7 June 1967

Six-Day War: Israeli soldiers enter Jerusalem.

Six-Day War
Part of the Arab–Israeli conflict
Map of the military movements and territorial changes during the Six-Day War. The territory of Israel before the war is colored royal blue on this map, while the territories captured by Israel during the war are depicted in various shades of green.
Date5–10 June 1967 (6 days)
Result Israeli victory
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and the Golan Heights[3][4]
 Israel Egypt
Minor involvement:
 Lebanon (air raid on June 5)[2]
Commanders and leaders
Israel Levi Eshkol
Israel Moshe Dayan
Israel Yitzhak Rabin
Israel Uzi Narkiss
Israel Motta Gur
Israel Israel Tal
Israel Mordechai Hod
Israel Yeshayahu Gavish
Israel Ariel Sharon
Israel Ezer Weizman
Israel Shlomo Erell
Israel David Elazar
Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser
Egypt Abdel Hakim Amer
Egypt Abdul Munim Riad
Jordan Hussein
Jordan Zaid ibn Shaker
Jordan Asad Ghanma
Syria Salah Jadid
Syria Nureddin al-Atassi
Iraq Abdul Rahman Arif

50,000 troops
214,000 reserves
250[5]–300 combat aircraft[6]
800 tanks[7]

Total troops: 264,000
100,000 deployed

Egypt: 240,000
Syria, Jordan, and Iraq: 307,000
957 combat aircraft
2,504 tanks (mostly Soviet-made)[7]
Lebanon: 2 combat aircraft[8]

Total troops: 547,000
240,000 deployed
Casualties and losses

776–983 killed[9][10]
4,517 wounded
15 captured[10]

400 tanks destroyed[11]
46 aircraft destroyed

Egypt: 10,000–15,000 killed or missing[12][13]
4,338 captured[14]
Jordan: 696 killed or missing[15][16][17]
533 captured[14]
Syria: 2,500 killed[18][19][20]
591 captured
Iraq: 10 killed
30 wounded
Lebanon: 1 aircraft lost[8]

Hundreds of tanks destroyed
452+ aircraft destroyed
20 Israeli civilians killed[21]
34 US Navy, Marine, and NSA personnel killed[22][23]
17 Soviet Marines killed (allegedly)[24]

The Six-Day War (Hebrew: מִלְחֶמֶת שֵׁשֶׁת הַיָּמִים‎, Milhemet Sheshet Ha Yamim; Arabic: النكسة, an-Naksah, "The Setback" or حرب 1967, Ḥarb 1967, "War of 1967"), also known as the June War, 1967 Arab–Israeli War, or Third Arab–Israeli War, was fought between 5 and 10 June 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Jordan and Egypt and Syria (known at the time as the United Arab Republic).

Relations between Israel and its neighbours were not normalised after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. In 1956 Israel invaded the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, with one of its objectives being the reopening of the Straits of Tiran that Egypt had blocked to Israeli shipping since 1950. Israel was eventually forced to withdraw, but was guaranteed that the Straits of Tiran would remain open. A United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was deployed along the border, but there was no demilitarisation agreement.[25]

In the months prior to June 1967, tensions became dangerously heightened. Israel reiterated its post-1956 position that the closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping would be a cause for war (a casus belli). Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced in May that the Straits would be closed to Israeli vessels, and then mobilised Egyptian forces along the border with Israel, ejecting UNEF. On 5 June, Israel launched a series of preemptive airstrikes against Egyptian airfields, asserting imminent attack from the Egyptians. The question of which side caused the war is one of a number of controversies relating to the conflict.

The Egyptians were caught by surprise, and nearly the entire Egyptian air force was destroyed with few Israeli losses, giving the Israelis air supremacy. Simultaneously, the Israelis launched a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip and the Sinai, which again caught the Egyptians by surprise. After some initial resistance, Nasser ordered the evacuation of the Sinai. Israeli forces rushed westward in pursuit of the Egyptians, inflicted heavy losses, and conquered the Sinai.

Jordan had entered into a defence pact with Egypt a week before the war began; the agreement envisaged that in the event of war Jordan would not take an offensive role but would attempt to tie down Israeli forces to prevent them making territorial gains.[26] About an hour after the Israeli air attack, the Egyptian commander of the Jordanian army was ordered by Cairo to begin attacks on Israel; in the initially confused situation, the Jordanians were told that Egypt had repelled the Israeli air strikes.

Egypt and Jordan agreed to a ceasefire on 8 June, and Syria agreed on 9 June; a ceasefire was signed with Israel on 11 June. In the aftermath of the war, Israel had crippled the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian militaries, having killed over 20,000 troops while losing fewer than 1,000 of its own. The Israeli success was the result of a well-prepared and enacted strategy, the poor leadership of the Arab states, and their poor military leadership and strategy. Israel seized the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. Israel's international standing greatly improved in the following years. Its victory humiliated Egypt, Jordan and Syria, leading Nasser to resign in shame; he was later reinstated after protests in Egypt against his resignation. The speed and ease of Israel's victory would later lead to a dangerous overconfidence within the ranks of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), contributing to initial Arab successes in the subsequent 1973 Yom Kippur War, although ultimately Israeli forces were successful and defeated the Arab militaries. The displacement of civilian populations resulting from the war would have long-term consequences, as 300,000 Palestinians fled the West Bank and about 100,000 Syrians left the Golan Heights. Across the Arab world, Jewish minority communities fled or were expelled, with refugees going mainly to Israel or Europe.


On 22 May 1967, President Nasser addressed his pilots at Bir Gifgafa Airfield in Sinai: "The Jews are threatening war—we say to them ahlan wa-sahlan (welcome)!"[27]

After the 1956 Suez Crisis, Egypt agreed to the stationing of a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Sinai to ensure all parties would comply with the 1949 Armistice Agreements.[28] In the following years there were numerous minor border clashes between Israel and its Arab neighbours, particularly Syria. In early November 1966, Syria signed a mutual defence agreement with Egypt.[29] Soon after this, in response to Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) guerilla activity,[30][31] including a mine attack that left three dead,[32] the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) attacked the village of as-Samu in the Jordanian-occupied West Bank.[33] Jordanian units that engaged the Israelis were quickly beaten back.[34] King Hussein of Jordan criticized Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser for failing to come to Jordan's aid, and "hiding behind UNEF skirts".[35][36][37]

In May 1967, Nasser received false reports from the Soviet Union that Israel was massing on the Syrian border.[38] Nasser began massing his troops in two defensive lines[39] in the Sinai Peninsula on Israel's border (16 May), expelled the UNEF force from Gaza and Sinai (19 May) and took over UNEF positions at Sharm el-Sheikh, overlooking the Straits of Tiran.[40][41] Israel repeated declarations it had made in 1957 that any closure of the Straits would be considered an act of war, or justification for war,[42][43] but Nasser closed the Straits to Israeli shipping on 22–23 May.[44][45][46] After the war, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson commented:[47]

If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion than any other, it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision that the Straits of Tiran would be closed. The right of innocent, maritime passage must be preserved for all nations.

On 30 May, Jordan and Egypt signed a defence pact. The following day, at Jordan's invitation, the Iraqi army began deploying troops and armoured units in Jordan.[48] They were later reinforced by an Egyptian contingent. On 1 June, Israel formed a National Unity Government by widening its cabinet, and on 4 June the decision was made to go to war. The next morning, Israel launched Operation Focus, a large-scale, surprise air strike that launched the Six-Day War.

Military preparation

Before the war, Israeli pilots and ground crews had trained extensively in rapid refitting of aircraft returning from sorties, enabling a single aircraft to sortie up to four times a day (as opposed to the norm in Arab air forces of one or two sorties per day). This enabled the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to send several attack waves against Egyptian airfields on the first day of the war, overwhelming the Egyptian Air Force, and allowed it to knock out other Arab air forces on the same day. This has contributed to the Arab belief that the IAF was helped by foreign air forces (see Controversies relating to the Six-Day War). Pilots were extensively schooled about their targets, and were forced to memorise every single detail, and rehearsed the operation multiple times on dummy runways in total secrecy.

The Egyptians had constructed fortified defences in the Sinai. These designs were based on the assumption that an attack would come along the few roads leading through the desert, rather than through the difficult desert terrain. The Israelis chose not to risk attacking the Egyptian defences head-on, and instead surprised them from an unexpected direction.

James Reston, writing in The New York Times on 23 May 1967, noted, "In discipline, training, morale, equipment and general competence his [Nasser's] army and the other Arab forces, without the direct assistance of the Soviet Union, are no match for the Israelis. ... Even with 50,000 troops and the best of his generals and air force in Yemen, he has not been able to work his way in that small and primitive country, and even his effort to help the Congo rebels was a flop."[49]

On the eve of the war, Israel believed it could win a war in 3–4 days. The United States estimated Israel would need 7–10 days to win, with British estimates supporting the U.S. view.[50][51]

Armies and weapons


The Israeli army had a total strength, including reservists, of 264,000, though this number could not be sustained, as the reservists were vital to civilian life.[52]

Against Jordan's forces on the West Bank, Israel deployed about 40,000 troops and 200 tanks (eight brigades).[53] Israeli Central Command forces consisted of five brigades. The first two were permanently stationed near Jerusalem and were the Jerusalem Brigade and the mechanized Harel Brigade. Mordechai Gur's 55th Paratroopers Brigade was summoned from the Sinai front. The 10th Armored Brigade was stationed north of the West Bank. The Israeli Northern Command comprised a division of three brigades led by Major General Elad Peled which was stationed in the Jezreel Valley to the north of the West Bank.

On the eve of the war, Egypt massed approximately 100,000 of its 160,000 troops in the Sinai, including all seven of its divisions (four infantry, two armoured and one mechanized), four independent infantry brigades and four independent armoured brigades. Over a third of these soldiers were veterans of Egypt's continuing intervention into the North Yemen Civil War and another third were reservists. These forces had 950 tanks, 1,100 APCs, and more than 1,000 artillery pieces.[54]

Syria's army had a total strength of 75,000 and was deployed along the border with Israel.[55] Professor David W. Lesch wrote that "One would be hard-pressed to find a military less prepared for war with a clearly superior foe", since Syria's army had been decimated in the months and years prior through coups and attempted coups that had resulted in a series of purges, fracturings and uprisings within the armed forces.[56]

The Jordanian Armed Forces included 11 brigades, totalling 55,000 troops.[57] Nine brigades (45,000 troops, 270 tanks, 200 artillery pieces) were deployed in the West Bank, including the elite armoured 40th, and two in the Jordan Valley. They possessed sizable numbers of M113 APCs and were equipped with some 300 modern Western tanks, 250 of which were U.S. M48 Pattons. They also had 12 battalions of artillery, six batteries of 81 mm and 120 mm mortars,[58] a paratrooper battalion trained in the new U.S.-built school and a new battalion of mechanized infantry. The Jordanian Army was a long-term-service, professional army, relatively well-equipped and well-trained. Israeli post-war briefings said that the Jordanian staff acted professionally, but was always left "half a step" behind by the Israeli moves. The small Royal Jordanian Air Force consisted of only 24 British-made Hawker Hunter fighters, six transports, and two helicopters. According to the Israelis, the Hawker Hunter was essentially on par with the French-built Dassault Mirage III – the IAF's best plane.[59]

100 Iraqi tanks and an infantry division were readied near the Jordanian border. Two squadrons of Iraqi fighter-aircraft, Hawker Hunters and MiG 21s, were rebased adjacent to the Jordanian border.[58]

The Arab air forces were reinforced by some aircraft from Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to make up for the massive losses suffered on the first day of the war. They were also aided by volunteer pilots from the Pakistan Air Force acting in an independent capacity. PAF pilots shot down several Israeli planes.[60][61]


With the exception of Jordan, the Arabs relied principally on Soviet weaponry. Jordan's army was equipped with American weaponry, and its air force was composed of British aircraft.

Egypt had by far the largest and the most modern of all the Arab air forces, consisting of about 420 combat aircraft,[62] all of them Soviet-built and with a heavy quota of top-of-the-line MiG-21s. Of particular concern to the Israelis were the 30 Tu-16 "Badger" medium bombers, capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israeli military and civilian centers.[63]

Israeli weapons were mainly of Western origin. Its air force was composed principally of French aircraft, while its armoured units were mostly of British and American design and manufacture. Some infantry weapons, including the ubiquitous Uzi, were of Israeli origin.

Type Arab armies IDF
AFVs Egypt, Syria and Iraq used T-34/85, T-54, T-55, PT-76, and SU-100/152 World War II-vintage Soviet self-propelled guns. Jordan used US M47, M48, and M48A1 Patton tanks. Panzer IV, Sturmgeschütz III and Jagdpanzer IV (ex-German vehicles all used by Syria)[64][65] M50 and M51 Shermans, M48A3 Patton, Centurion, AMX-13, M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle. The Centurion was upgraded with the British 105 mm L7 gun prior to the war. The Sherman also underwent extensive modifications including a larger 105 mm medium velocity, French gun, redesigned turret, wider tracks, more armour, and upgraded engine and suspension.
APCs/IFVs BTR-40, BTR-152, BTR-50, BTR-60 APCs M2, / M3 Half-track, Panhard AML
Artillery M1937 Howitzer, BM-21, D-30 (2A18) Howitzer, M1954 field gun, M-52 105 mm self-propelled howitzer (used by Jordan) M50 self-propelled howitzer and Makmat 160 mm self-propelled mortar, M7 Priest, Obusier de 155 mm Modèle 50, AMX 105 mm Self-Propelled Howitzer
Aircraft MiG-21, MiG-19, MiG-17, Su-7B, Tu-16, Il-28, Il-18, Il-14, An-12, Hawker Hunter used by Jordan and Iraq Dassault Mirage III, Dassault Super Mystère, Sud Aviation Vautour, Mystere IV, Dassault Ouragan, Fouga Magister trainer outfitted for attack missions, Nord 2501IS military cargo plane
Helicopters Mi-6, Mi-4 Super Frelon, Sikorsky S-58
AAW SA-2 Guideline, ZSU-57-2 mobile anti-aircraft cannon MIM-23 Hawk, Bofors 40 mm
Infantry weapons Port Said submachine gun, AK-47, RPK, RPD, DShK HMG, B-10 and B-11 recoilless rifles Uzi, FN FAL, FN MAG, AK-47, M2 Browning, Cobra, Nord SS.10, Nord SS.11, RL-83 Blindicide anti-tank infantry weapon, Jeep-mounted 106 mm recoilless rifle

Fighting fronts

Air attack

Israeli troops examine destroyed Egyptian aircraft.
Dassault Mirage at the Israeli Air Force Museum. Operation Focus was mainly conducted using French built aircraft.

