Memories of the Yom Kippur War, October ’73

What memories never leave the innermost recesses of your mind?

Is it the memory of the scream, the deafening scream of the fighter jet flying into impossible odds only to be brought down by a surface to air missile?

Is it the memory of those flashes of light on the Golan that lit up the night only to be followed by the thunderous sounds of explosions, explosions that shook the ground even as far back as Rosh Pina?

Perhaps the memory of your own right hand shaking so badly with the fear of the unknown while attempting to put pen to paper; a fear that would vanish immediately as soon as the first Syrian shells exploded all around you?

It might be the memory, the visual memory of seeing first-hand the devastation of enemy troops, trucks, tanks, burning black and charred along an endless highway into Syria.  A memory of an odor that will never, ever leave your mind, no matter how hard you try to forget it.

How can you ever forget that you stayed awake for more than 72 hours?  The order that allowed an hour or two of sleep on the fourth day of the war?  Followed by four or five hours of steel spring taut guard duty? Adrenaline?

That Soviet MiG? How close it came and how David ran and ran to the 50 caliber post, grabbing it while you also ran and ran with your Belgian FN and you both “opened up” on it, actually bringing it down just beyond the horizon. The deafening roar of those jet engines?  Will you ever forget the face of the pilot?  Was he really Syrian?

Do you remember the tiny, little bites of the fleas?  Until the tanker truck came with portable shower pipes and soap and disinfectant and the joy of the first real “shower” after almost ten days of going without one?

That night, that special night when the platoon was guarding some of our tanks so that the Syrian Sagger teams with their wire guided anti-tank missiles would not get close, remember that night?  When suddenly some Iraqi tanks got sucked into our tanks’ ambush?  That night when our boys inside those tanks lit them up? (Were our boys in Centurions or M-60 Pattons?  I don’t remember.)  Burned the Iraqi tanks to hell while turning the night into day with the light of the explosions?

Then there is that memory of yourself, with a mess kit filled with gasoline and gun oil, taking a moment to clean your weapon during a brief lull in Syrian artillery fire on Tel Shams.  Remember?  There is a photo, a small black and white photo, now misplaced or lost, of that young man.

Do you remember picking little tiny bits of shrapnel from your hands?  And the bigger piece of shrapnel that you removed from your helmet?  Do you remember lying in ambush with K. at the very base of Tel Shams during that all-night-long barrage of Syrian artillery fire, when the shells came screaming towards the both of us and both of us buried our faces into the fox holes we had dug earlier?

And the memories of meeting Me’ir, whose twin brother was a helicopter pilot.  Me’ir told you that Uzi had been killed.  Uzi!

And a while later there was Yoni. Yoni, who had run with you, trained you, gave you your citation for excellence during basic training. Yoni, his head bandaged and his grin smiling back at you, “it’s nothing…just a scratch…” refusing to leave the front lines.

These and countless other memories, so often buried away in deep, secret chambers of my mind find their way back during the Days of Awe, Yom Kippur and the days following. Some years are better, and some are not.

But I remember. Mostly I remember for those brothers-in-arms who lived through it with me, and for those brothers-in-arms who did not make it.  My Golani Brigade brothers of the 13th Battalion.  May their memory be a blessing forever.

About the Author
Born in Israel, Yuval emigrated as a baby to Austria and then Canada. He returned to live in Israel in '71 until '91. His military service was in Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion (including Yom Kippur War) with reserve duty as a tank commander and later a liaison officer in the IDF Liaison Unit. He now resides both in the US and Israel, Maryland and Zichron Yaakov respectively.
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