1967: Sword of Israel
Scenario Preview, Part 5
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
In Part Four of this scenario review of Panzer Grenadier (Modern): 1967 Sword of Israel, we looked at actions on the West Bank between the Israel Defense Forces and the Royal Jordanian Army. We wrap up that segment today. Jordan fielded the best-trained army of the Arab front-line states, armed for the most part with very modern American and British weaponry rather than the cast-off Soviet gear of the Egyptians and Syrians. Against the Israelis fighting to take Jerusalem, all of that only helped a little. Let’s take a look at why.
You can read previous installments here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.
Toward the Old City
6 June 1967
The third prong of Brig Gen (Tat Aluf) Narkiss' attack to secure the northern flank of Jerusalem and open the way to Mt. Scopus started poorly. Lack of good maps or familiarity with the terrain, and moving under cover of darkness, would prove very challenging for Battalion 28 of the 55th Parachute Brigade.
The IDF paratroopers got lost, fought through several Jordanian strongpoints that bravely fought to the last man, and lost nearly half their force to casualties. But eventually they achieved their objective of clearing the houses and bunkers en route to the Rockefeller Museum on the northeast corner of the city wall. The road to Mt. Scopus was open.
The Jordanians have a strong, well-fortified position, excellent morale and reasonable leadership (as the Royal Jordanian Army goes). The Israelis have . . . paratroopers trying to break into Jerusalem. Plus a missile unit. This one’s an infantry fight, without many tanks involved, a rarity in this scenario set.
6 June 1967
The final high ground needed to secure Jerusalem against Jordanian reinforcement was Abu Tor. The defenders were again well entrenched, fronted by wire and minefields, and ready to fight. The 16th Etzioni Jerusalem Infantry Brigade of the IDF had been planning and dreaming of this attack for a long time.
Sgan Aluf Peika’s IDF troops executed an uninspired frontal assault. The Jordanians responded immediately, pasting them with 25-pounder rounds and sniper fire from Mt Zion. Throughout the afternoon the grind went on, with the Israelis slowly capturing one blockhouse after another and then the small defensive perimeter on the hill to the rear. The entire hilltop was captured near nightfall, but at the cost of numerous casualties.
The scenario intro overstates Jordanian willpower; these guys aren’t nearly as eager for battle as the Jordanians of the previous scenario. That doesn’t mean that the Israelis can take them lightly; they have a strong position and the Israelis have no choice but to come straight at them.
6 June 1967
Under the cover of darkness, the invasion of the West Bank began with an attempt to gobble up the high ground overlooking the Old Jerusalem Highway. The Jordanians felt secure behind their wire and minefields, and their attention was diverted toward the attacks earlier in the day near Jerusalem and in the Sinai. In 1948, the Arabs had successfully driven off Israeli attacks from this direction resulting in the West Bank occupation. Why would it not be the same this time?
The Israeli engineers breached the Jordanian minefields and wire quickly under cover of darkness. Thereafter, rather than assault straight ahead, the Israelis drove around the Jordanian position (hidden from view by darkness and hilly terrain), and assaulted them from the rear supported by a heavy bombardment and assisted by powerful searchlights illuminating the police station and monastery for the assaults. The dislocation caused by darkness and surprise, along with the rapid advance down the line of fortified positions led to a rather quick victory.
This time, the Jordanians have some Egyptian commandos to help hold the line; the Israelis here are reservists and so their morale is simply really high instead of astronomical. It’s a tough fight for the Israelis, who must meet a very high bar for victory.
6 June 1967
Aluf Mishne Bar-Kochva wanted to attack Jenin from the south, a hopefully unexpected direction based on the terrain and known Jordanian defenses. To do that he had to pass through the Dotan Valley. At 0300 he sent his tanks and some recon units ahead of the main force but they ran into a layered defense in depth.
