Military Review

Weapons for the Promised Land

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The formation of the Israel Defense Forces took place not only on the battlefields. In its original stories There are a lot of interesting facts - from underground manufacturing workshops weapons, posting of "ownerless" British warehouses before the delivery of rifles and tanks former Wehrmacht, as well as hijacking boats from the French port.

By the time of the proclamation of the State of Israel in May 1948, the weapons already assembled by Hagana (the underground armed forces of the Jewish community (Yishuv) in Mandatory Palestine) were incredibly variegated in caliber, model, age and origin. So, even before World War II, Hagana had smuggled submachine guns, very convenient for short street battles, Finnish Suomi, American Thompsons, and others. The smuggling did not stop even after World War II: from 1946 to May 1948, Israel arrived in Israel more 1300 different submachine guns. And about 870 submachine guns, mostly British “Stan”, were mined in 1941 — 1947 years “on the spot” - by buying from Arab smugglers, by theft from British warehouses, etc. Shop rifles and light mortars were mined in the same way.

As a result, Palestine was literally packed with caches of weapons. In 1946, in Tel Aviv, in the Tachemoni school building alone, British authorities found more than 50 rifles, 50 mortars, several thousand rounds of ammunition and mines. And in Kibbutz Dorot, two dozen machine guns and submachine guns were removed from the pit.

Buying weapons from the British is easy: the discipline among the troops, already preparing to leave Palestine, was non-rigid. In 1951, a British officer was tried in Great Britain who sold a shipment of weapons in Palestine to 1948 in Palestine. He originally planned to sell it to the Arabs for 25 thousand pounds sterling, but Hagan bought it for 30 thousand pounds, resulting in an armored vehicle, jeep-type cars, Browning machine guns 180, rifles, ammunition. Hagan bought weapons from the British and Arabs in the territory not only of Palestine, but also of Syria and Egypt.

But the biggest “dump” of weapons at the end of the Second World War was Europe. The soldiers of the "Jewish Brigade" of the British Army collected useful weapons in Belgium and delivered them to Italian ports through France. Then, it was disassembled and disassembled for different types of cargo - hid, for example, in compressors, concrete mixers, skating rinks, heading for Haifa in the name of ... private Arab firms.

The largest shipments of weapons, equipment and ammunition then came from Eastern Europe.

Weapons for the Promised LandUnderground arsenal discovered by the British in 1946. Characteristic variety - Italian pistol "Bereta", British revolvers "Webley" and SMLE rifles, German machine gun MG.34. Photo FOTOBANK.COM/TOP FOTO

Wehrmacht weapons to protect Israel

As you know, the United States in December 1947, imposed an embargo on the supply of arms to the Middle East. Hardest of all, it beat on the Jewish part of Palestine, not too difficult to arm the Arabs, who, moreover, were supported by the British. But the Soviet Union at the very birth of the State of Israel rendered him not only political, but also active military assistance. There were no direct arms shipments from the USSR, although such requests came to Moscow. Czechoslovakia was used for this, and mainly German-made weapons were supplied. Part of it was the captured Nazi, which was carefully reviewed and restored by Soviet artillery supply workers, and partly produced in Czechoslovakia itself, which during the occupation produced quite a few weapons for the Third Reich. Already in January, 1948, the first contract was concluded for the supply of 4500 rifles, 20 machine guns and 5 millions of cartridges from Czechoslovakia. So the Israelis got the Mauser magazine rifles of the Czech 1924 model and the German Mauser 98k, the uniform MG.34 and MG.42 machine guns, the easel ZB-53 (MG.37t). Until the end of May, they bought about 25 thousands of rifles, more than 5 thousands of light and single 200 machine guns, more than 54 million ammunition and 25 of Messerschmitt-type airplanes for only 12 million dollars. The weapons were delivered by plane through Corsica or by sea to Tel Aviv via the Yugoslav port of Split. Deliveries from Czechoslovakia and through Czechoslovakia allowed Hagane to start active operations as early as April 1948.