The first and most critical move of the conflict was a surprise Israeli attack on the Egyptian Air Force. Initially, both Egypt and Israel announced that they had been attacked by the other country.[66]

On 5 June at 7:45 Israeli time, as civil defence sirens sounded all over Israel, the IAF launched Operation Focus (Moked). All but 12 of its nearly 200 operational jets[67] launched a mass attack against Egypt's airfields.[68] The Egyptian defensive infrastructure was extremely poor, and no airfields were yet equipped with hardened aircraft shelters capable of protecting Egypt's warplanes. Most of the Israeli warplanes headed out over the Mediterranean Sea, flying low to avoid radar detection, before turning toward Egypt. Others flew over the Red Sea.[69]

Meanwhile, the Egyptians hindered their own defence by effectively shutting down their entire air defence system: they were worried that rebel Egyptian forces would shoot down the plane carrying Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer and Lt-Gen. Sidqi Mahmoud, who were en route from al Maza to Bir Tamada in the Sinai to meet the commanders of the troops stationed there. In any event, it did not make a great deal of difference as the Israeli pilots came in below Egyptian radar cover and well below the lowest point at which its SA-2 surface-to-air missile batteries could bring down an aircraft.[70]

Although the powerful Jordanian radar facility at Ajloun detected waves of aircraft approaching Egypt and reported the code word for "war" up the Egyptian command chain, Egyptian command and communications problems prevented the warning from reaching the targeted airfields.[69] The Israelis employed a mixed-attack strategy: bombing and strafing runs against planes parked on the ground, and bombing to disable runways with special tarmac-shredding penetration bombs developed jointly with France, leaving surviving aircraft unable to take off. The runway at the Arish airfield was spared, as the Israelis expected to turn it into a military airport for their transports after the war. Surviving aircraft were taken out by later attack waves. The operation was more successful than expected, catching the Egyptians by surprise and destroying virtually all of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, with few Israeli losses. Only four unarmed Egyptian training flights were in the air when the strike began.[71] A total of 338 Egyptian aircraft were destroyed and 100 pilots were killed,[72] although the number of aircraft lost by the Egyptians is disputed.[73]

Among the Egyptian planes lost were all 30 Tu-16 bombers, 27 out of 40 Il-28 bombers, 12 Su-7 fighter-bombers, over 90 MiG-21s, 20 MiG-19s, 25 MiG-17 fighters, and around 32 assorted transport planes and helicopters. In addition, Egyptian radars and SAM missiles were also attacked and destroyed. The Israelis lost 19 planes, including two destroyed in air-to-air combat and 13 downed by anti-aircraft artillery.[74] One Israeli plane, which was damaged and unable to break radio silence, was shot down by Israeli Hawk missiles after it strayed over the Negev Nuclear Research Center.[75] Another was destroyed by an exploding Egyptian bomber.[76]

The attack guaranteed Israeli air supremacy for the rest of the war. Attacks on other Arab air forces by Israel took place later in the day as hostilities broke out on other fronts.

The large numbers of Arab aircraft claimed destroyed by Israel on that day were at first regarded as "greatly exaggerated" by the Western press. However, the fact that the Egyptian Air Force, along with other Arab air forces attacked by Israel, made practically no appearance for the remaining days of the conflict proved that the numbers were most likely authentic. Throughout the war, Israeli aircraft continued strafing Arab airfield runways to prevent their return to usability. Meanwhile, Egyptian state-run radio had reported an Egyptian victory, falsely claiming that 70 Israeli planes had been downed on the first day of fighting.[77]

Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula

Conquest of Sinai. 5–6 June 1967
People in a bomb shelter at Kfar Maimon

The Egyptian forces consisted of seven divisions: four armoured, two infantry, and one mechanized infantry. Overall, Egypt had around 100,000 troops and 900–950 tanks in the Sinai, backed by 1,100 APCs and 1,000 artillery pieces.[54] This arrangement was thought to be based on the Soviet doctrine, where mobile armour units at strategic depth provide a dynamic defense while infantry units engage in defensive battles.

Israeli forces concentrated on the border with Egypt included six armoured brigades, one infantry brigade, one mechanized infantry brigade, three paratrooper brigades, giving a total of around 70,000 men and 700 tanks, who were organized in three armoured divisions. They had massed on the border the night before the war, camouflaging themselves and observing radio silence before being ordered to advance.

The Israeli plan was to surprise the Egyptian forces in both timing (the attack exactly coinciding with the IAF strike on Egyptian airfields), location (attacking via northern and central Sinai routes, as opposed to the Egyptian expectations of a repeat of the 1956 war, when the IDF attacked via the central and southern routes) and method (using a combined-force flanking approach, rather than direct tank assaults).

Northern (El Arish) Israeli division

On 5 June, at 7:50 a.m., the northernmost Israeli division, consisting of three brigades and commanded by Major General Israel Tal, one of Israel's most prominent armour commanders, crossed the border at two points, opposite Nahal Oz and south of Khan Yunis. They advanced swiftly, holding fire to prolong the element of surprise. Tal's forces assaulted the "Rafah Gap", a seven-mile stretch containing the shortest of three main routes through the Sinai towards El-Qantarah el-Sharqiyya and the Suez Canal. The Egyptians had four divisions in the area, backed by minefields, pillboxes, underground bunkers, hidden gun emplacements and trenches. The terrain on either side of the route was impassable. The Israeli plan was to hit the Egyptians at selected key points with concentrated armour.[75]

Tal's advance was led by the 7th Armored Brigade under Colonel Shmuel Gonen. The Israeli plan called for the 7th Brigade to outflank Khan Yunis from the north and the 60th Armored Brigade under Colonel Menachem Aviram would advance from the south. The two brigades would link up and surround Khan Yunis, while the paratroopers would take Rafah. Gonen entrusted the breakthrough to a single battalion of his brigade.[78]

Initially, the advance was met with light resistance, as Egyptian intelligence had concluded that it was a diversion for the main attack. However, as Gonen's lead battalion advanced, it suddenly came under intense fire and took heavy losses. A second battalion was brought up, but was also pinned down. Meanwhile, the 60th Brigade became bogged down in the sand, while the paratroopers had trouble navigating through the dunes. The Israelis continued to press their attack, and despite heavy losses, cleared the Egyptian positions and reached the Khan Yunis railway junction in little over four hours.[78]

Gonen's brigade then advanced nine miles to Rafah in twin columns. Rafah itself was circumvented, and the Israelis attacked Sheikh Zuweid, eight miles to the southwest, which was defended by two brigades. Though inferior in numbers and equipment, the Egyptians were deeply entrenched and camouflaged. The Israelis were pinned down by fierce Egyptian resistance, and called in air and artillery support to enable their lead elements to advance. Many Egyptians abandoned their positions after their commander and several of his staff were killed.[78]

The Israelis broke through with tank-led assaults. However, Aviram's forces misjudged the Egyptians' flank, and were pinned between strongholds before they were extracted after several hours. By nightfall, the Israelis had finished mopping up resistance. Israeli forces had taken significant losses, with Colonel Gonen later telling reporters that "we left many of our dead soldiers in Rafah, and many burnt-out tanks." The Egyptians suffered some 2,000 casualties and lost 40 tanks.[78]

Advance on Arish

Israeli reconnaissance forces from the "Shaked" unit in Sinai during the war.

On 5 June, with the road open, Israeli forces continued advancing towards Arish. Already by late afternoon, elements of the 79th Armored Battalion had charged through the seven-mile long Jiradi defile, a narrow pass defended by well-emplaced troops of the Egyptian 112th Infantry Brigade. In fierce fighting, which saw the pass change hands several times, the Israelis charged through the position. The Egyptians suffered heavy casualties and tank losses, while Israeli losses stood at 66 dead, 93 wounded and 28 tanks. Emerging at the western end, Israeli forces advanced to the outskirts of Arish.[79] As it reached the outskirts of Arish, Tal's division also consolidated its hold on Rafah and Khan Yunis.

The following day, 6 June, the Israeli forces on the outskirts of Arish were reinforced by the 7th Brigade, which fought its way through the Jiradi pass. After receiving supplies via an airdrop, the Israelis entered the city and captured the airport at 7:50 am. The Israelis entered the city at 8:00 am. Company commander Yossi Peled recounted that "Al-Arish was totally quiet, desolate. Suddenly, the city turned into a madhouse. Shots came at us from every alley, every corner, every window and house." An IDF record stated that "clearing the city was hard fighting. The Egyptians fired from the rooftops, from balconies and windows. They dropped grenades into our half-tracks and blocked the streets with trucks. Our men threw the grenades back and crushed the trucks with their tanks."[80][81] Gonen sent additional units to Arish, and the city was eventually taken.

Brigadier-General Avraham Yoffe's assignment was to penetrate Sinai south of Tal's forces and north of Sharon's. Yoffe's attack allowed Tal to complete the capture of the Jiradi defile, Khan Yunis. All of them were taken after fierce fighting. Gonen subsequently dispatched a force of tanks, infantry and engineers under Colonel Yisrael Granit to continue down the Mediterranean coast towards the Suez Canal, while a second force led by Gonen himself turned south and captured Bir Lahfan and Jabal Libni.

Mid-front (Abu-Ageila) Israeli division

Major General Ariel Sharon during the Battle of Abu-Ageila

Further south, on 6 June, the Israeli 38th Armored Division under Major-General Ariel Sharon assaulted Um-Katef, a heavily fortified area defended by the Egyptian 2nd Infantry Division under Major-General Sa'adi Naguib (though Naguib was actually absent[82]) of Soviet World War II armour, which included 90 T-34-85 tanks, 22 SU-100 tank destroyers, and about 16,000 men. The Israelis had about 14,000 men and 150 post-World War II tanks including the AMX-13, Centurions, and M50 Super Shermans (modified M-4 Sherman tanks).

Two armoured brigades in the meantime, under Avraham Yoffe, slipped across the border through sandy wastes that Egypt had left undefended because they were considered impassable. Simultaneously, Sharon's tanks from the west were to engage Egyptian forces on Um-Katef ridge and block any reinforcements. Israeli infantry would clear the three trenches, while heliborne paratroopers would land behind Egyptian lines and silence their artillery. An armoured thrust would be made at al-Qusmaya to unnerve and isolate its garrison.

Israeli Armor of the Six Day War: pictured here the AMX 13

As Sharon's division advanced into the Sinai, Egyptian forces staged successful delaying actions at Tarat Umm, Umm Tarfa, and Hill 181. An Israeli jet was downed by anti-aircraft fire, and Sharon's forces came under heavy shelling as they advanced from the north and west. The Israeli advance, which had to cope with extensive minefields, took a large number of casualties. A column of Israeli tanks managed to penetrate the northern flank of Abu Ageila, and by dusk, all units were in position. The Israelis then brought up ninety 105 mm and 155 mm artillery guns for a preparatory barrage, while civilian buses brought reserve infantrymen under Colonel Yekutiel Adam and helicopters arrived to ferry the paratroopers. These movements were unobserved by the Egyptians, who were preoccupied with Israeli probes against their perimeter.[83]

As night fell, the Israeli assault troops lit flashlights, each battalion a different color, to prevent friendly fire incidents. At 10:00 pm, Israeli artillery began a barrage on Um-Katef, firing some 6,000 shells in less than twenty minutes, the most concentrated artillery barrage in Israel's history.[84][85] Israeli tanks assaulted the northernmost Egyptian defenses and were largely successful, though an entire armoured brigade was stalled by mines, and had only one mine-clearance tank. Israeli infantrymen assaulted the triple line of trenches in the east. To the west, paratroopers commanded by Colonel Danny Matt landed behind Egyptian lines, though half the helicopters got lost and never found the battlefield, while others were unable to land due to mortar fire.[86][87] Those that successfully landed on target destroyed Egyptian artillery and ammunition dumps and separated gun crews from their batteries, sowing enough confusion to significantly reduce Egyptian artillery fire. Egyptian reinforcements from Jabal Libni advanced towards Um-Katef to counterattack, but failed to reach their objective, being subjected to heavy air attacks and encountering Israeli lodgements on the roads. Egyptian commanders then called in artillery attacks on their own positions. The Israelis accomplished and sometimes exceeded their overall plan, and had largely succeeded by the following day. The Egyptians suffered about 2,000 casualties, while the Israelis lost 42 dead and 140 wounded.[86][87][88]

Yoffe's attack allowed Sharon to complete the capture of the Um-Katef, after fierce fighting. The main thrust at Um-Katef was stalled due to mines and craters. After IDF engineers had cleared a path by 4:00 pm, Israeli and Egyptian tanks engaged in fierce combat, often at ranges as close as ten yards. The battle ended in an Israeli victory, with 40 Egyptian and 19 Israeli tanks destroyed. Meanwhile, Israeli infantry finished clearing out the Egyptian trenches, with Israeli casualties standing at 14 dead and 41 wounded and Egyptian casualties at 300 dead and 100 taken prisoner.[89]

Other Israeli forces

Further south, on 5 June, the 8th Armored Brigade under Colonel Albert Mandler, initially positioned as a ruse to draw off Egyptian forces from the real invasion routes, attacked the fortified bunkers at Kuntilla, a strategically valuable position whose capture would enable Mandler to block reinforcements from reaching Um-Katef and to join Sharon's upcoming attack on Nakhl. The defending Egyptian battalion, outnumbered and outgunned, fiercely resisted the attack, hitting a number of Israeli tanks. However, most of the defenders were killed, and only three Egyptian tanks, one of them damaged, survived. By nightfall, Mendler's forces had taken Kuntilla.[80]

With the exceptions of Rafah and Khan Yunis, Israeli forces had initially avoided entering the Gaza Strip. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan had expressly forbidden entry into the area. After Palestinian positions in Gaza opened fire on the Negev settlements of Nirim and Kissufim, IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin overrode Dayan's instructions and ordered the 11th Mechanized Brigade under Colonel Yehuda Reshef to enter the Strip. The force was immediately met with heavy artillery fire and fierce resistance from Palestinian forces and remnants of the Egyptian forces from Rafah.

By sunset, the Israelis had taken the strategically vital Ali Muntar ridge, overlooking Gaza City, but were beaten back from the city itself. Some 70 Israelis were killed, along with Israeli journalist Ben Oyserman and American journalist Paul Schutzer. Twelve members of UNEF were also killed. On the war's second day, 6 June, the Israelis were bolstered by the 35th Paratroopers Brigade under Colonel Rafael Eitan, and took Gaza City along with the entire Strip. The fighting was fierce, and accounted for nearly half of all Israeli casualties on the southern front. However, Gaza rapidly fell to the Israelis.

Meanwhile, on 6 June, two Israeli reserve brigades under Yoffe, each equipped with 100 tanks, penetrated the Sinai south of Tal's division and north of Sharon's, capturing the road junctions of Abu Ageila, Bir Lahfan, and Arish, taking all of them before midnight. Two Egyptian armoured brigades counterattacked, and a fierce battle took place until the following morning. The Egyptians were beaten back by fierce resistance coupled with airstrikes, sustaining heavy tank losses. They fled west towards Jabal Libni.[90]

The Egyptian Army

During the ground fighting, remnants of the Egyptian Air Force attacked Israeli ground forces, but took losses from the Israeli Air Force and from Israeli anti-aircraft units. Throughout the last four days, Egyptian aircraft flew 150 sorties against Israeli units in the Sinai.

Many of the Egyptian units remained intact and could have tried to prevent the Israelis from reaching the Suez Canal, or engaged in combat in the attempt to reach the canal. However, when the Egyptian Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer heard about the fall of Abu-Ageila, he panicked and ordered all units in the Sinai to retreat. This order effectively meant the defeat of Egypt.

