1948-Israeli War of Independence

by Dr. EUGENE SOCKUT

           During November of 1947, The United Nations divided the country originally promised by the League of Nations divided the country originally promised by the League of Nations to be the Jewish National Home into one Arab and one Jewish state. The Jews, desperate to resettle the survivors of the concentration camps of Europe, accepted this decree but the Arabs did not. With the departure of the British military forces in May of 1948, 8 Arab armies invaded Israel. Every able-bodied Jewish man and woman sprang to the defence, but the tremendous shortage of weapons and the chaotic mixture of calibers and types of guns made the small arms situation critical. Some Enfield 38 revolvers, 303 SMLEs, and Sten SMGs were taken from or secretly bought from departing British soldiers. Sympathetic Irish troops “lost” two tanks which the Jews found. Captured German infantry weapons, such as the MG42 LMG, Mauser rifles, Luger and Walther 9mm pistols, were brought home in bits and pieces by Jewish Palestinians who had fought with the Allies. Small numbers of light arms were brought in by plane and ship, many of them surplus American weapons collected in the U.S. by Jews and their sympathizers. Among these were Colt 45 autos, Springfield and Garand 30-60 rifles, M3s and Thompson submachine guns. Even two B-17 bombers were flown toward the Holy Land, one never getting further than the Azores. The FBI and the U.S. government seemed o wink t these shenaniigans, but the British tried to stop these arms shipments even after Israel achieved independence.

          Because of the small arms shortage many ingenious Rube Goldberg shotcuts were attempted. For example, the necessary machinery for making Sten barrels was not at hand. Old rifles were cannibalized and their barrels shortened and altered to fit Israelimade Sten guns In time, these were replaced by barrels locall produced. Another development was the fitting of Enfield rifles with Israeli-made grenade launchers. These were humorously stamped U.S.A. (Yiddish for Unserer Stickle Arbiet or Our Bit of Work.

           Another hastily-engineered product was the melting down of kitchen utensils into calings for hand grenades by the trapped Jewish forces in th besieged city of Jerusalem.

          Because of the shortage of such essential items as mortars, cannon and bazookas, the Israelis came forth with a mortar called the Davidka (Little David), designed by one David Leibovitz. These proved a godsend. Some 36 of them were fabricated from sewer pipe and steel rails, their projectiles making a tremendous noise when they landed. Though militarily ineffective they created panic among the enemy, who feared that the Jews had developed an atomic bomb! Nevertheless, effective as some of their arms were, the need for first class military hardware remained acute in the early stages of Israel’s War of Independence.

          The landing of large amounts of Czech-made light arms in operation Haseda (stork) helped ease the shortage, enabling the Israelis to open the road to Jerusalem and break the siege of that beleaguered city. These Czech arms consisted of 8mm Mauser rifles and MG34 LMGs, while another bonus was the shipment of large quantities of Polish hand grenades.

        The end of Israel’s War of Independence found the Israeli military in control of a mixed bag of light arms. It was felt that the 8mm Mauser rifle, the 9mm Sten and the 8mm Besa Medium MG were best suited for the young state’s defence needs, so these were accepted as standard. In time, Sten guns and Mauser rifles were entirely manufactured in Israel. Large amounts of non-standard weapons remained in stock, however, and were issued to regular army troous. The British SMLE303 rifle, a popular non-standard weapon, was issued in large numbers to regular army and border-defence settlements.

photo by : jewishsearch.com