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Major General Avraham "Bren" Adan

Controversial Israeli military leader

TK Tim Kirsten Updated
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Avraham Adan

Avraham Adan was a controversial Israeli military leader who advocated and helped create the "Bar Lev Line" of fortified observation posts along the troubled Suez In 1969. A native-born Israeli, Avraham Man enlisted in 1943, at age seventeen, in the Palmach.

The Palmach was the most elite of the forces that comprised the underground army of the Zionist settlers in Palestine. When the War of Independence began in 1948, the youthful Adan was given command of a company in the Negev Brigade, which operated in southern Palestine against the Egyptians. With the conclusion of the war, during March 5-10, 1949, Adan led a mechanized company to the Red Sea at Eliat, an operation that secured vital Israeli access to the Red Sea.

Adan left the army shortly after this operation but was recalled to active duty during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Precipitated by Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal, the crisis touched off a war between Egypt and Israel, in which Adan commanded a tank battalion in the Battle of Abu Agheila (October 30th). While the outcome of that engagement was not favorable to the Israelis, Adan scored a signal success and was quickly named commander of an armored brigade. Eleven years later, during the Six-Day War of June 5-10, 1967, Adan served as deputy commander of Major General Avraham Yoffe's armored division task force in the Sinai. The task force played a key role in Israel's decisive victory.

After the Six-Day War, Adan presided over a board of army officers that recommended building a line of fortified observation posts, even under the Egyptian artillery barrages, during the War of Attrition that followed the Six-Day War. The posts were designed to maintain Israeli control of the east bank of the Suez Canal. The recommendation was a controversial one and was bitterly opposed by many other Israeli officers, who were reluctant to expose forces so directly to enemy attack. However, the plan was finally approved by Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Chaim Bar-Lev, who assigned Adan to supervise construction of the so-called Bar Lev Line in 1969.

When the October War begun with a surprise Egyptian assault across the Suez Canal on October 6-7, 1973, Adan was in command of a reserve division, which he mobilized within twenty-four hours, sending some of its elements into action in the Sinai less than forty-eight hours after the attack. On October 8, following poorly conceived orders issued by General Shmuel Gonen, commander of the Southern Command, based on inadequate intelligence, Adan launched a disastrous counterattack in the Kantara - Firdan sector. It became the worst defeat ever suffered by the Israeli Army. However, Adan could recover from the catastrophe and achieved victory at the Battle of the Chinese Farm on October 16-17.

This success reestablished communication with the division commanded by Ariel Sharon and together, Adan's and Sharon's units penetrated deeply into Egyptian-held territory, all the way to the Gulf of Suez. This movement cut off two divisions of the Egyptian Third Army, enabling Adan to move against the canal itself. However, his initial efforts to seize that strategic waterway were repulsed, and the war ended in a cease-fire on October 24 with Egypt still in possession of the Suez Canal.

In the wake of the sobering October War, Adan bitterly and loudly disputed with fellow generals, especially Ariel Sharon and Shmuel Gonen, over blame for the relatively poor conduct of operations, especially during the first days of the war. Despite this rancorous situation, Adan was named to the prestigious post of military attaché in Washington, D.C. He served in this capacity until his retirement in 1977.

Major General Avraham "Bren" Adan - Quick Facts

Service Unit/s:
  • Israel Defense Forces
  • 162nd Division (Israel)
  • 7th Brigade (Israel)
  • Palmach (British Mandate for Palestine)
  • Southern Command - Padam (Israel)
Other Position/s:
Armed Forces Attaché at the Israeli Embassy (Washington, DC)
Military Rank/s:
Major General
  • Israeli War of Independence (1948-49)
  • Suez-Sinai War (1956)
  • Six-Day War (1967)
  • War of Attrition (1968-70)
  • Yom Kippur War - October War (1973)
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