A Book Review

The Soil Engineers: Oral History of Combat Engineering in Sacred Defense

Maryam Sobhanian
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian

2020-08-12


The Soil Engineers is the first volume of "Oral History of Combat Engineering in Sacred Defense" series which was published by the efforts of Abbas Heidari Moghaddam and commissioned by the Museum of Sacred Defense in 2019.

The book is written by compiling the memoirs of thirty combat engineers and veterans of the sacred defense in the constructive jihad, the IRGC and the Army. Almost all narrators are defense management experts or specialists in military strategic sciences, as well as engineers and experts in agricultural management and construction jihad. In the preface, all the narrators of the book are briefly introduced with complete details such as age, education, position, job and current status.

The Soil Engineers starts with the events occurred in summer of 1979 and in addition to maintaining the chronology, it also has a thematic order. One of the features of this work is that all subjects narrated in first person language. The compilation and selection of memoirs has been done as if narrated by one person and the reader gets acquainted with the book and its subject.

The continuity of content along with description in the footnote about the mentioned persons and places has added to the attractiveness of book. If the definitions of some terms and military and engineering meanings were also available in the book in the same way, its attractiveness would be increased.

In the four chapters of the book, the creativity, combat engineering initiative and research, organizing the technical engineering capacities of the people, structure and organization of sacred defense combat engineering are discussed in detail, in addition to the top combat engineers. In the fifth chapter, various memories of engineers, people, fighters and jihadists are compiled.

The initial activities of combat engineers after the revolution had begun informally in 1979, and with Saddam's first attack, Jihad of construction was the first group to reach the western borders of the country to build roads and support fighters. "The combat engineering was the fundamental role of the construction jihad during the eight years of the sacred defense which was played seriously and effectively alongside the fighters." (P. 84)

From the first trenches and earthworks constructed by jihad, road construction to establish a radar and missile site of anti-aircraft systems around Ahvaz to digging huge canals, installing water pumps, building floating bridges are among the services of constructive jihad during the sacred defense. Army engineers also participated shoulder to shoulder of the jihadist forces and provided valuable services. Combat engineering troops were present at each operation and prepared facilities and area for the fighters. On pages 108 and 109 of the book we read about this: "During Operation Samen al-A'meh, we deployed in the Sulaimaniyah with a number of friends. I served, of course, in the 120 mm mortar section, but witnessed the Mazut pouring into the Karun River and setting fire to the river and the Mard Bridge. This was one of the engineering activities. We carried out another operation on the same zone, which was to direct a boat full of explosives towards the Mard Bridge in order to cut the enemy communication on Karun bridge. The boat was driven by another boat carrying Emami and five Shirazi warriors, which was unfortunately hit and destroyed by enemy mortar shells before separating the explosives-carrying boat."

In this book, Ali Abu al-Hassani describes how they built an earthwork in the sight of Iraqis, and their several days and nights toils were wasted as a few small streams flowed through the meadow of the earthwork, and again with more experience, they constructed spiral and cane-shape earthwork to limit the enemy's vision to some extent. "The initiation and creativity in ground operations played a more effective role in continuing the ground operations of the fighters. In the Operation Khyber (March 1984), the first week, when we built earthwork in Talaieh, the battle was an earthwork battle." He states that it was one of the creativity of engineers and jihadists to move engineering equipment on the battlefield; also, decisions that had to be made in the midst of the battlefield required special creativity and initiative.

The first three chapters of the book specifically depict the atmosphere of war from the perspective of those who construct and equipped these battlefields. The fourth and fifth chapters describe the interaction of people with this group. With the presence of different segments of the people, the combat engineering support headquarters of Constructive Jihad provided the possibility of any kind of assistance and action for support. The organization of these popular capacities was also of considerable importance in the field of combat engineering; On page 332 of the book we read: "Even when the valuable equipment of the Abadan refinery was to be unloaded and transported back, one of the main means of transportation to the back of the front was the people’s launches which really helped ... or the bus driver who served in the front for a long time and their buses were used for free."

The fourth chapter, which describes the structure and organization of combat engineering on the fronts during the eight years of sacred defense, explained the different dimensions in the formation of combat engineering separately; including fortifications, ground operations, road and bridge construction, destruction and explosions, war, landmines and neutralization, etc. "An engineering battalion was foreseen in each armored and infantry division of the army. A floating bridge company for each armored division and also a bailey bridge company for each infantry division were considered." (P. 353)

In the last chapter, various funny memories of warriors and combat engineers are compiled, which briefly heal the pain and bitterness of the hard days of the war. Also, proud memoirs about the sacrifices and accuracy and sensitivity of the engineers were written which have given the book a special attraction.

The Soil Engineers ends with a list of references that have added its richness. This work consists of 463 pages and 1000 copies and at a price of 50,000 Tomans, has been provided to those interested and researchers in the field of oral history of sacred defense.



 
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