Aircraft type "Messerschmitt" actually called "Avia" S-199. After the war, in Czechoslovakia, there remained a supply of complete sets of components and assemblies for the German Bf-109G Messerschmit fighter. However, they had to put less powerful engines than the original. Israeli pilots for fighters of this performance were trained in Czechoslovakia. In fact, the Israelis wanted the British Spitfires more, but with only light unarmed 25 airplanes in Palestine, almost Messershmites (albeit with degraded performance) turned out to be a significant force. But several "Spitfires" in Czechoslovakia still bought. And in Britain itself, the Israelis bought four Beafter fighters under a curious legend, on behalf of the New Zealand film company, ostensibly for filming a movie about the exploits of New Zealand pilots in the war in the Pacific.

Adroit interception

The weapon itself does not have political or national preferences, and the former weapon of the Third Reich was then actively transferred to many Third World countries.

Syria was among them. In March 1948 of the year, for example, the leaders of the Haganah learned that while sending weapons to Tel Aviv on the “Nora” ship, the ship “Lino” with five (according to other sources - eight) thousands of rifles and eight million cartridges left the port of Fiume. Czechoslovakia, but for Syria. To begin with, they organized through their own people the arrest of a ship in the Italian port of Bari, where it entered due to a breakdown - the local authorities were allegedly told that the weapon was intended for Italian communists. Then two Mossad agents (it is about the organization of Mossad Le-Aliya - the Organization of illegal immigration) undermined the arrested vessel at the pier. But soon the Italian authorities, at the request of the Syrians, lifted the ship, rifles reloaded onto the Italian ship Argyro, which was heading for Beirut. The Israelis - again through their agents - quickly figured out his route, and on August X near Crete, the Israeli K-26 Hagan and K-20 Wedgwood (former Canadian corvettes) intercepted the Argyro, took the entire cargo, and instead of Beirut weapons arrived in Haifa. This operation is referred to under the characteristic name "Shoded" (apparently, after the name of the biblical demon in charge of robbery in this world).

"Napoleon" and "David"

There were few gunners among the Palestinian Jews at the beginning of the First Arab-Israeli War (War of Independence), although during World War II Jews served in several anti-aircraft and mixed British batteries in Haifa and other places. And at first they managed to get some guns. But - succeeded! Yehuda Arazi, who failed to buy weapons for Israelis in the United States, got a paper there on behalf of the Government of Nicaragua. With it, he arrived in Europe and bought 25 anti-aircraft guns of Hispano-Suiza caliber 20 millimeters in Switzerland (they arrived in Tel Aviv port on Easter 1948 of the year), in France - 50 millimeters 65 millimeters, mortars and machine guns.

At the beginning of the War of Independence, the heavy artillery of the Israelis included only French 65-mm mountain guns of the 1906 model of the year, nicknamed "Napoleon". Thus, during the Syrian attack involving tanks and armored vehicles on the kibbutz Degania 20 of May (Moshe Dayan participated in his defense) two such cannons on wooden wheels were brought here from Haifa. One Syrian tank was hit not by a “Napoleon” shot, or by an incendiary bottle, but on the whole, the fire of the guns allowed the attack of the Syrians to be frustrated, which was no longer renewed. The situation is usual in those days: the Arabs, expecting an easy victory, often stopped and withdrew, meeting stubborn defenses, and with heavy weapons. Two "Napoleon" helped to thwart the attack of Iraqis on the Kibbutz Gesher.

Veteran Khagany David Leybovich developed a very simple for handicraft production mortar and shells to him. The mortar, which received the nickname “David”, usually fired with an over-caliber mine. For the first time, "Davidka" entered into the 12 case of March 1948 of the year during the attack of the Haganah in the Arab quarter of Abu Kabir. After the shelling of the quarter, the Arabs left it. On the night of April 21, the mortar fire Davidka prepared an attack on the Arab quarters of Haifa. The roar of shots, howling mines and ruptures of strong charges (up to 40 kilograms of explosive) had a strong psychological effect, compensating for the disgusting accuracy of shooting David. It is not by chance that in Jerusalem there is now even the “Davidka” square, where a monument is made of handicraft homemade (just like in Russia there are monuments of serial ZIS-3 or “Katyusha”).


Czech "reforged messer" Avia S-199 number "Dalet-120" in the Israel Air Force Museum at Hatzerim airbase

Handicraft armored cars

From January 1948, Hagan began to constantly allocate for the protection of convoys moving between Jewish enclaves, artisanal-booked trucks and buses with armed crews. It is not surprising that Ben Gurion from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem 20 on April 1948 was taken on an armored bus guarded by Palmach fighters.

