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UN Jeeps in the Sinai Peninsula, 1956-79


 

United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was the first large U.N. peacekeeping operation, supervising the armistice between Egypt and Israel in the Sinai desert, from the Suez Crisis of 1956 until the Six Day War of 1967.

Six years later, U.N. Emergency Force II (UNEF II) was established in Sinai and the Golan Heights following the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab nations led by Egypt and Syria, during which both the U.S. and Soviet Union were threatening military action. (1)

Batallón Peru, 1974

1974 UNEF II reached its authorized level of 7,000 personnel by February 1974. The largest contingent was 1,097 peacekeepers from Canada, with additional forces from 11 other countries including 497 from Peru.

The Batallón Peru operated both in Sinai and in the Golan Heights, between Israel and Syria. These Peruvian peacekeepers were photographed in Sinai in 1974, with their Kaiser Jeep M606.
 

1974 In March 2015, British Maj. Gen. Adrian Foster, Deputy Military Advisor for Peacekeeping at the U.N., praised the Peruvian contribution to peacekeeping, at a ceremony to honor three soldiers who died in March 1974. An anti-tank mine exploded during a routine UNEF II mission, killing the three Peruvians and wounding seven. (2)
 

1974

Peru's largest contribution of UN peacekeepers was to UNEF II in 1974, but its military first participated in a U.N. mission in 1958, and has continued the tradition over the years. As of 2015 there were 394 personnel deployed on seven U.N. peace missions, and Peruvian officers have achieved senior command status within U.N. operations.

There are no Peruvian M606 Jeeps listed in the list of Surviving CJ-3B Jeeps on The CJ-3B Page, although there are many in Argentina and Brazil. This may mean that the number delivered to Peru was relatively small.
 

Courtesy Luis Diaz This photo, courtesy Luis Edilberto Perez Diaz (3) clearly shows the blackout light of the M606, as well as a somewhat haphazard white spray job on the wheels. It also appears to show that the UN marking was stitched rather than painted on the canvas top.

The photo above reveals that in some cases the underside of the hood received white paint, while other Jeeps kept their Peruvian army olive drab under the hood.
 

1974 This group of Peruvian troopers posed in the Golan Heights in June 1974.

UNEF II ended when a peace treaty was concluded in March 1979.
 

UNEF I, 1956

Map The beginning of modern U.N. peacekeeping was the result of Canadian politician Lester B. Pearson's suggestion that a large force of impartial military observers could help restore peace during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Egypt's seizure of the Suez Canal in July 1956 led to an Israeli invasion of the Sinai, and Britain and France landing troops in the Canal Zone. Pearson persuaded the U.N. General Assembly to meet in emergency session and establish the first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to supervise the withdrawal of all combatants, which was completed in March 1957, and to monitor the new armistice. (4)
 

Yugoslavian column, 1957 The extent of the area to be covered by UNEF called for highly mobile reconnaissance. This need was initially met by the Yugoslav People's Army, which provided a complete reconnaissance battalion, seen here waiting for the evacuation of El Arish by Israeli forces in January 1957. (UN photo)

Having become a communist nation independent of the Soviet bloc in 1946, Yugoslavia built much of its own military equipment, and was still relying on WWII surplus jeeps. (See also Yugoslav Army Jeep on CJ3B.info.)
 

1957 Yugoslavia was not the only country still using the Willys MB. Most Danish military Jeeps through the 1950s were surplus World War II MB's and GPW's delivered to Denmark by the U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP). (5)

This Danish soldier takes advantage of a pause in the desert in January 1957 to paint a number on the new white paint, which does not yet carry a UN marking on the hood. (UN photo.)
 

DANOR battalion, 1957 An encampment of the combined Danish-Norwegian (DANOR) infantry battalion of UNEF is seen here in March 1957, as they prepare to move into the Gaza Strip. (UN photo)

This is the only photo I have seen of a CJ-3B in use with UNEF I. We can't be sure whether the Jeep belongs to Denmark or Norway, since it carries a DANOR insignia which appears to combine both flags, but we do know the Danish Army purchased a number of 1956 CJ-3Bs (see Danish Army Jeep on CJ3B.info.)
 

Gaza, 1957 UNEF initially included contingents from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark-Norway, Finland, India, Indonesia, Sweden and Yugoslavia. This led to interesting scenes such as this traffic jam. Troops assemble under UN and Swedish flags, as an MP waves a collection of vehicles including MB's, M38's, Willys Station Wagons and Series I Land Rovers, into the Gaza Strip in April 1957. (UN photo)

(Note that you can click on these UN photos to see large copies with a lot of detail.)
 

M38 CDN Here, a sergeant of the Canadian Provost Corps drives a Military Police M38 CDN, accompanied by MP's whose shoulder flashes and headgear indicate they are Brazilian (front passenger), Indian and Swedish (rear). The patrol is reminsicent of the movie Four in a Jeep -- see Fifty Years Ago Today on CJ3B.info.