Meanwhile, President Nasser, having learned of the results of the Israeli air strikes, decided together with Field Marshal Amer to order a general retreat from the Sinai within 24 hours. No detailed instructions were given concerning the manner and sequence of withdrawal.[91]

Next fighting days

Conquest of Sinai. 7–8 June 1967
Newsreel from 6 June about the first Israeli-Egyptian fighting.
An Israeli gunboat passes through the Straits of Tiran near Sharm El Sheikh.

As Egyptian columns retreated, Israeli aircraft and artillery attacked them. Israeli jets used napalm bombs during their sorties. The attacks destroyed hundreds of vehicles and caused heavy casualties. At Jabal Libni, retreating Egyptian soldiers were fired upon by their own artillery. At Bir Gafgafa, the Egyptians fiercely resisted advancing Israeli forces, knocking out three tanks and eight half-tracks, and killing 20 soldiers. Due to the Egyptians' retreat, the Israeli High Command decided not to pursue the Egyptian units but rather to bypass and destroy them in the mountainous passes of West Sinai.

Therefore, in the following two days ( 6 and 7 June), all three Israeli divisions (Sharon and Tal were reinforced by an armoured brigade each) rushed westwards and reached the passes. Sharon's division first went southward then westward, via An-Nakhl, to Mitla Pass with air support. It was joined there by parts of Yoffe's division, while its other units blocked the Gidi Pass. These passes became killing grounds for the Egyptians, who ran right into waiting Israeli positions and suffered heavy losses in both soldiers and vehicles. According to Egyptian diplomat Mahmoud Riad, 10,000 men were killed in one day alone, and many others died from hunger and thirst. Tal's units stopped at various points to the length of the Suez Canal.

Israel's blocking action was partially successful. Only the Gidi pass was captured before the Egyptians approached it, but at other places, Egyptian units managed to pass through and cross the canal to safety. Due to the haste of the Egyptian retreat, soldiers often abandoned weapons, military equipment, and hundreds of vehicles. Many Egyptian soldiers were cut off from their units had to walk about 200 kilometers on foot before reaching the Suez Canal with limited supplies of food and water and were exposed to intense heat. Thousands of soldiers died as a result. Many Egyptian soldiers chose instead to surrender to the Israelis. However, the Israelis eventually exceeded their capabilities to provide for prisoners. As a result, they began directing soldiers towards the Suez Canal and only taking prisoner high-ranking officers, who were expected to be exchanged for captured Israeli pilots.

According to some accounts, during the Egyptian retreat from the Sinai, a unit of Soviet Marines based on a Soviet warship in Port Said at the time came ashore and attempted to cross the Suez Canal eastward. The Soviet force was reportedly decimated by an Israeli air attack and lost 17 dead and 34 wounded. Among the wounded was the commander, Lt. Col. Victor Shevchenko.[24]

During the offensive, the Israeli Navy landed six combat divers from the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit to infiltrate Alexandria harbour. The divers sank an Egyptian minesweeper before being taken prisoner. Shayetet 13 commandos also infiltrated into Port Said harbour, but found no ships there. A planned commando raid against the Syrian Navy never materialized. Both Egyptian and Israeli warships made movements at sea to intimidate the other side throughout the war, but did not engage each other. However, Israeli warships and aircraft did hunt for Egyptian submarines throughout the war.

On 7 June, Israel began the conquest of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Israeli Navy started the operation with a probe of Egyptian naval defenses. An aerial reconnaissance flight found that the area was less defended than originally thought. At about 4:30 am, three Israeli missile boats opened fire on Egyptian shore batteries, while paratroopers and commandos boarded helicopters and Nord Noratlas transport planes for an assault on Al-Tur, as Chief of Staff Rabin was convinced it was too risky to land them directly in Sharm el-Sheikh.[92] However, the city had been largely abandoned the day before, and reports from air and naval forces finally convinced Rabin to divert the aircraft to Sharm el-Sheikh. There, the Israelis engaged in a pitched battle with the Egyptians and took the city, killing 20 Egyptian soldiers and taking 8 prisoner. At 12:15 pm, Defense Minister Dayan announced that the Straits of Tiran constituted an international waterway open to all ships without restriction.[92]

On 8 June, Israel completed the capture of the Sinai by sending infantry units to Ras Sudar on the western coast of the peninsula.

Several tactical elements made the swift Israeli advance possible: first, the surprise attack that quickly gave the Israeli Air Force complete air superiority over the Egyptian Air Force; second, the determined implementation of an innovative battle plan; third, the lack of coordination among Egyptian troops. These factors would prove to be decisive elements on Israel's other fronts as well.

West Bank

The Jordan salient, 5–7 June.

Egyptian control of Jordanian forces

King Hussein had given control of his army to Egypt in 1 June, on which date Egyptian General Riad arrived in Amman to take control of the Jordanian military.[a]

Egyptian Field Marshal Amer used the confusion of the first hours of the conflict to send a cable to Amman that he was victorious; he claimed as evidence a radar sighting of a squadron of Israeli aircraft returning from bombing raids in Egypt, which he said was an Egyptian aircraft en route to attack Israel.[94] In this cable, sent shortly before 9:00am, Riad was ordered to attack.[b]

Initial attack

One of the Jordanian brigades stationed in the West Bank was sent to the Hebron area in order to link with the Egyptians.

The IDF's strategic plan was to remain on the defensive along the Jordanian front, to enable focus in the expected campaign against Egypt.

Intermittent machine-gun exchanges began taking place in Jerusalem at 9:30 am, and the fighting gradually escalated as the Jordanians introduced mortar and recoilless rifle fire. Under the orders from General Narkis, the Israelis responded only with small-arms fire, firing in a flat trajectory to avoid hitting civilians, holy sites or the Old City. At 10:00 am on 5 June, the Jordanian Army began shelling Israel. Two batteries of 155 mm Long Tom cannons opened fire on the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Ramat David Airbase. The commanders of these batteries were instructed to lay a two-hour barrage against military and civilian settlements in central Israel. Some shells hit the outskirts of Tel Aviv.[96]

By 10:30 am, Eshkol had sent a message via Odd Bull to King Hussein promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war.[97] King Hussein replied that it was too late, "the die was cast".[98] At 11:15 am, Jordanian howitzers began a 6,000-shell barrage at Israeli Jerusalem. The Jordanians initially targeted kibbutz Ramat Rachel in the south and Mount Scopus in the north, then ranged into the city center and outlying neighborhoods. Military installations, the Prime Minister's Residence, and the Knesset compound were also targeted. Israeli civilian casualties totalled 20 dead and about 1,000 wounded. Some 900 buildings were damaged, including Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.[21]

At 11:50 am, sixteen Jordanian Hawker Hunters attacked Netanya, Kfar Sirkin and Kfar Saba, killing one civilian, wounding seven and destroying a transport plane. Three Iraqi Hawker Hunters strafed civilian settlements in the Jezreel Valley, and an Iraqi Tupolev Tu-16 attacked Afula, and was shot down near the Megiddo airfield. The attack caused minimal material damage, hitting only a senior citizens' home and several chicken coops, but sixteen Israeli soldiers were killed, most of them when the Tupolev crashed.[21]

Israeli cabinet meets

When the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do, Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted.[99] Uzi Narkiss made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. Dayan rejected multiple requests from Narkiss for permission to mount an infantry assault towards Mount Scopus. However, Dayan sanctioned a number of more limited retaliatory actions.[100]

Initial response

Shortly before 12:30 pm, the Israeli Air Force attacked Jordan's two airbases. The Hawker Hunters were refueling at the time of the attack. The Israeli aircraft attacked in two waves, the first of which cratered the runways and knocked out the control towers, and the second wave destroyed all 21 of Jordan's Hawker Hunter fighters, along with six transport aircraft and two helicopters. One Israeli jet was shot down by ground fire.[100]

Israeli aircraft also attacked H-3, an Iraqi Air Force base in western Iraq. During the attack, 12 MiG-21s, 2 MiG-17s, 5 Hunter F6s, and 3 Il-28 bombers were destroyed or shot down. A Pakistani pilot stationed at the base, Saiful Azam, who was on loan to the Royal Jordanian Air Force as an advisor, shot down an Israeli fighter and a bomber during the raid. The Jordanian radar facility at Ajloun was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. Israeli Fouga Magister jets attacked the Jordanian 40th Brigade with rockets as it moved south from the Damia Bridge. Dozens of tanks were knocked out, and a convoy of 26 trucks carrying ammunition was destroyed. In Jerusalem, Israel responded to Jordanian shelling with a missile strike that devastated Jordanian positions. The Israelis used the L missile, a surface-to-surface missile developed jointly with France in secret.[100]

Jordanian battalion at Government House

A Jordanian battalion advanced up Government House ridge and dug in at the perimeter of Government House, the headquarters of the United Nations observers,[101][102][103] and opened fire on Ramat Rachel, the Allenby Barracks and the Jewish section of Abu Tor with mortars and recoilless rifles. UN observers fiercely protested the incursion into the neutral zone, and several manhandled a Jordanian machine gun out of Government House after the crew had set it up in a second-floor window. After the Jordanians occupied Jabel Mukaber, an advance patrol was sent out and approached Ramat Rachel, where they came under fire from four civilians, including the wife of the director, who were armed with old Czech-made weapons.[104][105]

Israeli paratroopers flush out Jordanian soldiers from trenches during the Battle of Ammunition Hill.
Silhouette of Israeli paratroops advancing on Ammunition Hill.

The immediate Israeli response was an offensive to retake Government House and its ridge. The Jerusalem Brigade's Reserve Battalion 161, under Lieutenant-Colonel Asher Dreizin, was given the task. Dreizin had two infantry companies and eight tanks under his command, several of which broke down or became stuck in the mud at Ramat Rachel, leaving three for the assault. The Jordanians mounted fierce resistance, knocking out two tanks.[106]

The Israelis broke through the compound's western gate and began clearing the building with grenades, before General Odd Bull, commander of the UN observers, compelled the Israelis to hold their fire, telling them that the Jordanians had already fled. The Israelis proceeded to take the Antenna Hill, directly behind Government House, and clear out a series of bunkers to the west and south. The fighting, often conducted hand-to-hand, continued for nearly four hours before the surviving Jordanians fell back to trenches held by the Hittin Brigade, which were steadily overwhelmed. By 6:30 AM, the Jordanians had retreated to Bethlehem, having suffered about 100 casualties. All but ten of Dreizin's soldiers were casualties, and Dreizin himself was wounded three times.[106] A total of 36 Israeli and 71 Jordanian soldiers had been killed. Even after the battle had ended, Israeli soldiers were forced to remain in the trenches due to Jordanian sniper fire from Givat HaMivtar until the Harel Brigade overran that outpost in the afternoon.[107]

Israeli invasion

During the late afternoon of 5 June, the Israelis launched an offensive to encircle Jerusalem, which lasted into the following day. During the night, they were supported by intense tank, artillery and mortar fire to soften up Jordanian positions. Searchlights placed atop the Labor Federation building, then the tallest in Israeli Jerusalem, exposed and blinded the Jordanians. The Jerusalem Brigade moved south of Jerusalem, while the mechanized Harel Brigade and 55th Paratroopers Brigade under Mordechai Gur encircled it from the north.[108]

A combined force of tanks and paratroopers crossed no-man's land near the Mandelbaum Gate. Gur's 66th paratroop battalion approached the fortified Police Academy. The Israelis used bangalore torpedoes to blast their way through barbed wire leading up to the position while exposed and under heavy fire. With the aid of two tanks borrowed from the Jerusalem Brigade, they captured the Police Academy. After receiving reinforcements, they moved up to attack Ammunition Hill.[108][109]

The Jordanian defenders, who were heavily dug-in, fiercely resisted the attack. All of the Israeli officers except for two company commanders were killed, and the fighting was mostly led by individual soldiers. The fighting was conducted at close quarters in trenches and bunkers, and was often hand-to-hand. The Israelis captured the position after four hours of heavy fighting. During the battle, 36 Israeli and 71 Jordanian soldiers were killed.[108][109]

The 66th battalion subsequently drove east, and linked up with the Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus and its Hebrew University campus. Gur's other battalions, the 71st and 28th, captured the other Jordanian positions around the American Colony, despite being short on men and equipment and having come under a Jordanian mortar bombardment while waiting for the signal to advance.[108][109]

At the same time, the IDF's 4th Brigade attacked the fortress at Latrun, which the Jordanians had abandoned due to heavy Israeli tank fire. The mechanized Harel Brigade attacked Har Adar, but seven tanks were knocked out by mines, forcing the infantry to mount an assault without armoured cover. The Israeli soldiers advanced under heavy fire, jumping between stones to avoid mines. The fighting was conducted at close-quarters, often with knives and bayonets.

The Jordanians fell back after a battle that left two Israeli and eight Jordanian soldiers dead, and Israeli forces advanced through Beit Horon towards Ramallah, taking four fortified villages along the way. By the evening, the brigade arrived in Ramallah. Meanwhile, the 163rd Infantry Battalion secured Abu Tor following a fierce battle, severing the Old City from Bethlehem and Hebron.

Meanwhile, 600 Egyptian commandos stationed in the West Bank moved to attack Israeli airfields. Led by Jordanian intelligence scouts, they crossed the border and began infiltrating through Israeli settlements towards Ramla and Hatzor. They were soon detected and sought shelter in nearby fields, which the Israelis set on fire. Some 450 commandos were killed, and the remainder escaped to Jordan.[110]

From the American Colony, the paratroopers moved towards the Old City. Their plan was to approach it via the lightly defended Salah al-Din Street. However, they made a wrong turn onto the heavily defended Nablus Road. The Israelis ran into fierce resistance. Their tanks fired at point-blank range down the street, while the paratroopers mounted repeated charges. Despite repelling repeated Israeli charges, the Jordanians gradually gave way to Israeli firepower and momentum. The Israelis suffered some 30 casualties – half the original force – while the Jordanians lost 45 dead and 142 wounded.[111]

Meanwhile, the Israeli 71st Battalion breached barbed wire and minefields and emerged near Wadi Joz, near the base of Mount Scopus, from where the Old City could be cut off from Jericho and East Jerusalem from Ramallah. Israeli artillery targeted the one remaining route from Jerusalem to the West Bank, and shellfire deterred the Jordanians from counterattacking from their positions at Augusta-Victoria. An Israeli detachment then captured the Rockefeller Museum after a brief skirmish.[111]

Afterwards, the Israelis broke through to the Jerusalem-Ramallah road. At Tel al-Ful, the Harel Brigade fought a running battle with up to thirty Jordanian tanks. The Jordanians stalled the advance and destroyed a number of half-tracks, but the Israelis launched air attacks and exploited the vulnerability of the external fuel tanks mounted on the Jordanian tanks. The Jordanians lost half their tanks, and retreated towards Jericho. Joining up with the 4th Brigade, the Israelis then descended through Shuafat and the site of what is now French Hill, through Jordanian defenses at Mivtar, emerging at Ammunition Hill.[112]

An Israeli airstrike near the Augusta-Victoria Hospital

With Jordanian defenses in Jerusalem crumbling, elements of the Jordanian 60th Brigade and an infantry battalion were sent from Jericho to reinforce Jerusalem. Its original orders were to repel the Israelis from the Latrun corridor, but due to the worsening situation in Jerusalem, the brigade was ordered to proceed to Jerusalem's Arab suburbs and attack Mount Scopus. Parallel to the brigade were infantrymen from the Imam Ali Brigade, who were approaching Issawiya. The brigades were spotted by Israeli aircraft and decimated by rocket and cannon fire. Other Jordanian attempts to reinforce Jerusalem were beaten back, either by armoured ambushes or airstrikes.

