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The Two O'Clock War: The 1973 Yom Kippur Conflict and the Airlift That Saved Israel Hardcover – September 14, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

In The Two O'Clock War Walter J. Boyne chronicles with intense detail the brief but furious October 1973 invasion of Israel by Egypt and Syria, an episode also known as the Yom Kippur War. Boyne alternates his attention between actual battlefield descriptions and the equally frantic maneuvering by diplomats and statesmen of the combatant countries, their allies. and, most ominously, Russia and the United States, which refused to stop rattling their sabers at each other. At least twice, the region--and by implication the greater world--came perilously close to suffering the ultimate nightmare: nuclear war. Boyne's language is often blunt but he is generally fair-minded: his showers of blame and praise fall on individuals on both sides of the conflict. Running through the book is his premise, convincingly presented, that a massive American airlift--Operation Nickel Grass--was the decisive factor in Israel's fending off defeat. The book--especially its military sections--demands a reader's full attention. --H. O'Billovich

From Publishers Weekly

Boyne's focus on Israel's initial defeats after being surprised by Egypt and Syria in the fall of 1973 establishes the key scenario of his book: a near-ultimatum to U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Israel's continuing deferral of the nuclear option would depend on American delivery of diplomatic and military aid. The best and most useful parts of the book are those devoted to the U.S. decision to mount a massive airlift, using the old reliable C-141s and the newer, larger C-5s, whose acquisition costs and technical reliability had been major points of controversy in earlier years. Boyne (Beyond Wild Blue), a retired air force colonel and former Air and Space Museum director, credits the U.S. Air Force's military airlift command with establishing a lifeline of vital equipment and spare parts that in turn sustained the Israeli Defense Force as it rallied and counterattacked enemies unable to exploit their initial victories. No less remarkable was the air force's ability simultaneously to sustain its other commitments in Vietnam and Europe a sharp contrast with a similar Soviet airlift to Syria and Egypt that suffered constant, embarrassing gridlocks. Initially unable to convince its Arab clients to accept a cease-fire, the Soviet Union turned to Kissinger. In face to face negotiations, the superpowers hammered out an agreement which almost collapsed when a Soviet-sanctioned Egyptian missile launch generated a chain reaction that culminated in the U.S. escalating its alert status to DefCon III and the Soviet Politburo debating a direct response. Boyne concludes that war was avoided less by positive decision making than because specific mistakes were not made. His emphasis on the importance of contingency informs the book as a whole and makes it a useful counterpoint to Michael Oren's recent account of the 1967 conflict, Six Days of War.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (September 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312273037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312273033
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.3 x 10.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Walter J. Boyne was the Director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution from 1983 to 1986, and Acting Director from 1981 to 1983. He retired in August, 1986 to pursue a career as a novelist, nonfiction author and consultant. He is one of the few writers to have both fiction and nonfiction books on the New York Times Best Seller lists. An inventor, he has been awarded a patent on an advanced information retrieval system. He is currently chairman of the board of the National Aeronautics Association, and on July 21, 2007 was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He has served twice as an expert witness for Lockheed Martin, once in 1999 and once in 2003. He is currently Chairman of the Board of the National Aeronautic Association.
A career Air Force officer, Boyne entered the Aviation Cadet program in 1951, and won his wings and commission in 1952. He has flown over 5,000 hours in a score of different aircraft, from a Piper Cub to a B 1B, and is a Command Pilot. Boyne retired as a Colonel on June 1, 1974 after 23 years of service. In November, 1989, he returned for familiarization flights in the B 1B bomber.
He began writing articles on aviation subjects in 1962, and has since then completed more than 1,000 articles, forty-four non-fiction books and eight novels. His books have been published in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia, Japan and China. He is the author of aviation sections in the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as in three other encyclopedias, including Encarta. He is the editor of the (2002) Encyclopedia of Air Warfare, by ABC-Clio.
