Wednesday, April 10, 2019


 General Mohammed Abdel Ghani el-Gamasy, above, was best known as the Egyptian Chief of operations in 1973, and Egypt's negotiator at Kilometer 101 right after the war. Other aspects of his career are more obscure.
In an earlier post, on Murtagi's role in 1967, I opined that Gamasy was behind the order to retreat. In my reconstruction, following the loss of the EAF, and the failure of 4rth division to repel the Israelis, Gamasy talked Murtagi into ordering a withdrawal. Because the retreat led to a disastrous rout, Gamasy hid his role in it. He lied to Pollack, claiming Murtagi's Sinai Front Command (in which he was involved) had no command authority. This was absurd, since the SFC had been created to enable Murtagi, a proven commander (as opposed to Nasser's political hacks) to direct operations. In one of his works, O'Ballance shows clearly that Murtagi was giving the orders. Gamasy's other claim, that he didn't even know a retreat order had been issued until he saw Egyptian forces streaming westward, reflects his desperation to avoid responsibility for the order. It's hard to believe the order got through to the troops without a high ranking officer and his superior knowing about it. Instead of having the courage to defend the decision (which, as Pollack showed, was basically right yet poorly executed) he denied having anything to do with it.
Gamasy was hardly more courageous in 1973. Perceiving that Egyptian defenses were too weak west of the canal, Shazly proposed sending some units back. Angered, Sadat threatened him with a court martial. Later, as the situation deteriorated seriously, Ismail called for a cease fire, despite Sadat's opposition to it. As far as I know, Gamasy did nothing which might anger the President. Any military professional would've held views different from Sadat's. Apparently, Gamasy was no exception but fear of personal consequences prevented him from speaking up, as others had done. Even after the war, at a symposium on the October war (1976) he defended Sadat's decisions.
Not surprisingly, a man determined to avoid getting in trouble kept his job a long time. While Sadat dismissed the capable Shazly, and later purged Badawy and his colleagues via a copter "accident," he kept Gamasy. The obsequious general rose to Field Marshal.
Of course, Gamasy painted himself differently. He allegedly rejected Sadat's order to retain only 30 tanks in Sinai, and later said he refused an order to crush rioters in 1977. But these stories may be no more credible than what he told Pollack.
In fairness to Gamasy, his attitude stemmed from pragmatism not conviction. Before his death in 2003, the erstwhile lackey showed his true feelings. He denounced Sadat as a traitor.


Edgar O'Ballance The Third Arab-Israeli War 

Kenneth Pollack  Arabs at War Military Effectiveness 1948 --1991

Friday, March 01, 2019

Battat dinosaurs

Here are some of my Battat dinosaurs. All are originals, obtained in the '90s. None are reissues.
 At left is Edmontonia, a formidable defender in life. Besides armor plates, the beast had lateral spikes. Above it is Tyrannosaurus with its gaping jaws and camouflage pattern. To the right of Edmontonia is the prickly Euoplocephaplus. Note the caudal spikes and tail club. Stegosaurus appears farthest right while the Diplodocus, "the finest dinosaur toy ever made," towers over the others.
Battat replicas were the first scientifically accurate (as far as current knowledge permits) dinosaur toys. Sculpted by the late Dan LaRusso, they far surpassed the dinosaurs put out by the British Museum of Natural History. I was always impressed by the Edmontonia, mimicking a well preserved specimen. Likewise, the Euoplocephalus remains, to this day, one of the most accurate ankylosaur figures. The Diplodocus is renowned for its excellent detail, notably folds of skin and a visible scapula. For many years it has been one of the most sought-after toys, sometimes fetching prices up to $500-600.
I ordered three each of the Edmontonia, Tyrannosaurus and Euoplocephalus. I didn't get the Triceratops, Ouranosaurus or Utahraptor. The collection includes only two Diplodocus--I regret not getting ten or twenty...Back in the mid '90s, a Diplodocus cost only about $20....
 I also have a pair of Battat Gallimimus, a pair of Pachycephalosaurus, an Amargasaurus, an Acrocanthosaurus and a Parasaurolophus.
Nowadays, even large collections often lack these excellent toys. I did, however, see one Asian man's Battat collection, which has many more dinosaurs than mine, including three Diplodocus.