But serial armored vehicles were also mined by the British. Sometimes armored cars just hijacked. And according to all the rules: they took the car under observation and waited until the crew went for a snack or a swim.

Before the British Mandate was removed, Hagan was able to get two Cromwell tanks from the British (they were hijacked from a hussar regiment), one Daimler armored car, one GMC Otter reconnaissance vehicle and two disarmed Sherman tanks (however, bought them). In May, they began to form the armored service, but on 15 in May 1948, of all the tanks of the recently proclaimed State of Israel, only one was on the move, and the one with the defective gun. In June, the 10 of Hopeless H-39 lightweight obsolete light tanks, acquired in France, arrived in Israel. And in July, "Kromveli", "Hotchkiss" and "Sherman" participated in the battles as part of the 82-th tank battalion of the Israel Defense Forces. Of the 30 defective Sherman tanks, which were quickly and cheaply bought in Italy, only two were able to be put into service during the war. This is how Israel’s armored forces were born.

The South African cannon armored car "Marmon-Harrington" Mk IV, most likely repulsed by the Israelis from the Arab Legion, in the streets of Jerusalem. 17 July 1948 of the year. Photo BETTMANN / CORBIS / RPG

Frames decide almost everything

The war, of course, is not technology, but the people who control it. Some historians and publicists are ready to recall that the formation of the Israel Defense Forces, especially armored troops and artillery, played a significant role by former Soviet specialists. Several hundred volunteers from the USSR, mainly officers who demobilized from the Soviet army, fought in the MAHAL corps (an abbreviation for Mitnadway Khuts Laaret - “foreign volunteers” in Hebrew).

After the end of the Second World War, extensive “exchanges” took place between the USSR, on the one hand, and Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia, on the other (only about 1.5 million people left for Poland within ten years). For many Jews, some of whom gained combat experience, having passed World War II in the ranks of the Soviet army, it was only an intermediate stop - they almost immediately went to Israel. Their combat proficiency and skills served the country in good stead. It is worth noting that many of the Arab units were commanded by British officers, and in general some former officers of the German Wehrmacht served in the troops of the Arab states.

Interestingly, the head of the Salvation Army Fauzi Kaukdji (a former Wehrmacht officer, by the way), having failed to capture the Kibbutz Mishmar ha-Emek on April 9, 4, said that “1948 thousands of Khagan fighters under Soviet command arrived to help its defenders General. Apparently, the mythical "Soviet general" was to serve no less justification than the unreal number of fighters. On the Arab side, in general, curious rumors were sometimes launched: after the use of the Davidka mortars by the Jews, for example, the other side declared “atomic bombing”.

Underground workshops

The path to its own production of weapons began even before the Second World War, when Hagana set up an underground production of weapons and organized the Department of Military Production ("Taas"). From 1943 onwards, he began producing copies of the British “Stan” submachine gun (given the local name TAMAT) - not the best specimen at that time, but well adapted for mass production on low-power universal equipment. The quality of these copies did not shine, and it is not surprising that in the 1948-1949 years the Israeli soldiers preferred the German MR.40 captured from the Arabs.

Taas workshops and hand grenades were produced, repeating the evolution of grenades from the beginning of the century — from wicks, with a simple grating fuse (according to the Polish model) to Mills-type grenades with a shock distant igniter.

This beautiful warrior with “Stan” (or his local copy) in hand and Polish-style grenades is a fighter of the newly formed Israeli army. 18 May 1948, a village near Haifa. Photo BETTMANN / CORBIS / RPG

But it was clear that the workshops were not enough. In 1945, a group of Jewish Yishuv leaders led by Ben Gurion visited the United States and began a broad fundraising campaign for the Haganah arms. In the autumn, one of the leaders of the Taas, engineer Haim Slavin, came to the USA (as far as is known, he came from Russia). The Second World War had just ended, the industry began to get rid of surplus equipment, and Slavin and a group of assistants purchased this equipment at the price of scrap metal. Officially, general-purpose machines, inexpensive steel grades, etc., could be officially sent to Palestine. And specialized equipment for ammunition and weapon production was bought through fictitious companies, disassembled into parts, entered them into a catalog (accumulated up to 60 thousands of names) and sent in batches that did not arouse suspicion. Slavin bought up some developments, for example, the Dror light machine gun (a modification of the Johnson М1944 machine gun).