His latest novel Hypersonic Thunder is the third of a trilogy on the history of jet aviation. In 2007, he published "Soaring to Glory, The Air Force Memorial" and "Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-2007. In 2003, Dawn Over Kitty Hawk was published by Tor/Forge, part of St. Martin's Press, It was followed by The Influence of Air Power on History, published in July, 2003, by Pelican Publishing. His Chronicle of Flight, a 95,000 word, 1,000 photograph history of flight appeared from Publications International in August, 2003. His Operation Iraqi Freedom: What Went Right, What Went Wrong and Why was published by TOR/Forge (St. Martins Press) in that same month. In October, 2003, Rising Tide, the story of the Russian and Soviet submarine force was published, co-authored with Gary Weir. In December, two works were published that Boyne edited, Aviation 100, Volume III, and The Alpha Guide to the Military
His first novel The Wild Blue (co-authored with Steven L. Thompson) was published by Crown Publishers. It was a national best seller on the New York Times list in both hard cover and paperback editions, and won the Aviation/Space Writers Association Award for best Fiction Book of 1986. His second novel, Trophy for Eagles, a solo effort, was published by Crown in May, 1989, and received strong critical acclaim. The second novel in the trilogy, Eagles at War was published in May, 1991, to similar reviews. In January, 1991, he published Weapons of Desert Storm and Gulf War. Weapons of Desert Storm made the New York Time's nonfiction best seller's list. The third novel of his trilogy, Air Force Eagles was published in June, 1992.
A nonfiction book, Classic Aircraft was published in the summer of 1992. Art in Flight , a book on the magnificent work of sculptor John Safer, was published in October of 1992..Silver Wings, a nonfiction history of the Air Force appeared in October, 1993, while Clash of Wings, a nonfiction history of the great air campaigns of World War II, appeared in June, 1994. It was a main selection of the History Book of the Month Club for July, 1994. Both of the latter two books are published by Simon & Schuster, as is Clash of Titans a non-fiction history of the great sea campaigns of World War II, which was published in June, 1995.
Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-1997 was published in 1997 for St. Martin's Press. It is on the USAF's Chief of Staff's required reading list for Air Force personnel. The Air Force Association presented Boyne the Gill Robb Wilson Award in recognition of what has been called the definitive history of the United States Air Force. In 1998, St. Martin's Press published his "Beyond the Horizons" a history of the Lockheed Company from 1913 to 1995. It has received unanimous critical acclaim . His next work was co-editing an anthology with Philip Handleman . It is titled Brassey's Air Combat Reader , and was published by Brassey in 1999.
An earlier nonfiction book, The Smithsonian Book of Flight published in June, 1987, was a Book of the Month Club Premium selection, won the New York Public Library Prize, and sold some 400,000 copies. In 1986, The Leading Edge was also a Book of the Month Club Premium Selection. It won the Best Non Fiction Book of 1986 Award by the Aviation/Space Writers Association. It was also published in England and Germany. In 1987 another nonfiction book, Power Behind the Wheel traced the evolution of the automobile in technical and cultural terms, and was awarded the Thomas McKean Cup by the Antique Automobile Association of America for best book of the year.
Both The Leading Edge and The Power Behind the Wheel were republished in hardcover in the Spring of 1991 by Abbeyville Press, and both have been published in German and English foreign editions. Boeing B-52, Phantom in Combat and Messerschmitt Me 262 were all republished in 1994. Boyne's books have been published in England, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Italy and Japan. The novel The Wild BLue was republished in 1998 year by Wind Canyon publishing. Simon & Schuster republished Clash of Titans and Clash of Wings as trade paperbacks in 1997. Both books have been placed on audio and have been published in Poland, Italy and Czechoslovakia.
His later books include Aces in Command, Classic Aircraft, and Best of Wings, all three published in 2001, along with ABC-Clio's Encyclopedia of Air Warfare, and The Two O'Clock War: the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the American Airlift that Saved Israel, published in September, 2002, by St. Martin's Press.
He published five books in 2003, including the novel "Dawn Over Kitty Hawk" the story of the Wright brothers; "Rising Tide" with Gary Weir, covering the Soviet Union's submarine experience;.
Boyne is the editor of the Walter J. Boyne Military Aircraft Series for McGraw Hill. Boyne serves as Associate Editor on two national aviation magazines and contributes a articles to several national newspapers. He is a consultant to four publishers, several museums and several aerospace firms. His aviation interests are wide ranging, and he serves as an advisor to a number of national and international organizations.
Boyne became involved in television in 1991, writing scripts and directing production of the highly successful series of Wings television program that appeared on the Discovery Channel. This led to his co-founding of the cable television channel Wingspan the Air and Space Channel, went on the air in April 1998 and was bought out by the Discovery Channel a year later. Boyne consults for the Discovery Military Channel, and has been designated "Aerospace Expert in Residence" by Discovery.
