Battle of The Chinese Farm

Battle of the Chinese Farm
Part of the Yom Kippur War

DateOctober 15-16, 1973
Locationabandoned agricultural station, 800 yards north of the Operation Gazelle crossing point (on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal)
ResultIsraeli victory
Combatants
Egypt Israel
Commanders
Chief-of-Staff Gen. Saad el ShazlyBattalion Commander Lt. Col Amram Mitzna
Battalion Commander Lt. Col Avraham Almog
Brigade Commander Col. Amnon Reshef
Division Commander Gen. Ariel Sharon
Strength
One understrength (but extremely well dug-in) Mechanized Infantry Division, later reinforced by elements of the 3 Armored Brigades retreating from the EastOne nearly full-strength Armored Brigade (97 tanks), with an attached understrength Mechanized Infantry Regiment
Casualties
unknownunknown


The Battle of the Chinese Farm was fought on October 15-16, 1973 as part of the Yom Kippur War's Operation Gazelle, the Israeli plan to strike the seam between the 2nd and 3rd Egyptian Armies holding the eastern bank of the Suez Canal, pushing the Egyptians back long enough to allow portable pontoon bridges to be assembled across the canal. Gen. Ariel Sharon's 143rd Armoured Division would then proceed across the bridges to savage the unprotected rear areas and supply lines of the Egyptian armies.

The Agricultural Station

The battle's name comes from its location: an abandoned experimental agricultural station on the east bank of the Suez Canal covering nearly 15 square miles. During the 1950s the Egyptian government had founded the station to study the possibility of irrigating and growing crops in the arid soil of the Sinai. They dug deep and extensive irrigation ditches across the entire facility, and imported automated irrigation equipment from Japan. The facility was eventually abandoned completely some time prior to 1967. Israeli troops, capuring the station (and the rest of Sinai) during the course of the Six Day War, noticed the markings on the pumps and other machinery and mistook the Japanese characters for Chinese, leading to the facility being cryptically labelled "Chinese Farm" on military maps.

During the Yom Kippur War, the station was retaken by the Egyptians and occupied by elements of the 2nd Egyptian Army. The strategically-important Lexicon and Tirtur roads both passed within firing distance of the farm, and the large interconnected network of irrigation trenches made it a highly desirable natural strongpoint.

Prelude

The Egyptians had used the element of surprise to its full advantage when they captured the east bank of the Suez during the first days of the war. The plan established with Syria called for Egypt to act as a second front, diverting Israeli resources long enough for the Syrians to penetrate the Golan Heights and flood into Israel via the Jordan Valley. Since transversing the massive Sinai Desert to attack Israel directly was (wisely) deemed impossible, the Egyptians resolved to recapture as much territory (lost during the Six-Day War) as possible and then settle in for a (hopefully short) war of attrition. As such, they had made a priority of immediately fortifying the recaptured east bank of the Sinai, digging in behind their extensive network of AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles and SA-6 Gainful SAM batteries, rendering the front nearly impervious to the two favored techniques of the IDF; fast, smashing armored attacks backed up by continuous airstrikes. These techniques had devastated the poorly-trained armies of Egypt during the Six-Day War, but subsequently the Egyptians had dedicated considerable time, training, and funding specifically to countering them.

Still, the Israeli generals were slow to accept this new paradigm. On October 8, General Shmuel Gonen, Commander of the Southern Front, ordered a full-scale armored attack against the new Egyptian fortifications on the east bank of the canal. The Egyptian forces were prepared, and the charging Israeli tank formations, which had once seemed unstoppable juggernauts, now became easy targets for the long-range Sagger missiles. The attack was quickly and definitively repulsed with massive Israeli losses. Gonen, by all accounts frustrated and baffled by his failure to penetrate the Egyptian lines, ordered an immediate halt to all attacks. Unfortunately, this played directly into the hands of the Egyptians, who were content to follow Sadat's war plan and buy time for their Syrian allies while tying up desperately needed Israeli tanks in a useless static defense role.