Fearing damage to holy sites and the prospect of having to fight in built-up areas, Dayan ordered his troops not to enter the Old City.[99] He also feared that Israel would be subjected to a fierce international backlash and the outrage of Christians worldwide if it forced its way into the Old City. Privately, he told David Ben-Gurion that he was also concerned over the prospect of Israel capturing Jerusalem's holy sites, only to be forced to give them up under the threat of international sanctions.

The West Bank

Israel was to gain almost total control of the West Bank by the evening of 7 June,[113] and began its military occupation of the West Bank on that day, issuing a military order, the "Proclamation Regarding Law and Administration (The West Bank Area) (No. 2)—1967", which established the military government in the West Bank and granted the commander of the area full legislative, executive, and judicial power.[114][4] Jordan had realised that it had no hope of defence as early as the morning of 6 June, just a day after the conflict had begun.[115] At Nasser's request, Egypt's Abdul Munim Riad sent a situation update at midday on 6 June:[113]

The situation on the West Bank is rapidly deteriorating. A concentrated attack has been launched on all axes, together with heavy fire, day and night. Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi air forces in position H3 have been virtually destroyed. Upon consultation with King Hussein I have been asked to convey to you the following choices:

1. A political decision to cease fighting to be imposed by a third party (the USA, the Soviet Union or the Security Council).
2. To vacate the West Bank tonight.
3. To go on fighting for one more day, resulting in the isolation and destruction of the entire Jordanian Army.

King Hussein has asked me to refer this matter to you for an immediate reply."

An Egyptian order for Jordanian forces to withdraw across the Jordan River was issued at 10am on June 6; however that afternoon King Hussein learned of the impending United Nations Security Council Resolution 233 and decided instead to hold out in the hope that a ceasefire would be implemented soon. It was already too late, as the counter-order caused confusion and in many cases it was not possible to regain positions which had previously been left.[116]

On 7 June, Dayan had ordered his troops not to enter the Old City; however, upon hearing that the UN was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to capture it.[99] Two paratroop battalions attacked Augusta-Victoria Hill, high ground overlooking the Old City from the east. One battalion attacked from Mount Scopus, and another attacked from the valley between it and the Old City. Another paratroop battalion, personally led by Gur, broke into the Old City, and was joined by the other two battalions after their missions were complete. The paratroopers met little resistance. The fighting was conducted solely by the paratroopers; the Israelis did not use armour during the battle out of fear of severe damage to the Old City.

In the north, one battalion from Peled's division was sent to check Jordanian defenses in the Jordan Valley. A brigade belonging to Peled's division captured the western part of the West Bank. One brigade attacked Jordanian artillery positions around Jenin, which were shelling Ramat David Airbase. The Jordanian 12th Armored Battalion, which outnumbered the Israelis, held off repeated attempts to capture Jenin. However, Israeli air attacks took their toll, and the Jordanian M48 Pattons, with their external fuel tanks, proved vulnerable at short distances, even to the Israeli-modified Shermans. Twelve Jordanian tanks were destroyed, and only six remained operational.[110]

David Rubinger's famed photograph of IDF paratroopers at Jerusalem's Western Wall shortly after its capture. From left to right: Zion Karasenti, Yitzhak Yifat, and Haim Oshri.[a]

Just after dusk, Israeli reinforcements arrived. The Jordanians continued to fiercely resist, and the Israelis were unable to advance without artillery and air support. One Israeli jet attacked the Jordanian commander's tank, wounding him and killing his radio operator and intelligence officer. The surviving Jordanian forces then withdrew to Jenin, where they were reinforced by the 25th Infantry Brigade. The Jordanians were effectively surrounded in Jenin.[110]

Jordanian infantry and their three remaining tanks managed to hold off the Israelis until 4:00 am, when three battalions arrived to reinforce them in the afternoon. The Jordanian tanks charged, and knocked out multiple Israeli vehicles, and the tide began to shift. After sunrise, Israeli jets and artillery conducted a two-hour bombardment against the Jordanians. The Jordanians lost 10 dead and 250 wounded, and had only seven tanks left, including two without gas, and sixteen APCs. The Israelis then fought their way into Jenin, and captured the city after fierce fighting.[117]

After the Old City fell, the Jerusalem Brigade reinforced the paratroopers, and continued to the south, capturing Judea and Gush Etzion. Hebron was taken without any resistance. Fearful that Israeli soldiers would exact retribution for the 1929 massacre of the city's Jewish community, Hebron's residents flew white sheets from their windows and rooftops, and voluntarily gave up their weapons.[citation needed] The Harel Brigade proceeded eastward, descending to the Jordan River.

On 7 June, Israeli forces seized Bethlehem, taking the city after a brief battle that left some 40 Jordanian soldiers dead, with the remainder fleeing. On the same day, one of Peled's brigades seized Nablus; then it joined one of Central Command's armoured brigades to fight the Jordanian forces; as the Jordanians held the advantage of superior equipment and were equal in numbers to the Israelis.

Again, the air superiority of the IAF proved paramount as it immobilized the Jordanians, leading to their defeat. One of Peled's brigades joined with its Central Command counterparts coming from Ramallah, and the remaining two blocked the Jordan river crossings together with the Central Command's 10th. Engineering Corps sappers blew up the Abdullah and Hussein bridges with captured Jordanian mortar shells, while elements of the Harel Brigade crossed the river and occupied positions along the east bank to cover them, but quickly pulled back due to American pressure. The Jordanians, anticipating an Israeli offensive deep into Jordan, assembled the remnants of their army and Iraqi units in Jordan to protect the western approaches to Amman and the southern slopes of the Golan Heights.

As Israel continued its offensive on 7 June, taking no account of the UN ceasefire resolution, the Egyptian-Jordanian command ordered a full Jordanian withdrawal for the second time, in order to avoid an annihilation of the Jordanian army.[118] This was complete by nightfall on 7 June.[118]

After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to "dig in" to hold it. When an armoured brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. It was only after intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan River that Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank.[103] According to Narkis:

First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem's security emerged. This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.[119]

Golan Heights

The Battle of Golan Heights, 9–10 June.

In May–June 1967, in preparation for conflict, the Israeli government planned to confine the confrontation to the Egyptian front, whilst taking into account the possibility of some fighting on the Syrian front.[98]

Syrian front 5–8 June

Syria largely stayed out of the conflict for the first four days.[120][121]

False Egyptian reports of a crushing victory against the Israeli army[77] and forecasts that Egyptian forces would soon be attacking Tel Aviv influenced Syria's decision to enter the war – in a sporadic manner – during this period.[120] Syrian artillery began shelling northern Israel, and twelve Syrian jets attacked Israeli settlements in the Galilee. Israeli fighter jets intercepted the Syrian aircraft, shooting down three and driving off the rest.[122] In addition, two Lebanese Hawker Hunter jets, two of the twelve Lebanon had, crossed into Israeli airspace and began strafing Israeli positions in the Galilee. They were intercepted by Israeli fighter jets, and one was shot down.[2][8]

On the evening of 5 June, the Israeli Air Force attacked Syrian airfields. The Syrian Air Force lost some 32 MiG 21s, 23 MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighters, and two Ilyushin Il-28 bombers, two-thirds of its fighting strength. The Syrian aircraft that survived the attack retreated to distant bases and played no further role in the war. Following the attack, Syria realised that the news it had received from Egypt of the near-total destruction of the Israeli military could not have been true.[122]

People in a bomb shelter at Kibbutz Dan

On June 6, a minor Syrian force tried to capture the water plants at Tel Dan (the subject of a fierce escalation two years earlier), Dan, and She'ar Yashuv. These attacks were repulsed with the loss of twenty soldiers and seven tanks. An Israeli officer was also killed. But a broader Syrian offensive quickly failed. Syrian reserve units were broken up by Israeli air attacks, and several tanks were reported to have sunk in the Jordan River.[122]

Other problems included tanks being too wide for bridges, lack of radio communications between tanks and infantry, and units ignoring orders to advance. A post-war Syrian army report concluded:

Our forces did not go on the offensive either because they did not arrive or were not wholly prepared or because they could not find shelter from the enemy's planes. The reserves could not withstand the air attacks; they dispersed after their morale plummeted.[123]

The Syrians bombarded Israeli civilian settlements in the Galilee Panhandle with two battalions of M-46 130mm guns, four companies of heavy mortars, and dug-in Panzer IV tanks. The Syrian bombardment killed two civilians and hit 205 houses as well as farming installations. An inaccurate report from a Syrian officer, however, said that as a result of the bombardment that "the enemy appears to have suffered heavy losses and is retreating".[124]

Israelis debate whether the Golan Heights should be attacked

On 7 and 8 June, the Israeli leadership debated about whether to attack the Golan Heights as well. Syria had supported pre-war raids that had helped raise tensions and had routinely shelled Israel from the Heights, so some Israeli leaders wanted to see Syria punished.[125] Military opinion was that the attack would be extremely costly, since it would entail an uphill battle against a strongly fortified enemy. The western side of the Golan Heights consists of a rock escarpment that rises 500 meters (1,700 ft) from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, and then flattens to a gently sloping plateau. Dayan opposed the operation bitterly at first, believing such an undertaking would result in losses of 30,000 and might trigger Soviet intervention. Prime Minister Eshkol, on the other hand, was more open to the possibility, as was the head of the Northern Command, David Elazar, whose unbridled enthusiasm for and confidence in the operation may have eroded Dayan's reluctance.

Eventually, the situation on the Southern and Central fronts cleared up, intelligence estimated that the likelihood of Soviet intervention had been reduced, reconnaissance showed some Syrian defenses in the Golan region collapsing, and an intercepted cable revealed that Nasser was urging the President of Syria to immediately accept a cease-fire. At 3 am on 9 June, Syria announced its acceptance of the cease-fire. Despite this announcement, Dayan became more enthusiastic about the idea and four hours later at 7 am, "gave the order to go into action against Syria"[i][125] without consultation or government authorisation.[126]

The Syrian army consisted of about 75,000 men grouped in nine brigades, supported by an adequate amount of artillery and armour. Israeli forces used in combat consisted of two brigades (the 8th Armored Brigade and the Golani Brigade) in the northern part of the front at Givat HaEm, and another two (infantry and one of Peled's brigades summoned from Jenin) in the center. The Golan Heights' unique terrain (mountainous slopes crossed by parallel streams every several kilometers running east to west), and the general lack of roads in the area channeled both forces along east-west axes of movement and restricted the ability of units to support those on either flank. Thus the Syrians could move north-south on the plateau itself, and the Israelis could move north-south at the base of the Golan escarpment. An advantage Israel possessed was the excellent intelligence collected by Mossad operative Eli Cohen (who was captured and executed in Syria in 1965) regarding the Syrian battle positions. Syria had built extensive defensive fortifications in depths up to 15 kilometers,[127] comparable to the Maginot Line.

As opposed to all the other campaigns, IAF was only partially effective in the Golan because the fixed fortifications were so effective. However, the Syrian forces proved unable to put up effective defense largely because the officers were poor leaders and treated their soldiers badly; often officers would retreat from danger, leaving their men confused and ineffective. The Israelis also had the upper hand during close combat that took place in the numerous Syrian bunkers along the Golan Heights, as they were armed with the Uzi, a submachine gun designed for close combat, while Syrian soldiers were armed with the heavier AK-47 assault rifle, designed for combat in more open areas.

Israeli attack: first day (9 June)

Israeli tanks advancing on the Golan Heights. June 1967

On the morning of 9 June, Israeli jets began carrying out dozens of sorties against Syrian positions from Mount Hermon to Tawfiq, using rockets salvaged from captured Egyptian stocks. The airstrikes knocked out artillery batteries and storehouses and forced transport columns off the roads. The Syrians suffered heavy casualties and a drop in morale, with a number of senior officers and troops deserting. The attacks also provided time as Israeli forces cleared paths through Syrian minefields. However, the airstrikes did not seriously damage the Syrians' bunkers and trench systems, and the bulk of Syrian forces on the Golan remained in their positions.[128]

About two hours after the airstrikes began, the 8th Armored Brigade, led by Colonel Albert Mandler, advanced into the Golan Heights from Givat HaEm. Its advance was spearheaded by Engineering Corps sappers and eight bulldozers, which cleared away barbed wire and mines. As they advanced, the force came under fire, and five bulldozers were immediately hit. The Israeli tanks, with their maneuverability sharply reduced by the terrain, advanced slowly under fire toward the fortified village of Sir al-Dib, with their ultimate objective being the fortress at Qala. Israeli casualties steadily mounted. Part of the attacking force lost its way and emerged opposite Za'ura, a redoubt manned by Syrian reservists. With the situation critical, Colonel Mandler ordered simultaneous assaults on Za'ura and Qala. Heavy and confused fighting followed, with Israeli and Syrian tanks struggling around obstacles and firing at extremely short ranges. Mandler recalled that "the Syrians fought well and bloodied us. We beat them only by crushing them under our treads and by blasting them with our cannons at very short range, from 100 to 500 meters." The first three Israeli tanks to enter Qala were stopped by a Syrian bazooka team, and a relief column of seven Syrian tanks arrived to repel the attackers. The Israelis took heavy fire from the houses, but could not turn back, as other forces were advancing behind them, and they were on a narrow path with mines on either side. The Israelis continued pressing forward, and called for air support. A pair of Israeli jets destroyed two of the Syrian tanks, and the remainder withdrew. The surviving defenders of Qala retreated after their commander was killed. Meanwhile, Za'ura fell in an Israeli assault, and the Israelis also captured the 'Ein Fit fortress.[129]

In the central sector, the Israeli 181st Battalion captured the strongholds of Dardara and Tel Hillal after fierce fighting. Desperate fighting also broke out along the operation's northern axis, where Golani Brigade attacked thirteen Syrian positions, including the formidable Tel Fakhr position. Navigational errors placed the Israelis directly under the Syrians' guns. In the fighting that followed, both sides took heavy casualties, with the Israelis losing all nineteen of their tanks and half-tracks.[130] The Israeli battalion commander then ordered his twenty-five remaining men to dismount, divide into two groups, and charge the northern and southern flanks of Tel Fakhr. The first Israelis to reach the perimeter of the southern approach laid bodily down on the barbed wire, allowing their comrades to vault over them. From there, they assaulted the fortified Syrian positions. The fighting was waged at extremely close quarters, often hand-to-hand.[130]

On the northern flank, the Israelis broke through within minutes and cleared out the trenches and bunkers. During the seven-hour battle, the Israelis lost 31 dead and 82 wounded, while the Syrians lost 62 dead and 20 captured. Among the dead was the Israeli battalion commander. The Golani Brigade's 51st Battalion took Tel 'Azzaziat, and Darbashiya also fell to Israeli forces.[130]

Universal Newsreel from 9 June about the war and UN reactions.

