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Cancelled Leave and the 1973 Arab-Israeli War


During my years in SAC at Loring (1970-74) we became accustomed to alerts and war games to maintain the readiness of the base should some crisis occur. Once in awhile we had notice that something might be in the works but sometimes they were unannounced. Working in the 42 FMS jet engine shop meant that you could be called in at any time of the day or night and different work shifts would be set up until the exercise was over.
In the early 1970s the Cold War was at its height and just about any theatre of conflict anywhere in the world could spark tensions between the Communist Soviet Union and the Free World, led by the United States. The Yom Kippur War, which is also known as the 1973 Arab–Israeli War was one such confrontation fought by the coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel from October 6 to 25, 1973.
The war began on October 6 when the Arab coalition of Egypt and Syria launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Israeli-occupied territories on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Both the United States and the Soviet Union initiated massive resupply efforts to their respective allies during the war, and this led to a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers. Those of us stationed at Loring were aware there was trouble in the Middle East but didn’t know to what extent it might affect us.
I had scheduled a one week leave for the end of October / early November to drive home to New Jersey and attend my fifth year high school reunion for my class of 1968. I was hoping that the aforementioned trouble would not impact me personally but by October 22 a United Nations-brokered ceasefire quickly unraveled, with each side blaming the other for the breach. By October 24, the Israelis had improved their positions considerably and completed their encirclement of Egypt's Third Army and the city of Suez. This development led to tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and base personnel were called to their respective duty stations. As I made my drive from Presque Isle, I wondered what the name of this latest “war game” would be called. When I drove up the road between the arch hanger and the jet engine shop and saw that the alert bombers were not on their normal parking pads I knew that this was no ordinary alert. All leaves were cancelled and we were assigned special work shift assignments. I thought “well there goes my planned reunion trip.”
The U.S. had become concerned that the Soviet Union might intervene on the side of the Arabs and on October 25, U.S. forces including the Strategic Air Command, were placed on DEFCON 3 putting its nuclear forces on worldwide alert increasing the Defense Condition (DEFCON) from four to three. By the end of the day, the crisis abated when the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 340, which called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all forces to their October 22 positions, and U.N. observers and peacekeepers to monitor the ceasefire; finally the Israelis accepted this resolution. 
By the time the alert was lifted and leaves were reinstated I didn’t have time to drive home from Maine to New Jersey and still make the reunion. Luckily I was able to book a commercial flight at the last minute out of Presque Isle to fly home with my wife and 18 month old son. I arrived at the reunion festivities with my wife just in time and won a prize for traveling the farthest – a bottle of Seagrams 7.