In Palestine, factories built with such equipment were concealed in various ways. The “plant” for the production of pistol cartridges, say, was disguised by a new kibbutz. Failures sometimes led to arrests, but often managed to negotiate with the British. When the authorities opened a large workshop in Tel Aviv in 1947, members of the Haganah, in spite of police posts, entered the premises at night and took out some explosives and five barrels with barrels to Stan. And then bribed the police and carried the remains.

When Ben Gurion finally gave Slav freedom of action in October 1947, under the conditions of the approaching war, 2 demanded a million Palestinian pounds, promising production of 20 thousands of rifles, 10 thousands of machine guns, 5 millions of cartridges and other weapons and equipment. In March, the 1948 of the hastily organized “plant” in Givatayim was already in production of the 12 000 “Stan”, 500 machine guns “Dror”, 140 000 grenades, 120 three-inch mortars and 5 millions of cartridges (according to W. Milstein). Among other things, with the 1947 of the year, they began to produce copies of the Piat British anti-tank grenade launchers. True, in 1948 — 1949, incendiary bottles remained the main anti-tank agent.

Measures for the extraction and production of weapons yielded results. According to historian Yehuda Slutsky, on 29 in November 1947, the Haganah had 3662 submachine guns, 3830 pistols, 10 662 rifles, 932 various machine guns, 670 two-inch (50,8 millimeter) and 84 three-night fights, and 2News of 2-in-night sniper numbers. At the same time, even in Palmach, the Hagana shock troops, there was one rifle each for three soldiers and one three-inch mortar each for a company. And on 76,2 in May 15, the weapons of the Haganah were already 1948 10 machine-gun-making-it-and-one that made us (264 7000 5607, 21-rifle-and-making-up-and-dropping the 859 1269 rifles, 182’s 682 105 rifles, 25 20 XNUMX rifles, XNUMX XNUMX XNUMX rifles, XNUMX XNUMX XNUMX rifles, XNUMX XNUMX XNUMX rifles, XNUMX XNUMX XNUMX millimeters.

Your weapon

“For the first time, the Jewish people created a weapon for themselves” - this was how pompous about the appearance of the Uzi submachine gun, its creator, Uziel Gall. The appearance of this modest, seemingly modest, weapon showed that Israel already has its own military industry.

In the 1949 year, at the end of the War of Independence, work on its own submachine gun began in Taas. It was necessary automatic melee weapons for all the armed forces and services, and, moreover, simple, reliable, cheap, for the production of which required non-deficient materials and mostly universal machines. Experience production "Stanov" already had; In addition, Czechoslovak designs of Holek and the Koutskikh brothers and the British BSA were studied. For this purpose, Army Lieutenant Uziel Gall (originally named Gothard Glas, a native of Germany), who had gone through the school of an underground armorer during the struggle with the British, was sent to the "Taas".

In 1950, the testing of the samples of U. Galla and H. Kara began. In 1953, the Gall sample was adopted, initially called UMI ("Uziel, State of Israel"). However, he became known as "Uzi". According to the Bible, the name "Uzziel" belonged to one of the angels of the heavenly host and means "My strength in God", so that it was not by chance that it received its name. The Israeli Uzi became one of the most common types of small arms of the second half of the 20th century and even got into service with the German Bundeswehr.

It is worth noting that in the same 1949 year, when work on a submachine gun was launched in Israel, another famous weapon model, the Kalashnikov assault rifle, was adopted in the USSR. In the 1960s, he will already manifest himself in the Middle East, and at the end of the 1960s his system will form the basis of the Israeli Galil assault rifle. Its development was led by Israel Galil, whose original name is Blashnikov. Another "Russian trace"?

In the meantime, in the middle of 1950, Israel purchases FAL assault rifles from the Belgian Factories Factory. True, representatives of Israel believe that this popular rifle does not meet their requirements too much. But the firm does not need to make concessions - it has the same order from Syria. All the same, FAL rifles and FALO "National Factories" machine guns in the Israel Defense Forces will get into and take part in the Sinai campaign and in the Six Day War.

