Egyptian Chronicles: 41 years on sinking the Eilat destroyer

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

41 years on sinking the Eilat destroyer

First of all I‘m sorry not to publish this in the correct time because I didn’t want to shower the readers with another historical military post right after the 6th October war posts ending by the EAF anniversary.
Second I wanted to publish this post last year because it marked the 40th anniversary of the Six days war “1967-2007” and since last June 2007 a huge depressing nostalgia took over the Arab world due to the huge depressing current situation that we‘re still weaker, we didn’t return anything and the 1973 war wasn’t a victory to the end of this sort of talk.I already wrote the content last year.

Yes we ‘re defeated in 1967 and I dedicated a time in my blog to read again the bitter history which many like me from young generations ignore except from what they learnt in the official history books and it was brief while what they learnt from the internet and western sources is biased as usual to Israel. When I read more and more ,I wasn’t shocked by that defeat as much as I was surprised by the speed of the recovery of the great Egyptian army with all its branches after that war , that if it would prove anything , it would prove the real metal of the Egyptian people that we don’t give up easily ,few countries could stand up again after a defeat like in 1967 but we made it and in the way to 1973 there were stops where the whole world or at least Israel understood that they didn’t finish on the last standing soldier in the Egyptian army as they wished .
What really makes me sad that whenever 1967 war fiasco is brought up we always leave the other side of the coin, that northern star in the darkness of the defeat vast desert that can lead us to the fact that if we had really fought as we could in that war, things could have been different, I don’t underestimate that war and what caused its fiasco but also I don’t know why people always ignore those small bright stars like the battle of Shedwoan or what General Saad El-din El-Shazely did or what happened on the 21st of October 1967
What happened on the 21st of October 1967 is what matters to me this time and it would be the topic of this post , on that day the Egyptian Navy succeeded in sinking the Israeli destroyer Eilat in front of Port Said and last year 2007 marked the 40th anniversary. That date the 21st of October since 1967 was chosen by the Egyptian Navy to become its day so it isn’t the day we sunk the Israeli destroyer only but it became our national day to celebrate the Egyptian Navy too. That date has nothing to do with the date of establishing the Egyptian Navy in the modern time; already I think it is wise thing because seriously I don’t know which date is the accurate date for establishing the E.N; was it in time of Mohamed Ali Pasha in 1832 where we became later in his golden era the fourth naval power in the Mediterranean after UK, France and Italy??? Or were the governmental and royal decrees which came in time of King Farouk and Ismail Sadky cabinet in 1946 the correct date for establishing or re-establishing the E.N!!?? It was correct decision taken by the commandership of the Egyptian Navy to consider this date as the Navy day because back at that time after 1967 people really need something to remind them despite how bitter the defeat was we‘re still able to come back like a phoenix.
But things weren’t that simple in fact they’re full of wonderful details.
First of all what was the Eilat destroyer?? Eilat was the biggest destroyer the Israeli navy had then, it was originally the Eilat Destroyer British “zealous” made in 1942, they bought it from the British year 1955 for 35,000 L.E. The destroyer’s weight was 1710 ton. Historically “Eilat” didn’t share in any fight except in 1956 during the capture of the Egyptian destroyer “Ibrahim”. According to the Israeli sources back then in 1967 the crew members on the vessel were 202 from ship crew and from officers among them the students of the senior year in the naval academy.
After three months over the war in June the Israelis wanted to screw with the Egyptian Navy in a showing off move , the navy was only arm that wasn’t harmed like the army or semi-destroyed air forces , the reason was that the Egyptian fleet was either in Alexandria or in its way home from Yemen war , Alexandria was considered a very far target to the Israeli pilots who made their move early in the dune on the 5th of June 1967, in fact the only airports and airbases that survived were in the south and the west of Egypt .Already till now that is giving a huge advantage to the Egyptian Navy. On the other hand the Israeli Navy didn’t achieve anything in the six days war; in fact it did nothing compared to other Israel arms for example look to their assignments: to attack three harbors in Syria yet they failed, to target the harbor in Port Said still they failed, to hit Alexandria and it also failed and in that stupid operation the Egyptian Navy succeeded in capturing 6 Israelis!!!
Back then in the time the Israelis wanted to hit or at least provoke the Egyptians more and more of course they didn’t understand they should miss with a wounded lion, very fierce wounded lion. But what can you say arrogance is the deadly sin for victorious people.