By the evening of 9 June, the four Israeli brigades had all broken through to the plateau, where they could be reinforced and replaced. Thousands of reinforcements began reaching the front, those tanks and half-tracks that had survived the previous day's fighting were refueled and replenished with ammunition, and the wounded were evacuated. By dawn, the Israelis had eight brigades in the sector.

Syria's first line of defense had been shattered, but the defenses beyond that remained largely intact. Mount Hermon and the Banias in the north, and the entire sector between Tawfiq and Customs House Road in the south remained in Syrian hands. In a meeting early on the night of 9 June, Syrian leaders decided to reinforce those positions as quickly as possible, and to maintain a steady barrage on Israeli civilian settlements.

Israeli attack: the next day (10 June)

Throughout the night, the Israelis continued their advance. Though it was slowed by fierce resistance, an anticipated Syrian counterattack never materialized. At the fortified village of Jalabina, a garrison of Syrian reservists, leveling their anti-aircraft guns, held off the Israeli 65th Paratroop Battalion for four hours before a small detachment managed to penetrate the village and knock out the heavy guns.

Meanwhile, the 8th Brigade's tanks moved south from Qala, advancing six miles to Wasit under heavy artillery and tank bombardment. At the Banias in the north, Syrian mortar batteries opened fire on advancing Israeli forces only after Golani Brigade sappers cleared a path through a minefield, killing sixteen Israeli soldiers and wounding four.

On the next day, 10 June, the central and northern groups joined in a pincer movement on the plateau, but that fell mainly on empty territory as the Syrian forces retreated. At 8:30 am, the Syrians began blowing up their own bunkers, burning documents and retreating. Several units joined by Elad Peled's troops climbed to the Golan from the south, only to find the positions mostly empty. When the 8th Brigade reached Mansura, five miles from Wasit, the Israelis met no opposition and found abandoned equipment, including tanks, in perfect working condition. In the fortified Banias village, Golani Brigade troops found only several Syrian soldiers chained to their positions.[131]

During the day, the Israeli units stopped after obtaining manoeuvre room between their positions and a line of volcanic hills to the west. In some locations, Israeli troops advanced after an agreed-upon cease-fire[132] to occupy strategically strong positions.[133] To the east, the ground terrain is an open gently sloping plain. This position later became the cease-fire line known as the "Purple Line".

Time magazine reported: "In an effort to pressure the United Nations into enforcing a ceasefire, Damascus Radio undercut its own army by broadcasting the fall of the city of Quneitra three hours before it actually capitulated. That premature report of the surrender of their headquarters destroyed the morale of the Syrian troops left in the Golan area."[134]


A week ago, the fateful campaign began. The existence of the State of Israel hung in the balance, the hopes of generations, and the vision that was realised in our own time... During the fighting, our forces destroyed about 450 enemy planes and hundreds of tanks. The enemy forces were decisively defeated in battles. Many fled for their lives or were captured. For the first time since the establishment of the state, the threat to our security has been removed at once from the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the northern border.

Levi Eshkol, 12 June 1967 (Address to Israeli Parliament)[135]

Universal Newsreel from 13 June about the war

By 10 June, Israel had completed its final offensive in the Golan Heights, and a ceasefire was signed the day after. Israel had seized the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan River (including East Jerusalem), and the Golan Heights.[136] About one million Arabs were placed under Israel's direct control in the newly captured territories. Israel's strategic depth grew to at least 300 kilometers in the south, 60 kilometers in the east, and 20 kilometers of extremely rugged terrain in the north, a security asset that would prove useful in the Yom Kippur War six years later.

Speaking three weeks after the war ended, as he accepted an honorary degree from Hebrew University, Yitzhak Rabin gave his reasoning behind the success of Israel:

Our airmen, who struck the enemies' planes so accurately that no one in the world understands how it was done and people seek technological explanations or secret weapons; our armoured troops who beat the enemy even when their equipment was inferior to his; our soldiers in all other branches … who overcame our enemies everywhere, despite the latter's superior numbers and fortifications—all these revealed not only coolness and courage in the battle but … an understanding that only their personal stand against the greatest dangers would achieve victory for their country and for their families, and that if victory was not theirs the alternative was annihilation.[137]

In recognition of contributions, Rabin was given the honour of naming the war for the Israelis. From the suggestions proposed, including the "War of Daring", "War of Salvation", and "War of the Sons of Light", he "chose the least ostentatious, the Six-Day War, evoking the days of creation".[138]

Dayan's final report on the war to the Israeli general staff listed several shortcomings in Israel's actions, including misinterpretation of Nasser's intentions, overdependence on the United States, and reluctance to act when Egypt closed the Straits. He also credited several factors for Israel's success: Egypt did not appreciate the advantage of striking first and their adversaries did not accurately gauge Israel's strength and its willingness to use it.[138]

In Egypt, according to Heikal, Nasser had admitted his responsibility for the military defeat in June 1967.[139] According to historian Abd al-Azim Ramadan, Nasser's mistaken decisions to expel the international peacekeeping force from the Sinai Peninsula and close the Straits of Tiran in 1967 led to a state of war with Israel, despite Egypt's lack of military preparedness.[140]

After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Egypt reviewed the causes of its loss of the 1967 war. Issues that were identified included "the individualistic bureaucratic leadership"; "promotions on the basis of loyalty, not expertise, and the army's fear of telling Nasser the truth"; lack of intelligence; and better Israeli weapons, command, organization, and will to fight.[138]


Between 776[9] and 983 Israelis were killed and 4,517 were wounded. Fifteen Israeli soldiers were captured. Arab casualties were far greater. Between 9,800[12] and 15,000[13] Egyptian soldiers were listed as killed or missing in action. An additional 4,338 Egyptian soldiers were captured.[14] Jordanian losses are estimated to be 700 killed in action with another 2,500 wounded.[10][15] The Syrians were estimated to have sustained between 1,000[141] and 2,500[18][20] killed in action. Between 367[14] and 591[19] Syrians were captured.


Preemptive strike v. unjustified attack

At the commencement of hostilities, both Egypt and Israel announced that they had been attacked by the other country.[66] The Israeli government later abandoned its initial position, acknowledging Israel had struck first, claiming that it was a preemptive strike in the face of a planned invasion by Egypt.[66][142] On the other hand, the Arab view was that it was unjustified to attack Egypt.[143][144] Many commentators consider the war as the classic case of anticipatory attack in self-defense.[145][146]

Allegations of atrocities committed against Egyptian soldiers

It has been alleged that Nasser did not want Egypt to learn of the true extent of his defeat and so ordered the killing of Egyptian army stragglers making their way back to the Suez canal zone.[147] There have also been allegations from both Israeli and Egyptian sources that Israeli troops killed unarmed Egyptian prisoners.[148][149][150][151][152][153][154]

Allegations of military support from the US, UK and Soviet Union

There have been a number of allegations of direct military support of Israel during the war by the US and the UK, including the supply of equipment (despite an embargo) and the participation of US forces in the conflict.[155][156][157][158][159] Many of these allegations and conspiracy theories[160] have been disputed and it has been claimed that some were given currency in the Arab world to explain the Arab defeat.[161] It has also been claimed that the Soviet Union, in support of its Arab allies, used its naval strength in the Mediterranean to act as a major restraint on the US Navy.[162][163]

America features prominently in Arab conspiracy theories purporting to explain the June 1967 defeat. Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, a confidant of Nasser, claims that President Lyndon B. Johnson was obsessed with Nasser and that Johnson conspired with Israel to bring him down.[164] The reported Israeli troop movements seemed all the more threatening because they were perceived in the context of a US conspiracy against Egypt. Salah Bassiouny of the Foreign ministry, claims that Foreign Ministry saw the reported Israeli troop movements as credible because Israel had reached the level at which it could find strategic alliance with the United States.[165] During the war, Cairo announced that American and British planes were participating in the Israeli attack. Nasser broke off diplomatic relations following this allegation. Nasser's image of the United States was such that he might well have believed the worst. However Anwar Sadat implied that Nasser used this deliberate conspiracy in order to accuse the United States as a political cover-up for domestic consumption.[166] Lutfi Abd al-Qadir, the director of Radio Cairo during the late 1960s, who accompanied Nasser to his visits in Moscow, had his conspiracy theory that both the Soviets and the Western powers wanted to topple Nasser or to reduce his influence.[167]

USS Liberty incident

On 8 June 1967, USS Liberty, a United States Navy electronic intelligence vessel sailing 13 nautical miles (24 km) off Arish (just outside Egypt's territorial waters), was attacked by Israeli jets and torpedo boats, nearly sinking the ship, killing 34 sailors and wounding 171. Israel said the attack was a case of mistaken identity, and that the ship had been misidentified as the Egyptian vessel El Quseir. Israel apologized for the mistake, and paid compensation to the victims or their families, and to the United States for damage to the ship. After an investigation, the U.S. accepted the explanation that the incident was friendly fire and the issue was closed by the exchange of diplomatic notes in 1987. Others however, including the then United States Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Chief of Naval Operations at the time, Admiral Thomas Moorer, some survivors of the attack and intelligence officials familiar with transcripts of intercepted signals on the day, have rejected these conclusions as unsatisfactory and maintain that the attack was made in the knowledge that the ship was American.[168][169][170]


The political importance of the 1967 War was immense. Israel demonstrated again that it was able and willing to initiate strategic strikes that could change the regional balance. Egypt and Syria learned tactical lessons and would launch an attack in 1973 in an attempt to reclaim their lost territory.[171]

After following other Arab nations in declaring war, Mauritania remained in a declared state of war with Israel until about 1999.[172] The United States imposed an embargo on new arms agreements to all Middle East countries, including Israel. The embargo remained in force until the end of the year, despite urgent Israeli requests to lift it.[173]

Israel and Zionism

Following the war, Israel experienced a wave of national euphoria, and the press praised the military's performance for weeks afterward. New "victory coins" were minted to celebrate. In addition, the world's interest in Israel grew, and the country's economy, which had been in crisis before the war, flourished due to an influx of tourists and donations, as well as the extraction of oil from the Sinai's wells.[174] The aftermath of the war also saw a baby boom, which lasted for four years.[175]

The aftermath of the war is also of religious significance. Under Jordanian rule, Jews were expelled from Jerusalem and were effectively barred from visiting the Western Wall, despite Article VIII of the 1949 Armistice Agreement demanded Israeli Jewish access to the Western Wall.[176][177] Jewish holy sites were not maintained, and Jewish cemeteries had been desecrated. After the annexation to Israel, each religious group was granted administration over its holy sites. For the first time since 1948, Jews could visit the Old City of Jerusalem and pray at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray, an event celebrated every year during Yom Yerushalayim.[178] Despite the Temple Mount being the most important holy site in Jewish tradition, the al-Aqsa Mosque has been under sole administration of the Jordanian Muslim Waqf, and Jews are barred from praying on the Temple Mount, although they are allowed to visit it.[179][180] In Hebron, Jews gained access to the Cave of the Patriarchs – the second most holy site in Judaism, after the Temple Mount – for the first time since the 14th century (previously Jews were allowed to pray only at the entrance).[181] Other Jewish holy sites, such as Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem and Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, also became accessible.[182][183]

The war inspired the Jewish diaspora, which was swept up in overwhelming support for Israel. According to Michael Oren, the war enabled American Jews to "walk with their backs straight and flex their political muscle as never before. American Jewish organizations which had previously kept Israel at arms length suddenly proclaimed their Zionism."[184] Thousands of Jewish immigrants arrived from Western countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, and South Africa after the war. Many of them returned to their countries of origin after a few years; one survey found that 58% of American Jews who immigrated to Israel between 1961 and 1972 returned to the US. Nevertheless, immigration to Israel of Jews from Western countries, which was previously only a trickle, was a significant force for the first time.[185][186] Most notably, the war stirred Zionist passions among Jews in the Soviet Union, who had by that time been forcibly assimilated. Many Soviet Jews subsequently applied for exit visas and began protesting for their right to immigrate to Israel. Following diplomatic pressure from the West, the Soviet government began granting exit visas to Jews in growing numbers. From 1970 to 1988, some 291,000 Soviet Jews were granted exit visas, of whom 165,000 immigrated to Israel and 126,000 immigrated to the United States.[187] The great rise in Jewish pride in the wake of Israel's victory also fueled the beginnings of the baal teshuva movement.[188][189][190] The war gave impetus to a Chabad campaign in which the Lubavitcher Rebbe directed his followers to put tefillin on Jewish men around world.[191][192]

Jews in Arab countries

In the Arab nations, populations of minority Jews faced persecution and expulsion following the Israeli victory. According to historian and ambassador Michael Oren:

Mobs attacked Jewish neighborhoods in Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco, burning synagogues and assaulting residents. A pogrom in Tripoli, Libya, left 18 Jews dead and 25 injured; the survivors were herded into detention centers. Of Egypt's 4,000 Jews, 800 were arrested, including the chief rabbis of both Cairo and Alexandria, and their property sequestered by the government. The ancient communities of Damascus and Baghdad were placed under house arrest, their leaders imprisoned and fined. A total of 7,000 Jews were expelled, many with merely a satchel.[193]

Antisemitism against Jews in Communist countries

Following the war, a series of antisemitic purges began in Communist countries.[194][195] Some 11,200 Jews from Poland immigrated to Israel during the 1968 Polish political crisis and the following year.[196]

War of Attrition

Following the war, Egypt initiated clashes along the Suez Canal in what became known as the War of Attrition.[197]

Peace and diplomacy

Following the war, Israel made an offer for peace that included the return of most of the recently captured territories. According to Chaim Herzog:

On June 19, 1967, the National Unity Government [of Israel] voted unanimously to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace agreements. The Golans would have to be demilitarized and special arrangement would be negotiated for the Straits of Tiran. The government also resolved to open negotiations with King Hussein of Jordan regarding the Eastern border.[198]

The 19 June Israeli cabinet decision did not include the Gaza Strip, and left open the possibility of Israel permanently acquiring parts of the West Bank. On 25–27 June, Israel incorporated East Jerusalem together with areas of the West Bank to the north and south into Jerusalem's new municipal boundaries.

The Israeli decision was to be conveyed to the Arab nations by the United States. The U.S. was informed of the decision, but not that it was to transmit it. There is no evidence of receipt from Egypt or Syria, and some historians claim that they may never have received the offer.[199]

In September, the Khartoum Arab Summit resolved that there would be "no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel". However, as Avraham Sela notes, the Khartoum conference effectively marked a shift in the perception of the conflict by the Arab states away from one centered on the question of Israel's legitimacy, toward one focusing on territories and boundaries. This was shown on 22 November when Egypt and Jordan accepted United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.[200] Nasser forestalled any movement toward direct negotiations with Israel. In dozens of speeches and statements, Nasser posited the equation that any direct peace talks with Israel were tantamount to surrender.[201]

After the war, the entire Soviet bloc of Eastern Europe (with the exception of Romania) broke off diplomatic relations with Israel.[202]

The 1967 War laid the foundation for future discord in the region, as the Arab states resented Israel's victory and did not want to give up territory.

