“Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the LORD brought about a great victory.” 2 Sam. 23:11-12
No less than nine Arab countries lined themselves up with Egypt and Syria in the effort to destroy Israel.. As well as sending jets to Egypt, Iraq deployed 18,000 men and hundreds of tanks in the Golan. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait underwrote the war financially and also sent infantry troops to the front. Libya sent Mirage fighter jets, and Gaddafi gave Egypt a billion dollars in aid to help buy Soviet weaponry to rebuild the Egyptian Army after it’s decimation in the 6 Day War. Algeria sent fighter jets and bombers, Tunisia, Morocco and the Sudan sent thousands of troops to the front. Lebanon lent their radar units and allowed the Palestinians on their soil to lay down a barrage of artillery and rockets on Northern Israel. The Israelites faced a virtual Arab Goliath on at least two fronts.
2:00 PM, Golan Heights:
As soon as the Soviet made Syrian MIGs quit their strafing and bombing run that had shattered the peace of Yom Kippur at his Golan Heights outpost, Major Shmuel Askarov ran and dove into his tank and headed for the front. He had barely pulled off of his tank ramp when the artillery barrage began, pounding into the sand in front, beside and behind him, throwing up so much dust he could not even see what was ahead. When the dust finally cleared during a momentary break in the artillery barrage, Askarov was stunned by what he saw.
Racing toward him out of the dust were hundreds of Syrian tanks, some of which had already breached the Israeli anti-tank ditches which provided the only barricade for the Israeli base. He and his expert tank gunner, Yitshak Hemo, fired upon and took out three Syrian tanks, while moving back and forth in front of the onslaught. Shmuel looked to his rear for support and saw 6 other Israeli tanks motionless hiding behind their ramps and radioed them for support. Receiving no response he raced back to them and pulling his pistol he warned the commanders if they didn’t move into action, he would shoot them.
The other Israeli tank commanders, understandably immobilized by the overwhelming odds and suddenness of the attack, then sprang into action. Within an hour, all the other tank commanders were dead, their tanks inoperable and Maj. Askarov and his gunner were alone. They continued moving back and forth and firing at the endless line of Syrian tanks grinding towards them. By seven o’clock in the evening, after having taken four hits, and knocking out over 35 Syrian tanks and a number of troop carriers, Major Askarov was blown out of the turret of his tank, rescued by the men from his bunker and sent to a hospital in Safed where he was treated for wounds to his face and neck, and the loss of the use of most of his vocal chords. The doctors told him he would need to be hospitalized for at least two weeks.
As he lay in the hospital he continuously received reports of the devastation of his Brigade, the 188th, and the news that 12 of the original 33 tanks of his battalion were cut off behind enemy lines, and that the bodies of his brigade commander and deputy commander not recovered. Maj. Shmuel Askarov checked himself out of the hospital.
To make a long story short, Maj. Askarov, drove back into the desert towards the front lines with the one man he could talk into accompanying him. In the ensuing 3 days, he found his stranded tank battalion and demoralized troops, whipped them back into action, repairing the tanks, rescued the bodies of his fallen commanders and continued fighting until shot in the head by a Syrian whose tank he had destroyed.
The bullet entered through his forehead, and exited out of the rear, shattering his skull. Back at the hospital, three of four doctors refused to work on him because the damage was so severe they thought it a waste of time. However, one doctor performed an 8 hour surgery on the young warrior. He survived and after a painful and slow rehabilitation, walked out of the hospital under his own power to serve a long career in the Israeli Defense Ministry.
But for him, the Yom Kippur War was over.
[to be continued]