The Egyptian Navy found the Israeli destroyer in the Egyptian water near Port Said on the 21st of October and accordingly it had all the laws and rights on its side to defend its national water. Of course according to the usual Israeli claims they weren’t in the Egyptian Water but in the international water in a patrol in the Mediterranean!! Already it wasn’t the first time the Israelis sent their Eilat destroyer to screw around with us, there was a confront between us and Israeli Navy where Eilat also was the main player in on 11th July 1967 along with two torpedo boats near the shores of the Sinai where they attacked two Egyptian missile boats and sunk them in the international waters in violation to the cease fire agreement and international treaties. Of course the Israeli Navy commandership claimed heroism in order to get credit from the defense minister.Yitzhak Shoshan During that time that they gave orders to Yitzhak Shoshan, the commander of Eilat not to tell what really happened there, Shoshan by the way after that operation believed we would answer back and owr answer would be a hard one for such provocation ,yet no one real cared for that in the Israeli commandership; for them we’re finished, but Shoshan was right because after that attack in July the clear target of the E.N Commandership was to destroy this Israeli battleship as soon as possible and that’s why from the month of July till October more communications and radars began their intercepting operations in order to know the movement of Eilat ,Shoshan till now is insisting that the Israeli intelligence knew about our intention to bring down Eilat yet they didn’t warn him ,well I think this may true and they be didn’t inform him because seriously they didn’t think that we‘re capable of doing anything what so over , in fact what happened on the 21st of October was the first of its kind in Naval warfare.
The Egyptian Navy represented in 2 missile boats “504” and “501” only sunk the destroyer, first “504” began its attack by launching 2 P-15 termit rockets directly to the destroyer, the crew of Eilat saw the 2 rockets coming from the south to their ship, they tried to avoid them by changing the course and increasing the speed still the rockets changed their course and followed them; already these rockets ‘re from the Russian type known as “Styx”, a 20 foot radar guided projectile with a range of a 15 miles. The 2 rockets hit the destroyer, one hit the amidships and the second smashed the engine room to make the vessel dead in the sea and began to sink. The fires were everywhere that one of the survivor sailors described as “a vision of hell”. After one hour and half later two missiles came from “501”, one of them finished the job; it hit the astern, capsized Eilat sinking her, where as the other exploded in the water. It was the first time that anti-ship missiles showed their potential sinking a whole destroyer only by three hits , It was a milestone of modern naval warfare baby and we made , we the Egyptians made it.
Israel lost a lot in this operation, from the 202 crew members of the Eilat, 57 men were either reported between dead and missing “now after all those years they ‘re certainly dead” and 91 men were wounded not to mention of course their big destroyer. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol described the attack as despicable!!! I do not know why he didn’t consider the attack of his IAF with the napalm on the Suez Canal cities, on the civilian cities killing huge number of people in the damned dawn of 5th of June 1967 a despiAl Gomhouria headlines on that daycable too!!!!!!!!!! 
That victory you can’t imagine how much hope it brought back to both the people and the Arm forces, the people of Port Said who saw the smoke coming the sea and the sounds of blasts danced in streets. Of course in that critical time it made a lot of fear in the world that the war would broke again, on an international level it was understood that it was a revenge operation and they expected that there would be a powerful Israeli respond, already wisely Egyptian commandership then expected it
“We ‘re now expecting an Israeli act of vengeance as something certain”
said an official source to the AP agency then
And the act of vengeance from the Israeli side came on the 24th of October just after three days, the day started with the artillery dual act from both the sides of the canal then Israel attacked and bombed the oil storage and refinery at Port Said at the Red Sea end of 103 miles of the Canal,it was a huge loss of Egypt as the losses ‘re estimated back then $50 Millions, it was said that complex produced 80% of the Egypt’s oil products, of course you would think in the economic point of view but you must understand by bombing the oil complexes and mines of your enemy from the military strategic point of view you are cutting fuel from his aircrafts and warships , oh yes it isn’t about imports, exports and domestic use it is about other uses . Yes it was a big loss but from reading in the history it didn’t stop Egypt at all, and by the way targeting the oil complexes would be repeated over and over in the next 6 years after that incident.
This was just a start for a great series of naval operations that gave Egypt the upper hand in the sea. Already this is a very simple summary for what happened especially from the Egyptian side still I confess that I found myself lost in front of all these naval expressions.
Among the names Egyptian Crew members that made that victory were:
  • Lt. then Hassan Hosni “missile boat 504” Abtal_Eilat
  • Captain then Ahmed Shaker “missile boat 504”
  • Captain then Lotfy GadAllah “missile boat 501”
And here is a picture for one of the missile boats either 504 or 501; it is called now “Asuit”.
Missile boat Asuit
Also here is a very rare footage shot by the Egyptian Navy for the operation that was used in one of the military documentaries.