On 22 November 1967, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 242, the "land for peace" formula, which called for Israeli withdrawal "from territories occupied" in 1967 and "the termination of all claims or states of belligerency". Resolution 242 recognized the right of "every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1978, after the Camp David Accords. In the summer of 2005, Israel withdrew all military forces and evacuated all civilians from the Gaza Strip. Its army frequently re-enters Gaza for military operations and still retains control of the seaports, airports and most of the border crossings.

Occupied territories and Arab displaced populations

There was extensive displacement of populations in the occupied territories: of about one million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, 300,000 (according to the United States Department of State)[203] either fled, or were displaced from their homes, to Jordan, where they contributed to the growing unrest.[204] The other 700,000[205] remained. In the Golan Heights, an estimated 80,000 Syrians fled.[206] Israel allowed only the inhabitants of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to receive full Israeli citizenship, applying its law, administration and jurisdiction to these territories in 1967 and 1981, respectively. The vast majority of the populations in both territories declined to take citizenship. See also Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Golan Heights.

In his book Righteous Victims (1999), Israeli "New Historian" Benny Morris writes:

In three villages southwest of Jerusalem and at Qalqilya, houses were destroyed "not in battle, but as punishment ... and in order to chase away the inhabitants ... contrary to government ... policy," Dayan wrote in his memoirs. In Qalqilya, about a third of the homes were razed and about 12,000 inhabitants were evicted, though many then camped out in the environs. The evictees in both areas were allowed to stay and later were given cement and tools by the Israeli authorities to rebuild at least some of their dwellings.

But many thousands of other Palestinians now took to the roads. Perhaps as many as seventy thousand, mostly from the Jericho area, fled during the fighting; tens of thousands more left over the following months. Altogether, about one-quarter of the population of the West Bank, about 200–250,000 people, went into exile. ... They simply walked to the Jordan River crossings and made their way on foot to the East Bank. It is unclear how many were intimidated or forced out by the Israeli troops and how many left voluntarily, in panic and fear. There is some evidence of IDF soldiers going around with loudspeakers ordering West Bankers to leave their homes and cross the Jordan. Some left because they had relatives or sources of livelihood on the East Bank and feared being permanently cut off.

Thousands of Arabs were taken by bus from East Jerusalem to the Allenby Bridge, though there is no evidence of coercion. The free Israeli-organized transportation, which began on June 11, 1967, went on for about a month. At the bridge they had to sign a document stating that they were leaving of their own free will. Perhaps as many as 70,000 people emigrated from the Gaza Strip to Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world.

On July 2, the Israeli government announced that it would allow the return of those 1967 refugees who desired to do so, but no later than August 10, later extended to September 13. The Jordanian authorities probably pressured many of the refugees, who constituted an enormous burden, to sign up to return. In practice only 14,000 of the 120,000 who applied were allowed by Israel back into the West Bank by the beginning of September. After that, only a trickle of "special cases" were allowed back, perhaps 3,000 in all. (328–29)

In addition, between 80,000 and 110,000 Syrians fled the Golan Heights,[207] of which about 20,000 were from the city of Quneitra.[208] According to more recent research by the Israeli daily Haaretz, a total of 130,000 Syrian inhabitants fled or were expelled from the territory, most of them pushed out by the Israeli army.[209]

Long term

Israel made peace with Egypt following the Camp David Accords of 1978 and completed a staged withdrawal from the Sinai in 1982. However, the position of the other occupied territories has been a long-standing and bitter cause of conflict for decades between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Arab world in general. Jordan and Egypt eventually withdrew their claims to sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, respectively. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.

After the Israeli occupation of these territories, the Gush Emunim movement launched a large settlement effort in these areas to secure a permanent foothold. There are now hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. They are a matter of controversy within Israel, both among the general population and within different political administrations, supporting them to varying degrees. Palestinians consider them a provocation. The Israeli settlements in Gaza were evacuated in August 2005 as a part of Israel's disengagement from Gaza.

See also


1. ^ Photograph:

It was twenty minutes after the capture of the Western Wall that David Rubinger shot his "signature" photograph of three Israeli paratroopers gazing in wonder up at the wall [Kaniuk, Yoram. "June 10, 1967 – Israeli paratroopers reach the Western Wall". The Digital Journalist. Retrieved 2 December 2008.]. As part of the terms for his access to the front lines, Rubinger handed the negatives to the Israeli government, who then distributed this image widely. Although he was displeased with the violation of his copyright, the widespread use of his photo made it famous [Silver, Eric (16 February 2006). "David Rubinger in the picture". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 17 July 2010.], and it is now considered a defining image of the conflict and one of the best-known in the history of Israel [Urquhart, Conal (6 May 2007). "Six days in June". The Observer. Retrieved 2 December 2008.]

3.^ Both Egypt and Israel announced that they had been attacked by the other country.

  1. Gideon Rafael [Israeli Ambassador to the UN] received a message from the Israeli foreign office: "Inform immediately the President of the Sec. Co. that Israel is now engaged in repelling Egyptian land and air forces." At 3:10 am, Rafael woke ambassador Hans Tabor, the Danish President of the Security Council for June, with the news that Egyptian forces had "moved against Israel". Bailey 1990, p. 225.
  2. [At Security Council meeting of 5 June], both Israel and Egypt claimed to be repelling an invasion by the other. Bailey 1990, p. 225.
  3. "Egyptian sources claimed that Israel had initiated hostilities [...] but Israeli officials – Eban and Evron – swore that Egypt had fired first" Oren 2002, p. 196.
  4. "Gideon Rafael phoned Danish ambassador Hans Tabor, Security Council president for the month of June, and informed him that Israel was responding to a 'cowardly and treacherous' attack from Egypt..." Oren, p. 198.

4. ^ Lenczowski 1990, pp. 105–15, Citing Moshe Dayan, Story of My Life, and Nadav Safran, From War to War: The Arab–Israeli Confrontation, 1948–1967, p. 375

Israel clearly did not want the US government to know too much about its dispositions for attacking Syria, initially planned for June 8, but postponed for 24 hours. It should be pointed out that the attack on the Liberty occurred on June 8, whereas on June 9 at 3 am, Syria announced its acceptance of the cease-fire. Despite this, at 7 am, that is, four hours later, Israel's minister of defense, Moshe Dayan, "gave the order to go into action against Syria.

  1. ^ Shlaim writes: “To understand Hussein’s conduct during the June 1967 War it is essential to recall that he had handed over command of his army to Egypt under the terms of his pact with Nasser. On 1 June, General Riad arrived in Amman and assumed command of the Jordanian armed forces.”[93]
  2. ^ On the initial Jordanian attack, Shlaim writes: “The cable was from First Vice-President and Deputy Supreme Commander Field Marshal Abd al-Hakim Amer. Amer was a nincompoop who largely owed his rapid promotion to his friendship with Nasser... He was inexperienced in military affairs, impulsive, and prone to wishful thinking... Amer’s cable to Riad was a pack of lies... On the basis of these alleged successes, Amer ordered Riad to open a new front against the enemy and launch offensive operations. By the time Hussein arrived at the headquarters, Riad had already given the orders for the artillery to move to the front lines and bombard Israeli air bases and other targets; an infantry brigade to occupy the Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem; the two Egyptian commando battalions to infiltrate enemy territory from the West Bank at dusk; and the air force to be put on combat alert and commence air strikes immediately. Although these decisions were made in his absence, Hussein made no attempt to cancel them or to delay the opening of fire until the information from Cairo could be checked. Jordan was thus committed to war by the decision of an Egyptian general who was acting on the orders of a serial blunderer in Cairo.”[95]


  1. ^ Krauthammer 2007.
  2. ^ a b Oren, p. 237
  3. ^ "Milestones: 1961–1968". Office of the Historian. Archived from the original on 23 October 2018. Retrieved 30 November 2018. Between June 5 and June 10, Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan, and Syria and occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights
  4. ^ a b Weill, Sharon (2007). "The judicial arm of the occupation: the Israeli military courts in the occupied territories". International Review of the Red Cross. 89 (866): 401. doi:10.1017/s1816383107001142. ISSN 1816-3831. On 7 June 1967, the day the occupation started, Military Proclamation No. 2 was issued, endowing the area commander with full legislative, executive, and judicial authorities over the West Bank and declaring that the law in force prior to the occupation remained in force as long as it did not contradict new military orders.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. ^ Oren, Michael B. (2002). Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oxford University Press. p. 171. ISBN 9780195151749.
  6. ^ Tucker, Spencer C. (2015). Wars That Changed History: 50 of the World's Greatest Conflicts: 50 of the World's Greatest Conflicts. ABC-CLIO. pp. 540–541. ISBN 9781610697866.
  7. ^ a b Tucker 2004, p. 176.
  8. ^ a b c Griffin 2006, p. 336.
  9. ^ a b Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2008.
  10. ^ a b c Gawrych 2000, p. 3
  11. ^ Zaloga, Steven (1981). Armour of the Middle East Wars 1948–78 (Vanguard). Osprey Publishing.
  12. ^ a b El Gamasy 1993 p. 79.
  13. ^ a b Herzog 1982, p. 165.
  14. ^ a b c d Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2004
  15. ^ a b The Six Day War 1967: Jordan and Syria. Simon Dunstan. Bloomsbury Publishing. 20 February 2013. ISBN 9781472801975. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  16. ^ Warfare since the Second World War, By Klaus Jürgen Gantzel, Torsten Schwinghammer, p. 253
  17. ^ Wars in the Third World since 1945, (NY 1991) Guy Arnold
  18. ^ a b Tucker, Spencer C. (2010). The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars. The United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Conflicts. ABC-CLIO. p. 1198. ISBN 978-1-85109-947-4.
  19. ^ a b Woolf, Alex (2012). Arab–Israeli War Since 1948. Heinemann-Raintree. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-4329-6004-9.
  20. ^ a b Sachar, Howard M. (2013). A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. Random House. ISBN 978-0-8041-5049-1.
  21. ^ a b c Oren, pp. 185–87
  22. ^ Gerhard, William D.; Millington, Henry W. (1981). "Attack on a SIGINT Collector, the USS Liberty" (PDF). NSA History Report, U.S. Cryptologic History series. National Security Agency. partially declassified 1999, 2003.
  23. ^ Both USA and Israel officially attributed the USS Liberty incident as being due to mistaken identification.
  24. ^ a b Ginor, Isabella and Remez, Gideon: The Soviet-Israeli War, 1967–1973: The USSR's Military Intervention in the Egyptian-Israeli Conflict, p. 23
  25. ^ Major General Indar Jit Rikhye (28 October 2013). The Sinai Blunder: Withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force Leading... Taylor & Francis. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-1-136-27985-0.
  26. ^ Mutawi 2002, p. 183: “It is clear that King Hussein joined forces with Egypt in the knowledge that there was no possibility of overrunning Israel. Instead he sought to preserve the status quo. He believed that he could not stand aside at a time when Arab co-operation and solidarity were vital and he was convinced that any Arab confrontation with Israel would be greatly enhanced if the Arabs fought as a unified body. The plan of action devised at his meeting with Nasser in Cairo on 30 May was established on this basis. It was envisaged that Jordan would not take an offensive role but would tie down a proportion of Israel's forces and so prevent it from using its full weight against Egypt and Syria. By forcing Israel to fight a war on three fronts simultaneously King Hussein believed that the Arabs stood a chance of preventing it from making any territorial gains while allowing the Arabs a chance of gaining a political victory, which may, eventually, lead to peace. King Hussein was also convinced that even if Jordan did not participate in the war Israel would take the opportunity to seize the West Bank once it had dealt with Syria and Egypt. He decided that for this reason the wisest course of action was to bring Jordan into the total Arab effort. This would provide his army with two elements which were essential for its efficient operation – additional troops and air cover. When King Hussein met Nasser in Cairo it was agreed that these requirements would be met.”
  27. ^ Ami Gluska (12 February 2007). The Israeli Military and the Origins of the 1967 War: Government, Armed Forces and Defence Policy 1963–67. Routledge. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-134-16377-9. On the evening of 22 May, President Gamal Abdul Nasser, accompanied by ... Egyptian air force base at Bir Gafgafa in Sinai and addressed the pilots and officers. ... 'The Jews are threatening war – we say to them ahlan wa-sahlan (welcome)!
  28. ^ "First United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF I) – Background (Full text)". Rauschning, Wiesbrock & Lailach 1997, p. 30; Sachar 2007, pp. 504, 507–08. Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  29. ^ Some sources date the agreement to 4 November, others to 7 November. Most sources simply say "November". Gawrych (2000) p. 5
  30. ^ Schiff, Zeev, History of the Israeli Army, Straight Arrow Books (1974) p. 145
  31. ^ Churchill & Churchill, The Six Day War, Houghton Mifflin Company (1967) p. 21
  32. ^ Pollack 2004, p. 290.
  33. ^ Segev, 2007, pp.149–52.
  34. ^ Hart, 1989 p. 226
  35. ^ Oren 2002/2003, p. 312; Burrowes & Douglas 1972, pp. 224–25
  36. ^ Shemesh, Moshe (2007). Arab Politics, Palestinian Nationalism and the Six Day War: The Crystallization of Arab Strategy and Nasir's Descent to War, 1957–1967. Sussex Academic Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-84519-188-7. Archived from the original on 1 January 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2015. The Jordanian leadership's appraisal of the repercussions of the Samu' raid was a major factor in King Husayn's decision to join Nasir's war chariot by signing a joint defense pact with Egypt on May 30, 1967. This was the determining factor for Jordan's participation in the war that would soon break out.... Convinced after the Samu' raid that Israel's strategic goal was the West Bank, Husayn allied himself to Nasir out of a genuine fear that, in a comprehensive war, Israel would invade the West Bank whether or not Jordan was an active participant.
  37. ^ Tessler, Mark (1994). A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. John Wiley & Sons. p. 378. ISBN 978-0-253-20873-6. Archived from the original on 1 January 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2015. Towards the War of June 1967: Growing tensions in the region were clearly visible long before Israel's November attack on Samu and two other West Bank towns. An escalating spiral of raid and retaliation had already been set in motion...
  38. ^ Herzog 1982, p. 148
  39. ^ John Quigley, The Six-Day War and Israeli Self-Defense: Questioning the Legal Basis for Preventive War, Cambridge University Press, 2013, p. 32.
  40. ^ Shlaim (2007) p. 238
  41. ^ Mutawi 2002, p. 93: "Although Eshkol denounced the Egyptians, his response to this development was a model of moderation. His speech on 21 May demanded that Nasser withdraw his forces from Sinai but made no mention of the removal of UNEF from the Straits nor of what Israel would do if they were closed to Israeli shipping. The next day Nasser announced to an astonished world that henceforth the Straits were, indeed, closed to all Israeli ships"
  42. ^ Cohen, Raymond. (1988), p. 12
  43. ^ "Interference, by armed force, with ships of Israeli flag exercising free and innocent passage in the Gulf of Aqaba and through the Straits of Tiran will be regarded by Israel as an attack entitling it to exercise its inherent right of self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter and to take all such measures as are necessary to ensure the free and innocent passage of its ships in the Gulf and in the Straits." "Statement to the General Assembly by Foreign Minister Meir, 1 March 1957". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs – The State of Israel. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  44. ^ Morris, Benny (1999). Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist–Arab Conflict, 1881–1998. Random House. p. 306. ISBN 978-0-679-42120-7.
  45. ^ Gat, Moshe (2003). Britain and the Conflict in the Middle East, 1964–1967: The Coming of the Six-Day War. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-275-97514-2.
  46. ^ Colonomos, Ariel (2013). The Gamble of War: Is it Possible to Justify Preventive War?. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-137-01894-6.
  47. ^ "LBJ Pledges U.S. to Peace Effort Archived 17 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine", Eugene Register-Guard (19 June 1967). See also Johnson, Lyndon. "Address at the State Department's Foreign Policy Conference for Educators" Archived 27 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine (19 June 1967).
  48. ^ Churchill po. 52 and 77
  49. ^ Reston, James (24 May 1967). "Washington: Nasser's Reckless Maneuvers; Cairo and Moscow The U.S. Commitment The Staggering Economy Moscow's Role". The New York Times. p. 46. Archived from the original on 6 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  50. ^ Quigley, The Six-Day War and Israeli Self-Defence, p. 60. (Cambridge University Press)
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  52. ^ Stone 2004, p. 217.
  53. ^ Pollack 2004, p. 294.
  54. ^ a b Pollack 2004, p. 59.
  55. ^ Ehteshami and Hinnebusch 1997, p. 76.
  56. ^ Shlaim; Louis (2012) pp. 86–87: “Syria was severely unprepared for war. Despite the bombastic and jingoistic rhetoric, the Bathist regime viewed its actions against Israel as low-level warfare that was not meant to lead to all-out war. The months and years prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war were filled with military purges associated with actual and attempted coups that decimated and further fractured the military and party, resulting in an inexperienced officer corps as well as a deep distrust between the rank and file and officers in the army. In addition, there were uprisings by discontented elements of the Syrian population, less than satisfactory encounters with Israeli forces, and lukewarm Soviet support... One would be hard-pressed to find a military less prepared for war with a clearly superior foe.”
  57. ^ Mutawi 2002, p. 42.
  58. ^ a b Segev 1967, pp. 82, 175–91.
  59. ^ Pollack 2004, pp. 293–94.
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  68. ^ Bowen 2003, p. 99 (author interview with Moredechai Hod, 7 May 2002).
  69. ^ a b Oren 2002, electronic edition, Section "The War: Day One, June 5".
  70. ^ Bowen 2003, pp. 114–15 (author interview with General Salahadeen Hadidi who presided over the first court martial of the heads of the air force and the air defence system after the war).
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  72. ^ Pollack 2005, p. 474.
  73. ^ Oren, 176, says 282 out of 420. Morris, 318, says 304 out of 419. Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict (Indiana, 1994), p. 396, says over 350 planes were destroyed.
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  97. ^ Donald Neff (1984). Warriors for Jerusalem: the six days that changed the Middle East. Linden Press/Simon & Schuster. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-671-45485-2. Retrieved 27 October 2015. Odd Bull: "[the message] was a threat, pure and simple and it is not the normal practice of the U.N. to pass on threats from one government to another." However, as "…this message seemed so important… we quickly sent it…and King Hussein received the message before 10:30 the same morning."
  98. ^ a b Shlaim (2000). The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. pp. 243–244. In May–June 1967 Eshkol's government did everything in its power to confine the confrontation to the Egyptian front. Eshkol and his colleagues took into account the possibility of some fighting on the Syrian front. But they wanted to avoid having a clash with Jordan and the inevitable complications of having to deal with the predominantly Palestinian population of the West Bank. The fighting on the eastern front was initiated by Jordan, not by Israel. King Hussein got carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism. On 30 May he flew to Cairo and signed a defense pact with Nasser. On 5 June, Jordan started shelling the Israeli side in Jerusalem. This could have been interpreted either as a salvo to uphold Jordanian honour or as a declaration of war. Eshkol decided to give King Hussein the benefit of the doubt. Through General Odd Bull, the Norwegian commander of UNTSO, he sent the following message the morning of 5 June: "We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan. However, should Jordan open hostilities, we shall react with all our might, and the king will have to bear the full responsibility of the consequences." King Hussein told General Bull that it was too late; the die was cast.
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  118. ^ a b Mutawi 2002, p. 140: "Shortly after the order for the withdrawal had been issued [10.00 a.m. on 6 June], the Jordanians were informed that the UN Security Council was meeting to consider a resolution for an unconditional ceasefire. On learning of this the Jordanian command decided that the order for withdrawal had been premature, since if a ceasefire went into effect that day they would still be in possession of the West Bank. Consequently, the order was countermanded and those forces which had already withdrawn were asked to return to their original positions... The Security Council ceasefire resolution was passed unanimously at 11.00 p.m. on 6 June. However, Jordan's hope that this would enable it to hold the West Bank was destroyed when Israel continued its offensive. On learning of this Riad once again ordered a complete withdrawal from the West Bank as he feared that failure to do so would result in the annihilation of the remains of the Jordanian Army. By nightfall on 7 June most elements of the army had withdrawn to the East Bank and by mid-day on 8 June Jordan was once again the Transjordan of King Abdullah, while Israel completed total occupation of historical Palestine."
  119. ^ Shlaim 2001, p. 246.
  120. ^ a b Shlaim; Louis (2012) pp. 92–93: "Except for some sporadic Syrian shelling of Israeli settlements along the border, Syria stayed pretty much out of the war for the first four days... the Syrians were confused by what they slowly learned was the scale of the destruction on the Egyptian front. They were astounded. They did not understand what was going on, nor did they have the military experience and capability, especially in the officer corps, to react to the new situation. With no air support, how could they move forward against Israel? They reasoned that if they sat tight, they could emerge from this with little damage."
  121. ^ Mutawi 2002, p. 182: “When it came to war, Syria stood aside despite its defence pact with Egypt, while Israel overran Gaza, Sinai and the West Bank. Throughout the critical days between 5 and 8 June 1967 the Egyptian political and military leadership begged Syria to fulfil its commitments and to support Jordan's efforts, but it refused to respond even though Jordan had entered the war in the belief that it would be supported by Syria and Egypt.”
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Further reading