Saturday, February 09, 2019


Surprisingly, the CollectA Styracosaurus is bigger and more accurate than the costlier Schleich replica. It is more suitable as an illustration for a post on the taxon.
Styracosaurus albertensis lived in what is now western Canada. Its remains occur in the middle of the Dinosaur Park formation, deposited about 75 million years ago. This horizon also yielded evidence of a huge tyrannosaur. Phil Currie found a fragment of one bigger than Daspletosaurus torosus.  At the time, sea levels were low by Campanian standards, enabling dinosaurs to become larger and more formidable.
Well-armed herbivores like Styracosaurus mirrored the tyrannosaurid threat. Unlike the later centrosaurines Achelousaurus and Pachyrhinosaurus, Styracosaurus had a prominent nasal horn. Like a rhino, it charged and impaled its enemies. Stabbing the belly of a tyrannosaur could easily prove fatal. The frill spikes of Styracosarus also played a role in defense.
In part, the spikes evolved for display and to intimidate rivals of its own species. But they also made Styracosaurus appear too dangerous to some tyrannosaurs, and hindered attacks on the neck and shoulders if the horn missed the mark.
The period of Campanian escalation did not last long. But it produced some of the deadliest defenders of the Mesozoic.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Fantasy Scenario 1968-1973

At the start of 1968, Nasser and his inner circle received some unusual visitors. Alien beings secretly arrived with an unusual proposal. They were willing to give Egypt weapons more advanced than any others at the time, and in lavish abundance. All they asked in return was Cairo's full cooperation, to ensure it made the best use of the weapons.
To meet Egypt's air defense needs, the aliens would supply 120 MIG-31 fighters and 200 SU-27s, plus a few dozen modern SAM batteries. For ground attack missions, Egypt would get 250 SU-25s.
The Egyptian Army was to receive 2,000 T-72 tanks modernized to Soviet standards c 1987, plus 2,000 T-80s. It would also get 1,000 pieces of artillery like those sold by Austria to Iraq in the '80s, several thousand modern APCs, 4,000 TOW launchers, many thousands of good trucks, RPGs etc. The aliens were to provide ample spare parts, replacements and ammunition, first for training on all systems and then enough for ten weeks of peak intensity fighting.
To facilitate the crossing of the canal, the ETs sent bridges, boats and ferries similar to those actually used (although Egyptian engineers basically need no help in this area).
Lastly, to deter Israeli use of nuclear weapons, Cairo was to receive 20 medium range ballistic missiles with 300 kiloton warheads.
All of the new gear arrived in Egypt from the spring of 1968 to the fall of 1969. The country had 4-5 years to get ready for war.
In exchange for the armament, Cairo was keep the deliveries as secret as possible, and concentrate on training and absorbing the weapons. There was to be no war of attrition. Egypt was to break its close relations with the USSR, which it no longer needed anyway, and feign an inability to fight. As part of the deception, diplomacy was to be emphasized, however futile.
The aliens delivered weapons at night to Egyptian camps and bases via giant, silent craft with exteriors designed to absorb both light and radar (i.e. practically invisible). All Egyptians receiving the new equipment were warned to keep quiet. There was never any public announcement of deliveries, just deceptive complaints about old gear. New aircraft were to be kept in aircraft shelters (when not in use) while older ones were either sold to foreign governments or kept in plain sight. New tanks were hidden by camouflage netting when satellites passed over. Most training took place west of the Nile, not near the Suez canal or the Mediterranean.
Some security breaches were inevitable. But when a MOSSAD agent reported that creatures from another planet were supplying Egypt with advanced arms, he was forced into retirement. Generally, MOSSAD and the CIA analysts tended to dismiss reports of an arms buildup, because there was no evidence of weapons being unloaded at Alexandria or flown in from other nations. 
Syria meanwhile, had become the USSR's number one Mideast client and recipient of arms aid. Deliveries were substantially greater than in real life because the Soviets no longer sent anything to Egypt. Without divulging its source of arms, Cairo assured Syria that it was more than capable of fighting Israel effectively.
Finally on October 6, 1973 Egypt and Syria struck. How would the October war have gone, with Syria  and particularly Egypt far better armed than in real life?

