Here is a list of possible wargaming scenarios for the 1956 Arab-Israeli War. I haven’t fully developed them, these are just my notes until I can get back to them. My interest is in company level infantry actions and this affects the kind of actions I’m interested in.
Mitla Pass lies 66 km east of the city of Suez and controls one of the major east-west roads in the Sinai. It lies 174 km from the Israeli border.
In Operation Kadesh the IDF aimed to block the Mitla Pass to prevent Egyptian reinforcements heading east, and to cut off any Egyptians retreating from the Egyptian front line. The plan was for the 890th paratroop battalion to seal the pass and fend off any counter-attacks until the remainder of the 202nd Parachute Brigade (under Ariel Sharon) arrived in support. Aside from the initial airdropped troops the 202nd operated as a mechanised force.
At 1695 hours on 29 Oct Eitan’s 395 men of 890th Paratroop Battalion were airdropped on the Parker Memorial, 4km east of the Mitla Pass. They dug in and received airlifted heavy weapons and supplies. A patrol discovered heavy concentrations of Egyptian forces waiting in ambush in the pass, so Eitan decided to wait for Sharon.
The Egyptian 2nd Brigade sent its 5th Battalion with one company from the 6th Battalion, plus additional support weapons (heavy machine-guns, recoilless weapons and heavy mortars) to block the Israelis at Mitla Pass. On the way they lost their vehicles and much of their equipment to Israeli air attacks, but still managed to reach the pass and deploy in the natural caves on each side.
Sharon and the remainder of the 202nd arrived at the Parker Memorial at 2230 hours on 30 Oct after driving and fighting their way from the Jordanian border (yes the Jordanian border).
On the 31st Sharon obtained permission for a “small reconnaissance” into the Mitla Pass. Sharon, however, saw his mission as sealing the pass at both ends, so he at 1300 hours he sent in a substantial combat team under Maj. Mordechai Gur including:
- 2 x Half-track mounted rifle companies from the 88th Battalion
- 3 x AMX-13 tanks
- 1 x Brigade reconnaissance unit in trucks
- 1 x battery of field artillery with 25-pounder guns
- 1 x battalion of 120mm mortars
Gur left the mortars and fuel trucks (and perhaps the artillery) at the mouth of the pass and then advanced with the remainder of his force. Within minutes he came under fire. The front 3 half-tracks were hit and their surviving occupants were forced to bail out and take refuge in the rocks of the valley walls. Gur continued to advance further into the valley and most of his force became pinned under Egyptian fire. 2 AMX-13s and several half tracks under Yitzhak Hoffi – the Brigade second in command – managed to force their way through the pass and remained for most of the day at the western end. The reconnaissance company (Micha Kapusta) tried to reach Gur via the right hand ridge, but also suffered severe losses from the Egyptians across the valley. Meanwhile Egyptian Meteors strafed the mortars and fuel trucks – sending the trucks up in flames. Eventually Hoffi returned, and with the fire support of the tanks and mortars, the pinned paratroopers could extricate themselves.
At 1800 hours – Sharon & Chanoff (2001) say “after dark” – Sharon sent a battalion into the pass to clear it of Egyptians (I think they were from Eitan’s 890th as Sharon & Chanoff also say Eitan was “in” the pass during the battle). The paratroopers had to fight with grenade and Uzi to clear the Egyptians from their caves. Company commander Oved Ledijinsky lead his men in assaults against the Egyptian firing positions on the southern ridge (and died in the process) while Company commander Levi Hofesh did the same along the northern ridge. The Egyptians put up stiff resistance but by 2000 hours the paratroopers had control of the pass.
The paratroopers suffered 38 dead (including Ledijinsky) and 120 wounded compared to 260 Egyptians killed. The remains of the Egyptian force withdrew from the pass.
Wargaming the Parker Memorial using Crossfire
This is a “what-if” scenario where the Egyptians counter-attack the 890th Paratroop Battalion as they wait for the remainder of the 202nd Parachute Brigade. Eitan expected Egyptian armour and infantry reinforcements to be heading east through Milta toward the Israeli border. These reinforcements didn’t materialise, but could have.
The Egyptian aim is to breakthrough the Israelis, i.e. to exit troops off the east table edge. The Israeli aim is to prevent this, and to destroy Egyptian troops.