Gonen, still reeling from his inability to break the Egyptian line using standard tactics and his failure to rescue the trapped infantrymen on the Bar-Lev Line, continued to waste precious hours in fruitless conferencing and plotting without developing a new plan of action. On October 10, he was quietly replaced as Southern Front Commander by General Chaim Bar-Lev. Bar-Lev had been recalled to duty from his position as Minister of Trade and Industry at the direct personal request of Golda Meir, who had been informed of Gonen's haplessness. Seeking to prevent the drop in morale that would inevitably follow the firing of a front commander, Gonen was instead re-assigned as Bar-Lev's Chief of Staff and nominal superior. [1]

Operation Stouthearted Men

By October 11, Bar-Lev and his division commanders (Generals Major Ariel Sharon and Avrahan "Bren" Adan, had constructed a plan to penetrate the Egyptian lines. Entitled "Operation Stouthearted Men" (Abiray-Lev in Hebrew), it took advantage of a key discovery Sharon's reconnaissance units had made: a major gap existed between the Egyptian defensive lines on the eastern bank of the canal, between 2nd and 3rd Army near Deversoir. In an apparent major planning error, the Egyptian unit which had defended that section of the line had been ordered north, with no unit ever being tasked to take its place. Standard Soviet war doctrine mandated unwavering obedience to the Central Operations Plan and provided commanders with as little intelligence as was necessary to complete their individual roles. This resulted in the commanders of neither 2nd nor 3rd Army ever bothering to verify the integrity of their flank, each assuming the gap had been filled by the other without bothering to inform them.

The first stage of the plan called for Sharon's division to penetrate the gap in the Egyptian lines, destroy any forces in the Deversoir area, seize a bridgehead on both sides of the canal using simple pontoon bridges and inflatable rafts, and protect it at all costs. Adan's division would mount a diversionary/blocking attack on the exposed southern flank of the 3rd Egyptian Army and northern flank of the 2nd Army in order to prevent them from attacking Sharon's force during the vulnerable bridge construction process. Combat engineers would then, under the protection of Sharon's division, would quickly move to the eastern bank and deploy the massive Israeli-designed "roller bridge" across the canal. Once the bridge was in place, Sharon's division would cross the canal and Adan's division would retreat to the crossing area and defend the site.

In the midst of this planning period, on October 14 the Egyptians launched a second coordinated offensive against the entire Israeli line from their strongpoints on the eastern bank of the Sinai. Personally ordered by President Anwar Sadat at the pleading of the thinly-stretched Syrians in the Golan Heights, and received with horror by his General Staff, the attack was a massive and near-suicidal frontal attack straight into the guns of the newly-buttressed Israeli defenses. Sadat made no pretense of attempting a breakthrough, but now sought merely to harass the Israelis and deny them any opportunity to reassign any of their (largely idle) Southern Front forces to the now-critical battles ongoing in the Golan Heights. In the largest tank battle since World War II[2], the Egyptian force of 1,000 tanks and 5,000 mechanized infantry faced 800 expertly dug-in and camouflaged Israeli tanks and their supporting infantry. By the end of the day, the Egyptians had lost 260 tanks and had suffered over 1,000 casualties. The Israeli losses were 8 tanks and 19 infantry. [3] This provided precisely the sort of disruption the Israelis needed. Operation Stouthearted Men was set to start at dawn, October 15.

The operation began in earnest with Sharon's initial assault on the crossing site, which he quickly secured. The first and most immediate problem developed when General Amon Reshef's brigade advanced to the north along the Lexicon Road and into the rear of the Egyptian 2nd Army zone. At the intersection of the Titur and Lexicon roads, Reshef's seven battalions stumbled upon the heart of both the 16th Infantry Division and the 21st Armored Division. The Chinese Farm, which dominated the critical Tirtur road, was now seen to be held by at least a brigade of infantrymen, rendering the road to the crossing site impassable.

The Tirtur Road was the only road wide and hard enough to carry the massive towable roller-bridge his tanks needed to cross the canal. The bridge was the sole model of its type available on the Southern Front; destruction of the bridge meant the failure of the operation. The Farm had to be attacked and the corridor safely widened before the bridge could be moved into place and the tanks could start crossing the canal.

Adan now committed his two armor brigades, under the command of Colonels Natke Baram and Gavriel Amir, to the area of the Akavish-Tirtur road junction. Their mission was to open the Tirtur road. When they advanced, however, they were met by long range Sagger fire, and signs of heavily fortified Egyptian positions. The brigades proceeded west under heavy fire while the Egyptian infantry forces, concealed in the many ditches which criss-crossed the area, laid down heavy and accurate long-range Sagger fire. Adan realized that his armored units were sitting ducks trying to advance any further down the Tirtur Road, and promptly requested infantry support to clear out the Sagger and RPG teams, ditch by ditch. An Airborne Infantry brigade commanded by Colonel Uzi Ya'iri was assigned the task, although they were 80km to the west at the time. Their arrival would take nearly two hours, slowing the process further. The two brigades took murderous losses from Saggers and RPGs as they hastily withdrew from the area of the Farm.