(National Defence photo from Library and Archives Canada. See more UNEF MP's at Canadian Provost Corps.)

The M38 CDN was built for the Canadian Army by Ford. In 2013 I photographed a white UNEF M38 CDN (160K JPEG) in the vehicle display (160K JPEG) at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
 

Ferret Canada assembled the light-armored 56th Reconnaissance Squadron, named for the year 1956. They were outfitted with 23 Ferret scout cars (seen here in a National Defence photo from the Canadian War Museum.) They set up their base in Rafah, from where they patrolled the northern section of the demarcation line between Egypt and Israel.

They were armed for self-defense (Bren guns) but patrolled in the middle of an uneasy truce, with undisciplined soldiers on each side of the boundary, and unmarked minefields. In the first year, Lieut. Charles Van Straubenzee was killed when his Ferret rolled over, and Trooper George McDavid when his Ferret struck a buried mine. (6)
 

Brazilian CJ-5 UNEF forces were also exposed to blazing desert heat, freezing nights and sandstorms. In February 1959, Brazilian troops were photographed in a sandstorm, driving a militarized CJ-5 that carried a U.N. flag but didn't have its white paint yet. (UN photo)

See also a great rear view photo (300K JPEG) of the CJ-5, showing military-style bumperettes and jerry can racks, but civilian taillights and side-mount spare.
 

Brazilian CJ-5 Two months later, the same CJ-5, UNEF 305 appeared after a careful white paint job, in an April 1959 photo of an observation post manned by the Brazilian battalion on the Armistice Demarcation Line. (UN photo)

Note: the Exército Brasileiro (Brazilian Army) did not receive its Kaiser M606 high-hood Jeeps under MDAP until probably 1965. Some of them may have appeared late in the mandate of UNEF II.
 

The A1 CDN's Arrive

RC Dragoons The Ferret scout cars were uncomfortable in the desert conditions, and the protection they offered from small arms fire was not effective against buried mines. Midway through 1959, the Ferrets were replaced as the Canadian patrol vehicles by M38A1 CDN Jeeps. This photo and the photo below show Royal Canadian Dragoons on patrol in the Jeeps in 1962. (National Defence photos from Library and Archives Canada.)

But the Jeeps' lack of protection from small arms would prove deadly.
 

RC Dragoons On a night patrol in November 1959, two M38A1s were taking a detour through Egyptian territory, as per an agreement reached with Egyptian commanders. Suddenly the desert was lit up by parachute flares, and the patrol was ambushed with small arms fire from the front and flanks. The four soldiers dived for cover, yelling "United Nations!" When the firing stopped, Egyptian infantrymen told the Canadians they had been warned to stay out of the area. The peacekeepers piled into the second Jeep and returned to Rafah, but Trooper Ronald Allen of the Dragoons had been wounded and died enroute. (7)
 

M38A1 CDN Norwegian Major General Torstein Dale arrived in El Arish in March 1960 for a week's visit to UNEF. In this UN photo, General Dale (in front seat), looks on while a Canadian officer and soldier pour drinking water from a jerry-can into the earthen jars of a Bedouin nomad, while driving through an area experiencing an acute shortage of water.

This rear view clearly shows the radios and Bren machine gun, and the windshield removed. A UN photo of the UNEF motor pool at Camp Ratah, April 1959 (340K JPEG) shows the Canadian M38's and A1's were also used with windshield and canvas top.
 

Bob Rodger photo Cpl. Art Maidment, vehicle mechanic in the Golan Heights, is seen working on the F-head engine from a UNEF M38A1. (8) The 140-person Canadian contingent in the Golan provided supply, transportation, communication and military police services, to a force manning some 50 obervation posts over an 80-kilometer frontier between Israel and Syria. (9)

See more photos of Canadian M38A1s in UN Forces in Cyprus on CJ3B.info. Elsewhere on the web, see a chart of Canadian Vehicle Markings including UNEF Ferrets and Jeeps.
 

M-151, 1964 In the 1964 rotation of the 8th Canadian Hussars into UNEF's armored squadron, they brought brand new M151 Jeeps. The M151's may have been supplied by the United States, which was providing some logistical support for UNEF; the Canadian Army's purchase of M151A2's did not come until 10 years later. As seen in this 1964 National Defence photo from the Canadian War Museum, the M151 carried the Browning M1919 machine gun. (10)

Canada's worst day in UNEF came in November 1964 when a Jeep ran over a landmine, killing Cpl. Paul Wallace and Trooper Adrian Bons of the Hussars.
 

Courtesy Jan Vennix The U.N. used Willys 4-wheel-drive Utility Wagons for personnel transport. Jan Vennix of New Zealand scanned this photo of himself at the age of 2 outside United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) headquarters in Jerusalem. UNTSO had been created back in 1948 to monitor peace agreements in the Middle East, and provided assistance for the establishment of UNEF. Jan says the wagon was the "company car" of his father Johannes Vennix.

