1982 Bekaa Valley Israeli v Syrians

The First Lebanon War started on June 6, 1982 and last until May 17, 1983 with the Israeli objective of expelling the PLO from Lebanon and installing a pro-Israel Christian government in Lebanon, under the leadership of Bachir Gemayel.  Code named Operation Peace, Israeli leaders hoped that such action would secure a more peaceful future for Israel, but with the assassination of Gemayel the Israeli hopes were dashed and while successful on the military side of the invasion the political aims were never to be realized.

Early on in the invasion the IDF had pushed well up the Bekaa Valley and was quite close to cutting the Damascus/Beirut Highway.  In response to that threat the Syrians had come up with a plan to mass a counterattack behind the eastern ridge line of the Bekaa and strike fast and hard against the IDF’s right flank which had become exposed as a result of its rapid advance.  Historically, however, the Israelis found out about the plan, and adjusted their defenses prior to an attack being launched.  This scenario looks at what might have been had Israeli intelligence not discovered the Syrian plans.  The rules Modern Spearhead are being used for this game and the 3mm figures from Oddzial Osmy are featured along with the first products from The Phalanx Consortium designed to specifically in support of this scale.  Both of these product lines are distributed by PicoArmor www.picoarmor.com.

The field of battle!

The field of battle! (looking northwest)

The scenario starts with the Israeli 85th driving home its attack against the PLO Al Saladin Brigade just outside the town of Houch Al Harime on the northwest corner of the battle space.  This force is under attack orders to isolate and destroy what remains of this brigade.

The "85th" attacking!

The “85th” attacking!

The Al Saladin Brigade confronts the Israeli TF with three platoons of T-34/85’s and three platoons of foot infantry defending in the town.  While well outgunned the men of the Al Saladin prepare for the Zionist onslaught with a desire to make them pay for every inch of ground.  The Israelis moved into spotting range of the T-34’s on the outskirts of town and opened up with one Merkava I platoon destroying one T-34 platoon, but the other platoon of Merkavas being suppressed by a surprise Hind D attack that the Israeli Redeye team could not drive off.  During these opening moves the Israelis are unaware that elements of the 20th and 90th Syrian Armored Brigades have begun pouring through the two passes that cut through the ridge line to the east.  (Note:  While the figures for the Syrians are on the board at this time the bird’s eye view of things is limited by the rules that only units in spotting distance can trigger and orders change.  Therefore, The Israeli players must continue with their initial order even though danger is approaching from the east.)

Syrian lead elements cross trough passes!

Syrian lead elements cross trough passes!

The Syrian 20th has been ordered to move to the relief of the Al Saladin Brigade while the 90th is ordered to secure the Syrian left  and begin moving south up the valley in search of other Israeli forces to engage.  The Israeli 71st was in reserve near the town of Tal Al Za’za’a on the southern end of the table.  They were awaiting orders once the first signs of a Syrian counterattack became known.  They would soon receive that word as the 20th came into spotting range of the 85th and engaged them just as they were pressing home their attack into Harime.  The 20th was able to catch the Israelis flatfooted and began inflicting punishment during their first salvos.

Israelis press hard into village!

Israelis press hard into village!

At this point in the struggle the Syrians have turned the hunters into the hunted and the 85th is beginning to come apart under the weight of the Syrian 20th’s T-72 Batt.

Syrian 20th slam into the 85th tearing into their right flank!

Syrian 20th slam into the 85th tearing into their right flank!

Once the initial contact was made the Israeli 71st got the order to move up into a position to flank the 20th. While the Israeli 53rd Armored TF was ordered up from its position of reserve off the southern table edge.  Would these two forces be enough to stem the tide of Syrian armor?  While the 71st advanced into position it ran into lead elements of the Syrian 90th Brigade moving south on the eastern edge of the battle space.  This lead to a major engagement of forces outside the village of Dakoue which hugged the base of the ridge on the valley’s  eastern edge.

The 71st moves into contact with lead elements of the Syrian 90th outside Dakoue.

The 71st moves into contact with lead elements of the Syrian 90th outside Dakoue.

While the battle lines were being drawn around Dakoue the final elements of the 85th were being destroyed piece meal outside Harime.  The weight and speed of the Syrian advance had been too much for them to withstand.

Syrian T-72 Batt surveys the carnage outside Harime.

Syrian T-72 Batt surveys the carnage it wrought to the once proud 85th outside Harime.

With victory seemly within their grasp the Syrian High Command tried to get a handle on their victorious forces so that they could turn south and reinforce the move of the 90th south.  Where the Syrian plan had worked so well up till this point things now began to unravel has they attempted to redirect the 20th to the aid of the now engaged and outgunned T-55’s of the 90th.  The Israeli 71st’s Merkava I platoons now began to return the favor and revenge the death of the 85th by tearing into the T-55 Batts of the 90th with their superior range and armor.  The question now was could the 20th regroup from its triumph in time to even up the fight with its T-72’s.  At this point only time could tell.

Outgun and coming at the Israelis piece meal the T-55's are no match for the newer Merkava I's.

Outgunned and coming at the Israelis piece meal the T-55’s are no match for the newer Merkava I’s.

With the Syrian attack now floundering for the 90th, and with  the 20th still caught up outside Harime, the 90th now would face the combined elements of the 71st and 53rd. These two fresh Israeli Battalions had formed a defensive line anchored on the west by the village of Khiara and to the east by the ridge towering over the valley floor.  A valley of death for both sides with the advantage now turning back in favor of the Israelis. The pleas for reinforcements on the part of the 90th Brigade were going unanswered.  At this point when all hope seemed to be lost the 20th finally began its advance to the aid of the 90th.  Would they get there in time, or would this mass of armor and men, that had started the day with such success, be pushed back when victory was there for the taking?

Syrian T-72's of the 20th try to even up the fight and begin pushing against 53rd on the Israeli left.

Syrian T-72’s of the 20th try to even up the fight and begin pushing against 53rd on the Israeli left.

With the T-72’s now back in the fight they pushed the 53rd outside Khiara and began inflicting some punishment.  Syrian Hind D’s and Mig-21’s came over the battle space and were called into attack the 53rd assisting in inflicting additional damage on the 53rd. This lead the 53rd to give  ground so that they could narrow their defensive frontage and bring more fire to bear against this resurgent advance of the 20th.  The Israeli 71st by this time though had complete advantage over the 90th and with that threat neutralized they were able to now come firmly to the aid of the 53rd.

The fragments of the 90th  withdraw leaving a valley filled with burning wrecks.

The fragments of the 90th withdraw, leaving a valley filled with burning wrecks.

With this combined weight now brought to bear the 20th was forced to give up any hopes of breaking through, and began the process of withdrawing back down the valley.  The Israelis decided that caution is the better part of valor and held their lines without pursuit.  They knew that outside of the delayed follow thru by the 20th they had been pressed hard and it was best to just stay put and consolidate their position before night fall.

With too few Merkava I's burning in the distance the Syrians decide to withdraw.

With too few Merkava I’s burning in the distance the Syrians decide to withdraw.

I would like to thank all of those who participated in this event.  In game turns this actions took place over nearly 8 hours of scaled time, and was played to a conclusion in 4.5 hours of real time.  I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves.  I want to thank the Johns from PicoArmor for their support of this event and I look forward to working with them in the design and production of more accessories for 3mm gaming.  The sense of both vertical and horizontal scale on the table is unmatched for those wanting to game large battles where we finally get to game as “Generals”.

Happy gaming,

Chris Bennett