Sharon, who had still not enountered any Arab resistance, personally crossed over to the western side of the canal. He refused to set up a defensive beachhead on the western edge of the canal, and instead utilized the few tanks he had managed to cross by that point to form SAM and rear-echelon supply raiding parties, even though the mission parameters specifically stated that continuation of the mission would be contingent on clearing the road corridor and installing the roller bridge.

Despite the delays, the diversionary attacks against the Egyptians worked well, causing the Egyptians to think the Israelis were trying to roll up their armies by the flanks. Sharon's successful occupation of the crossing point and embarkation of tanks to the western bank was not reported to the Egyptian command. Finally, when Gonen and Bar-Lev threatened to cancel the operation entirely and order him to return his units back to the other side, Sharon relented

The Assault

It was already 2200 before Colonel Ya'iri finally arrived at Gen. Adan's command post. His troops landed soon after by helicopter, which had only been supplied when their buses had gotten stuck in the massive traffic jam of vehicles waiting to cross once the bridges were assembled. There would be no tanks or APC's because of the full moon. The paratroopers had neglected to bring any artillery spotters. Rather than delay the attack for another hour while one came from Adan's artillery batteries, they agreed that the Colonel could personally request fire missions over Adan's division command net. The preparations for the assault proceeded with a palpable sense of urgency. If the Chinese Farm could not be cleared by daylight, the paratroopers would be exposed to the full deadly force of the Egyptian fire from the nearby Missouri ridge. The battalion departed down Tirtur Road at midnight with no chance for reconnaissance or serious preparation. Within the hour, the enormity of the task set in and it became obvious that the infantry couldn't clear the road before daylight. In desperation, Adan sent a scout company in APC's down the Akavish Road to probe for any kind of hole that could allow them to bypass the withering fire of the Farm.

At 0245, the Airborne battalion located the Farm. They began receiving heavy artillery and small-arms barrages. Even the Saggers were used against the infantrymen, making movement almost impossible. Israeli artillery fire, by contrast, was ineffective. Several attempts were made to move around either flank of the Egyptian position, all of which met with massive barrages of machine-gun fire and Saggers and were unsuccessful.

Just as the brutal night-time infantry fighting began to increase in intensity, the scout company reported in. Amazingly, the Akavish Road was open and unimpeded all the way up to the Lexicon junction. With time rapidly running out, Adan decided to take a major risk. He called back the APC-mounted scout company, then sent them back down the Akavish Road with the irreplaceable unifloat rafts mounted to their sides. An understrength tank battalion was assigned to escort them along the sand dunes to the north of Akavish. Bulldozers were sent ahead of the convoy to push wrecked vehicles off the road. The convoy departed at 0400, while the paratroopers' desperate battle was occupying the attention of the Egyptians. By 0630 on the 17th, the rafts had reached the Canal, and construction of the first real bridge began immediately.

Now that his primary objective had been met, Adan turned his full attention to opening the roads to the crossing site. He sent both of his tank brigades down the Akavish Road and north against the Egyptian positions. Elements of an Egyptian infantry and armor division had been attacking south in an attempt to pinch off Sharon's penetration of the line. They collided with the Israeli force between the Akavish and Tirtur roads and began a battle that lasted all morning and prevented the brigades from relieving the beleaguered paratroopers at the Farm.

On the morning of October 17, the 14th Egyptian armored brigade, which had been preventing any ingress to the area of the Farm from the west, retreated to the north. This allowed for the one available Israeli tank brigade to hit the main Egyptian force at the Farm from the rear. The Egyptians began to grudgingly and painfully retreat behind a curtain of Sagger fire, allowing the Israeli brigades to temporarily move to support the paratroopers still pinned-down in the ditches of the Chinese Farm area. Although the tankers were still under heavy and effective Sagger fire, they quickly collected the infantrymen, then pulled back at top speed to stronger positions on the Tirtur Road. In total, the paratroopers had lost 80 wounded and 40 killed, among which were two company commanders. Armor losses from the supporting and relieving elements had also been heavy.

The first Israeli attempt to attack the Chinese Farm was annihilated. Another attempt was made by Israeli paratroopers, and they were quickly pinned down and put in danger of annihilation as well. Reinforcements were sent but they ran into an Egyptian tank brigade. After a day and a half of savage fighting, two hundred fifty Egyptian tanks had been destroyed, the Egyptians had been chased off the farm, and the Israelis were able to place the bridge across the canal.

