Casemate Publishers has reissued TheWar of Atonement: The Inside Story of the Yom Kippur War by Chaim Herzog. When this book was first published in 1975 it was widely acknowledged as one of the best accounts of the Yom Kippur War, and it still is. Herzog, who was Director of Israeli Military Intelligence, knew all the major decision-makers on the Israeli side. These relationships enabled him to provide useful background information and analysis.
There are many books recounting the battles between Egypt and Israel and Syria and Israel during the Yom Kippur War, but The War of Atonement also includes chapters concerning the abortive diplomatic efforts of the Arab states and Israel between the Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. These chapters are particularly useful in explaining the causes of the Yom Kippur War by providing the relevant diplomatic and historical context.
The Yom Kippur War was the last major war fought between multiple Arab states and Israel. Most people recall that Egypt and Syria launched a surprise simultaneous attack against Israel on Yom Kippur. But by the war’s end, Israel was also fighting troops from Iraq, Morocco, and Jordan. During the war, Egypt and Israel engaged in the largest tank battle since the Battle of Kursk in World War II. In addition, this was the first war where the combatants engaged in naval battles using ship-to-ship guided missiles rather than naval guns or torpedoes. In addition to providing a detailed account of each of the major battles as well as useful information on the political leaders and generals of both sides, the author recounts in detail the heroism of individual Israeli army units that were greatly outnumbered during the first few days of the war. In reading his account of the war, one is reminded that he was writing at a time when the Israeli army was at its peak and had not yet declined into an army characterized by tactical mediocrity.
The author was also prescient in many respects. In noting the Soviet Union’s shipment of FROG ballistic missiles to Syria and SCUD missiles to Egypt prior to the war, he wrote, “Civilian populations will be exposed to no less a degree than the military forces in any future war.” This prediction was borne out during the 1991 Gulf War when Iraq launched 39 SCUD missiles at Israeli cities as well as the 2006 Second Lebanon War when more than 1,000 rockets and missiles were launched against Israeli cities and towns.