United Nations Emergency Force II (UNEF II) - DANACA

International Operation Name: United Nations Emergency Force II

International Operation Dates:  1973/10/25 – 1979/07/24

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name:  Middle East

Location:  Egypt

Canadian Operation Name: Operation DANACA

Canadian Operation Dates: 1973/11/10 – 1979/10/31

Mission Mandate:

The United Nations Emergency Force II was created by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 340, on 25 October 1973. UNEF II was to supervise the implementation of the cease-fire and observe a return by the two forces to the positions they held as of 1650 hours, 22 October 1973. The force would attempt to prevent a recurrence of fighting and cooperate with the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Mission Notes:

On 6 October 1973, the Yom Kippur War started when Egypt and Syria, in a coordinated attack supported by troops of other Arab nations, attacked Israel. After initial setbacks, Israel was able to regain lost ground. Along the Egyptian border, Israel initially suffered major setbacks; however, after a brilliant pincer movement, Israeli forces threatened to surround the entire Egyptian Third Army on the west bank of the Suez Canal. Diplomatic activity was intense during the conflict, with the possibility of a showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union. Egypt and Israel accepted a cease-fire along their border on 26 October.

At the United Nations, the Security Council had made repeated calls for a cease-fire. On 25 October the Security Council again called for a cease-fire and authorized the UN Secretary-General to create a new United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II). The same day, the Security Council approved a request from the Secretary-General to transfer peacekeeping contingents from the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) to Egypt. These forces would be under the temporary command of the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) until the main UNEF II force could be deployed.

The mandate of UNEF II was to supervise the implementation of the cease-fire and observe a return by the two forces to the positions they held as of 1650 hours, 22 October 1973. The force would attempt to prevent a recurrence of fighting and cooperate with the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Austrian, Finnish and Swedish contingents began arriving on 26 October, supported a few days later by an Irish infantry company. The shape of the Canadian contingent, meanwhile, was a matter of discussion because of the USSR’s insistence that Poland be involved. After two weeks of negotiations, it was agreed that Canada would provide a supply company, a maintenance company, a movement control unit, a postal detachment, and a radio unit, while Poland would provide a transport unit and a medical unit. In addition, Canada would provide an aviation unit for in-theatre transport.

While UNEF II was establishing itself in Egypt, discussions were occurring between Egyptian and Israeli military officers at the Kilometre 101 Tent on the Cairo-Suez City highway. This discussion produced an agreement on 24 January 1974 that detailed the disengagement and redeployment of the two forces, the creation of a buffer zone, the exchange of prisoners and the search, recovery and exchange of war dead.

By 20 February 1974, UNEF II was up to its maximum strength of 6,973, with Canada providing the largest single contingent at 1,097, all ranks. (Eleven other nations were involved: Austria, Finland, Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Poland, Senegal, and Sweden, with the Poles providing the second largest continent – 822, all ranks.) UNEF II’s strength began to decline when it provided personnel to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights in June 1974, and it fell further in 1975 when the contingents from Ireland, Nepal and Panama departed at the request of their governments. At the time of its withdrawal in July 1979, UNEF II had 4,031 personnel, with Poland now providing the largest contingent (923) and Canada the second largest (844). Joining the UNEF II observers on the front lines were 120 military observers from UNTSO. Their role was to support UNEF II and to use the UNTSO chain of command and responsibilities to assist in the resolution of problems.

UNEF II’s operations fell into four distinct phases. The first phase lasted from October 1973 to January 1974, when the immediate task was to prevent any further violence between the major combatants and UN troops were interposed between them, manning observation posts and checkpoints and resupplying the Egyptian Third Army, which was still on the west bank of the Suez Canal.

The second phase, which involved the withdrawal of forces, lasted from January 1974 to October 1975. Actual disengagement began on 25 January, and proceeded in carefully coordinated steps. As Israeli troops vacated an area UNEF II forces moved in to replace them before turning it over to Egyptian forces a few hours later. In this way a temporary buffer zone was always maintained. UNTSO personnel surveyed and marked the disengagement lines, with assistance from Egyptian and Israeli army surveyors. New checkpoints and observation posts were created and UNEF and UNTSO observers conducted inspections to ensure that troop limitations in the zone limited force and armament were adhered to. These disengagement lines were maintained until October 1975, at which time a further agreement came into force.

