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CHAPTER 90

Mossad took delivery of Horst Wagner with all his supplimentary docu- mentation, but there were many pointed questions that Judith found impossible to answer. Fortunately for her, such was her new fame, both nationally and internationally, that the intelligence service was se- verely constrained. When Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion learned of the details, told Mossad to back off. In his ancillary role as Defense Minister he brevetted Judith to the rank of Segen in the Israeli De- fense Force, equivalent to a junior lieutenant.

For the time being, as a brevet officer, she retained the pay of Sa- mal, or Sergeant, from her service in the reserves. But having fallen officially into the clutches of the IDF officer corps she was com- pelled to undergo her first physical. In the main Judith was in excel- lent condition. The doctors noted the ugly mass of keloid whip scars on her back, which limited her movement to a degree. When they noted the six digit tattoo on her forearm they knew how she got the scars.

In 1952 there was a coup in Egypt deposing King Farouk, who had ruled his country since 1936. One of the coup plotters, a leftist revolu- tionary named Colonel Gamal Nasser steadily rose in influence to be- come the usual President-for-life. In 1956 Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, seizing control from the British. He closed the Straits of Tirin in the Red Sea, which effectively put the southernmost Israeli port of Eilat under a blockade. At the same time he refused to allow any ships bound for Tel Aviv or Haifa to transit the canal.

The United Kingdom and France laid plans to take the canal back by force. They were interested in getting Israel involved in this opera- tion. Israel was already leaning toward a tussle with Egypt, the ques- tion was simply when, not if. Cross-border fedayeen raids from the Gaza strip had never ceased in the eight years Egypt had occupied it.

The French began to arm the IDF, with special emphasis on the air force.

In the third week of October Nasser moved part of his army into Gaza, including a number of artillery pieces which were used to shell the Israeli settlements near the border, of which Judith's kibbutz of Yad Mordechai was the closest. But she wasn't there. Nasser also moved troops into the Sinai Peninsula, supplied with the latest Soviet mili- tary equipment.

Judith missed all those developments. She was bounced by Michael in much the same way she had been taken from the Isle of Wight to Yad Mordechai, or from Yad Mordechai to Argentina and thence to Tel Aviv, except this time she moved through time as well as space. Five years were shaved off her life. Judith skipped from 1951 and arrived in 1956 at the still tender age of twenty-three. For Michael the only difficult part was convincing Judith that what hy had done to her was real.

When Judith reported to her unit she explained her absence from all the scheduled drills with a claim that she had been overseas hunting Nazis. That was entirely sufficient. Her superior officers, knowing she was the apple of the Prime Minister's eye, didn't even bother to verify the claim by requesting to inspect her passport, and indeed she had none.

On October 29, four Israeli World War II vintage P-51 Mustang fighter planes flew into the Sinai and cut, with their propellers, all the telephone lines connecting the Egyptian forces in Sinai to their home office in Cairo. On the same afternoon, four hundred IDF paratroopers were dropped at Mitla Pass, only fifty miles from the Suez Canal.

Meanwhile, a force commanded by Colonel Ariel Sharon crossed the bor- der and seized (through very hard fighting) three Egyptian positions along the one hundred fifty miles from Israel to the pass. Sharon then disobeyed orders to halt and proceeded to seize Mitla Pass at a cost of just thirty-eight Israeli lives.

On October 31 an Egyptian frigate fired two hundred shells into Haifa from the sea, but a French destroyer drove it off. Two Israeli de- stroyers then chased it down and opened fire, and later two Israeli warplanes damaged it with rockets. The Egyptian ship surrendered, and it was subsequently boarded and towed to Haifa.

Israel fought a fierce series of tank battles for Abu Ageila, and af- ter two days the Egyptians withdrew. From this position, Israel could supply its troops in the central Sinai without an attack from the rear.

On November 2 the IDF seized El Arish on the Sinai Mediterranean coast, which completely isolated the Gaza Strip. By that same evening, the Egyptian governor in Gaza surrendered. The Israelis penetrated to within ten miles of the Suez Canal and took possession of forty Sovi- et-made T-34 tanks and sixty armored vehicles which were left behind there.

Seren Judith Margolies's part in the war began at Eilat and ran down the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. The objective was to seize the guns at Sharm el-Sheikh and lift the closure of the Straits of Tiran. Her commander was Colonel Avraham Yoffe, and she was part of a motor- ized infantry brigade of two thousand soldiers and two hundred vehi- cles.

Their route was along a camel track that was never designed to be used by wheeled vehicles. At one point at Wadi Zaala they all had to break out their spades, dig their vehicles out of deep sand, and push them uphill.

At Dahab Oasis they had their first firefight, at sunset, against the camel-mounted troops of the Egyptian Frontier Force.

Later in the evening the force supplied with fuel in drums from a set of twenty barges towed down the Gulf of Aqaba from Eilat. Judith vol- unteered to help lead a regiment-sized detachment who would board these boats to attack the Egyptians from the sea. Meanwhile a de- tachment of Ariel Sharon's paratroopers advanced in a pincer movement down the Gulf of Suez, nearly doubling the size of the Israeli assault force.

At Sharm el-Sheikh a huge battery of naval guns were positioned to block all shipping making its way to Eilat. There, fifteen hundred Egyptian troops with their mortars and artillery held off the Israelis advancing overland.