Sherman vs Archer

By the start of the Sinai campaign 1956 of the year (Operation Kadesh), the Israel Defense Forces were still young and still lacked weapons. True, the attitude of official US circles towards Israel, which proved its viability, changed rapidly, and in 1952, the United States and Israel concluded an agreement on assistance and mutual security, which provided for military assistance. This made it easier for Israel to buy weapons in other countries. In different ways, the Israelis acquired the old American Sherman tanks of the M4, M4A1 and M4A2 modifications with VVSS, M4A1 76 (W) suspension, partly with the upgraded HVSS suspension.

During the Second World War, these machines really proved to be quite good, as well as self-propelled American 105-mm howitzer M7 Priest and 76,2-mm anti-tank guns M10 Woolverain (acquired from Great Britain), as well as British 25-pound (87,6- mm) field guns and American 155 mm M1 howitzers. The same story with the P-51 "Mustang" American fighters, the B-17 bombers and the British FB Mk VI "Mosquito" fighters in the Air Force. But by the year 1956 it all became morally obsolete. True, the Arabs were armed mainly with old equipment (including the Soviet, through the same Czechoslovakia).

In the run-up to the Sinai campaign, according to the then Chief of the General Staff Moshe Dayan, “an inventory of the rear equipment more than ever showed our crying poverty.” And at a meeting at the headquarters of the Armed Forces of France 1 October 1956, Israeli representatives have requested the supply of 100 modernized tanks "Super Sherman" (or M50 "Sherman") with the new 75-mm French gun, 300 half-track armored vehicles, 50 tank transporters, 300 three-axle truck, as well as 1000 hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers. The French agreed to supply the required, reducing the number of armored vehicles to 200, and transporters to 20. In France, Israel has acquired a newer technique - 180 light tanks AMX-13. Thus was formed one of the most varied systems of armored weapons in the world. There were problems with the maintenance of a new fleet of vehicles. For installation on the "Shermans" new 75-mm guns had to dismantle the old car. On AMX-13 tanks, filters had to be changed — regular ones were not suitable for desert conditions. Half-tracked American armored personnel carriers M3 and M9 demanded 500 sets of spare tracks.

The issue of all-wheel drive trucks also turned out to be equally important: the available trucks and jeeps were mostly in the workshops without spare parts, and the many-sided fleet of mobilized civilian transport (“vans from laundry and margarine factories”) created more problems when driving on roads in the desert than decided.

Meanwhile, the old technology still fought well. So, one self-propelled Egyptian anti-tank gun "Archer" in a battle at Um-Katef knocked down an Israeli tank and armored vehicle. The Egyptians generally performed well in battles in fortified positions, but not in maneuverable combat. According to experts, the Israelis would not have avoided heavy losses if they had to deal with Soviet tankmen instead of Arab ones. This is indirectly acknowledged by Moshe Dayan. When at the meeting of the 2 October 1956 General Staff of the year, fears were expressed that “Arab volunteers from the Eastern bloc” would not appear in the Arab armies, Dayan reassured his colleagues that the Russians were unlikely to appear, and “Poles and Czechs are just Poles and Czechs”.

Caravels of the sons of Israel

So far we have been talking about land. But the state on the seashore cannot exist without naval forces. Naval detachments of Palestine Jews tried to form as early as the 1930s with the active support of Benito Mussolini. The personnel were trained in fascist Italy in officer courses in Civitavecchia. Then create your fleet ishuvu failed. But in January, 1943, in Caesarea, with the assistance of Mossad Le-Aliyah, opened the first course of maritime affairs for Palmach, the Hagana strike troops. And in April, the Palnmah 1945 created the 10 subunit (10 company of the 4 battalion), which became abbreviated as “Palyam” (from “Plugo Ha-Yam”, translated from Hebrew as “maritime company”, or "Sea company"). His main task was the protection of Jewish immigrants arriving on ships and their delivery by boat, bypassing the English blockade, on the coast of the Promised Land (from August 1945 to May 1948, they spent about 70 thousands of people through the cordons). It was also used for explosive works and sabotage at sea — in October, the Palyam joined the armed struggle against the British. And by the beginning of the War of Independence, the unit had grown to 400 people and had bases in several coastal cities in Palestine.

