United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM)

International Operation Name: United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM)

International Operation Dates:  1963/06/11 – 1964/09/04

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name:  Middle East

Location:  Yemen

Canadian Operation Name: United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM)

Canadian Operation Dates: 1963/06/20 to 1964/09/04

Mission Mandate: UNYOM was established on 11 June 1963 by Security Council Resolution 179 (1963), to observe and certify the implementation of the disengagement agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic.

Mission Notes: 

In Yemen on 17 September 1962 Colonel Abdullah al-Salal overthrew the monarchy of Imam Mohahmmed al Badr, who had just taken over from his deceased father. The United Arab Republic promptly recognized the new government, while the United Nations and the United States followed suit by the end of December. Salal’s control of the country was not complete, however, and royalist or anti-Salal forces rose in revolt. Saudi Arabia supported these royalist elements with arms and military equipment; Egypt responded by supplying Salal with arms, men, and equipment.

In early 1963, United Nations Secretary-General U Thant became concerned about the situation in Yemen. With the approval of the three states involved, Thant sent Ralph Bunche on a fact-finding mission to Egypt and Yemen, while the United States sent Ellsworth Bunker to Saudi Arabia on a related task. By April, both men reported to Thant that an agreement had been reached on the terms for a disengagement of Egyptian and Saudi support from Yemen.

The terms of the agreement were that Saudi Arabia would cease its support of and deny the use of Saudi territory to the royalists while Egypt, for its part, would withdraw its forces. In addition, a 20-km wide demilitarized zone would be established on either side of the Saudi-Yemeni border. An observer force would confirm compliance of the terms of agreement. The Security Council approved these plans for what would become UNYOM on 11 June. The initial expectation was that the mission would last four months. Egypt and Saudi Arabia agreed to pay for the operation for two months and would only approve two-month extensions for the life of the mission.

Personnel for UNYOM were in place and ready to start the operation on 20 July. At its maximum, there were 189 personnel, with 11 countries contributing, Canada and Yugoslavia providing the largest contingents. The plan of operations was for the aircraft to patrol the demilitarized zone supplementing the work of fixed observation posts, which would also follow-up on any reported violations of the agreement.

Canada was requested to provide UNYOM’s fifty-man air unit (with three DHC-3 Twin Otters, two DHC-4 Caribous, and three H19 Helicopters), but even before they had departed, Canada offered an additional Caribou and Otter then in service with its UNEF contingent. The UN, meanwhile, offered three Otters from ONUC, the UN operation in the Congo. RCAF technicians were flown there from Canada, disassembled the three machines, loaded them onto USAF C-130 Hercules aircraft, and then reassembled them in Aden.

The Canadian advance party of five persons for UNYOM arrived in Sanaa on 22 June, the new unit being designated No. 134 Air Transport Unit. The main party of 40 departed Trenton on 22 June by 437 Squadron Yukon to Pisa and Hercules to Sanaa on 25 June. The Caribous were to be used for transport, resupply and reconnaissance, while the Otters were used for reconnaissance on a daily basis out of Najran and Jizan.

In November, the Canadian contingent was reorganized. The Otter detachment at Jizan was withdrawn, its responsibilities being taken over by the Caribou. Then, on 15 December, 134 ATU became a detachment of 115 ATU (UNEF), and the establishment reduced to 28. The Otters were withdrawn from use entirely. Further changes occurred in late February when the UN agreed to allow the Caribou to based out of El Arish and make a weekly circuit. This continued until operations ceased on 4 September 1964.

UNYOM cannot be considered to have been a success. While both parties had agreed to a disengagement, both violated the terms, and when Egypt and Saudi Arabia together raised objections to their continued financing of UNYOM the UN made no effort to extend its mandate past September 1964.

Egyptian forces remained in Yemen until 1967 when the Republicans solidified their political control.


Sep 63 S/L BOWDREY Cpl AH McKee of Thornhild Alta, LAC

DR Stronach of Forest Glade N.S. LAC WC Desimone of Vernon B.C. and LAC H. HEIBERT of Steinback Man. Pose with one of the Local Yemeni in Sanaa capital of the Yemen.

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