Judith's amphibious assault arrived under the guise of twenty decep- tively painted, weathered-looking old barges slowly towed behind a jumbo tugboat. They were in two parallel trains of ten containers all linked together by flexible couplings. At Colonel Adan's command they all simultaneously broke free from each other and began moving under their own power toward the assigned beach.

All twenty of the special landing craft began to take sporadic 40mm mortar fire from somewhere in the town but this was mainly just an annoyance. Each landing craft was coated with tank armor and con- structed in the best shape for defense.

Judith made her way to the front of her barge, pushing through the men and women hanging on to straps from the ceiling. Israel was unique among nations. Ever confronted with a chronic shortage of personnel, men and women were drafted equally, trained together, and sent into battle together.

Judith raised hez voice to address her people, saying, "I've spoken with Colonel Adan. He gave us the most dangerous stretch of beach possible. We'll be practically single file. When you disembark immedi- ately turn to the right and get off the sand spit as soon as possible. We're the first. Our mission is to take out the big guns that have been turned to face inland against the threat of our motorized infan- try. You can hear the guns even now."

The boat officer beached Judith's assault craft right up onto the sand. The wall behind Judith dropped down to become a ramp, revealing a beach being torn up by mortar fire. Che knew the heavy shelling was soon to come. She yelled "Follow Me!" and led her people out onto the sand, the 1st Platoon of Gold Company.

Further down the spit were Blue Company, Orange, and White, each with five platoons, all of them storming the sand spit simultaneously.

The astonishing sight of a rusty barge breaking up into twenty motor- ized landing boats, turning with perfect coordination like a drill team on parade, beaching on the spit, and disgorging a thousand IDF troops onto Egyptian soil was spotted by the alarmed men in the fort control tower. They called it in to a secondary gun battery somewhere in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Splashes began to fly up in the sea around them as the gunners got their range. The splashes got closer to the beach, and some of them struck the now abandoned landing craft.

Gold Company 2nd Platoon, the people from the boat immediately next to Judith's, was the first to be hit with an incoming 155mm shell. Artil- lery is the troop killer. Six people lay dead, another ten lay wounded or were knocked off their feet. Of the wounded, four would later die.

A pair of soldiers in Judith's Platoon, a male and female, tried to pinpoint where the rounds were coming from the puffs of smoke on the beach. Blue 5th Plt. took three killed and seven injured before he got a fix. The woman called out the resulting coordinates over a portable radio and requested an airstrike.

At first Judith wasn't sure what happened next. She found herself wak- ing up with her legs soaked by seawater. It slowly dawned on her that she had been knocked by the concussion of an incoming mortar round and ended up a little ways into the water. Judith had no recollection of the last few seconds, minutes? She didn't know. Her only thought at that point was dying was so easy.

But Judith was not to die on that day. Her body armor had intercepted most of the blast shrapnel, and the overpressure had been enough to put her in a mild state of shock but it was not life-threatening. Still, Judith was a little dazed, and she no longer led the assault, to be sure. She followed her people as quickly as she could manage.

A lieutenant assigned to serve under Judith had taken charge of the assault when he saw her go down. It was all handled as seamlessly as possible but the lieuteant no longer really had a coherent platoon to lead. Five were immediately dead, eight were wounded, and four of those would soon die from organ failure or simply by bleeding out. The survivors merged with the other platoons running towards the battery. Judith walked, albeit very fast.

The Orange 3rd Platoon was the last to be hit, two dead and five wounded, three mortally.

Three Israeli Defense Force Gloster jet aircraft arrived to let loose cluster bombs on the coordinates that had been called in moments ear- lier. These broke up into many bomblets and saturated the area of the offending gun battery with many small explosions. These disabled the guns in the town and killed most of the personnel manning the weapons. As a side benefit most of the mortars were taken out as well. Judith's people were free to hurry off their vulnerable position on the beach.

At the fort Judith could see the Egyptians were not fighting up to snuff. She could sense a feeling of little boy lost among them. The surprise amphibious assault in their "rear" had been the turn of the tide. It was palpable. It fell over the Egyptians like a shadow and they began to surrender en masse. The big guns of the fort were dis- armed by 9 AM that morning. Then Judith, seeing the blue and white flag of her adoptive nation raised over the battery, fell at her feet in a dead faint. It was only then that she received the proper medical attention she needed.

The water route to Eilat was opened once more. Israel had achieved all of her war objectives in just one week. Total IDF losses were 172 killed and 817 wounded, with most of the casualties taking place at the Sharm el-Sheikh operation.

Having lost the war, Egypt was compelled by the terms of the cease- fire to allow Israeli shipping to pass through the Suez Canal once more. Immediately, an Israeli destroyer squadron passed from the Medi- terranean to the Red Sea to support Yoffe, his battalion commanders, Judith Margolies, and all their infantry at the tip of the Sinai Pen- insula.

In recognition of her contribution to the victory Judith was elevated from brevet segen to the regular company grade rank of seren, or cap- tain, with the corresponding pay.

Not by word, correspondence, telegram, or phone call did Judith Margo- lies appraise her father in England of any of the things that she had achieved since she parted from him, nor any of the historic events that transpired daily around her.

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