Boyne is a familiar figure on television, appearing as a commentator on aviation and military events on all the major networks, including PBS, CNN and C-Span, as well as the History, A&E, Discovery and Speedvision cable channels. He has hosted and narrated three television programs. The first of these is a five-part series made from his book Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the Air Force, 1947-1997. It appears on the History Channel. The second is the thirteen part series made from his book Clash of Wings, and appears on Speedvision and PBS. The third is a program on John Safer's sculpture, entitled Flight in Art.
When Boyne left the Air Force, he joined the Air and Space Museum as an assistant curator on June 10th, 1974, and gained wide experience in every aspect of museum operations. He was successively Curator of Aeronautics, Chief of Preservation and Restoration, Chief of Exhibits and Production, Assistant Director, Deputy Director, Acting Director and Director. Boyne's career at the Museum was highlighted by a number of extraordinary achievements. One of the first of these was to transform the totally inadequate facility then existing at Silver Hill into the world's premier restoration facility. When the facility was up and running, and a new museum open to the public there, Boyne led the initiative to re-name the facility in honor of his good friend and mentor, Paul Garber.
While this was going on, Boyne was responsible for the movement, assembly, and installation of all of the precious artifacts in the new Museum, coordinating this with the rapid-paced exhibit installation. So effective was his work that the Museum was ready to open four days before its scheduled July 4th 1976 official opening.
Boyne founded the magazine Air & Space, and established the editorial policies which made it the best selling aviation magazine in the United States. He negotiated an agreement with NASA to fly an IMAX camera on the Space Shuttle, and directly supervised the production of two of the most successful IMAX films, "The Dream is Alive" and "On the Wing". The latter film included a close cooperative effort with Dr. Paul MacCready to create "QN" a radio-controlled flying pterodactyl. He spearheaded the planning of the huge new restaurant which rectified two of NASMs shortcomings, an inadequate restaurant and inadequate restrooms.
In one of the most far-seeing moves, he negotiated directly with Donald Engen, then the Adminstrator of the FAA, and created the agreements that provided the land upon which the new extension of the Museum at Dulles. To insure that the Smithsonian would act upon this concept, he arranged for the Space Shuttle Enterprise to be flown and stored there in 1985.
Boyne had a profound effect upon Museum operations, insisting that the staff realize that the public was their boss, and that they had to work hard to satisfy that responsibility. He also pioneered the Museum's well received video disc program, and patented the "Digitizer" automated storage and retrieval system.
Boyne infused the Museum's research and publication program with a new vigor, and personally supervised the upgrading of the Museum's exhibit program. He is generally recognized to have made the Museum the most popular in the world while at the same time providing a very high level of education content. In addition, his entrepreneurial success resulted in the Museum's shop operating at record profits, and the IMAX films paying for themselves and generating additional income.
In his capacity as Director, he served as pro bono consultant to dozens of museums in many different countries, a task he continued in a professional role after his retirement. He has acted as consultant for the Museum of Flying, in Santa Monica, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, writing the complete exhibit scripts for both organizations. He also consulted for the Aerospace Education Center in Little Rock, and for many others. He often does pro bono work for governmental museums such as the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon.
He is a member of almost all of the major aeronautical associations, and is a fellow of the French National Academie de l'Air et l'Espace. He has a BSBA with honors from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MBA, with honors, from the University of Pittsburgh. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Aerospace Sciences from Salem College, West Virginia in 1984.
He was awarded the Cliff Henderson Trophy for lifetime achievement in aviation by the National Aviation Club, which recently also named him an "Elder Statesman of Aviation". Previous winners include famous test pilots Scott Crossfield and Tony Levier. In 1997 he received the Gil Robb Wilson Award from the Air Force Association, and in 1998 was given the Paul Tissandier Diploma by the F.A.I. In 2006 he won the Lyman Award for lifetime contributions to Aviation. In 2007 he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. His biography appears in both Who's Who in the World and Who's Who in America. He lives in Ashburn, Virginia, with his wife, Terri. .

Customer Reviews

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Thank you Mr. Boyne for an incredible book.
Despite having taken issue with some of the matters in this book I still highly recommend this as a valuable study to those interested in the Middle East.
M. D Roberts
This is a good solid read about the Yom Kippur War and the airlift which saved Israel.
