The 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars have been extensively researched in the English-speaking world, mainly from Israeli or Western perspectives. The publication in English of Egyptian general Mohamed Fawzi's memoirs is, therefore, a welcome addition to the literature. Fawzi was general commander of the Egyptian armed forces following the debacle of the Six-Day War in 1967 and, a year later, was promoted to minister of defense. In that position, he directed the reconstruction of the army as well as its conduct in the War of Attrition (1967-70) between Israel and Egypt along the Suez Canal. Under President Anwar Sadat, Fawzi initiated the strategic-operational planning of the offensive that was ultimately launched on Yom Kippur, October 6, 1973.
Fawzi's version of the dramatic events during this period sharply criticizes his predecessor, Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer (and indirectly, President Gamal Abdel Nasser), for inadequate preparation of the armed forces for fighting, including during the ill-fated and massive involvement in the Yemen civil war (1962-68). Amer is also blamed for poor command and direction of the army in June 1967 and for political intrigues soon after, which culminated in his failed anti-Nasser coup. Although Fawzi's account of his own central involvement in the army recovery and of Egyptian combat operations within Israel-held Sinai during the inter-war period is often overstated, there is much to learn here about the political and military situation that led to defeat in the Six-Day War, subsequent power struggles within the Egyptian regime, the increasing Soviet military involvement, and the rebuilding of ground, naval, air, and air-defense forces that led to the assault on Israeli positions in the Sinai in 1973.
The work is not free of erroneous translations of military terms, especially the Arabic for "brigade," which is mistakenly translated as "division," thereby absurdly multiplying threefold the strength of Egypt's army during its confrontations with the Israel Defense Forces. Furthermore, notwithstanding its title, the book cannot be considered Fawzi's memoirs in the conventional sense. It is actually a volume of essays (previously published in the journal Infantry) written by the editor, currently a commander in the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps, based primarily on selected sections of Fawzi's memoirs.
Utilizing translated extracts, it is Aboul-Enein who examines and analyzes the performance and accomplishments of the Egyptian armed forces in a manner that often makes it difficult to distinguish between Fawzi's words and the author's own insights. That said, the book remains an important source for non-Arabic speakers studying the history of a critical period in the Middle East.