On March 17, 1948, a decision was made to create a naval service, in which Palyam was also poured. Her fighters, specializing in sabotage and sabotage, formed the 13th flotilla, which later became a unit of the "commandos" of the Israeli Navy.

On the eve of the War of Independence, the Israelis had only five large ships that could be considered combat: A-16 Eilat (former American icebreaker Northland), K-20 Hagan (former Canadian corvette Norsid), K- 24 “Wedgwood” (former Canadian corvette “Byuhamois”), K-24 “Maoz” (originally German cruise ship “Sitra”) and K-26 “Noga” (former American patrol ship “Yucatan”). Moreover, at least 10% of their crews were American and Canadian sailors who had passed through the war.

On the armament of boats of the "Saar" entered anti-ship missile "Gabriel". And in the course of the Arab-Israeli war 1973, the parties fired on each other a hundred anti-ship missiles - the Israeli "Gabriel" and the Soviet P-15.

They were ordered to go to Haifa

In Israel, one of the first in the world to assess the potential opportunities that guided missile weapons opened in the fight at sea. The development of the first national anti-ship missile (PKR) started back in 1955 year, but it never got to the fleet. But at the end of 1950-x the company IAI joined the work on the CRP. Her task was to create a Gabriel compact rocket designed for promising missile boats.

In 1962, on the orders of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, Deputy Defense Minister Shimon Peres went to Germany, where he held talks with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The Chancellor agreed to help Tel Aviv in the purchase of new naval equipment, and in December an agreement was signed with the Bremen company Lurssen Werft on the development of the design of the missile boat. They took as a basis a large torpedo boat of the Jaguar type (the 140 project, aka Schnellboot 55). The rocket-artillery boat created on its base with a standard displacement of 220 tons was designated as “Sa'ar” (translated from Hebrew as “Storm”).

Not wanting to complicate relations with the Arab world, Adenauer, agreeing to the construction of boats at a German shipyard, obliged everyone to "keep this business secret." But after the first three Jaguars were handed over to Israel, one of the high-ranking government officials organized a leak to the New York Times. After that, the German government flatly refused to continue the program, without objection, however, to the fact that the boats on the German project were built somewhere else. This place was the French shipyard Constructions Mechaniques de Normandie in Cherbourg, which in 1965 — 1966 ordered 12 boats. About two hundred Israeli soldiers and technicians lived for several months in Cherbourg, and Brigadier General Mordechai Limon was appointed the head of the Cherbourg project. He passed the severe school of service not only in Israel, but also in the British fleet, participated in breaking the blockade of Palestine organized by the British, in 1950, at the age of 26 years, became commander of the Israeli Navy, four years later took off his shoulder straps and went to study business science in Colombia the university.

France then provided up to three quarters of all arms supplies to the Jewish state. But although the Cherbourg shipbuilders, who were experiencing an extreme shortage of orders, transferred the first two boats to Israel as early as April-May 1967, they failed to take part in the Six-Day War - they simply did not manage to arm the boats.

2 June 1967 of the year, that is, three days before the outbreak of the war, Charles de Gaulle, who sought to maintain stable relations with the Arab world, announced his refusal to supply “offensive weapons” to Israel in the future. This did not extend to boats, and the two "Saar" set off to Israel in the autumn of that year. But then the situation worsened: 26 December 1967, Palestinian militants attacked an Israeli airliner at Athens airport, in response to which two days later Israeli commandos attacked Beirut airport and destroyed 13 Lebanese aircraft. After that, Charles de Gaulle declared that “henceforth the embargo will be complete”.

4 January 1969, a week after the declaration of the total embargo, the crews of the three boats built and remaining in Cherbourg arrived on their ships, raised Israeli naval flags and freely entered the sea. Back they have not returned. When the French Minister of Defense wanted to know where the boats were located, Mordechai Limon said that "they received orders to follow to Haifa, because they belong to us." Well, the local residents and Cherbourg specialists during the ongoing internal investigation all as one shrugged their shoulders and said in bewilderment: “Embargo? What is the embargo? We have not heard anything about the embargo. ”

When the investigators came to the shipyard’s management, the director said that he personally learned about the introduction of the embargo only on January 6 from an official letter, and submitted a covering letter from the local post office.

