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Surprise: worth 1,000 soldiers

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Surprise alone is not enough to defeat your opponent and win. But it can turn events in your favor.

“Surprise,” Gen. Mark Clark once said, “is worth a thousand soldiers.”

Case in point: the 1976 “Raid on Entebbe.”

That June, an Air France jet carrying 250 passengers and 12 crew lifted off from Athens to Paris. The flight had originated in Tel Aviv with many Israelis on board.

Right after takeoff, seven Palestinian hijackers seized the plane. They diverted it to Libya, then refueled for a flight to Entebbe airport in Uganda, about 2,000 miles away.

When the plane landed, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin placed the airport under military control and said he would help negotiate with the French. Under the guise of negotiation, Amin cooperated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which wanted Israel to release Palistinian prisoners in exchange for the plane’s hostages.

As Israeli diplomats negotiated with the hijackers, Israel secretly pursued a surprise paramilitary operation.

Everything was mapped out, including the runway lengths and the Ugandan guards’ positions. Secrecy and speed, the Israelis thought, would produce surprise.

On July 3, three C-130 transports flew to Entebbe. Commandos crossed the airstrip quickly and quietly.

Inside the airport, they cut down the seven hijackers and 20 Ugandan soldiers.

Israel’s commanding officer died, along with three hostages. The rest of the hostages escaped to safety.

Nobody had expected a fight in the middle of nowhere. The surprise was complete.

— Adapted from Corporate Combat, William E. Peacock, Facts on File Publications.

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