Biography of the Late Egyptian General, Saad El Shazly

General Saad El Shazly was born in 1922 to a land-owning family (ayan) in the village of Shobratana in the heart of the Nile delta about 100 km from Cairo.

Saad El Shazly grew up in a reserved environment, based on merit and Islamic values. He was greatly influenced by stories of courage and valor, about family members and ancestors.

His grandfather fought and died with the Khedive Ismail Pasha, armed forces in Sudan, while his uncle, a Pasha, a member of parliament, and an outspoken governor of Behera distinguished himself for his courage against the king’s policies members of the family participated in Orabi revolution of 1919, which was crushed by The King and The British.

The Royal Military Academy

He joined The Royal Military Academy and served in the prestigious King’s guard until 1948, where he served in his first war against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Impeccable Credentials

He founded the paratroopers in Egypt, in 1954, and was the Commander of the first paratrooper battalion in the Egyptian army.

In 1960, he headed the first United Arab Forces in Congo as part of the United Nations Forces.

He was a Defense Attaché in London 1961-1963, the Commander of Special Forces [1967-1969]; the Commander of the Red Sea District [1970-1971], and on May 16, 1971, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, a position he held until December 12, 1973.

First Gained Reputation

British forces together with Egyptian forces were facing the Germans in the western desert. When the British/Egyptian High Command issued the order to retreat, a young Lieutenant Saad El Shazly stayed behind to destroy equipment in the face of an advancing German army.

He distinguished himself again in 1967 when he headed the Saad El Shazly Group; a task force made up of Special Forces to guard the middle part of Sinai.

With communication cut between his forces and the Egyptian high command, and in the midst of the worst defeat in modern Egyptian history, he managed to avoid enemy fire and return to Egypt, with his troops and equipment with relatively few losses.

Pinnacle of his military career

In 1973, at the pinnacle of his military career, he differed with Sadat on the conduct of war operations; he was removed from military service by President Anwar Sadat and appointed an Ambassador to England and later Ambassador to Portugal.

Camp David Agreement

In 1978, General Saad El Shazly, sharply criticized the Camp David Agreement and publicly opposed it.

As a result, he was dismissed from his position and was forced into exile. There, he wrote this book, his account of the war. The consequences of this publication cost Saad El Shazly dearly. He was court marshalled in absentia and received a three years prison sentence. He was denied legal representation, stripped of his political rights, and had his property sequestered.

All without a single witness, save a captain serving in Military Intelligence.

Two charges were brought against Saad El Shazly. The first was publishing a book without prior approval. A charge, Saad El Shazly admits to.

The second was divulging military secrets in his book. A charge Saad El Shazly vehemently denies, claiming the so-called “secrets” were government secrets rather than military secrets. Saad El Shazly maintains the government was trying to hide the facts.

Return to Egypt

In 1992, Saad El Shazly returned to Egypt after 14 years in exile, in Algeria, for criticizing the policies of President Anwar Sadat.

He was arrested in the airport upon his return.

No trial ever took place, and Saad El Shazly was forced to serve his prison term, despite the rule of law, according to The Egyptian Constitution, that sentences received in absentia, must be retried.

During his time in prison, Saad El Shazly’s legal team succeeded in obtaining a ruling from the Highest Civilian Court, which stated that the prior military conviction was illegal, and declared the military ruling was unconstitutional. The court ordered Saad El Shazly’s immediate release. None took place. Saad El Shazly served the remainder of his sentence.

The Crossing of The Suez and Saad El Shazly’s later book, The Arab Military option, were never published in Egypt.

They were, however, published in English, French, and Arabic and sold in many countries.

The book has been reviewed by major publications including The Economist, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and others. The book is currently in its second printing.

Saad El Shazly’s Comments

This is a military memoir: my record as Chief of Staff of The Egyptian Armed Forces, during the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973. It is to the best of my knowledge, unique, being the only memoir of its kind by a contemporary Arab commander. I have written it with reluctance, with sorrow and with anger. When I say that my anger is directed primarily, at The President of Egypt, Anwar El Sadat, it will be understood why I, after a lifetime as a soldier serving my country and my people, was reluctant to take up a pen, and felt sorry that in the end, it became an inescapable duty.

This memoir, I dedicate to the soldiers and officers of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

It is their story; it tells at last, the truth about their triumph. I am proud of every single day I spent as Chief of Staff. I am proud that during my tenure, the first successful Arab offensive against Israel, was planned and executed.

I pay tribute to every officer and man, who took part in it, and in doing so, restored the pride of the Egyptian soldier. They are witnesses to the truth of what I write. Some parts of the story are known by thousands, some by hundreds, some aspects shared by only a handful. May God help and guide us, and give us the courage to say the truth, whatever may be the consequences.

For which he was tried by a military tribunal in absentia, and without legal representation. Upon his return from exile, he went to prison and served half of his three year sentence.

General Saad El Shazly