Israeli Order of Battle in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

Israeli order of battle for the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

The Brigade numbering scheme is from Laffin (1982b).

1st ‘Golani’ Brigade

20 mm anti-tank guns (mentioned at Zemach)

2nd ‘Carmeli’ Brigade

3rd ‘Alexdroni’ Brigade

4th ‘Kiryati’ Brigade

5th ‘Givati’ Brigade

Under Yehuda Wallach.

Givati included the elite 54th Reconnaissance Battalion called Samson’s Foxes (Shu’aeli Shimshon in Hebrew) (Katz, 1988b); Like their HaNegev peers this unit operated in the Negev and was equipped with jeeps (presumably with the same MG34s and PIATs) and M3 half tracks. I have a photo of one of their jeeps equipped with a Boys .55 anti-tank rifle.

6th ‘Etzioni’ Brigade

7th Mechanised Brigade (Col. Shlomo Shamir)

The 7th Brigade was Israel’s first armoured formation. First dreamed up on Sunday 9 May 1948 – a week before the Declaration of Independence – the unit was operational and fighting by 24 May.

The 7th Brigade fought the first two battles of Latrun (24 May and 30 May) against the Arab Legion. (And had a key part to play in most of the later wars as well.)

Organisation

Brigade HQ

71st Infantry Battalion – 541 men; mostly Sabras with military experience, many from other Brigades; not fully equipped until Second Latrun hence not used in First Latrun

HQ Company

Support Company

Machinegun platoon

4 x machineguns

3 inch mortar platoon

3 x 3 inch mortars

4 x Rifle Companies

Company HQ

3 x Rifle Platoons

3 x Rifle Squads

Also had at least one 2″ mortar and 4 Piat Anti-tank weapons.

72nd Infantry Battalion (Zvi Hurewitz) – 600 men; including 140 new immigrants

HQ Company

Support Company

Machinegun platoon

4 x machineguns

3 inch mortar platoon

3 x 3 inch mortars

4 x Rifle Companies (Companies B and C were both 23% new immigrants)

Company HQ

3 x Rifle Platoons

3 x Rifle Squads

73rd Armoured Battalion – 422 men; all veterans from other Brigades; none of the vehicles were armed by the time of First Latrun; and only companies B and C were armed for Second Latrun

Battalion HQ

2 x “Dinghy” armoured patrol vehicles (3 crew)

1 x Company A, Armoured Car

Not properly equiped but should have matched Company B’s organisation.

1 x Company B, Armoured Car – 60 men

Company HQ (12 men, no vehicles)

15 unassigned crewmen

3 x Armoured Car Platoons

3 x Armoured Cars each with a Heavy and a Light machinegun and a radio (4 crew each)

1 x Company C, Half Tracks – all half tracks were equipped machineguns except the Flame Thrower vehicle

Company HQ

1 x Command Half Track (with Radio)

1 x Flame Thrower Half Track

3 x full strength Half Track Platoons (1, 2, 3)

1 x Command Half Track (with Radio)

2 x Half Tracks

1 x reduced strength Half Track Platoon (4)

1 x Command Half Track (with Radio)

65 mm Artillery Battery

2 x 65 mm French Howitzers “Napoleonchiks” (increased to 4 after First Latrun)

Davidka Company

4 x Davidka artillery pieces

120 mm mortar battery (arrived after First Latrun)

2 x 120 mm French mortars (each with 5 man crews)

Engineering Platoon

Buses for transportation (with 70 civilian drivers)

Attached formations:

32nd Infantry Battalion (from Alexandroni Brigade; fought in First Latrun)

3 x Infantry companies (1st Platoon, B Company was under Ariel Sharon)

(No integral support company)

52nd Infantry Battalion (from Givati Brigade; fought in Second Latrun)

2 x Infantry Companies

Part of the support company

Each infantry company had about 90 men. Squads had integral light machine guns. There was a high proportion of sub-machine guns in the Brigade. Initially 433 Sten sub-machineguns were issued compared to 447 rifles although another 1,000 rifles arrived later. Many of the Stens were issued to the crews of the armoured battalion (at least 90 weapons) so weren’t available to the infantry, none-the-less this is still a high proportion.

The Brigade was issued with Besa heavy machine guns, Chateau machine guns, and MG34 light machine guns. Most half tracks had a Besa and a Chateau, although one was issued with a single MG34 only.

2 inch mortars were issued to the Brigade. As 2 inch mortar shells were distributed to the infantry companies and as two 2 inch mortars were lost during the first Battle of Latrun (Shamir, 2001) presumably these weapons were integral to the Infantry companies.

