Sailing the Waves of the Past

A book by Rear-Admiral  (res.) Ze’ev Almog provides a glimpse into the history of the Navy and an inside look from the perspective of someone who was there all along

Sailing the Waves of the Past

The book by Rear-Admiral (res.) Zeev Almog recounts the personal history of a naval warrior regarded as one of the formative commanders of the Israeli Navy. Almog’s personal story provides a glimpse into the story of the IDF Navy over a period of thirty years – a period of an uncompromising struggle for the shaping of Israel’s naval power.

As early as in the preface to this voluminous book, the author states that the book is an autobiographical document that reflects his own personal credo and his struggle for the realization thereof, as well as his subjective viewpoint – just one among many others. The book covers five of Israel’s wars in which the author took part, as well as the concentrated and intensive campaign for eradicating and stopping terrorist intrusions from the sea. With this preface, the author attempts to dull the predictable accusation according to which all of the spotlights, throughout the book, are directed almost exclusively at him.

The book is a monumental research work based on countless documents, testimonies and records (some of which are included as supplements). In some cases, it seems as if the author had prepared himself for this monumental undertaking all his life. This is not the first time that Almog shares his experiences with the readers. His first book, “Bats in the Red Sea” (which was translated into English under the title “Flotilla 13: Israeli Naval Commandos in the Red Sea, 1967-1973”) contained many of the chapters of this book. The first 15 chapters deal with Almog’s personal background and with the way this religious Israeli youngster had been trained for the most significant position of his career, as commander of the Navy’s 13th Flotilla (Naval Commandos), a command he took over in May 1968.

Within a year, the 13th Flotilla was transformed – according to the author – into a leading elite unit of the IDF. Almog and his command group devised and consolidated new norms. Over a period of three and a half years, described in 10 chapters, they led the “Men of Silence” to some 80 operations behind enemy lines. The raids from the sea on the Egyptian coastal fort of Adabiya and the fort on Green Island and the sinking of two Egyptian torpedo boats were – as far as Almog was concerned – the crowning achievements of the War of Attrition. During that period, the fighting force of the 13th Flotilla was rebuilt, new measures and combat tactics were developed and the number of combat troopers was doubled. According to Almog, the operational success of the 13th Flotilla blazed the trail for the numerous successful operations by other units of the Navy as well.

During the Yom-Kippur War of 1973, the author served as commander of the Red Sea Theater. 7 additional chapters of the book were devoted to this period. Almog initiated and led 12 daring offensive operations against Egyptian Navy anchorage points in the Gulf of Suez. The obvious numerical and technological inferiority of the Israeli Navy forces notwithstanding, the Egyptian Navy in this theater of operations was practically immobilized by the seamen of the Israeli Dabur patrol boats and the commandos of the 13th Flotilla. 

In 1979, following a term of studies at the US Naval Academy and tenures as commander of the Navy base in Haifa and as instructor at the National Defense College, Almog was appointed as Commander of the IDF Navy. 12 additional chapters of the book were devoted to this period. During Operation Peace for Galilee of 1982, the Israeli Navy landed ground troops from the sea, engaged targets on the Lebanese shore, imposed a naval blockade on all Lebanese ports and shores and prevented any intervention or interruption on the part of the Syrian Navy. During the same period, terrorist intrusions from the sea were completely eliminated. In the context of the massive campaign against maritime terrorism, 23 vessels serving the terrorist organizations were captured and seven other vessels were sunk.

Under Almog’s command, the senior echelon of the IDF Navy developed a new combat doctrine that came to be known as “combined naval operations” and kicked off a new procurement process, which included the design of the state-of-the-art Saar-5 missile frigates and Dolphin class submarines, the acquisition of seaborne helicopters, et al.

Almog rounded off his contribution to the IDF and the Navy when he was appointed as general manager of Israel Shipyards, where he established the modern infrastructure for the construction of new vessels for the Navy: the Saar-4.5 Nirit missile frigates and the Shaldag fast patrol boats. 

Zeev Almog has a bachelor’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a master’s degree from the US Naval Academy. He is married to Dr. Geulah Almog, the father of three sons and the grandfather of eight grandsons.

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