The Moving clock is used; the clock advances 30 minutes on a roll of 5-6 after each Israeli initiative. The game starts at 1000 hours; night falls at 2000 hours, and the game ends when the the 202nd arrive at 2230 hours.
The terrain would be typical Sinai plains. Ridges, hills, depressions, rock fields should be the most common features. An east-west road lies through the centre of the table cutting across crests and hills (but not rock fields); this is included for aesthetics and has no game effect.
The Israelis deploy first (hidden) and move second. The Egyptians deploy second and move first.
The Israelis get a paratroop company (Veteran) with half the integral support weapons suitable for a paratroop battalion. These represent the western blocking force and I assume there is an equivalent sized force off table facing east, plus a third paratroop company held in reserve. The paratroopers also get a 106mm recoilless anti-tank gun, and the company commander can act as a FO for an off table 120mm mortar.
The Israeli player can request reinforcements from the reserve any time after either side fires. The reinforcements (one platoon of paratroopers) arrive on the first Israeli initiative after the moving clock advances next. They can not request a second batch.
The Egyptians get the 5th battalion of 2nd Brigade, made up of three companies of infantry with integral support weapons (whatever they are but probably 105mm recoilless anti-tank weapons and 120mm mortars), plus armour (probably T34/85s from the 1st Armoured Brigade, but could be archer tank destroyers integral to 2nd Brigade). The problem is that they arrive in a fairly random order, it being assumed they are coming out of Mitla Pass in convoy and are deploying as they discover the Israelis. All Egyptians are Green. The Egyptian player picks the first contingent to arrive from the list below. Subsequently one contingent arrives each time the moving Clock advances. Roll 1d6 and refer to the following list to see what arrives, and re-roll if the contingent is already on table.
- Infantry Company 1
- Infantry Company 2
- Infantry Company 3
- Support Company (HMG and ATG)
- Battalion HQ including FO for off-table artillery/mortars
- 3 tanks or self-propelled guns
Wargaming Mitla Pass, 31 Oct 1956
This simulates the attempts of the 890th Paratroop Battalion to open the jaws of the Egyptian ambush of the 88th Nalal Paratroop Battalion. The scenario can be on either the northern slope of the valley (under Hofesh) or the southern slopes (under Ledijinsky).
The Egyptians deploy first (hidden) and move second. They get 1 infantry company, and no heavy weapons. All Green. They can deploy a great number of caves (treat as an entrenchment to the front, but can’t be attacked from sides or rear); 30% more caves than the Egyptian has squads and HMG. Because the Egyptians deploy hidden the Israeli won’t know which caves are occupied.
The Israelis deploy second and move first. They get 1 paratroop company with off table 120mm mortar support. All Veteran. Any commander can act as a FO.
Terrain should have contours lines (sloping up to one side), boulder fields, rock fields, hills, ridges, etc, i.e. dry and mountainous.
Kusseima, 30 Oct 1956
On 31 Oct / 1 Nov 1956 the 1st “Golani” Infantry Brigade and 27th Armoured Brigade fought their way into Egyptian positions at Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza strip. One small part of that was an action by the mechanised infantry battalion of the 27th Armoured Brigade.
At 0400 hours on 1 Nov the Israeli battalion assaulted two strongly-fortified Egyptian anti-tank positions on the ridge covering the Gaza-El-Arish road. Two hours of bitter hand-to-hand fighting in the communication trenches and bunkers saw an Israeli victory. The attackers had to use bazookas to take out the Egyptian anti-tank positions.
The Israelis had
- 4 x rifle companies (presumably with half-tracks and definitely with bazookas)
- 1 x platoon of AMX-13 light tanks.
The Egyptians had
- 1 x reinforced rifle platoon
- 2 x rifle companies
- 17 x anti-tank guns
Simulates the attack on one of the Egyptian positions. The Israelis must take and hold the Egyptian defensive positions. The Egyptians must prevent this, and get points for killing Israelis.
The Israelis get 2 rifle companies with half-tracks and 2 AMX-13s. All veterans. The Egyptians get 1 rifle company and 3 x 107mm recoilless anti-tank guns (or Archer Self-propelled guns). All green. The Egyptians also get 1 bunker, 3 wire, 1 mine, and as many entrenchments as they want.