Dora High School Graduate
Charles Beersdorf Gives First-hand account of Six-Day War 1967
Six-Day War of Jews and Arabs From Ground Zero in
by Chief Yeoman Charles Theodore Beersdorf, USN, Retired
The weather was hot and dry that first day of May 1967. It hadn’t
rained in a very long time. The American Embassy van that picked
up the Military Attaché crew was on time – believe
it or not. The driver was the member of the military staff that
had the duty the night before. He would go to each member’s
house and pick them up. There was one stop after mine. Then the
van would turn right and head south as it merged into the heavy
traffic of the Cornish. The Cornish was a six-lane boulevard that
ran parallel to the Nile River. One could easily see the great pyramids
on the north side of the Nile. There was something unusual this
morning. We in the van first thought that there had been a military
coup. There were military police with their red berets on literally
every corner of every street in and around Cairo.
The van arrived at the Embassy without incident and we departed
and went to our respective offices. The Naval Attaché called
a special meeting of the Naval Attached personnel and told us to
get our dependents ready to evacuate in case the State Department
so ordered. We were dismissed from work and before too long the
van was loaded again and we were headed back to our homes.
The drums of war continued to beat.
Chief Petty Officer Charles
The signs of war were everywhere. Headlights of the civilian and military
vehicles were painted blue. All windows had to be shuttered at night.
All unnecessary travel was discouraged. The Diplomatic Corp still had
unlimited freedom although they had to register with the Egyptian police
if they left their respective city of residence.
One night before the evacuation order was given, there was a knock at
our front door. I went to see who was there. When I opened it there stood
two plain clothed policemen and two uniform policemen. One of the plain
clothed policemen could speak English and he said that I would have to
go to their police department for questioning because I had been seen
on the roof of my house using a flashlight to signal the Israel airplanes.
Almost immediately my landlord came to my defense and told them
how utterly ridiculously his charge was. After some very heated
debating in Arabic the four of them left. They never came back.
The order had come down to evacuate. The Embassy provided exit visas
for our dependents and airplane tickets to Athens, Greece. All dependents
would be flown our on TWA airlines on May 15, 1967. All military
men remained behind.
For the next three weeks the drumbeat became more and more louder.
Truckloads of military personnel and trainloads of tanks could be
seen daily heading northeast toward the Sinai.
Charles with Wife of 46 Years Mary Gail
June 5, 1967 was a normal workday for the naval attaché staff.
Or at least it was until an Air Force Sergeant came running into our office
completely out of breath and acting like he had just seen a ghost.
From the Cairo International Airport to the American Embassy was about
20 miles. He made it in 15 minutes. That doesn’t seem so unusual
except that under normal circumstances it is an hour’s ride. Donkey
carts and Camels have the same right-of-way as any vehicle, and there
were always plenty of them.
Just 15 minutes earlier he was in his office on the second floor of the
Diplomatic Customs area when he heard a loud “boom” and then
another “boom”. They seemed to be getting nearer. He walked
over to his window which looked out on the main runway and just as he
arrived at the window he observed an F-4 Phantom with the Star of David
on its tail and fuselage. Then another one went streaking by. Then another
He said later, “I knew when the third one went by, it was time for
me to head to the Embassy”.
He had just witnessed the Israeli Air Force destroying the entire Egyptian
Air Force. Every single plane was destroyed. The Israeli Intelligence
Service knew exactly when and where every plane would be at the exact
hour. The Egyptian Air Force made a fatal mistake by doing the same old
thing the same old way every day.
With the Egyptian Air Force destroyed, the invasion of the Sinai had
begun. The Egyptian Tank Corps used the tactic of staggering their tanks.
The Israeli tanks merely set their range finder on the first tank and
then proceeded to pick them off one at a time. In addition to this, there
was unfettered access to the tanks from the air. By the middle of the
second day, the Egyptian English Radio station reported that the Egyptians
had set up their second line of defense. When this announcement was made,
the Egyptian government declared that the United States and Great Briton
was providing air cover for the Israeli ground forces. This obviously
was not true. Within a few hours word was received that diplomatic relations
had been severed and all American Embassy personnel were to leave the
country within ten days.
We of the Defense Attaché office had received our orders to destroy
all classified material.
