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Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1956 Suez War

Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1956 Suez War Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review April 2016 Title Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1956 Suez War
Author Shlomo Aloni Publisher Helion
Published 2016 ISBN 9781910294123
Format 72 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


In 1956, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, banned Israeli shipping through the waterway and blocked the Straits of Tiran.

That prompted Israel to invade the Sinai peninsula in Operation Kadesh – and Britain and France to join in attacking Egypt several days later.

Now historian Shlomo Aloni recaps Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1956 Suez War – third in Helion’s terrific new “Middle East@War” series. Subtitled “29 October-8 November 1956”, the compact, 72-page compendium covers the conflict in amazing detail.

Contents commence with a handy glossary, background notes and “military balance” listings. The study then swiftly segues into an 11-part, daily combat chronicle.

Aloni’s admirably illustrated effort includes dozens of photographs – at least one of which is in color. How about those three shots of Egyptian 1948-vintage Italian wrecks at El Arish airfield?

Sixteen superb color profiles by Tom Cooper also sample Israeli aircraft warpaint. And six maps augment action accounts.

Aloni cautions, however, that the compressed “Middle East@War” format prevents inclusion of “preparations for war, post-war unit reports, post-war statistical summaries and lessons from war”. Sections survey – hourly and daily, beginning 29 Oct 1956 – Israeli aerial actions in, as the author notes, “the best possible effort at this point in time”.

“One of the most important virtues of an officer is credibility”,  Aloni also avers. “Military organization supposedly cannot win a war without credibility a long chain of command.” 

But experienced intelligence analysts appreciate the limitations of after-action reports: without independent human or technical verification, debriefs can prove notoriously unreliable. The author’s account of Mystère pilots Samuel Sheffer and Jacob Agassi’s combat with Farouk el Gazawi’s MiG-15 nicely confirms that.

Unfortunately, this installment also retains the baffling layout irritants of Aloni’s first “Middle East@War” book. With no column headings, for instance, the embedded time, aircraft and unit listings proved difficult to decipher. Once again, they almost exclusively include aircraft serials. So unless you’ve committed Israeli serials to memory, you’re constantly cross-checking entries against the author’s “military balance” tables.

Note to Helion designers: please convert these to tables – with column headings!

Some acronyms also don’t appear in Aloni’s glossary. What do “FAQ” and “FAR” mean? And “Mitle” is not the accepted transliteration for Mitla Pass – from either Arabic or Hebrew.

Like its predecessor study on 1948’s Operation Horev, Kadesh marshals metaphorical mountains of minutiae. Enthusiasts and historians will love it. More “Middle East@War”, please!


With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!