Also here is a very recent interview with General Lotfi Gadallah,the captain of the missile boat "501" in October 2008

There are several books about the incident from Israeli and western perspective; I wish there would be Egyptian books about the incident in foreign languages. Shoshan already wrote a book called “The last battle of Eilat”
There was a film about the incident in the Egyptian cinema under the name of The dignity dayunfortunately it wasn’t great enough to represent this heroic act of the navy cinematically as we all expected.
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12 comments :

  1. You forgot to mention the movie, I saw the last part of it on tv one late night right when 501 and 505 attack. Do you know what it's called, I wanna look for it so I can watch the whole thing ?

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  2. Hey Hani , I mentioned that film in the end of the post ,it is called "The dignity day" {Youm El-Karamah" starring Ahmed Ezz and Khaled Abu Naga and directed by Ali Abd El-Khalak ,to be honest it is not the best film to portray this operation , Ali Abd El-Khalak made other better films

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  3. very nice article , i only have one comment.... the missile boats that sank Eilat are no longer in service , they were replaced with similar boats and non of them is called Asiut ;)

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  4. Dear all, there's a good Egyptian movie about this operations named, 'The Path to Eilat' الطريق الى ايلات"
    This is a good movie that's worth watching.

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  5. amazing post, Thanks Zeinobia

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  6. Would you please let me know who wrote the above narration that begins with " First of all I‘m sorry not to publish this in the correct time yet I didn’t want to shower the readers with another historical military post right after the 6th October war posts ..."
    Thank you

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  7. @anonymous 1,2 and Mohamed thanks :)

    @anonymous 3, I wrote this introduction

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  8. THIS SHIP SERVED IN WORLD WAR 2 AND WAS INVOLVED IN THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS BEFORE BEING SOLD TO A NO MARK ARMY WHO TAKE CREDIT FOR SINKING A SHIP THAT WAS IN MORE BATTLES THAN YOUR COUNTRY AS EVER SHAT ITSELF FROM.THIS ARTICLE SEEMS TO TAKE CREDIT FOR THE SINKING AS IF IT WAS AN ACHIEVEMENT THAT BOAT WAS A PIECE OF HISTORY ONLY TO BE SHOT LIKE A USED OLD GREYHOUND WHAT A SHAME IT SITS SO CLOSE TO A DIRTY SHITHOLE WHERE U HAVE TO WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER HANDLING MONEY MY GRANDAD WILL BE SPINNING IN HIS GRAVE AND ITS HMS ZEALOUS IF U WANT TO SEE HER IN PROPPER ACTION MAYBE ONE DAY ENGLAND AND EGYPT WILL BATTLE THEN WE CAN DESTROY YOU . GREAT BRITAIN IS THE HARDEST !

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  9. كل ده رغى بالكدب

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  10. hey there..im faizal..from malaysia..
    juz want to drop a comment here...
    Ur blog..IT's REALLY NICE BLOG..well done..

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  11. While it is normal and very human to want to support your nation and your neighbors, as early as 1955 Egypt was sending irregular troops to attack Israel in violation of the ceasefire that she had agreed to. That makes Egypt an aggressor, which is a very different way of looking at which country is the victim here. From such a perspective, it would be more human to be embarrassed by Egypt's ongoing and repetitive aggressions.

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  12. And after that, Israelis bombed the biggest oil installations of Egypt at Port Suez. Soviets send 6 destroyers to Egypt in order to force Israelis stop attacking. Otherwise there would be no Egypt today.

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