LT Zvika Greengold
Zivka Greengold was sitting at home on his Kibbutz on 6 October 1973, spending a quiet, peaceful day observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when he heard the familiar but unexpected sound of Israeli fighter jets streaking through the sky over his home. Zvika knew that no Israeli Defense Force (IDF) exercises would ever be held on the most solemn of Jewish high holy days, and immediately knew that something was awry. He rushed to his military radio, scanned through the frequencies and frantically searched for some indication as to what the hell was going on.
What he heard confirmed his darkest fears: War. Egyptian military forces had launched a sneak attack on Israeli positions in the Suez Canal, catching the IDF at the worst possible time. Even more alarming than this were the reports of Syrian armored troops launching an all-out assault on the Golan Heights to the North.
The Golan Heights had been captured by Israel in the royal ass-stomping that was the Six-Day War. The heights were of critical strategic importance to the survival of the fledgling Jewish state, for any Arab artillery batteries placed on their slopes would be capable of striking strategic targets deep within the heart of Israel. Greengold understood the gravity of the situation. He also knew that the IDF, having been caught unprepared, would be severely outnumbered and outgunned by the powerful Syrian armored tank divisions that were now pouring into the heights. It was a time that would separate heroes from cowards, and Lieutenant Zvika Greengold of the Israeli Defense Force knew that it was time for him to be a fucking badass.
Lieutenant Greengold rushed to his room, threw on his military uniform and ran out to the street, where he hitched a ride to a nearby army base. When he arrived, he was told that there wasn't much that could be done. But badasses like Zvika don't ever take that as an answer. Lt. Greengold radioed in to Brigade HQ and requested to be put in charge of his old tank company. His request was granted, and Greengold hopped in a nearby half-track and hauled ass to the Israeli forward base at the Nafah crossroads - a critical choke point on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.
When Zvika arrived at the Nafah base, he was dismayed to see that the base was populated almost entirely by wounded IDF soldiers and had next to nothing in terms of operational military equipment. However, Greengold was intend on kicking some fucking asses, and he was going to do it any way that he possibly could. He noticed two severely damaged IDF Centurion tanks sitting unmanned in the corner of the base, and immediately knew what he had to do. Zvika radioed Brigade HQ and told them that he had "a tank force" and was requesting permission to go into battle against the invading Syrians. HQ of course accepted, not having any fucking clue that the newly-commissioned "Zvika Force" merely consisted of two half-destroyed tanks led by a totally balls-out IDF Lieutenant.
An IDF Centurion tank, or roughly one-half of Zvika Force.
The battle on the slopes of the Golan Heights was not going well for Israel. The IDF generally undergoes a large-scale demobilization for the Yom Kippur holiday, and as a result the Israelis had a force of two tank brigades (about 188 tanks) trying to defend a critical gateway to Israel against five full Divisions of Syrian armor, consisting of over two thousand Russian-made T-62 tanks. The beleaguered and outnumbered IDF troops on the front reported a great surge of confidence when they heard that their position was going to be reinforced by Zvika Force, only to be slightly confused and probably a little pissed off when two dudes rolled up in half-broken tanks claiming to be ready for action.
Zvika Force didn't even give a crap though. The two tanks sped to the front lines at top speed and ran face-first into a huge mass of Syrian armor. Zvika recalls in this article:
"I fired [at the first tank] and he burst into flames. There was a terrific flash so I backed away fast. Then I found the radio wasn't working. I moved to the other tank and changed places with its commander. I told him, 'Watch me and do as I do, if possible'. Within a short time, a second Syrian arrived and we set him ablaze. I saw others, then noticed that the tank alongside me had vanished. I was alone, and surrounded from the front and to the right. I fired in both directions, destroying a number, moving backwards all the time. They began a search with lights. I destroyed a few more. The brigadier asked over the radio how many tanks I had. I told him: 'My situation isn't good and I can't tell you how many.'"
