Fate of the Fourth Armored Division
Consisting of at least three brigades, the 2nd and 3rd armored and 6th Mechanized, the Fourth was at first kept in reserve, around Obeid mountain, west of the Geneifa hills. When the order for the ill-starred offensive came, only one of the brigades, the 3rd, was to participate. Because the terrain west of the waterway, in the Third Army sector, was well suited to armored warfare, the Egyptians decided to keep two of the brigades on the west bank. Good tank ground would favor the enemy, so it was prudent to keep two thirds of the division in that area.
At 12:30 AM on October 12, Kabil informed the commander of the 3rd of his mission. He was to enter Sinai and reach the Mitla pass. Around 1300 on October 13, the brigade crossed, and entered the El Shatt/Un Moussa crossroads assembly area. Firing from the Mitla area, enemy artillery caused some losses.
The main road leading to the objective, the El Shatt Mitla, was blocked by Israeli armor concentrations. Consulting local Beduoins, the 3rd's commander learned of an alternate route. He decided to go south before heading east. Leaving one of his three battalions in reserve, the commander neared his objective via the Wadi Mabouk and wadi El Mour. Advancing 25 kilometers, the 3rd bypassed the Israeli first line of defense but was spotted and faced a second about 6km west of the entrance to the Mitla.
The defenders there had tanks, guns and ATGMs. When the 3rd's leading elements came within range, they opened fire, destroying the vanguard companies of the two advancing battalions along with the command vehicles. Others were also hit. Some T-55s managed to fire back, and claimed to have blasted 13 enemy tanks. An Egyptian officer, Nour Eldean el Aziz, tried to organize the tanks but perished. Surprisingly, survivors said most losses were due to ATGMs. They seemed to have a longer range than SS-11s known to be in Israeli service. The Egyptians suspected the Israelis were using TOWs supplied by the US.
Soon, the 3rd faced another threat. Moving beyond SAM cover exposed it to air attack. Enemy jets began pounding the brigade. They targeted mainly artillery and support vehicles. The Egyptians had to pull back.
The battle of Wadi Mabouk is said to have cost the 3rd 50-60 tanks. If true, that would imply the virtual destruction of both attacking battalions. The brigade's final battle line on the 14th was just 2km east of the Third Army's 19th division. There the 3rd established defenses and recovered damaged vehicles; just after the 14th it had 58 tanks.
Soon, as Israeli forces poured across the canal, action shifted to the west bank. Around the 18th, the 3rd was ordered back west (save for a battalion--probably depleted--left behind with the 7th infantry division). But the 2nd armored was already on the west bank and saw action sooner.
The 2nd armored brigade sent one of its battalions, the 207th, to the Deversoir area. There the battalion attacked repeatedly into the flank of Israeli forces at the Uri position, close to the canal. Advancing from cover of trees, the 207th's T-55s inflicted and sustained losses. By this time, Adan's division had crossed in that area. It was a mistake to confront it with a single battalion (said to number only 25 or so tanks). Adan ordered a subordinate, Lapidot, to head south along the Test road, along the canal, and then strike the 207th in the flank. The Israelis claimed to have set half its tanks aflame, while the rest became mired in mud and were abandoned.
The next day, the 19th, the Israelis broke out of their bridgehead and penetrated deep into Egypt. Sadat's insistence on sending units east of the canal had forced Kabil's depleted command to spread out far and wide to try to stop them. There weren't many other units. As related, Kabil sent the 2nd's surviving battalions, the 208th and 209th, to Om Habara and a nearby dune area. Another battalion, possibly the remnants of the 207th, was guarding the Geneifa hills. The 3rd was moving back west. The 4rth's other brigade, the 6th Mechanized, was at Kilometer 109 north of Jebel Ataka.
On the 19th, the 2nd knocked out about 20 of Adan's tanks and other vehicles. On that day, however, Kabil received an order to prepare an offensive against Deversoir. He instructed all elements of the 4rth, save a few, to assemble at Gafra for this attack, scheduled for noon the next day. *
The speed of Adan's advance disrupted Egyptian plans. After the battalion guarding the Geneifa hills was pulled out, Adan overran the hills with scant resistance and threatened to cut the Cairo-Suez road. On the 20th, a battalion of the 3rd armored and a battalion from the 113th brigade (the latter not part of the 4rth) attempted to replace the battalion sent to Gafra. But the Israelis now held the hills and their fire forced both battalions to withdraw. Meanwhile, the enemy thrust south had caused the attack on Deversoir to be cancelled. Forced to bolster the Third Army's line of communications, Kabil now sent his units south of the Geneifa hills.
On the 20th, enemy progress proved rapid. One of Adan's brigade commanders, Natke, effectively cut the Cairo-Suez road with long range tank fire. The 4rth did however, stop the Israelis farther east. The 3rd armored stopped the advance of another commander, Aryeh, around the southeastern part of the Geneifa hills near the Egyptian camps at Odeda. Targeted by tanks, artillery and missiles, Aryeh suffered losses. He resumed his advance the next day, toward Metzila, but encountered more tough resistance.
October 21st saw elements of the 4rth and another unit attempt to restore the situation in Natlke's area. Forty Egyptian tanks, with infantry, attacked the site of SAM base 5122, then held by the enemy, and reached its center. According to Adan's account, they knocked out five Israeli tanks but lost 15 of their own then, and ten more soon afterwards. Israeli progress remained slow, however.
The next day, one of the 4rth's tank battalions, advancing from the west, attacked an Israeli force moving on the Arish track toward the Cairo-Suez road. The Israelis claimed to have hit a few tanks and the rest withdrew. This was probably the depleted 3rd brigade, which Dupuy wrote had fought stubbornly until, greatly reduced in strength, it fell back westward toward Kilometer 101.
When General Wassel, commander of the Third Army, realized the Cairo-Suez road had been cut he ordered Kabil to attack with the 6th brigade to reopen it. In view of enemy superiority in armor and in the air, Kabil and Shazly were very reluctant to comply. Kabil cited lack of SAM cover as a reason not to attack. By the 22nd enemy air activity had greatly increased, and the Egyptian SAM network had been disrupted.
Ultimately the 4rth did try to open the road. On the morning of the 23rd, after the first cease fire broke down, its tanks attacked Magen's forces on the Cairo-Suez and Asor roads. Adan wrote that Magen contained these attacks and inflicted high losses. This wasn't the full truth. The Israelis were forced to retreat a few kilometers, and request air support. To the end of the war, and despite all its losses, the Fourth remained a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, losses in fighting power sapped the division's effectiveness. Egyptian sources say it had 170-180 tanks right after the war, on the 25th. But that figure almost certainly includes tanks from the 27th and replacements, from the 1st Army. It's noteworthy that Kabil, right after the war, was still reluctant to try to reopen the road. One source said by then Egypt had only 46 tanks left between the Israeli army and Cairo. It is stark testimony to the 4rth's courage and the ineptitude of the president.
* According to Shazly, before the war the Egyptians anticipated a possible Israeli crossing at Deversoir. If it materialized, they planned to use the 4rth division, and 25th brigade, to launch a counterattack toward the area. It's not surprising, therefore, the 4rth actually received an order to do this. But by October 19th the 25th had been wrecked and the 4rth depleted.
On the Banks of the Suez Adan
The Crossing of the Suez Shazly
Elusive Victory Dupuy
No Victor no Vanquished O' Ballance
And writings by Jamal Hamad translated by Egyptian forum members