Saturday, July 9, 2016

Researching for next battle - Israeli Escape from Sultan Yakoub

Edit on Aug1, 2016 - Updated info, see bottom

I have a little painting to do for my next game so I thought I'd spend a bit of my down time looking at some battles that happened in Lebanon 1982 and try to convert them into something that would be fun to play.  Israel had three major thrusts, all in pretty different types of terrain.  City fights through Tyre, Sidon and Beirut along the coast, mountains in the middle (mainly non-heavy mobile forces) and Bekaa Valley on the right.  Here is the first one.

Battle of Sultan Yakoub

Sultan Yakoub is a small village in the Bekaa Valley, just four miles from the Syrian border.  As you can see there are two Sultan Yakoub villages; one at the base of the hill and another at the top.  I'm inclined to think the attack was on the village on the hill since there are descriptions that the Israeli's got blocked in a narrow valley after they rushed through the village.




Background:

This was one of the last battles of the war.  The UN set a ceasefire at midday on June 11.  On June 10th, Israel was pushing North with all their brigades in order to take as much ground as possible.  The 362nd Battalion of the 90th Reserve Division (under Giora Lev) was tasked with taking the Sultan Yakoub.  The Israeli's didn't have any intelligence and went in blindly.  Little did they know it was the forward position of a pretty much untouched Syrian mechanized brigade.

The Israeli tank battalion was equipped with Magach 6 tanks (modified M-60s) supported by infantry in M113 Zelda APCs.  The Syrian 1st Armored Division was defending the Bekaa valley to keep Israel from cutting the Damascus-Beirut highway.  The 91st and 76th Tank Brigades have been fighting for several days now while being pushed back by the Israel advances.  I'm making an educated guess that the division's 58th Mechanized Brigade was the defenders at Sultan Yakoub.  The 58th Mech Brigade was equipped with BTR-60s and a mix of T-55 and T-62 tanks.  Commando units were also attached.

The battle started in the evening with the 362nd brigade approaching the village and getting fired on by Sagger teams hidden on each side of the road.  Israeli damage was light due to the missiles being fired too close and not arming.  The battalion charged up and through the village to the valley on the other side receiving strong fire from all calibers and cutting themselves off from support.  The commander decided to hold up at the far edge of the village until they can try to break out the following morning.  During the night, the Syrians re-positioned themselves with infantry with RPGs in the village and tanks hidden in the surrounding hills while continuing to harass the tanks.

At dawn the Syrians opened up with anti-tank and Sagger fire from the hills and commandos with RPGs inside the village.  There is also reports of the commandos using Milan ATGMs.  An IDF relief force was stopped from coming in from the East and the trapped units were taking losses and running out of ammo.  The remnants of the 362nd Battalion escaped by making a mad dash with massive artillery support, 11 battalions worth.  The artillery fired in a box around the withdrawing Israeli force while they retreated back to safety.

The Israeli's lost eight tanks and 35 men killed or wounded, with some of the tanks falling into Syrian hands.  In a side note, early this year in May, Russia agreed to return Israel a Magach-3 that was taken by the Syrians during this battle.  It has been in a Russian museum up to now. 

Updated Info:

Digging into the battle from a few more sources, I came across a few errors.  There is actually a lot of confusion on what the 362nd Tank Battalion was equipped with.  All the books, most written from interviews from the participants, say M60s.  The picture below and article from The Times of Israel say Russia is returning a Magach-3 (M48s) taken from the battle.  It was a reserve unit make up from tankers from highly religious circles.  Eshel states they are "a dedicated lot fearless of nothing but the wrath of God."

Here is a picture of the tank that was captured in Sultan Yakoub and sent to Soviets.  You can see the ERA on it.  Looking at the curved lower hull on the front, it definitely is a M48.

From The Times of Israel

Ceremony returning the IDF tank.  From Times of Israel

Reading through all the accounts of the war in the various books, M-48s are rarely mentioned at all.  It is always M-60s.  In Eshel's book, pictures of M48s are even labeled as M-60s, so authors probably didn't really see a difference between them.  From this, I'm still going to go with using M-48s in the scenario but give them reactive armor. 


Scenario Ideas:
I can think of two scenario ideas for this battle.  1) Israeli tank company charges into the village through a gauntlet of missile armed commandos and occupied town to the other side at dusk and 2) same Israeli tank company starts holed up at dawn  in the village and needs to escape to the other side of the board with off board artillery support.  Israeli fleeing is something new, so I'll start with that one.  I'll probably alter it when we play but this is what I got in mind.



Escape from Sultan Yakoub



Special Rules:
•    Ambush
•    Immediate Reserves
•    Dawn - Use night fighting rules until Attacker roles a 5+ at start of their turn (add 1 die per turn like rolling for reserves)

Setting Up:

The board should be setup with a village taking up the bottom half of the board and a hilly countryside filling the top half.  This will let the Israelis start in the center of the village with some Syrian teams lurking around the edges of the village.  A road should from the village to the north board edge.

Deployment:

The attackers (Israel) starts with all their forces on the board.  The defenders (Syria) start with half of their forces in Immediate Reserves, up to one extra unit in Ambush and the rest placed on the board.  Defender reserves can enter at any part of the table edge that contacts their deployment zone.

Israeli Force:

Company HQ - Magach 3 w/ERA
Tank Platoon 1 - 3x Magach 3 w/ERA
Tank Platoon 2 - 3x  Magach 3 w/ERA
Tank Platoon 3 - 3x  Magach 3 w/ERA 
Mechanized Platoon 1 - 4x FN FAL teams, 3x RPG-7 teams, 1x Dragon team, 4x M113 Zelda
Mechanized Platoon 2 - 4x FN FAL teams, 3x RPG-7 teams, 1x Dragon team, 4x M113 Zelda
Off board artillery - 2x M109 Field Battery (3 models firing each salvo)

Syrian Force:

Battalion HQ - AK-74 team, BTR-60
Mechanized Company 1 - 7x AK-74 teams, 6x RPG-7 teams, 2x PKMK LMG teams, 9x BTR-60
Mechanized Company 2 - 7x AK-74 teams, 6x RPG-7 teams, 2x PKMK LMG teams, 9x BTR-60
Commando Company - 4x AK-74 teams, 3x RPG-7 teams, 2x Sagger teams
Tank Company 1 - 6x T-62 
Tank Company 2 - 6x T-55

Winning:

Attackers wins if they start a turn on holding one of the Objectives.  Defender wins if they start a turn on or after the sixth turn with no Attacking units within 16" of an Objective.


References:
1.  Solley, G.  The Israeli Experience in Lebanon, 1982-1985.  Marine Corps Command and Staff College report, 1987.
2.  https://www.sinodefenceforum.com/the-battle-of-sultan-yacoub-a-syrian-victory-over-israeli-armor.t3593/
3. Eshel, David, LT COL., "The Lebanon War 1982", Eshel-Dramit, Ltd, Hod Hasharon, Israel, 1982.
4. Gabriel, Richard, "Operation Peace for Galilee", Hill and Wang, New York, 1984.  
5. Katz, Samuel, "Israeli Tank Battles, Yom Kippur to Lebanon", Arms and Armour Press, London, 1988.

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