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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Armor of the Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit to Yad La-Shiryon Part 1

While the Flames of War rules for the Six Day War are a couple of years old at this point (and honestly I still have a bunch of Israelis to paint), I recently traveled to Israel on business and thanks to a generous co-worker, got a chance to visit Yad La-Shiryon (you'll likely need to get Google to translate the link), or The Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun (as it is more officially known). The museum houses a fairly amazing collection of armored vehicles - including many you wouldn't expect to see in Israel. As someone deeply interested in the history of the multiple conflicts since the founding of the modern Israeli state, the museum was a treasure trove of unusual vehicles and really gave me a sense of perspective around the conflicts and the vehicles used. In this first part of the article, we'll look at some of the early vehicles used by the IDF from the 1940's through the 1970's.

The museum is built around a Mandate-era fortress
The first thing one realizes when visiting Israel is that it is not a large country in terms of land mass. Driving from Tel Aviv (on the Mediterranean coast) to Jerusalem (on Israel's eastern border) takes you about an hour (it's ~70km/44mi from the shore to the Old City). From North to South Israel is about the same size as Oregon (see image courtesy of MapFight below), though at least the southern third of Israel is comprised of a sparsely populated desert, the Negev.

Comparative map of the U.S. State of Oregon and Israel

Another point to note is that at least in January, Israel is fairly lush (though some of this is agriculture). Palm trees are fairly abundant, but other trees are in evidence as well.

Looking out over the parking lot to the hills to the south of Latrun
Once you enter the museum itself, the armor around the central courtyard area is mostly dedicated to Israeli armor - or at least armor the Israelis have used in various conflicts since 1948. Given the relatively arid climate, the vehicles are generally in very good condition given they're all exposed to the elements. As with most museums, the vehicles generally show evidence of re-painting, and the markings must be taken with a grain of salt (or in some cases a full salt lick).

Money shot of some of the armor used in the 1967 and 1973 wars - photobomed by a Merkava and a few others
Most vehicles have a plaque in front of them with details. These include technical details about the tank including crew size, horsepower, weight, and armament. There is also generally a history section with details about how the vehicle was used (either by the Israelis or others).

Example of one of the data cards with Hebrew and English text

The pre-World War II H-39 was used during the 1948 War by Israeli forces 

Israel's armored forces, even through the 1970's, relied greatly on foreign produced vehicles - many of which dated back to World War II or in some cases earlier. The Hotchkiss and Cromwell tanks, in addition to Shermans were used in the 1948 war alongside many different types of armored cars (improvised and purpose built).

Early Shermans at Latrun

One of many armored cars on display
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) would go on to modernize many designs - especially the Sherman tank - to ensure that their armored forces were competitive with those of their generally Soviet equipped neighbors (with Jordan being the notable exception). The Sherman tank was up-gunned with the French high-velocity 75mm gun from the AMX-13 tank (which was also purchased and used by the Israelis).

M50 Sherman with French 75mm high-velocity gun

French produced AMX-13 light tank
Israeli Shermans generally also received new diesel engines, and many were further upgraded to the M51 standard by adding a French made 105mm gun. This powerful gun allowed the M51 to successfully engage far more modern Soviet designs like the T54, T55, and T62 using HEAT ammunition during both the Six Day War in 1967 and later during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

M51 Sherman showing the size of the 105mm gun and muzzle brake
I really owe a great deal of thanks to my work colleague for taking me to the museum. It was an amazing experience! In the next part of this series, I'll include photos of some of the more advanced designs in the IDF inventory followed by Soviet bloc equipment, historic armor, and finally "the real oddballs!"

Michael McSwiney is a long time contributor to Battlefront and Flames of War, miniature painter, model builder, tread head, rivet counter, and general grognard. He maintains his own blog when he isn't building a new house at Miniature Ordnance Review.


Steven Williams said...

Interesting stuff!

Volleyfire! said...

So from looking at these pictures it appears, as I suspected when the painting guides for Arab/Israeli came out, that Battlefront got their colours wrong for Israeli armoured vehicles. The Grey Green they recommend is a modern variant of colour scheme for the IDF, the colour that was used during the period we are gaming is this more honey coloured desert yellow. So having painted every unit the IDF has in the Battlefront range I now find they are the wrong colour.

Fingolfen said...

Honestly not sure I'd go that far... the vehicles at the museum show signs of having been repainted many times, and they are museum pieces - so using them as 100% gospel on how the vehicles were originally painted is dangerous. I'm hoping to get a paint guide together for a future blog entry.

zap123 said...

If you look at the AMX it looks like a heavily faded version of the scheme BF recommended. Also the Grey Green does look cool on the table.....

Unknown said...

your map of israel is incorrect as it includes the occupied territories, not the internationally recognised green line border. Please correct to remove the illegally occupied lands.

academicsuicide said...

Unknown... They aren't illegally occupied, the Israeli's took those lands legitimately and those lands ARE recognised internationally by many governments it just happens that the middle east and the anti semite left don't like that.

If the plight of the 'Palestinians 'is such a problem and middle eastern countries lay into israel about it why didn't Jordon, Syria and Egypt take the group now known as 'palestinian's' in oh yeah thats because Jordon and Egypt had already put most of THEIR citizens in that group of people on watch lists as terrorists and rabble rousers and the Syrians didn't want them as they didn't want competition in their national sport of political intrigue and coup d'etat.

'Palestinians' come from a group of either Jordanian, Syrian or Egyptian citizens who found they weren't trusted enough by anyone after 73 to be taken in after the war even though they had fought and caused trouble and they all refused the offer of becoming Israeli citizen Arabs.

The way the Muslim world and left wing nations lay in bed together and attack Israel's right to exist is disgusting. If it we're any other country in the world OR the other way round international LAW would have prevailed and those lands would be recognised by all even if they didn't LIKE the fact as legitimate conquest. The fact that that isn't the case just because its a Jew on top is disgusting.

But that's all by the by even though I am pro fairness and equality and basic human rights and this pro Israel and I also play the Arab-Israeli war game I DONT play it slowly because of my political beliefs I play it because im fascinated by the way that the in allot of cases technically inferior equipment and limited numbers was used in a way which allowed it to best soviet equipment that was feared and respected and im interested in seeing how those clashes play out. Im fascinated by the equipment disparity and the differences in doctrine the differences between elite volunteer units and conscript armies, the difference between a mobility based Officer corps and a corps picked and promoted based on skills. Im interested in the battles because of the way the tabletop clashes allow us to compare ourselves to the great generals, it allows us to play what if style games like what would have happened if the Soviets crossed the border into west Germany in the 50's/60's with the clashes between t54 and centurian (sp?) or recreate Korean skirmishes between post war Sherman's and soviet post war armour.

It even gives us the ability to go deeper into the what if files, what if the war had lasted a little longer and we had the tiger as Germanys main tank fighting the armour we have stats for from the AIW book.

THAT is why I play the game so I believe its fair to say that coming onto a toy soldiers blog to whine about politics on an article which is about giving gamers a resource for painting ideas for their 15mm plastic and resin tanks makes you a grade a tossed.

Robert F. Crocker said...

I found that site very usefull and this survey is very cirious, I ' ve never seen a blog that demand a survey for this actions, very curious...
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