The wagons were also used in the field; a 1957 UN photo shows the flag holder behind the drivers's door flying a white flag (230K JPEG) during the Israeli pullout from Sinai, while Swedish and Israeli officers shake hands.
 

The End of UNEF I

RCAF UN aircraft The Royal Canadian Air Force provided a massive airlift of personnel and supplies for UNEF, and as the mission continued, provided air transport within the Middle East, as seen in this 1964 UN photo of two siblings, the De Havilland DHC-3 Otter (front) and DHC-4 Caribou. (11) The Caribou was a state-of-the-art STOL design; its 1958 first flight carried two CJ-3B Jeeps.

(Nine Canadians serving with the UN were killed in August 1974 when their DHC-5 Buffalo supply plane was shot down by Syrian missiles on approach to the Damascus airport. The loss of Buffalo 461 was the single greatest loss of Canadian lives participating in international peace missions.) (12)
 

Gen. Rikhye, 1966 A Caribou brought Indian Major General Indar Jit Rikhye to Gaza as UNEF's new commander, in January 1966; in this UN photo he inspects Indian troops at the airfield.

Gen. Rikhye had extensive military and peacekeeping experience, which would prove important in 1967 when Egypt and Israel ordered UNEF forces out of Sinai, and it appeared that war would break out again. Gen. Rikhye did the peacekeeper's job of playing for time while UNEF troops were repatriated, to give diplomacy a chance to work. (13)
 

Creative Commons photo Israeli forces including this Sayeret Shaked Reconnaissance Unit (14) struck fiercly and pre-emptively on 5 June, and the Six-Day War was effectively finished in the Sinai in three days, with thousands of casualties among retreating Egyptians.

Gen. Rikhye's U.N. plane was fired on by Israeli jets, and his Gaza headquarters shelled. His Indian troops headed for the beach, driving on the hubs of Jeeps whose tires had been shot out.
 

Indian Army This convoy of Mahindra Jeeps is not UNEF, but a more recent Indian Army peacekeeping unit in the DRC. According to Body of Secrets by James Bamford, a convoy of Indian peacekeepers very much like this one, flying the United Nations flag, met an Israeli tank column in Sinai on 5 June 1967, and pulled aside.

One of the tanks rotated its turret and opened fire from a few feet away, then rammed its gun through the windshield of an Indian jeep, decapitating the two men inside. "One Indian officer called it deliberate, cold-blooded killing of unarmed UN soldiers. It would be a sign of things to come." (15)
 

That story is not contradicted by a secret Canadian Army report of April 1968, which provided "an indication of what the Canadian contingent might have endured if it had not been evacuated before the fighting began." It summarized several incidents on 5-6 June in which Indian casualties were 14 killed and 20 wounded. (16)
 

Wagoneer, 1975 Total United Nations Emergency Force fatalities from 1957-67 were 110, including 31 Canadians, but the mission provided a decade of peace in the volatile region, and validated Lester Pearson's concept of peacekeeping, for which he won the Nobel Peace prize.

Six years later, peacekeeping returned in the form of UNEF II, as described at the top of this page. This UN photo by Yutaka Nagata shows Finnish and Indonesian officers discussing UNEF II operations in November 1975, with their new peacemaking tool, an AMC Jeep Wagoneer.

See also a front view of a Wagoneer and trailer in the desert, in November 1973 (270K JPEG, UN photo/Yutaka Nagata).
 

Thanks to Federico Cavedo for locating the Peruvian photos, and to UN Multimedia for making high-resolution photos available in their online archives. -- Derek Redmond

Footnotes

  1. Middle East UNEF II Background at UN.org.
  2. U.N. praises Peru as need for blue helmets increases by W. Alex Sanchez at Blouin News, 11 March 2015.
  3. Luis Edilberto Perez Diaz at Google.
  4. Middle East UNEF I Background at UN.org.
  5. Danish Army Vehicles.
  6. Ambush in the desert by Sean Chase, in Pembroke Daily Observer, 27 November 2008.
  7. Ambush in the desert by Sean Chase, in Pembroke Daily Observer, 27 November 2008.
  8. MCPL photo by Bob Rodger, from The Maple Leaf, 12 April 2006, p.8.
  9. "Marking the end of an era" by Kristina Davis, in The Maple Leaf, 12 April 2006, pp.7-13.
  10. Canadian M151 series jeeps.
  11. "History of 115 Air Transport Unit (ATU) RCAF March 1957 to 29 May 1967" at RCAF in UN Operations.
  12. Buffalo 461 at Wikipedia.
  13. Major-General Indar Jit Rikhye, died 21 May 2007 at The Economist.
  14. Photo via Creative Commons.
  15. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency by James Bamford, 2007, p.201.
  16. The Withdrawal of UNEF from Egypt, May-June 1967, Secret Report No.16, Directorate of History, Canadian Forces Headquarters, 1 April 1968.


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Last updated 12 September 2015 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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