The Two O'Clock War: The 1973 Yom Kippur Conflict and the Airlift That Saved Israel

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It's usually called the Yom Kippur War. Or sometimes the October War. The players that surround it are familiar: Sadat and Mubarak, Meir and Sharon, Nixon and Kissinger, Brezhnev and Dobyrnin. It was a war that brought Arab and Jew into vicious conflict. A war in which Israel almost unleashed her nuclear arsenal and set two superpowers on a treacherous course of nuclear escalation.

And a war that eventually brought peace. But a peace fraught with delicate tensions, disputed borders, and a legacy of further bloodshed.

The Two O'Clock War is a spellbinding chronicle of the international chess game that was played out in October 1973. It is a story of diplomacy and military might that accounts for many of the dilemmas faced in the present-day Middle East.

This is a war that Israel never thought was possible. Surprised by the fury and excellent execution of the Arab onslaught, and perhaps more than a little complacent, Israel suddenly found itself on the point of losing a war because of a lack of ammunition, planes and tanks. The United States, after much vacillation, finally elected to help Israel, beginning a tremendous airlift (code name: Operation Nickel Grass) which incurred the wrath of the Arab states, and their sponsor, the Soviet Union.

Fortunately the airlift came just in time for Israeli ground forces to stabilize their positions and eventually turn the tide in the Sinai and Golan Heights. And it was all made possible by an operation that dwarfed the Berlin Airlift and the Soviets' simultaneous efforts in Egypt and Syria.

The Two O'Clock War is bound to become the definitive history of a war that quite literally approached Armageddon.

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In The Two O'Clock War Walter J. Boyne chronicles with intense detail the brief but furious October 1973 invasion of Israel by Egypt and Syria, an episode also known as the Yom Kippur War. Boyne alternates his attention between actual battlefield descriptions and the equally frantic maneuvering by diplomats and statesmen of the combatant countries, their allies. and, most ominously, Russia and the United States, which refused to stop rattling their sabers at each other. At least twice, the region--and by implication the greater world--came perilously close to suffering the ultimate nightmare: nuclear war. Boyne's language is often blunt but he is generally fair-minded: his showers of blame and praise fall on individuals on both sides of the conflict. Running through the book is his premise, convincingly presented, that a massive American airlift--Operation Nickel Grass--was the decisive factor in Israel's fending off defeat. The book--especially its military sections--demands a reader's full attention. --H. O'Billovich

About the Author:

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Walter J. Boyne served as director of the National Air and Space Museum from 1983-1986. His bestselling titles include The Wild Blue (with Steve Thompson), Weapons of the Gulf War and The Smithsonian Illustrated History of Flight. He lives in Ashburn, Virginia.

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