The 55th Paratrooper Brigade
The Paratrooper Brigade's original mission was to parachute into El-Arish in northern Egypt, in the event that the Israeli forces would run into difficulties. On the 5th of June 1967, it became clear that there was no need for the paratroopers, due to the great success of the Air Force and the quick progress of the Tal Division. At 14:30 the command to divert the brigade to Jerusalem was received, in order to reinforce the central command force there, for the Jordanians had begun to bomb the city.
Near nightfall, the soldiers arrived at Beit Hakerem neighborhood, there they received the command and the starting time of the operation, that was set for 02:00. Despite the lack of intelligence information, it was decided that the cover of darkness would work in our favor. Tank Company from battalion 182 gave aid for an hour and a quarter in the battle to breach the border, while under heavy artillery bombing the whole time. A combat engineering company operated with them and helped to breach a way for the tank through the mine fields into the city.
the battalion's mission was to breach the municipal borderline in the Pag"i neighborhood area, conquer the area controlling the Wadi Joz axle from north and the Ambassador hotel, alertness to conquest of the old city and or connection to Mount Scopus. Already in the attempt to breach the borderline from the Pag"i houses, they ran into a surprise- instead of three barbed wire fences, they discovered four. Breaching the fences was done under fire and so progress was slow, at approximately 03:15, Dodik, commander of company B, broke through into the connecting trench (the trench that connected the School for Officers with Ammunition Hill). The trench was very narrow and the soldiers were forced to advance in single file and so their progress was slow and only the leading soldier could fight. If a soldier was injured or killed, all the rest had to step on him so as to move forward and continue fighting. At the same time, company A was cleansing the School for Officers. When Dodik came to the end of the connecting trench and the edge of the western trench on Ammunition Hill, he realized that most of his ammunition had run out and his soldiers were scattered around, many of them wounded and killed. Yossi Yafe, battalion commander, sent Dedi Ya'akobi, commander of company C, to complete the mission. Ammunition Hill is built in the shape of an upside down Hebrew letter "Shin" (ש). There are three trenches: western, central and eastern. These three are connected by widthwise trenches and in each trench are bunkers in which the Jordanian legionnaires entrenched themselves. The plan was that each Israeli platoon would enter each main trench, but due to a fatal error, two platoons found themselves in the central trench and one platoon in the eastern trench. Not one platoon occupied the most fortified trench, the western trench. Since the forces in the eastern trench reported that there was no strong resistance on the Jordanians part, the division commander diverted companies A and D to continue to the next mission- the Ambassador Hotel. At 04:00, Company D began to move toward the hotel with company A following in its footsteps. Whilst company A was advancing, they ran into enemy fire coming from buildings close to the Mivtar Hill Post. Gabi Magal, company commander, appointed his deputy, Ofer Feniger, to take care of the sources of the fire. Company D conquered the Ambassador Hotel while at the same time Gabi himself and the remaining companies were conquering the French Hospital and the nearby junction. There was utmost importance for control of this junction because the Israeli forces were to progress to Mount Scopus through it. The junction was used as a security department for the entire division fighting in the city. The battalion commander instructed Gabi to take up posts toward the Mivtar Hill Post and place two tanks opposite the Mivtar Hill in order to occupy the Jordanian range. He also instructed one of the companies to continue cleansing Sheik-Jarrach in the direction of Wadi Joz.
At the same time, on Ammunition Hill the battle was intensifying and most of the commanders who lead the forces were hit first. As a result, the lower ranking soldiers took charge and continued with the battle. Also, the company in the eastern trench ran into many difficulties as the battle went on, and absorbed many casualties. Company C was almost entirely wiped out and the company commander turned to a platoon from company A for help. Ofer Feniger's platoon immediately responded. The report of the difficult situation also reached the battalion commander Yossi Yafe and he turned to company B and requested that they divert to Ammunition Hill for aid. For the first time, soldiers entered the western trench. The large bunker, in close proximity to the upper meeting point of the three trenches, was the last bunker that had to be conquered. Indeed, only on the fourth try, and with the assistance of 16 kilograms of explosives, did the soldiers succeed in destroying it. The bunker was blown up at approximately 06:15. In fact, it was at that stage that the battle on Ammunition Hill was terminated, but the last soldier killed on the hill, Ofer Feniger, was killed a few hours later by a Jordanian sniper on the Mivtar Hill Post while evacuating the casualties and wounded.
Battalion 71's mission was to breach the borderline in the block factory area near the Mandelbaum Gate, progress to the Wadi Joz neighborhood, cleanse the American neighborhood and the Bab A-Zahara neighborhood and block the axle leading to Ramallah from the north and the route to Jericho from the east.
The breach began at approximately 02:30 in the morning, company F broke through the fences under fire in 45 minutes. A platoon from company C penetrated through the opening, cleansed the block factory, turned south and created a blockade near the Sheik Jarrach mosque. Afterwards, company D entered, turned north toward the Wadi Joz junction, and placed a blockade there in order to secure the forces that were penetrating deep into enemy territory. The obstructing force was attacked with machineguns by the enemy from a nearby post called the “Burnt House”. An attack by officers from the battalion headquarters was stopped and some were injured. Another attack by a platoon failed and the machinegun was finally silenced by two recoilless gun jeeps. The soldiers from company C, who entered the northern sector, ran into resistance from the legionnaires who were entrenched in concrete posts and in two houses called the “Red House” and the “White House”. The cleansing was only completed after an attack under the command of the injured deputy assistant chief of staff for operations and a number of soldiers from company C. Later on this force attacked other posts.
