WWI and a three millenia old strategy

Monday, May 25, 2009


Spach, John Thom, "Allenby And The Last Crusade," MILITARY HISTORY,
March, 1996, 741 Miller Dr. SE, Suite D-2, Suite 300, Leesburg, VA

On February 13, 1918, the 60th Division took over the Deir Ibu Obed-Ras es Suffa-Hezmeh Line from the 53rd Division, and on the next day, operational orders were issued for an attack on Jericho with the object of driving the enemy across the Jordan River. Before the main attack could take place, it was necessary to straighten out the Brit ish line by capturing a small village in the hands of the Turks and directly in front of the 180th Brigade. The village was named Mukhmas, or Michmash.

A frontal assault was decided upon. Supported by artillery and machine guns, the brigade was to move down into the valley separating the two lines and at dawn it would storm up the other side, in the face of the enemy fire. The plan would entail some casualties, but those were deemed unavoidable. Orders were issued, and then the troops got what rest they could.

In his bivouac, by the light of a candle, Major Gilbert read his Bible. When the raid was first discussed, the name Michmash had sounded vaguely familiar, although he could not quite place it. Just as he was about to put out his candle, he thought he would try one more time to find the name. At last he found what he was searching for in 1st Samuel, chapters 13 and 14: "And Saul and Jonathan, his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.

"Now it came to pass upon a day that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said unto the young man that bare his armor, 'Come and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on the other side,' but he told not his father. . . . And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.

"And between the passages by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The forefront of one was situated northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah. And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour. . . 'It may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.'"

The major read on how Jonathan went through the pass of Michmash, between Bozez and Seneh, and climbed the hill with his armor-bearer following behind, until they came to a place high up, about "a half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow," and the Philistines who were sleeping awoke, thought they were surrounded by the armies of Saul, and the "multitudes melted away" as they fled in disorder. Saul then attacked with his whole force of about six-hundred men. It was a great victory for him, and "so the Lord saved Israel that day and the battle passed
over into Bethaven."

"This pass, these rocky headlands and flat piece of ground are probably still there," Gilbert told himself. "Very little has changed in Palestine throughout the centuries." He woke General Watson and informed him of what he had found in the Bible. Together they read the story over again. Then Watson sent out scouts, who came back and reported finding the pass, thinly guarded by the Turks, with rock crags on either side--obviously Bozez and Seneh. Up in Michmash, the moonlight shone on a flat piece of ground just big enough for a team to plough.

Immediately, Watson decided to change the plan of attack. Instead of the whole brigade, one infantry company advanced in the dead of night along the pass of Michmash. The few Turks they met were quickly and silently dealt with. They passed between Bozez and Seneh, climbed the hillside and, just before dawn, found themselves on the flat piece of ground. When the Turkish soldiers awoke, they thought they were surrounded by several British armies and fled in disorder.

Every enemy soldier who had slept that night in Michmash was either killed or captured. After thousands of years, the tactics of Jonathan and Saul succeeded a second time.