At a time when most people would have freaked out, panicked and run away like little bitches, Zvika Force continued to roll backwards and kept firing at the seemingly endless stream of Syrian tank forces. He eventually re-linked up with his other tank and the two of them executed hit-and-run night raids on Syrian positions. At one point, his tank was hit by enemy fire, severely burning the right side of his body and wounding him with shrapnel. Zvika wasn't about to be slowed down by this, so he simply got out of his flaming inferno of a tank and transferred over to the only other operational Centurion in his command. Zvika Force then spent the entire rest of the evening zipping around the Heights in a lone tank helping out Israeli forces wherever it could, frequently swooping in at critical moments from an unexpected direction to turn the tide of a skirmish in favor of the IDF.
At dawn on 7 October, Brigade HQ sent a company of IDF tanks to reinforce Lt. Greengold's command. Zvika deployed his Force in a defensive position along the Tapline Road, a critical crossroads that was crucial to the defense of the Heights. The Syrians had enough of Zvika Force's bullshit, and sent an entire Division of T-62s out to fuck his shit up. In the grueling battle that ensued, the sixteen tanks of Zvika Force were able to hold their own at close range against seemingly impossible odds. In the heat of the battle however, Greengold heard radio chatter that the IDF forward base at Nafah had fallen under attack by the Syrians. Realizing that the battle he was now embroiled in was merely a feint to pull Zvika Force out of position, Zvika and one other tank broke off from the battle and rushed back to defend Nafah.
Zvika Force rolled into Nafah base only to find IDF troops falling back in disarray in the face of overwhelming Syrian numbers. Zvika's tank driver saw this, exclaimed, "I'm too old for this shit!", popped the hatch and ran away like a bitch - his nerves at this point were too fried to continue. Once again, Zvika was forced to change tanks in order to continue fighting.
The next several hours consisted of the one-man Zvika Force driving around to various strategic positions throughout the Nafah base, firing on the approaching Syrian hordes with determination and deadly precision in a desperate last stand. During the intense fight, an Israeli brigade commander drove up on the ridge behind Nafah base and radioed back to HQ, "there's no one in the camp except a single tank fighting like mad along the fences."
Despite being alone in a damaged tank dangerously low on ammunition and impossibly outgunned, Lieutenant Zvika Greengold battled furiously in the defense of his homeland. He was not going to let himself buckle in the face of the enemy, and had no intention of allowing the Syrian forces to capture this critical foothold into Israel. He would die before he would let Nafah base be overrun.
Finally, IDF tank units reached Zvika's position to reinforce him. According to this article, "During a lull [in the battle] Zvika Greengold painfully lowered himself from his tank, covered with burns, wounds and soot. 'I can't go on anymore,' he said to the staff office who had sent him into battle 30 hours before. The officer embraced him and found a vehicle to carry Greengold to the hospital." Greengold collapsed from exhaustion, having fought for his life in numerous high-intensity conflicts for over thirty hours straight and facing countless hair-raising battles. The Yom Kippur War would have to continue without him.
Lieutenant Zvika Greengold's actions on the Golan Heights in the opening days of the Yom Kippur War were critical to the success of the campaign. His small force consisting of anywhere between one and sixteen tanks managed to halt the Syrian advance on the Tapline Road and stall the invasion long enough for substantial IDF reinforcements to reach the front and join the battle. His guerilla-style tactics and high kill rate had the Syrian commanders convinced that they were fighting a much larger tank corps than they actually were arrayed against - effectively allowing Zvika Force to hold off five full Syrian Armored Divisions with only two Centurion tanks. Thanks to his brave and balls-out actions, Nafah Base never fell into enemy hands. Rather, in the days and weeks that followed, the IDF was able to push the Syrians completely out of the Golan Heights and re-establish a defensive line on the Syrian side of the pass - a line the marks the border between the two nations to this day. For his heroic actions in defense of his people, Zvika Greengold was awarded the Israeli Medal of Honor, the highest honor offered by his country. During his thirty-hour battle, Zvika was personally credited with over sixty tank kills, making him probably one of the most prolific and badassed tank aces of all time.
"There are men, alive and dead, who did wonderful things we don't even know about.
The men on the line did exceptional things and I pale by comparison."
- Lt. Zvika Greengold
The Complete List
About the Author