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Huge Military Parade Marks Independence Day Celebration in Israel

Half a million Israelis lined the main streets of Tel Aviv today to cheer a five-mile-long military parade as the State of Israel entered its tenth year with pride in its past, confidence in its present and hope for the future.

The parade marking Israel’s ninth Independence Day was the largest ever held. The spectators, likewise, were the most numerous in the short history of the state.

President Itzhak Ben Zvi, Premier David Ben Gurion and Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Dayan stood on the reviewing stand to take the salute of the marching units. Gen. Dayan was easily the hero of the day and spectators shouted themselves hoarse with cheers of “Moshe, Moshe” whenever they caught sight of him.

Several thousand notables occupied a special bank of seats near the reviewing stand. Among them were diplomats, members of the government and Parliament, religious leaders, a delegation from the Israel Bond Organization and large numbers of tourists. Among the diplomats present were military attaches and representatives of almost every country with which Israel has diplomatic relations. The Soviet representative and several other Communist envoys were conspicuously absent, although Hungary, Yugoslavia and Poland were represented.

CROWDS CHEER ISRAEL’S MILITARY STRENGTH; FRENCH ARMS PREDOMINATE

The roaring jets overhead and the armor and artillery on the ground brought home vividly to the Israelis the story of French military assistance to the Jewish State. It quickly became obvious to the civilians that Israel’s armed forces had standardized their equipment by replacing most of their old heavy weapons, including those bought from the United States, by items of French manufacture. Although propeller-driven Mustangs had carried the burden of the air force contribution in the brief Sinai campaign, two of the three squadrons of jets maneuvering over the parade were French-made and the third were British Meteors.

Although every unit of the Israeli forces was cheered mightily as it strode past, particularly the women’s companies, the crowd went wild as a special section of tanks, armored cars and artillery captured from the Egyptians in the Sinai battles rolled into view. The “booty column” was led off by Soviet-made tanks of all classes, Russian troop carriers and other vehicles. Most of the captured artillery was Czech or British-manufactured. Among the captured armor were eight American Sherman tanks.

Israeli armor also included medium Shermans as well as the French artillery and tanks. Scores of tanks and armored vehicles spearheaded the parade through Tel Aviv. They were followed by an infantry column in which cadet officers were the first contingent.

Next came ground units of the air force, seamen who participated in the capture of an Egyptian destroyer off Haifa, paratroopers who had captured Mitleh Pass in the Sinai, youth units, women’s contingents and green-hatted border police. The infantrymen carried semi-automatic rifles, while their noncoms and the paratroopers sported the Israeli-made Uzzi, believed by Israeli military men to be the world’s best submachine gun.

NAVAL EXERCISES HELD AT HAIFA AND ELATH

Observers were struck by the overall impression of youth in the marching ranks. Enlisted men, non-commissioned officers and line officers from lieutenant through major were uniformly 30 years old or less. Most of the top brass were no older.

The high spirits of the soldiers was infectious and civilians joined in as the uniformed ranks broke into song at various points along the five-mile hike. As the first French tanks showed up along Ben Yehuda Street, a large thoroughfare. Israelis of all ages spontaneously began singing the Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

Naval exercises marked Independence Day at Haifa and Elath, Israel’s two ports. At Haifa a task force of destroyers, including the captured former Ibrahim el Awel, went through complicated maneuvers and then led the combined fleet in formation southward toward Tel Aviv. Thousands lined the shore to watch.

The celebration in Haifa was opened by several hundred dancers who performed along a one-mile path through the center of the city. Immigrant centers in Western Galilee and at Acre and Nahariya participated in colorful ceremonies lighted by huge bonfires and featuring folk dancing and singing.

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