When the announcement was made that the Americans and British Military
were providing air cover for the Israeli military, the Egyptian populous
tried to storm the Embassy. The street immediately in front of the Embassy
was very narrow and two cars could barely pass under normal conditions.
This was a plus for the police that guarded the Embassy. When the unruly
crowd of an estimated ten thousand arrived at the Embassy, the mounted
police with long bamboo poles kept the crowd beaten off and they were
never able to breach the wall surrounding the Embassy.
My boss, Lieutenant Gary G. Sick and I were ordered to leave Cairo and
proceed to Alexandria, Egypt and arrange for a ship to take all of us
Americans to Athens Greece.
When we arrived at Alexandria we parked in an underground parking lot.
As soon as we left our car we were greeted by two secret police. They
called us by name and welcomed us to Alexandria.
Charles on the Deck of an
Aircraft Carrier in 1954
When we arrived at the Consulate of Alexandria we found
the building had been razed by fire. The Consular and his staff had to
take refuge in a walk-in vault to avoid the screaming mob. When it was
decided that the group had to exit the vault, the Consular was armed with
only a metal rod. He was the first to exit and had the rod raised and
ready to strike. When he opened the vault door he was met by a group of
firemen who had just finished putting out the fire. The Consulate was
a complete loss. Everything! There were no injuries. After our reporting
to the Consular, my boss and I went to an apartment of one of the secretaries
where we had dinner.
After dinner my boss was discussing evacuation plans and all of a sudden
there was continuous anti-aircraft fire coming from the coastal area.
We knew there were no aircraft in the area. Israel had no reason to fly
over Alexandria and the Egyptians had no planes to fly. For all practical
purposes the war was over. As the shrapnel was falling, it could be heard
hitting the sidewalk below. I walked out on the balcony of the apartment
and just as I stepped out of the doorway, a pieced of shrapnel fell through
the canvass awning above the balcony. It missed me by no more than six
inches. I almost became the first American Serviceman to get a Purple
Heart for action in the Six-day war.
Later that night my boss and I went to a very large hotel where we spent
the night and made arrangements for the other Americans that would be
arriving the next day via train from Cairo.
At night in the hotel my boss and I made plans as to how we would defend
ourselves should the unruly crowd storm the hotel. We had two weapons:
a longneck beer bottle and a pocketknife. We had put our beds end-to-end
against the door so it would have had to been cut down to get in. We were
on the second floor and the only way anyone could get to our room would
be to climb over the balcony wall. He and I decided that I would hit them
over the head with the longneck beer bottle and he would cut their fingers
off if they tried to climb over.
We were in the hotel for three days. None of us was allowed to leave.
The Ambassador and his staff did all the negotiating with the Egyptian
On the third day we learned that the American Embassy in Athens had contracted
with a passenger cruise ship to come to Alexandria and pick up all of
us Americans. In the meanwhile a Landing Ship Dock (LSD) was steaming
just off the coast of Alexandria with two thousand Marines ready to come
to our rescue should the Egyptian government decide that they could no
longer protect us.
The ship arrived from Athens and all the Americans were transported via
bus to the port of debarkation.
The only thing that I brought with me of any real value that couldn’t
be replaced was my coin collection. The Egyptian Government confiscated
it. The State Department later tried to find it but without success.
All of us finally were aboard the cruise ship and there was only room
for half of the personnel to sleep below decks. My boss was in charge
of bunk assignments and, yep, you guessed it. I had a very nice rack for
the two-day journey across the Mediterranean.
Two Egyptian Destroyers escorted our ship out of Egyptian waters. I vividly
remember standing on the stern of the ship watching the two Egyptian Destroyers.
All of a sudden, the two of them turned and was headed back the way they
had come. As I searched for a reason for their apparent hasty retreat,
I observed one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in all my
life. Without a doubt this was the most beautiful. As the two Egyptian
Destroyers disappeared over the horizon, I could see two American Flags
flying high off the waters. The closer they came, the more beautiful they
became. Under each of the flags was a Destroyer of the United States Navy
headed full speed ahead to escort us to the port of Athens, Greece. This
sight I will never forget, never! It is burned in my memory. It made me
proud to be an American and equally proud to be a member of the United