Simultaneously, the battalions frontal forces (companies D, A) continued their quick progress without difficulties. Company D operated on three fronts: the first- progression in Wadi Joz and conquest of the mortar posts which were found empty, the second- movement on the road above the Wadi, the third- movement on the road crossing the American colony and the Bab A-Zahara neighborhood. The main force continued to progress toward the “Garages Junction”. Near the junction, company A became the advance guard point company. The company arrived at the edge of the Wadi Joz neighborhood and made preparations not far from the Rockefeller Museum, with intent to overlook the road that connected to the old city. The force noticed a Jordanian force planning to descend from the Mount of Olives to the old city. Yoram Zamush, company commander, requested to fire on the enemy with mortars. This foiled the Jordanians plan. Uzi Ilem, battalion commander, arrived at the “Garages Junction” to report to the division commander regarding the completion of the battalion's mission.
Meanwhile, the General staff decided not to enter the old city at that stage and division 55 prepared to continue fighting in the current location. In the next stage, the siege and isolation of the old city was supposed to be executed. The division was supposed to attack the Augusta Victoria and A-Tur range, battalion 71 was supposed to lead the attack with the aid of a battalion of tanks. The attack began at 09:30 through Wadi Joz. Due to a navigational mistake, the tanks and the division commando unit encountered heavy fire from the old city walls and suffered heavy losses. In spite of this, the division commander instructed the HQ officer to lead the remaining armor on the correct route to Augusta Victoria and to battalion 71 to continue the mission. Later on, the mission changed yet again. Uzi Narkiss instructed division 55's commander, Mote Gur, to be prepared to attack the Augusta Victoria range by the morning of June 7th. They were assisted by air and artillery fire. This mission was also changed due to fear of a nearing ceasefire, and the command was given to enter the old city and conquer it. Battalion 71 was to move from Wadi Joz toward the Augusta Victoria range. At the moment that permission to break through to the old city was given, the battalion was supposed to turn about and enter the old city through the “Lions Gate”. The battalion began to climb toward the Augusta Victoria range, but when the soldiers arrived they found that battalion 66 had preceded them and so they joined up with it. In the meantime, company A (Zamush) was serving as a reserve to break into the old city and it implemented this together with the division commander and arrived at the end of the battle to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
During the breaching stage, the battalion's mission was to serve as the division reserve. In the next stage, the battalion, under command of Yossi Paradkin, was supposed to penetrate through the opening that battalion 71 created near the block factory and progress down the Tzalach A-Din road, conquer the Rockefeller Museum, and the junction controlling the Lion's Gate. Someone had to stay on-call for the breach into the old city. This mission was given to battalion 28 because its soldiers were the most senior in the brigade, since they had fought in it since the days of the retaliation acts. Even as the battalion was preparing they was shot with a number of mortars that caused deaths and injuries. The battalion commander decided not to wait any longer and to begin the mission. Company A lead as advance point guard on the Nablus road. It spread out on both sides of the road. Suddenly, there was an encounter with the enemy when a burst of gunfire hit the battalion from the “Burnt House” (it was given this name because its roof was burnt from a cannon). The battalion commander sent a small group of soldiers to destroy the source of fire. Platoon 1 lead the force and was hit by gunfire from the Moslem legion house, which was well fortified. Cleansing the post was difficult and a number of soldiers were injured. In the cleansing operation it was discovered that in the yard of the house ran a connecting trench, which stretched throughout the entire city and gave the legionnaires an advantage- an ability to observe without being detected.
According to the original plan, the forces were supposed to turn from the Nablus road to Tzalach A-Din road (currently location of the Ministry of Justice and the district court), but platoon 1 commander made a mistake and continued to move down the Nablus road. This error made the route longer and raised the number of injured soldiers. Due to this fact, the battalion commander decided to reinforce the soldiers with some tanks.
At 06:15, the force arrived at the YMCA building, where the soldiers were hit with heavy fire that injured many. The paratroopers were especially harassed by machinegun fire from the balcony of the building. They were aided by tanks that fired at the sources of the fire in the building, and in the end they managed to cleanse it by fighting in each room.
Later on, the company was exposed to fire from the city walls. The commander of company A instructed the soldiers to move close to the walls of the houses until they arrived at the alley and entered the city to purify it. Two of the soldiers that entered were wounded and two others, who came to evacuate them, were also injured. At that point, the battalion commander decided to put company C as advance point guard and two other soldiers from company C entered the alley, without knowing the fate of their predecessors, and were killed. The alley was finally cleansed with the aid of a tank that bombed the bunker from which Jordanians were sniping at the soldiers. The alley was called “Death Alley” and the battle there lasted about two hours. The battalion's next stop was the Rockefeller Museum that had already been cleansed by battalion 71. The museum became the assemblage point for the companies, commanders, and the brigade commander that arrived there. There, the battalion became the reserve for the breach to the old city through the “Flowers Gate” or the “Lion's Gate”.
With the command to break through to the old city, the battalion's mission was to turn north in the direction of “Damascus Gate” and from there to the “New Gate”. With the conquest, the battalion completed its role in the war.