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Men-at-Arms 128: Arab Armies of the Middle East Wars 1948–73

by John Laffin with illustrations by Mike Chappell

Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-85048-451-4, 48 pages

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When one thinks of the armies of the Arab nations that confronted Israel during the period covered in this book as poorly led, un-motivated and indifferently trained, he would not be far off the mark. The author ably demonstrates how time and time again, numerically superior Arab forces were defeated by Israel at great cost to the nations covered in this book (Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Army, as well as the irregular terrorists of the Palestine Liberation Organization). He demonstrates how such forces could sometimes be turned into professional and respected warriors using as examples the Jordanians and the early British-commanded Arab Legion. Later, as the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies stepped in, notable (though costly) achievements were attained by the Egyptians in their “Great Crossing” of the Suez Canal in 1973 and by the Syrians in the Golan (also in 1973) when they came within a hair’s-breadth of shattering Israel’s desperate defense.

This book was first published in 1982 by Osprey; this is the eighth (!!!) re-print of it and the reason this is so is readily evident. Quite simply, the author has done an excellent job of distilling often-conflicting source material into an easily digestible form to fit within this book’s 40 pages (as I mentioned, it’s an older title; newer titles consist of 48 pages). The text gives a brief run-down on the local political and strategic situations, as well as showing how cultural, religious and social influences played their part in the operations of these armies. But the bulk of the text explores the actual use in battle of the armies described, with an emphases on the October 1973 war, probably because of how it shaped (or changed) perceptions of the aforementioned forces.

This is complimented by 33 well-captioned B&W photos, many of which depict vehicles, ordnance, crew-served weapons and AFVs. There is one general map of the area and five Orders-Of-Battle charts (Egyptians in the Sinai in 1967 and later in 1973; Syrians on the Golan, 1973, and finally, Jordan in 1967 and again in 1973). The fine color plates by Mr. Chappell, although almost 25-years-old, seem as fresh as ever. They depict a total of 20 individuals and five partial individuals (“busts”); the last of the eight pages is devoted to detailing insignia of the armies described. These are accompanied by extensive commentaries. There is also a brief bibliography and an index (probably not seen in the original).

This period has always been popular with modelers, if the amount of Israeli AFVs seen at contests is any indicator. This book will allow depiction of opposition troops by these modelers, as well as provide an excellent reference for figure painters.

Highly recommended.

Frank De Sisto

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