Today, few people remember the operation “Nickel grass” … almost nuclear war….and Europe once again is a worthless ally…except one nation.
(Nickel grass), which took place in October 1973 during the most serious of all the Arab-Israeli wars. This is when Israel, after two weeks of fierce fighting on two fronts (against Egypt and Syria with the support of the armies of Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and even Cuba and Pakistan), found itself in a very difficult situation. In two weeks of fighting, about 1000 tanks were lost, about 200 aircraft were shot down, more than 2 thousand soldiers were killed. And although the losses of the combined Arab forces were three times greater, more than 2,500 tanks were destroyed there, 514 aircraft were shot down and 12 to 18 thousand soldiers were killed, but there the superiority was initially several times greater. Israel was on the verge of exhausting all military resources, and after declassifying the old archives, it became known that Prime Minister Golda Meir gave the order to be prepared to launch a nuclear attack on the Arab capitals as the last measure for the survival of the state.
But all of the above are known facts. More interesting is another. Not a single European country has agreed not only to the immediate supply of arms to Israel (in relation to which they have always stated that this is the only democracy in the Middle East and in general they are terribly ashamed of the Holocaust), but even banned American transit through their airspace. That is, when the question of the survival of Israel was on the map, the peace-loving Europeans suddenly backed up, afraid of losing the rich Arab market.
As a result, only one European country – Portugal agreed to use its military airfields in the Azores and Lisbon for the urgent transfer of ammunition from the United States to Israel. This operation was called “Nickel Grass” when an air bridge was built in Tel Aviv on October 14, 1973, during which heavy transport aircraft of the US and Israeli Air Force made 567 flights and transferred to support the Israeli army:
– 40 F-4 Phantom bombers
– 46 A-4 fighters
– 12 heavy transport ca = BC Hercules S-130
– From 35 to 45 helicopters
– 600 tanks and armored personnel carriers
– from 150 to 200 anti-tank guns
– From 30 to 40 missile systems for air defense
And from 22 to 25 thousand tons of ammunition.
All this allowed Israel to end the war in just an additional 7-10 days, completely destroy the armies of Syria and Egypt and occupy new strategic territories. Moreover, the capitals of both Syria and Egypt were in jeopardy, since the leading positions of Israel were less than 100 km from Cairo and only 35 km from Damascus.
But, as I already said, another thing is significant in this story – not a single country in Europe (except Portugal) agreed not only to support deliveries, but even to provide its airspace for the transit of American cargo to Israel. It is clear that the Israelis would have survived without American help, but there would have been a nuclear war and the country’s leadership was ready for it.
By Yuri Tuvin, Gloucester, Massachusetts