Archived entries for La Spezia

Tanks for the Memories

The AMX-13 was one of the Israeli army’s first tanks. Supplied by France during the 1950s, the light MBT bloodied itself in the Sinai campaign, in 1956. Eventually it was phased out in favor of better, more heavily armored combat vehicles, such as upgraded M4 Shermans, British-supplied Centurions, and American M48 Pattons following 1967′s Six Day War.

Driving across northeastern France in late November, across the epic battlefields of the First World War, I passed the tank memorial at Berry-Au-Bac. Sitting to my right, on a hill overlooking the highway, was this AMX-13. I immediately turned around, parked the car, and started snapping pictures. The last time I’d seen one was in Israel, a decade prior.

It was the second time I’d seen a tank that month. Several weeks earlier, en route to Berlin from Stuttgart, Jennifer and I pulled over to get gas. Right across from our VW stood two trailers, one bearing a more recent Leopard 2 tank, belonging to the German military. The second was a turretless Leopard recovery vehicle. Both were being towed somewhere north.

One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting outside a tank factory, near La Spezia. I’m eight years old. It’s November, and the air is freezing cold. As a uniformed Italian army officer speaks to us in broken English, an early model Leopard 1 goes through it’s paces in front of us. Smashing through walls, raising and lowering its gun, rotating its enormous turret.

Cultural Literacy

If Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza, most defense analysts expect the IDF to face the same kind of anti-tank fire that helped cripple Israeli armor in Lebanon in 2006. In “Sci-fi Tanks“, French military officer Michel Goya and myself discuss the issue, and the technologies under development to help cope with it.

I close things out with a political observation, contending that even if Israel does succeed in employing effective countermeasures, there are other reasons why the Palestinians still might succeed in resisting Israeli forces. Not exactly a feel good conclusion to the year, but neither is the situation in Gaza.

For those curious about why I’d have knowledge of such things, one of my earliest childhood memories is of being taken to a manufacturer‘s demonstration of Leopard tanks crashing through stone walls, near the city of La Spezia, in northern Italy. For further reference, check out the final chapter of my 2002 book, Jerusalem Calling.

Big up to my editors at France 24 for a great first year, and as always, requests for commentaries like these. It takes a lot to surprise me these days, especially when it comes to covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



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