THE TWO O'CLOCK WAR: The 1973 Yom Kippur Conflict and the Airlift That Saved Israel

Walter J. Boyne, Author, Fred Smith, Foreword by, Leslie Leyland Fields, Author . St. Martin's $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-27303-3

Boyne's focus on Israel's initial defeats after being surprised by Egypt and Syria in the fall of 1973 establishes the key scenario of his book: a near-ultimatum to U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Israel's continuing deferral of the nuclear option would depend on American delivery of diplomatic and military aid. The best and most useful parts of the book are those devoted to the U.S. decision to mount a massive airlift, using the old reliable C-141s and the newer, larger C-5s, whose acquisition costs and technical reliability had been major points of controversy in earlier years. Boyne (Beyond Wild Blue), a retired air force colonel and former Air and Space Museum director, credits the U.S. Air Force's military airlift command with establishing a lifeline of vital equipment and spare parts that in turn sustained the Israeli Defense Force as it rallied and counterattacked enemies unable to exploit their initial victories. No less remarkable was the air force's ability simultaneously to sustain its other commitments in Vietnam and Europe—a sharp contrast with a similar Soviet airlift to Syria and Egypt that suffered constant, embarrassing gridlocks. Initially unable to convince its Arab clients to accept a cease-fire, the Soviet Union turned to Kissinger. In face to face negotiations, the superpowers hammered out an agreement—which almost collapsed when a Soviet-sanctioned Egyptian missile launch generated a chain reaction that culminated in the U.S. escalating its alert status to DefCon III and the Soviet Politburo debating a direct response. Boyne concludes that war was avoided less by positive decision making than because specific mistakes were not made. His emphasis on the importance of contingency informs the book as a whole and makes it a useful counterpoint to Michael Oren's recent account of the 1967 conflict, Six Days of War. (Sept. 20)

Reviewed on: 07/01/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-70781-1
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