Modern Soviet armor for Cairo, compliments of ET.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Post 1973 Uniforms

The above pic, taken in April 1979, shows Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Egypt, reviewing troops. Note the goose stepping officer (judging by his medals probably a hero of the October war). Note also the uniforms of the soldiers. Their helmets look like WWII German helmets.
Cairo's new style contrasts with that of the '73 war, when Egyptian dress was rather plain. In part that reflected the quasi egalitarianism of a socialist state under Soviet influence. Apparently, increased pride after the war, and an end to Soviet ways, caused the shift in style. Partly in defiance of the Soviets, the Egyptians of the late '70s began to relate more to their old enemies, the militarily proficient Germans. Hence the goose stepping and old headgear.
But with regard to this specific occasion, more may have been involved. Knowing that Begin was in nazi-occupied Europe during WWII, the Egyptians probably intended he see something which brought back bad memories and even proved a bit intimidating. With their German-style uniforms and helmets, the new Egyptian army may have sought to convey a subtle message: even though there's now peace, just like your old enemies we're now confident and capable.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Panic 1973

There have been many accounts of the October war from an Israeli, Egyptian or American perspective. Not many have been written from a Russian perspective. There is, however, a notable example of the latter. Published about a decade ago, Primakov's book (above) gives the Soviet version of events. Among other things, it casts doubt on Sadat's sanity.
Many times, I and others have painted Sadat as inept, and prone to err. His delusional thinking led to the October 14 attack, the refusal to send forces back to the west bank of the canal, the rejection of  Kosygin's cease fire request and the senseless squandering of the 25th brigade. To this awful record, Primakov's book may add something:

If this account is true, it is a grave indictment of the Egyptian President. How could he have been that clueless? Surely there was a misunderstanding--when he said "surrounded by Israeli tanks" he was referring not to Cairo, but the Third Army? Or did the expansion of the Israeli bridgehead at the end of the war, to a point fairly close to Cairo, cause "a clearly panicked Sadat" to lose his mind?
In light of Egypt's break with the USSR after 1973, this whole episode might be a Soviet invention, to discredit Sadat. He himself claimed that Shazli had suffered a breakdown around October 19--a claim rejected not only by Shazly but Gamasy. But in view of Sadat's delusional thinking during the war and the desperate circumstances at the end, I consider the Soviet version slightly more probable.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Amargasaurus cazaui was among the last of the dicraeosaurids. It lived in what is now Argentina. The remains of A. cazaui were found in the lowest, Puestal Antigual member of the La Amarga formation. This unit is thought to be early Barremian in age c 129 Ma. Amargasaurus was a rather small sauropod, about 9-10m in length. It shared its habitat with theropods, the bigger dicraeosaur Amargatitanis, the rebbachisarid Zapalasaurus, unnamed titanosaurs and the only ornithiscian known from the La Amarga, a stegosaur informally named Amargastegos.
Amargasaurus is best known for its spiny neck, a feature unique among sauropods. The spines may have evolved to attract mates, or as a means of defense. An abelisaur, Ligabueino, lived alongside A. cazaui as did another theropod, possibly a carcharodontosaur.
Like a stegosaur's plates, cervical spines made a defender appear more formidable. No doubt, theropods often targeted the neck of a sauropod, so spines may have deterred such attacks. They may  even have been used as horns, to impale predators. By lowering its head, Amargasaurus could point its spines at an attacker. But the uniqueness of this defense, and lack of any later dicraeosaur, suggests it was not particularly effective.