Kevin M Quigg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Eric Gartman on November 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Retired Air Force Colonel Walter Boyne's book on the 1973 War reveals much new information. Perhaps the most important of which is the fact that the world came to the brink of nuclear war not once but twice during the conflict. Boyne begins by exploring how Israel was ill-prepared for the well-planned and well-executed Arab surprise attack on October 6, 1973, the holiest day in the Jewish year. Following the stunning initial gains by the Egyptians in the Sinai, and the Syrians in the Golan, Israeli political leaders began to discuss what was known as the "Sampson Option." That is, if Israel was going to be destroyed, it was going to take down its enemies with it. Israel had no way of knowing that it was not the Arab goal to destroy the state. Sadat's aim was simply to capture territory on the east bank of the Suez Canal, an objective he achieved in three days. Meanwhile, the Syrians had also made impressive gains, but failed to press their advantage, for reasons that are unclear. This, coupled with the Egyptian army's halt in the Sinai allowed Israel to regroup and press the offensive in the North. Egypt foolishly decided to press to the Mitla and Gidi passes in the Sinai, and its armor was torn to shreds in the largest tank battles since World War Two. The war may have shifted to Israel's advantage, but supplies were running critically low, with only a few days ammunition left. The US, led by Henry Kissinger, decided to airlift supplies into Israel, allowing Israel to continue its offensive operations, crossing the Suez Canal, and choking off the Egyptian forces, while pushing back the Syrians, along with their Iraqi and Jordanian allies.Read more ›
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By MAC Pilot on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It was with some discomfort that I read Mr. Henning's review. I have heard this statement before, ie "The FACT is most of the weapons sent were replacements for those taken out or un-used additions to what was available and in use. Most never saw action." (His emphasis) Apparently that is the official Israeli position. Now, I can understand why the State of Israel would want to promote this idea, after all, no one surrounded by possible future enemies in another war wants to admit a weakness. The trouble is, that statement is just plain nonsense. I was there. I was a US Air Force C-141 pilot at the time and flew a load of supplies from Charleston to Lajes, then was detached from my crew and used to augment other crews on the round trip to Lod. As a result I flew multiple round trips without ever returning to the States, thereby making many more trips to Israel than most. I remember what we were carrying and how much we were carrying. I remember the frantic atmosphere and the sense of desperation among the people at Lod. (I also remember the lovely El Al stewardesses who met every flight and gave every crew member a dozen red roses!) I remember the post mission recap where it was disclosed that the time from arrival at Lod until the ammunition was expended was eight hours. And I remember the FACT (my emphasis) that the vast majority of the Arab tanks destroyed were destroyed by Maverick and Tow anti tank missles, missles which were almost nonexistant in the prewar Israeli inventory.

I haven't really thought much about Operation Nickle Grass in the thirty years since but was amazed when I recently became aware of this apparent attempt to minimize the impact of this airlift. It is just not true and, frankly, is a bit irritating and insulting.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Dibartolo on October 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read this book right after Oren's "6 Day War", which was spectacular in its coverage of the 1967 conflict, so much of this might be clouded by that juxtaposition. This book was an easy read but there were a couple of things that left me wanting more.
One minor but annoying aspect was that there was a serious lack of maps (and lack of detail on the maps that did exist). I'm not a historian, so when the author spends 3 pages detailing an offensive designed to take or defend a certain town or area, I'd like to see a map with that town on it. Also, it would be nice to have an index of maps so I don't have to flip pages looking for them. These concerns are minor, of course.
The author's coverage of the imminence of nuclear war became almost comical. I counted at least 10 times he wrote that a certain event "would lead the world to the brink of nuclear conflict" or something very similar, in very dramatic fashion. Then he devoted no more than 3 pages to the actual nuclear standoff in such a passing fashion that I found it hard to believe that was all there was to it. To me, the nuclear threat is one of the more interesting aspects to this war, and it became filler.
The only other criticism I would offer is that the book does not do a comprehensive job of detailing the end of the war or the aftermath, both of which are critical to understanding why that region is the way it is today. He does spend a considerable number of pages describing the Israeli defiance of the cease-fire, but not nearly enough time discussing how Kissenger finally got them to recognize it.
These are all minor criticisms of a book that's certainly worth the read. I was concerned that too much attention was going to be paid to the airlift itself, but thankfully this was nicely balanced.
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