  • al-Qusi, Abdallah Ahmad Hamid. (1999). Al-Wisam fi at-Ta'rikh. Cairo: Al-Mu'asasa al-'Arabiya al-Haditha. No ISBN available.
  • Aloni, Shlomo (2001). Arab–Israeli Air Wars 1947–1982. Osprey Aviation. ISBN 1-84176-294-6
  • Alteras, Isaac. (1993). Eisenhower and Israel: U.S.–Israeli Relations, 1953–1960, University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1205-8.
  • Bailey, Sydney (1990). Four Arab–Israeli Wars and the Peace Process. London: The MacMillan Press. ISBN 0-312-04649-9.
  • Bar-On, Mordechai; Morris, Benny & Golani, Motti (2002). "Reassessing Israel's Road to Sinai/Suez, 1956: A "Trialogue"". In Gary A. Olson (ed.), Traditions and Transitions in Israel Studies: Books on Israel, Volume VI (pp. 3–42). SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-5585-8
  • Bar-On, Mordechai (2006). Never-Ending Conflict: Israeli Military History, ISBN 0-275-98158-4
  • Bard, Mitchell G. (2002, 2008). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict. NY: Alpha Books. ISBN 0-02-864410-7. 4th Edition ISBN 1-59257-791-1. Chapter 14, "Six Days to Victory" is reproduced online as The 1967 Six-Day War. at the Jewish Virtual Library of the .
  • Ben-Gurion, David. (1999). Ben-Gurion diary: May–June 1967. Israel Studies 4(2), 199–220.
  • Black, Ian (1992). Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3286-3
  • Bober, Arie (ed.) (1972). The other Israel. Doubleday Anchor. ISBN 0-385-01467-8.
  • Boczek, Boleslaw Adam (2005). International Law: A Dictionary. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5078-8
  • Borowiec, Andrew. (1998). Modern Tunisia: A Democratic Apprenticeship. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-96136-2.
  • Bowen, Jeremy (2003). Six Days: How the 1967 War Shaped the Middle East. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-3095-7
  • Brams, Steven J. & Jeffrey M. Togman. (1998). Camp David: Was the agreement fair? In Paul F. Diehl (Ed.), A Road Map to War: Territorial Dimensions of International Conflict. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 0-8265-1329-8.
  • Brecher, Michael. (1996). Eban and Israeli foreign policy: Diplomacy, war and disengagement. In A Restless Mind: Essays in Honor of Amos Perlmutter, Benjamin Frankel (ed.), pp. 104–117. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-4607-5
  • Bregman, Ahron. (2000). Israel's Wars, 1947–1993. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-21468-8.
  • Bregman, Ahron (2002). Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28716-2
  • Burrowes, Robert & Muzzio, Douglas. (1972). The Road to the Six Day War: Towards an Enumerative History of Four Arab States and Israel, 1965–67. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 16, No. 2, Research Perspectives on the Arab–Israeli Conflict: A Symposium, pp. 211–26.
  • Cohen, Raymond. (1988) Intercultural Communication between Israel and Egypt: Deterrence Failure before the Six-Day war. Review of International Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 1–16
  • Christie, Hazel (1999). Law of the Sea. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-4382-4
  • Churchill, Randolph & Churchill, Winston. (1967). The Six Day War. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-07532-7
  • Colaresi, Michael P. (2005). Scare Tactics: The politics of international rivalry. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-3066-1
  • Eban, Abba (1977). Abba Eban: An Autobiography. Random House. ISBN 0-394-49302-8
  • Ehteshami, Anoushiravan and Hinnebusch, Raymond A. (1997). Syria & Iran: Middle Powers in a Penetrated Regional System. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-15675-0
  • Eshkol, Levi (1967). Prime-Minister Levi Eshkol – His words and his writings. ISA-PMO-PrimeMinisterBureau-000d0t9. Israel Government Archives. Retrieved 6 June 2018.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Feron, James (13 May 1967). "Israelis Ponder Blow at Syrians; Some Leaders Decide That Force is the Only Way to Curtail Terrorism Some Israeli Leaders See Need for Force to Curb Syrians". The New York Times.
  • El-Gamasy, Mohamed Abdel Ghani. (1993). The October War. The American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 977-424-316-1.
  • Gawrych, George W. (2000). The Albatross of Decisive Victory: War and Policy Between Egypt and Israel in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-31302-4. Available in multiple PDF files from the Combat Studies Institute and the Combined Arms Research Library, CSI Publications in parts.
  • Gelpi, Christopher (2002). Power of Legitimacy: Assessing the Role of Norms in Crisis Bargaining. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09248-6
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External links

26 May 1967

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is released

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles, holding marching band instruments and wearing colourful uniforms, stand near a grave covered with flowers that spell "Beatles". Standing behind the band are several dozen famous people.
Studio album by
Released26 May 1967 (1967-05-26)
Recorded6 December 1966 – 21 April 1967
StudioEMI and Regent Sound, London
ProducerGeorge Martin
The Beatles chronology
A Collection of Beatles Oldies
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles
The Beatles North American chronology
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released on 26 May 1967,[nb 1] it spent 27 weeks at number one on the Record Retailer chart in the United Kingdom and 15 weeks at number one on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the United States. It was lauded by critics for its innovations in songwriting, production and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and high art, and for reflecting the interests of contemporary youth and the counterculture. Its release was a defining moment in 1960s pop culture, heralding the Summer of Love, while the album's reception achieved full cultural legitimisation for pop music and recognition for the medium as a genuine art form.

At the end of August 1966, the Beatles permanently retired from touring and pursued individual interests for the next three months. During a return flight to London in November, Paul McCartney had an idea for a song involving an Edwardian military band that formed the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept. Sessions began on 24 November at EMI Studios with compositions inspired by the Beatles' youth, but after pressure from EMI, the songs "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were released as a double A-side single in February 1967 and left off the LP.

The album was loosely conceptualised as a performance by the fictional Sgt. Pepper band, an idea that was conceived after recording the title track. A key work of British psychedelia, it incorporates a range of stylistic influences, including vaudeville, circus, music hall, avant-garde, and Western and Indian classical music. The band continued the technological experimentation marked by their previous album, Revolver, this time without an absolute deadline for completion. With producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick, the group coloured much of the recordings with sound effects and tape manipulation, as exemplified on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" and "A Day in the Life". Recording was completed on 21 April. The cover, which depicts the Beatles posing in front of a tableau of celebrities and historical figures, was designed by the pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

Sgt. Pepper is regarded by musicologists as an early concept album that advanced the roles of sound composition, extended form, psychedelic imagery, record sleeves, and the producer in popular music. The album had an immediate cross-generational impact and was associated with numerous touchstones of the era's youth culture, such as fashion, drugs, mysticism, and a sense of optimism and empowerment. It is considered one of the first art rock LPs, a progenitor to progressive rock, and the start of the album era. In 1968, it won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this honour. In 2003, it was ranked the greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone and was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. It remains one of the best-selling albums of all time and the UK's best-selling studio album, with more than 32 million copies sold worldwide as of 2011.