Phase three resulted from a September 1975 agreement that called on Israel to withdraw eastward and Egyptian forces to withdraw westward from the Sinai Peninsula, thereby creating a large buffer zone between them. These withdrawals began in November 1975, with UNEF II personnel initially providing the channel of communications between the two sides and then creating new observation posts and checkpoints and conducting vehicle and aerial patrols to confirm compliance. This phase lasted until the signing of the Middle East Peace Treaty in March 1979 following the Camp David Accords of 17 September 1978.

The last phase involved the application of the Middle East Peace Treaty. On 25 May, Israeli forces withdrew altogether from the Sinai, and UNEF II’s task was now restricted to allowing Egyptian forces to pass through its lines. When that had been completed, UNEF II withdrew from the northern part of the buffer zone and subsequently began the task of withdrawing from that part of the theatre altogether.

Although UNEF II’s mandate was not extended beyond 24 July 1979 some personnel remained in the region for a further five months to close down the mission.

 Operation DANACA (10 November 1973 – 31 October 1979)

Canadian participation in UNEF II began in November 1973 with the airlift of Canadian personnel to Egypt. Operation DANACA quickly reached a strength of 1100 personnel organized in five units: a Canadian component at UNEF Headquarters, 73 Canadian Service Battalion (Svc Bn – initially 73 Canadian Service Unit), 73 Canadian Signal Squadron (Sigs Sqn - initially 73 Canadian Signal Unit), 116 Canadian Air Transport Unit (ATU), and Canadian Contingent Administrative Unit Middle East.

The role of the Canadian contingent was to provide second line administrative support to UNEF II contingents, in conjunction with the Polish logistics contingent. UNEF II headquarters was responsible for providing the third line support required by the Canadian and Polish contingents. With the creation of UNDOF, UNEF II became responsible for coordinating the movement of supplies and of postal services. UNEF II also coordinated the purchases for both missions.

Operation DANACA began with the departure of the first Canadian personnel from Trenton on 10 November. Over the next month, concluding on 7 December, almost all of the air force’s Boeing and Hercules aircraft were involved in transporting the entire contingent and 1,500 tons of vehicles and cargo to Cairo. Indeed, the operational tempo meant that many squadron personnel approached the maximum allowable limit of flying hours for the period, and substitutes had to be found among aircrew posted to NDHQ and Air Transport Command Headquarters. Once on the ground, the Canadians set up camp at a racetrack on the outskirts of Cairo. The entire camp had to be built up from scratch. The first major UNEF tasking was to deliver food and water to the Egyptian Third Army. In this the Canadians had to operate without Polish support – the Israelis would not allow the Poles to pass through their lines because, at that time, Poland did not recognize the State of Israel.

No 73 Cdn Sigs Unit was deployed at UNEF headquarters in Suez City in mid-November and had detachments with each UN battalion by mid-December. The task of communications was all the more important due to the multilingual nature of the UNEF contingent.

Canadian staff at UNEF headquarters conducted several reconnaissance trips into the Suez city area and the east bank of the Suez Canal, in preparation for the eventual disengagement of the two forces and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces.

The Canadian contingent to UNEF II was involved not only in the Sinai, but also in other operations in the Middle East. In June 1974, a composite logistics company from 73 Cdn Svc Bn, a troop from 73 Cdn Sigs Sqn and some staff and military police from UNEF Headquarters were detached to form the initial Canadian contribution to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights. In April 1978, Canada agreed to participate for a six-month period in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL – Canadian Operation ANGORA). The initial signals personnel for UNIFIL came from the Canadian contingent of UNEF II, as did some of the logistics personnel. They returned to UNEF with the arrival of the main body of Canadian personnel.


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