Piat anti-tank grenade launchers were issued, but seemingly in relatively small numbers. Some Piats went to the armoured Battalion. In addition to the Piats Shamir (2001) also mentions “Fiat launchers” but I suspect this is just a typo for “Piat”

The Brigade was issued 6 flame throwers but only two became operational by the second Battle of Latrun. Both were used from a half-track.

Two experimental 6 inch mortars were also issued to the Brigade, but field tests showed them to be flawed, and they never became operational.

Herzog (1982) says the Armoured Cars were captured from the enemy, however, most were likely to have been home made jobs (Shamir, 2001).

8th Armoured Brigade

Organisation (Zaloga, 1981):

82nd Tank Battalion (Felix Beatus)

English (speaking) Company

2 x Cromwells stolen from the British 1 – 3 x Shermans rebuilt from scrap with French 75 mm guns

Russian (speaking) Company

10 x French Hotchkiss H-39 light tanks

M5/M9 1/2 tracks with 20 mm, 2-pdr and 6-pdr guns.

Improvised a/cars based on Dodge truck or M3A1 scout cars.

89th Mechanised Battalion (Moshe Dayan)

The 89th Mechanised Battalion was a jeep mounted commando unit, however during Operation Dani (9-18 July) the battalion used a captured Armoured Car of the Arab Legion (so probably a Marmon-Herrington IVF) to shield its Jeeps in an attack on Lod.

9th Oded Brigade (Col. Uri Yoffe)

10th Harel Brigade

Formed from 3 Palmach Battalions.

11th (??) Yiftach Brigade

3 Palmach Battalions including the elite 54th Reconnaissance Battalion (“Samson’s Foxes”) . .

12th HaNegev Brigade

A Palmach force that was initial only 800 men divided into two battalions (Herzog, 1982). They
subsequently gained a jeep mounted battalion, and Katz (1988b) says they got up to 4 Battalions.
The fourth was the HQ who were responsible for all naval, air, and commando companies. The elite “Negev Beasts” were an entirely jeep mounted battalion (Katz, 1988b). Other battalions also fielded jeeps, but I’m not sure if complete battalions were jeep mounted. The jeeps were equiped with German MG34 light machine guns and British PIAT anti-tank weapons.

Chaim Bar-Lev led one of the Battalions.

Israeli Equipment

Tanks and Armoured Cars

  • 2 x Cromwells stolen from the British
  • 3 x Shermans rebuilt from scrap with French 75 mm guns
  • 10 x French Hotchkiss H-39 light tanks (1940 vintage)
  • 1 x Daimler Mk 1 armoured car (ex-British)
  • Several Canadian GM Otter I recce vehicle (mostly ex-Police Mobile Force).
  • M5/M9 1/2 tracks with 6-pdr
  • Improvised a/cars based on Dodge truck or M3A1 scout cars.

Other vehicles

  • M3 & M9 Half-tracks
  • White M3A1 scout cars
  • trucks, including Dodge WC52 3/4 ton
  • jeeps

Guns

  • French Model 1906 65 mm Howitzers without sights and with wooden wheels – nicknamed “Napoleonchiks”
  • 20 mm anti-tank guns
  • 20 mm Hispano-Suiza guns (might be same at the 20 mm anti-tank guns)

Infantry Weapons

  • Czech made Mauser Kar 98K rifle.
  • British Sten Sub-machinegun
  • German MP40 sub-machineguns
  • British Bren light machine guns
  • Besa 7.62 mm light machine guns
  • Czech MG34 light machine guns
  • US .30 cal Browning machineguns
  • US .50 cal Browning machineguns
  • Czech ZB-37 heavy machinegun
  • Piat anti-tank weapons
  • 2″ mortars
  • 3″ mortars
  • Davidka

The Czech produced MG34 MG was widely used mounted on vehicles.

1 comment to Israeli Order of Battle in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

  • James C. Hart Jr.

    James Hart in “Israeli Improvised Armoured Vechicles & Jeeps 1947-1949” :by John Myszka ;; the Israelis had 4 spg 57mm on half tracks, 4 37mm guns on half tracks ,7 20mm guns in turrets on half tracks,this was on or about dec. 1948. ;; armor cars with mg turrets – armored in Israel in part or in full 145 armor cars ; 71 based on white scout cars M3a1s ; 36 on dodge command cars ; 30 on Otter armored cars ; 7 on ford trucks ; then they put 3 long & 2 short 37mm guns in turrets & in armored cars off of hotchkiss & renault tanks pre ww 2. ;;then they had 27 turreted & cannon armed armored cars these were armed with 2 pounders or 37mm guns,they were marmon herrington & humber mk 4 armored cars. They may have had “my words” a few other types . They had other wheeled APC and AFV.

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