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50 Years Ago This Week: How to Win a War in One Week

6 minute read

Milestone moments do not a year make. Often, it’s the smaller news stories that add up, gradually, to big history. With that in mind, in 2017 TIME History will revisit the entire year of 1967, week by week, as it was reported in the pages of TIME. Catch up on last week’s installment here.

Week 24: June 16, 1967

A war that seemed avoidable just one week before had arrived in full force — and ended in time for the magazine to fit almost the whole thing in one issue. (It would acquire the moniker of the Six-Day War a few weeks later.) What had happened was the question tackled by this week’s cover story, featuring the face of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, with his distinctive eye patch.

Who exactly made the first move was immediately controversial — and in fact a number of border conflicts had already been happening, any one of which, TIME had previously pointed out, could have conceivably been the catalyst for war. The specific strike that caused the fighting to begin was perhaps irrelevant, the article continued, given the result.

“In stunning predawn air strikes across the face of the Arab world, Israeli jets all but eliminated Arab airpower — and with it any chance of an Arab victory,” as TIME put it. “Without air cover, tanks and infantry under the clear skies of the desert offered little more than target practice. In a few astonishing hours of incredibly accurate bombing and strafing, Israel erased an expensive decade of Russian military aid to the Arab world.” In one day, by TIME’s reckoning, “400 warplanes of five Arab nations had been obliterated” versus 19 planes lost on Israel’s side.

Both sides mobilized as quickly as possible, and with optimism, but it quickly became clear that the air strikes were just one example of the difference that could be made by being immediately organized and ready to go. (The Arab nations, TIME suggested, seemed to have anticipated that this would be a drawn-out war of attrition, so they planned for the wrong type of fight. In actuality, it was estimated that the one-week war caused about 19,000 fatalities, by some counts.) One anecdote offered by the magazine explained how the reserve units of the Israel Defense Forces went to war, having heard their units named on the radio and making their way to their prearranged transport locations: “Israeli tanks, each manned by a single regular of Israel’s 50,000-man standing army, waited in convenient tank parks for the two or three reservists required to complete each crew. The tanks were ready to move out, complete with helmets, razors and toothbrushes. Each crew had been assigned battle sectors, rendezvous points and objectives. Israeli Intelligence had tracked the Arab enemy to the last desert dune. The system worked so well that Israel was able to field a fighting force of 235,000 men within 48 hours.”

Even as multiple fronts opened, Israel’s forces pushed forward, not only defending their ground but taking new territory, including the Old City of Jerusalem, site of the Wailing Wall. “None of us alive has ever seen or done anything so great as he has done today,” one commando leader was quoted saying of that victory.

For a fight that was over so quickly, the consequences — both for the nations involved and the world at large — would take much longer to become clear.

Hotline Thing: This week’s national news section remarked on the very first emergency use of the hotline link between Washington and Moscow; since it had been “put into operation on Aug. 30, 1963, it had conveyed nothing more dramatic than New Year’s greetings and hourly testing messages,” the story explained. The subject of the call, placed by Moscow early on a Monday morning, was to establish mutual awareness that neither side had the intention of intervening in the war in the Middle East. (Other war-related stories in this issue include, among others, the lessons of the war for global politics and a look at how American Jews responded.)

Miscarriage of Justice: This coverage of a trial in Mississippi made it clear that the fight over school integration was still very much ongoing. The defendants had been part of a mob attempting stop integration by beating schoolchildren, with numerous witnesses — including a police captain — describing the violence in gruesome detail. Nevertheless, after a “parade of character witnesses” spoke for the defendants, they were found not guilty.

Fifth Beatle: With the emergence of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as an instant hit, TIME went behind the scenes with George Martin, who “produced it, scored all the arrangements for it, performed on several tracks, and served as its mad electronic scientist.”

Great Lady Remembered: On the occasion of the death of famed wit Dorothy Parker, at 73, the magazine revisited some of her best known work — and the fact that “for her epitaph, she once wryly suggested ‘Excuse my dust.'” Her death also, the remembrance suggested, represented the passing of an era:

Humor was, after all, her basic form of dress and address. And humor passes through the most ephemeral of fashions. The concept of wit, the very word, today suggests a dated elegance. Gone is the vintage innocence, masquerading as chic, that Miss Dorothy Parker symbolized. Things are now laughed about that she would have found vulgar, if not downright indiscreet. Humor today is broad and black. Perhaps it is more human; it is certainly less artificial. Yet the suspicion mounts that behind the laughter of “alienation,” there is a wide streak of sentimentality, too, just as there was behind the “cynicism” of Dorothy Parker’s era.

Great vintage ad: This full-page ad tackles a major social issue, asking readers to consider what they’d say if their children asked whether they’d participate in the kind of restrictive covenant arrangement that, until they were made illegal shortly after this ad ran, barred homeowners from selling their property to certain people on the basis of race and other factors. These covenants were used to keep neighborhoods segregated, and this ad campaign asks people to sign a “good neighbor declaration” swearing that they believe that “all men should be able to live where they want to live and can afford to.”

Coming up next week: The future of the American college

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com