General Sharon led these forces behind the Egyptian third army and they cut the supply lines. Sixty-thousand Egyptian soldiers were trapped on the Sinai peninsula, and they were running out of ammunition, food, and most importantly (in the desert) water. The Egyptians were forced to agree to a ceasefire. Ironically, if the Arabs had agreed to a ceasefire a week earlier, it would have left the battle looking like an Arab victory.

References

1. ^ The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East by Abraham Rabinovich. ISBN 0-8052-4176-0
2. ^ [1]
3. ^ [2]
Egypt: 800,000 troops (300,000 deployed), 2,400 tanks, 2,400 armored carriers, 1,120 artillery units,[2] 690 airplanes, 161 helicopters, 104 Navy vessels,
Syria
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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1940s  1950s  1960s  - 1970s -  1980s  1990s  2000s
1970 1971 1972 - 1973 - 1974 1975 1976
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Suez Canal (Arabic: قناة السويس, transliteration: Qanā al-Suways
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Gumhūriyyat Miṣr al-ʿArabiyyah
Arab Republic of Egypt


Flag Coat of arms
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Bilady, Bilady, Bilady
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Anthem
Hatikvah
The Hope


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(and largest city) Jerusalem

Official languages Hebrew, Arabic
Demonym Israeli
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Saad El Shazly (سعد الشاذلي Born in the city of Basyoun - Al Gharbiya Governorate - مدينة بسيون - محافظة
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Amram Mitzna (Hebrew: עמרם מצנע‎, born 20 February 1945) is an Israeli general and politician who served as the mayor of Haifa from 1993 to 2003 and leader of
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Ariel Sharon   (Hebrew:
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Egypt: 800,000 troops (300,000 deployed), 2,400 tanks, 2,400 armored carriers, 1,120 artillery units,[2] 690 airplanes, 161 helicopters, 104 Navy vessels,
Syria
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Anthem
Hatikvah
The Hope


Capital
(and largest city) Jerusalem

Official languages Hebrew, Arabic
Demonym Israeli
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Seam may refer to:
  • Seam (band), an indie rock band from Chapel Hill, NC
  • A can seamer, a machine used to seal a lid to a can body, such as in paint or food cans
  • Seam bowling, in cricket, refers to bowling with the main seam upright

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Suez Canal (Arabic: قناة السويس, transliteration: Qanā al-Suways
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pontoon bridge or floating bridge is a bridge that floats on water, supported by barge-or-boat-like pontoons to support the bridge deck and its dynamic loads. While pontoon bridges are usually temporary structures, some are used for long periods of time.
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Ariel Sharon   (Hebrew:
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The Six-Day War (Arabic: حرب الأيام الستة, ħarb al‑ayyam as‑sitta
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Anthem
Homat el Diyar
Guardians of the Land


Capital
(and largest city) Damascus

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Gumhūriyyat Miṣr al-ʿArabiyyah
Arab Republic of Egypt


Flag Coat of arms
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Bilady, Bilady, Bilady
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The Golan Heights (Hebrew: רמת הגולןRamat HaGolan, Arabic:
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Jordan Valley may refer to:
  • Jordan Valley in the Middle East.
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  • Jordan Valley, Oregon in the United States.

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Sinai Peninsula or Sinai (Coptic: sina; Egyptian Arabic: sina سينا; Arabic, sina'a سيناء; Sinin in most Semitic languages, Hebrew: סיני Si-nai
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The Six-Day War (Arabic: حرب الأيام الستة, ħarb al‑ayyam as‑sitta
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War of Attrition (Hebrew: מלחמת ההתשה‎, Arabic:
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AT-3 Sagger is the NATO reporting name for the 9M14 Malyutka (little or tiny baby) MCLOS wire-guided anti-tank guided missile of the Soviet Union.
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2K12 Kub (Russian: 2К12 "Куб"; English: cube) mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is a Soviet low to medium-level air defence system designed to protect ground
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IDF or idf may stand for:
  • A military force:
  • the Iceland Defense Force
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  • the Israel Defense Forces

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The Six-Day War (Arabic: حرب الأيام الستة, ħarb al‑ayyam as‑sitta
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Shmuel "Gorodish" Gonen (1930 – 30 September 1991) was an Israeli general and Chief of the Southern Command of the Israel Defense Forces during the Yom Kippur War.

Early life


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Syrian(s) can refer to:
  1. Citizens of the Arab Republic of Syria; see also Demographics of Syria
  2. Aramaic-speaking Christians also known as Assyrians


See also Syriacs
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Bar Lev Line (Arabic: خط برليف, Hebrew: קו בר לב) was a chain of fortifications built by Israel along the eastern coast of the Suez Canal after it captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during the 1967
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October 10 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

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