After quickly losing a number of vehicles to the deadly Jordanian fire, the Israelis feigned a retreat, leaving some manned and fully functional tanks mixed in with the destroyed ones. When the Jordanian tanks pursued to mop up, they were caught in the flank and rear by the “doggo” tanks and wiped out. The assault against the remaining antitank guns and infantry took another two hours with more losses, but they finally opened the path to Jenin.
An Israeli force of only tanks – lots of tanks – attacks a Jordanian tank-infantry force dug in behind a tough line of fortifications. The Israelis have outstanding morale and initiative but no infantry, and they’re going to miss having foot soldiers around to dig the Jordanians out of their entrenchments. I’m pretty sure this Jordanian battalion had M47 Pattons, not the far more capable M48 model shown here.
Rescue at Kabatiya
6 June 1967
While Aluf Mishne Bar-Kochva’s armored infantry were securing Jenin, he received word that his reconnaissance force had been cut off and surrounded in Kabatiya by the fast-advancing 40th Jordanian Armored Brigade. He quickly threw a plan together to breakthrough to his recce team and rescue them.
Initial attacks by IDF tanks were bloodily repulsed by the hull-down Jordanian tankers. Conversely, the Jordanians were very wary of the IDF recce team that packed a vicious antitank punch. The resulting stalemate was broken when the IAF began to rain death on the Jordanian tanks allowing a relief force to make its way to Kabatiya and free the recce force. However, Bar-Kochva’s armored force was pretty well spent.
Finally, a massive tank battle, and one where the Israelis have the numbers but the Jordanians have the better tanks (and have them in the better position). The Israelis are trying to rescue their trapped recon units, and get them past the Jordanian shooting gallery. That’s one tough order.
6 June 1967
The attack on the western point of the West Bank area had been assigned to the Shaham 5th Infantry Brigade. They were opposed by the Jordanian Princess Alia Brigade in and around the town of Kalkiliya protecting the road to Nablus. Shaham Brigade spent the 5th of June demonstrating their intent in order to pin the Princess Alia Brigade in position while attacks occurred elsewhere. On the morning of the 6th, the assault began.
The leadership of the Princess Alia let their brigade down. Despite ample warning of the Israeli attack, the Jordanians did not undertake the kind of defensive preparations that could have turned Kalkiliya into a bloodbath. Instead, by 1400 the town was in IDF hands and troops were already headed down the wide-open road to Nablus.
This is a big scenario, an infantry assault against infantry defenders with both sides wielding a plethora of support weapons but very few tanks. The Jordanians are on close to an even footing here, and it’s one of the best scenarios in the set.
Kufeir and Akaba
7 June 1967
Aluf Mishne Ram’s 37th Armored Brigade had attacked southwest from the Mt. Gilboa area into the West Bank. At Kufeir on the 6th of June, he’d been stopped cold on the east side of the town by two companies of the 40th Jordanian Armored Brigade that had excellent positions. Even airstrikes right before nightfall had not dislodged the tenacious defenders. Ram waited patiently for nightfall to launch his next attack, hoping to catch Jordanians napping.
Aluf Mishne Ram opened up on the Jordanian positions with his self-propelled artillery, jarring them from sleep. Then the Centurions began systematically shooting the Dragon’s Teeth apart while the artillery tried to keep the enemy Pattons buttoned up, and the fire became point-blank. Eventually the remaining Jordanians withdrew to the next town, Akaba, around 0400 where they were joined by the rest of their battalion. Aluf Mishne Ram followed up cautiously. As dawn broke, the IAF swept in again adding to the pressure on the dug-in Jordanians, who finally broke and ran after a very stubborn defense.
We wrap up the Jordanian section with a tank battle. The Jordanians expected much of the 40th Armored Brigade, the Royal Army’s West Bank showpiece unit (second only to the Royal Guard Brigade, which was not committed to action in 1967). And the scenario shows why: their morale is excellent, as is their materiel and they are well-led. Against anyone but the Israelis . . . the sons of Israel bring more tanks, slow-moving but awesomely-armed and –armored Centurions, with infantry support and fearsomely high morale.
And that wraps Part Five. There’s more to come as we scale the Golan Heights.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.