the Soviet-backed Arab Republic of Egypt and Syrian Arab Republic if it wasn’t for Operation Nickel Grass.
The Israeli counterattack, with American weapons and supplies, resulted in Egypt losing 23,500-square-miles of turf in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, Jordon losing the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Syria losing the strategic Golan Heights.
I must bring in CIA spymaster Charles “Charlie” Allen into the discussion. I met him years ago at an Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) seminar in Tysons Corner, Va. He was the former Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. In this video, titled Military Intelligence during the Yom Kippur War, Allen dissects the CIA’s military analysis of the event.
Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community, and relishes traveling to the Florida Keys and Key West, the Bahamas and Caribbean. He combines both passions in his Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.