All that the French could from now on was to keep an eye on the five remaining missile boats, the completion of which continued at the shipyard. But the admirals of the Promised Land, too, did not sleep, and eventually took the ships belonging to them. True, in a somewhat peculiar way.

Christmas hijacking

In November, 1969 of the year to Felix Amyot, who led the construction of boats at the Cherbourg shipyard, arrived one Martin Martin. Posing as a shipowner businessman from Norway, he showed a keen interest in purchasing these ships - allegedly for his company registered in Panama and engaged in oil development on the shelf off the coast of Alaska.

The parties quickly found a common language and entered into a purchase-sale agreement, which the French government almost immediately approved. This is understandable: who wants to invest in the completion of boats, if it is not clear who will buy them and whether it will buy them at all. However, if French officials were more eager, they would have easily learned that the Norwegian company registered in Panama just a few weeks earlier, and the large Norwegian tycoon shipowner Martin Sim was an old and close friend of the Israeli shipowner named Mila Brenner. He convinced the Norwegian to serve Israel. However, there were quite a few people in the French government and the arms export control committee who openly sympathized with the Israelis.

Meanwhile, in Cherbourg arrived about fifty young sailors who introduced themselves as Norwegians. All as one blond with blue eyes, they nevertheless were the Israeli military. In addition, the city still had at least 70 people from a previous Israeli team of technical specialists. The latter behaved freely and even booked places in several large restaurants for Christmas, clearly indicating that they are not going to leave the city in the near future. But it was precisely on Christmas Eve that the Mossad planned the operation to hijack boats, not without reason relying on the festive complacency of the French. Although, as the authors of the book Mossad wrote later: Secret Stories, many Cherbourg residents "noticed with surprise that some Norwegian guys are excellent linguists and even communicate with each other in Hebrew."

Ezra Kedem, a naval officer who had already hijacked three missile boats in January 1969, became the immediate leader of the escape. Then he brought them to the eastern channel, which was shallow, but very rarely used by civilian vessels, and besides, the port radar did not capture all the areas, which the French themselves “kindly” reported earlier to Kedem. This time they decided to leave the harbor also by the eastern channel.

By the evening of "Day X" the weather was disgusting: a strong wind, the sea was stormy. It is far from the best time for small boats to go on long voyages. But there was no choice. Therefore, at nine in the evening, the motors roared on the boats, and the waiters in local restaurants watched in amazement at the reserved tables for seven dozen people getting hotter and the champagne heated. French intelligence, which had noticed some activity a few days earlier, chose not to interfere in the matter and stay in the position of an observer.

Therefore, on the night of 24 on 25 of December 1969, the last five missile boats paid for by Tel Aviv left Cherbourg Harbor - after parting waving of those who came to take them on the long journey of Mordechai Limon and Felix Amyot, who, as it turned out, knew from the very beginning Israelis’s operation but carefully concealed it. At this time, the bartender in the port zucchini was casually tossed to his visitors, pouring red wine with them:

- I saw how the Norwegians had just left the port and headed for Alaska.

In response, there was loud laughter.

And the next day a new scandal broke out in the press. The French government was once again shocked and again appointed an investigation, which, however, again faced with "sincere" surprise on the ground. A conspiracy of silence struck literally half the city.

French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann, who had just returned from a trip to Algeria and promised "friendship and supply of modern weapons in exchange for Arab oil", became enraged, summoned two Israeli diplomats and told them that in such a situation the "escape of boats" would be perceived by the Arab world as "a sophisticated French mockery" and, if the boats appear in Israel, the consequences will be simply unpredictable. The official Tel Aviv acknowledged the fact of hijacking of boats only after they arrived safely in the country.

The results of the official investigation were as follows: Mordechai Limon, who had lived in France for seven years, was asked to leave the country, two French generals lost their posts. The charges were also made against Felix Amyot, but he turned away, saying at the investigation that security was not his business.

“Yes, I am sympathetic to the Israelis, but as far as I know, this is not a crime,” said the resourceful Frenchman.

Thus, by the 1970, all 12 Saar rocket boats of the first, second and third series were received by the Israelis and armed (Gabriel missiles cost more than the boats themselves). They constituted the core of the national naval forces and performed well in the Arab-Israeli war 1973. But here begins a completely different story - the history of the regular army with a fully established supply of weapons.
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