An eyewitness account of the first Lebanon war in 1982

By Yuval Sharlo, April 18, 2008

1982: The First Lebanon War

It was like we went to war with such arrogance, as if we were just going in our tanks for a drive. Our objective was to reach the Damascus-Beirut highway by Friday night, and we were surprised it might take us that long.

I was a 26-year-old reservist and was supposed to lead a battalion force after studying the map for about half-an-hour. The first couple of days we shot, we hit, we carried on. I was so tired. We had such a sleep deficit that some of us were falling asleep in the turret.

There was an awful attack by clouds of tiny flies, which further dulled our senses. We were firing at the Syrians, and there was lots of shooting and noise. And then we saw our first casualties. A gunner being taken out of a tank without his leg. Another officer evacuated, critically wounded. Only then did I realise that this was serious.

The whole armoured column was stuck on the narrow mountain route, tanks mixed up with supply trucks at the Sultan Yakub junction. We could not go forward or fire our cannons for fear of hitting our own side. At dawn, we saw the platoon in front of us, trapped under fire, their cries clogging up the radio. We tried to give them covering fire, but our orders were to halt.

Ever since, I have asked myself if I should have acted differently. I fell asleep as we were loading fresh shells into the tank and woke up to be told that three soldiers had been captured. We were confident at the time that they would be returned in a few months, but they are still missing to this day. Only afterwards did it sink in that there I was, a father of three children, wandering in the fog of battle.

I decided that if there had to be a next time, we would not be so arrogant. I understood what war was. And that I hate it. It did not change my right-wing views, and I still believe that we have to fight sometimes. But I know what war is.

Last updated: 3:59pm, September 16 2008