We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that fucking four little mop-top approach. We were not boys, we were men ... and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers.[2]

Paul McCartney

By 1966, the Beatles had grown weary of live performance.[3] In John Lennon's opinion, they could "send out four waxworks ... and that would satisfy the crowds. Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music anymore. They're just bloody tribal rites."[4] In June that year, two days after finishing the album Revolver, the group set off for a tour that started in West Germany.[5] While in Hamburg they received an anonymous telegram stating: "Do not go to Tokyo. Your life is in danger."[6] The threat was taken seriously in light of the controversy surrounding the tour among Japan's religious and conservative groups, with particular opposition to the Beatles' planned performances at the sacred Nippon Budokan arena.[6] As an added precaution, 35,000 police were mobilised and tasked with protecting the group, who were transported from hotels to concert venues in armoured vehicles.[7] The Beatles then performed in the Philippines, where they were threatened and manhandled by its citizens for not visiting First Lady Imelda Marcos. The group were angry with their manager, Brian Epstein, for insisting on what they regarded as an exhausting and demoralising itinerary.[8]

The group, with disc jockey Jim Stagg, while on their final tour in August 1966

The publication in the US of Lennon's remarks about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus" then embroiled the band in controversy and protest in America's Bible Belt.[9] A public apology eased tensions, but a US tour in August that was marked by reduced ticket sales, relative to the group's record attendances in 1965, and subpar performances proved to be their last.[10] The author Nicholas Schaffner writes:

To the Beatles, playing such concerts had become a charade so remote from the new directions they were pursuing that not a single tune was attempted from the just-released Revolver LP, whose arrangements were for the most part impossible to reproduce with the limitations imposed by their two-guitars-bass-and-drums stage lineup.[11]

On the Beatles' return to England, rumours began to circulate that they had decided to break up.[12] George Harrison informed Epstein that he was leaving the band, but was persuaded to stay on the assurance that there would be no more tours.[9] The group took a three-month break, during which they focused on individual interests.[13] Harrison travelled to India for six weeks to study the sitar under the instruction of Ravi Shankar[14] and develop his interest in Hindu philosophy.[15] Having been the last of the Beatles to concede that their live performances had become futile,[16] Paul McCartney collaborated with Beatles producer George Martin on the soundtrack for the film The Family Way[17] and holidayed in Kenya with Mal Evans, one of the Beatles' tour managers.[18] Lennon acted in the film How I Won the War and attended art showings, such as one at the Indica Gallery where he met his future wife Yoko Ono.[19] Ringo Starr used the break to spend time with his wife Maureen and son Zak.[20]

Inspiration and conception

While in London without his bandmates, McCartney took the hallucinogenic drug LSD (or "acid") for the first time, having long resisted Lennon and Harrison's insistence that he join them and Starr in experiencing its perception-heightening effects.[21][22] According to author Jonathan Gould, this initiation into LSD afforded McCartney the "expansive new sense of possibility" that defined the group's next project, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Gould adds that McCartney's succumbing to peer pressure allowed Lennon "to play the role of psychedelic guide" to his songwriting partner, thereby facilitating a closer collaboration between the two than had been evident since early in the Beatles' career.[23] For his part, Lennon had turned deeply introspective during the filming of How I Won the War in southern Spain in September 1966. His anxiety over his and the Beatles' future was reflected in "Strawberry Fields Forever",[24] a song that provided the initial theme, regarding a Liverpool childhood, of the new album.[25] On his return to London, Lennon embraced the city's arts culture, of which McCartney was a part,[26] and shared his bandmate's interest in avant-garde and electronic-music composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage and Luciano Berio.[27][28]

In November, during his and Evans' return flight from Kenya, McCartney had an idea for a song that eventually formed the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept.[14] His idea involved an Edwardian-era military band, for which Evans invented a name in the style of contemporary San Francisco-based groups such as Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service.[29][nb 2] In February 1967, McCartney suggested that the new album should represent a performance by the fictional band.[31] This alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically by releasing them from their image as Beatles.[32] Martin recalled that the concept was not discussed at the start of the sessions,[33] but it subsequently gave the album "a life of its own".[34]

Portions of Sgt. Pepper reflect the Beatles' general immersion in the blues, Motown and other American popular musical traditions.[35] The author Ian MacDonald writes that when reviewing their rivals' recent work in late 1966, the Beatles identified the most significant LP as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, which Brian Wilson, the band's leader, had created in response to the Beatles' Rubber Soul.[36] McCartney was highly impressed with the "harmonic structures" and choice of instruments used on Pet Sounds, and said that these elements encouraged him to think the Beatles could "get further out" than the Beach Boys had.[37] He identified Pet Sounds as his main musical inspiration for Sgt. Pepper, adding that "[we] nicked a few ideas",[38] although he felt it lacked the avant-garde quality he was seeking.[39] Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention has also been cited as having influenced Sgt. Pepper.[40] According to the biographer Philip Norman, during the recording sessions McCartney repeatedly stated: "This is our Freak Out!"[41] The music journalist Chet Flippo stated that McCartney was inspired to record a concept album after hearing Freak Out![40]

Indian music was another touchstone on Sgt. Pepper, principally for Lennon and Harrison.[42] In a 1967 interview, Harrison said that the Beatles' ongoing success had encouraged them to continue developing musically and that, given their standing, "We can do things that please us without conforming to the standard pop idea. We are not only involved in pop music, but all music."[43] McCartney envisioned the Beatles' alter egos being able to "do a bit of B.B. King, a bit of Stockhausen, a bit of Albert Ayler, a bit of Ravi Shankar, a bit of Pet Sounds, a bit of the Doors".[44] He saw the group as "pushing frontiers" similar to other composers of the time, even though the Beatles did not "necessarily like what, say, Berio was doing".[45]

Recording and production

Recording history

A colour image of a large room with a piano in the middle
Abbey Road Studio Two, where nearly every track on Sgt. Pepper was recorded[46]

Sessions began on 24 November 1966 in Studio Two at EMI Studios (subsequently Abbey Road Studios), marking the first time that the Beatles had come together since September.[47] Afforded the luxury of a nearly limitless recording budget, and with no absolute deadline for completion,[48] the band booked open-ended sessions that started at 7 pm and allowed them to work as late as they wanted.[36] They began with "Strawberry Fields Forever", followed by two other songs that were thematically linked to their childhoods: "When I'm Sixty-Four", the first session for which took place on 6 December,[49] and "Penny Lane".[50]

"Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were subsequently released as a double A-side in February 1967 after EMI and Epstein pressured Martin for a single.[51] When it failed to reach number one in the UK, British press agencies speculated that the group's run of success might have ended, with headlines such as "Beatles Fail to Reach the Top", "First Time in Four Years" and "Has the Bubble Burst?"[52] In keeping with the band's approach to their previously issued singles, the songs were then excluded from Sgt. Pepper.[53] Martin later described the decision to drop these two songs as "the biggest mistake of my professional life".[54] In his judgment, "Strawberry Fields Forever", which he and the band spent an unprecedented 55 hours of studio time recording, "set the agenda for the whole album".[55] He explained: "It was going to be a record ... [with songs that] couldn't be performed live: they were designed to be studio productions and that was the difference."[56] McCartney declared: "Now our performance is that record."[56]

Music papers started to slag us off ... because [Sgt. Pepper] took five months to record, and I remember the great glee seeing in one of the papers how the Beatles have dried up ... and I was sitting rubbing my hands, saying "You just wait."[57]

Paul McCartney

According to the musicologist Walter Everett, Sgt. Pepper marks the beginning of McCartney's ascendancy as the Beatles' dominant creative force. He wrote more than half of the album's material while asserting increasing control over the recording of his compositions.[25][nb 3] In an effort to get the right sound, the Beatles attempted numerous re-takes of McCartney's song "Getting Better". When the decision was made to re-record the basic track, Starr was summoned to the studio, but called off soon afterwards as the focus switched from rhythm to vocal tracking.[59] Much of the bass guitar on the album was mixed upfront.[60] Preferring to overdub his bass part last, McCartney tended to play other instruments when recording a song's backing track. This approach afforded him the time to devise bass lines that were melodically adventurous – one of the qualities he especially admired in Wilson's work on Pet Sounds – and complemented the song's final arrangement.[61][nb 4] McCartney played keyboard instruments such as piano, grand piano and Lowrey organ, in addition to electric guitar on some songs, while Martin variously contributed on Hohner Pianet, harpsichord and harmonium.[64] Lennon's songs similarly showed a preference for keyboard instruments.[25][nb 5]

A colour image of the façade of a brick building that is painted white
Abbey Road Studios (formerly EMI Studios) in 2005

Although Harrison's role as lead guitarist was limited during the sessions, Everett considers that "his contribution to the album is strong in several ways."[68] He provided Indian instrumentation in the form of sitar, tambura and swarmandal,[69][70] and Martin credited him with being the most committed of the Beatles in striving for new sounds.[71][nb 6] Starr's adoption of loose calfskin heads for his tom-toms ensured his drum kit had a deeper timbre than he had previously achieved with plastic heads.[68] As on Revolver,[73] the Beatles increasingly used session musicians, particularly for classical-inspired arrangements.[37] Norman comments that Lennon's prominent vocal on some of McCartney's songs "hugely enhanced their atmosphere", particularly "Lovely Rita".[74]

Within an hour of completing the last overdubs on the album's songs, on 20 April 1967, the group returned to Harrison's "Only a Northern Song", the basic track of which they had taped in February.[75] The Beatles overdubbed random sounds and instrumentation before submitting it as the first of four new songs they were contracted to supply to United Artists for inclusion in the animated film Yellow Submarine.[76] In author Mark Lewisohn's description, it was a "curious" session, but one that demonstrated the Beatles' "tremendous appetite for recording".[75] During the Sgt. Pepper sessions, the band also recorded "Carnival of Light", a McCartney-led experimental piece created for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, held at the Roundhouse Theatre on 28 January and 4 February.[77] The album was completed on 21 April with the recording of random noises and voices that were included on the run-out groove, preceded by a high-pitched tone that could be heard by dogs but was inaudible to most human ears.[78]

Studio ambience and happenings

The Beatles sought to inject an atmosphere of celebration into the recording sessions.[79] Weary of the bland look inside EMI, they introduced psychedelic lighting to the studio space,[80] including a device on which five red fluorescent tubes were fixed to a microphone stand, a lava lamp, a red darkroom lamp, and a stroboscope, the last of which they soon abandoned.[81] Harrison later said the studio became the band's clubhouse for Sgt. Pepper;[82] David Crosby, Mick Jagger and Donovan were among the musician friends who visited them there.[68][nb 7] The band members also dressed up in psychedelic fashions,[81] leading one session trumpeter to wonder whether they were in costume for a new film.[85] Drug-taking was prevalent during the sessions,[81] with Martin later recalling that the group would steal away to "have something".[86][nb 8]

The 10 February session for orchestral overdubs on "A Day in the Life" was staged as a happening typical of the London avant-garde scene.[91][92] The Beatles invited numerous friends[93] and the session players wore formal dinner-wear augmented with fancy-dress props.[94][95] Overseen by NEMS employee Tony Bramwell, the proceedings were filmed on seven handheld cameras,[96] with the band doing some of the filming.[97] Following this event, the group considered making a television special based on the album.[93] Each of the songs was to be represented with a clip directed by a different director,[98] but the cost of recording Sgt. Pepper made the idea prohibitive to EMI.[99][nb 9] For the 15 March session for "Within You Without You", Studio Two was transformed with Indian carpets placed on the walls, dimmed lighting and burning incense to evoke the requisite Indian mood.[101] Lennon described the session as a "great swinging evening" with "400 Indian fellas" among the guests.[102]

The Beatles took an acetate disc of the completed album to the flat of American singer Cass Elliot, off King's Road in Chelsea.[103] There, at six in the morning, they played it at full volume with speakers set in open window frames. The group's friend and former press agent, Derek Taylor, remembered that residents of the neighbourhood opened their windows and listened without complaint to what they understood to be unreleased Beatles music.[104]

Technical aspects

A colour image of a grey recording machine
One of EMI's Studer J37 four-track tape recorders, the machines used to record Sgt. Pepper

In his book on ambient music, The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Moby, Mark Prendergast views Sgt. Pepper as the Beatles' "homage" to Stockhausen and Cage, adding that its "rich, tape-manipulated sound" shows the influence of electronic and experimental composer Pierre Schaeffer.[105] Martin recalled that Sgt. Pepper "grew naturally out of Revolver", marking "an era of almost continuous technological experimentation".[106] The album was recorded using four-track equipment, since eight-track tape recorders were not operational in commercial studios in London until late 1967.[107] As with previous Beatles albums, the Sgt. Pepper recordings made extensive use of reduction mixing, a technique in which one to four tracks from one recorder are mixed and dubbed down onto a master four-track machine, enabling the engineers to give the group a virtual multitrack studio.[108] EMI's Studer J37 four-track machines were well suited to reduction mixing, as the high quality of the recordings that they produced minimised the increased noise associated with the process.[109] When recording the orchestra for "A Day in the Life", Martin synchronised a four-track recorder playing the Beatles' backing track to another one taping the orchestral overdub. The engineer Ken Townsend devised a method for accomplishing this by using a 50 Hz control signal between the two machines.[110]

Listening to each stage of their recording, once they've done the first couple of tracks, it's often hard to see what they're still looking for, it sounds so complete. Often the final complicated, well-layered version seems to have drowned the initial simple melody. But they know it's not right, even if they can't put it into words. Their dedication is impressive, gnawing away at the same song for stretches of ten hours each.[111]

Hunter Davies, 1968

The production on "Strawberry Fields Forever" was especially complex, involving the innovative splicing of two takes that were recorded in different tempos and pitches.[112][113] Emerick remembers that during the recording of Revolver, "we had got used to being asked to do the impossible, and we knew that the word 'no' didn't exist in the Beatles' vocabulary."[114] A key feature of Sgt. Pepper is Martin and Emerick's liberal use of signal processing to shape the sound of the recording, which included the application of dynamic range compression, reverberation and signal limiting.[115] Relatively new modular effects units were used, such as running voices and instruments through a Leslie speaker.[116] Several innovative production techniques feature prominently on the recordings, including direct injection, pitch control and ambiophonics.[35] The bass part on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was the first example of the Beatles recording via direct injection (DI), which Townsend devised as a method for plugging electric guitars directly into the recording console.[117] In Kenneth Womack's opinion, the use of DI on the album's title track "afforded McCartney's bass with richer textures and tonal clarity".[117]

Some of the mixing employed automatic double tracking (ADT), a system that uses tape recorders to create a simultaneous doubling of a sound. ADT was invented by Townsend during the Revolver sessions in 1966 especially for the Beatles, who regularly expressed a desire for a technical alternative to having to record doubled lead vocals.[118] Another important effect was varispeeding, a technique that the Beatles used extensively on Revolver.[116] Martin cites "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as having the most variations of tape speed on Sgt. Pepper. During the recording of Lennon's vocals, the tape speed was reduced from 50 cycles per second to 45, which produced a higher and thinner-sounding track when played back at the normal speed.[119] For the album's title track, the recording of Starr's drum kit was enhanced by the use of damping and close-miking. MacDonald credits the new recording technique with creating a "three-dimensional" sound that, along with other Beatles innovations, engineers in the US would soon adopt as standard practice.[120]

Artistic experimentation, such as the placement of random gibberish in the run-out groove, became one of the album's defining features.[121] Sgt. Pepper was the first pop album to be mastered without the momentary gaps that are typically placed between tracks as a point of demarcation.[117] It made use of two crossfades that blended songs together, giving the impression of a continuous live performance.[122][nb 10] Although both stereo and monaural mixes of the album were prepared, the Beatles were minimally involved in what they regarded as the less important stereo mix sessions, leaving the task to Martin and Emerick.[124] Emerick recalls: "We spent three weeks on the mono mixes and maybe three days on the stereo."[125] Most listeners ultimately only heard the stereo version.[126] He estimates that the group spent 700 hours on the LP, more than 30 times that of the first Beatles album, Please Please Me, which cost £400 to produce.[127] The final cost of Sgt. Pepper was approximately £25,000 (equivalent to £457,000 in 2019).[128]

Band dynamics

Author Robert Rodriguez writes that while Lennon, Harrison and Starr embraced the creative freedom afforded by McCartney's band-within-a-band idea, they "went along with the concept with varying degrees of enthusiasm".[129] Studio personnel recalled that Lennon had "never seemed so happy" than during the Sgt. Pepper sessions.[130] In a 1969 interview with Barry Miles, however, Lennon said he was depressed and that while McCartney was "full of confidence", he was "going through murder".[131] Lennon explained his view of the album's concept: "Paul said, 'Come and see the show', I didn't. I said, 'I read the news today, oh boy.'"[132]

Everett describes Starr as having been "largely bored" during the sessions, with the drummer later lamenting: "The biggest memory I have of Sgt. Pepper ... is I learned to play chess".[68] In The Beatles Anthology, Harrison said he had little interest in McCartney's concept of a fictitious group and that, after his experiences in India, "my heart was still out there … I was losing interest in being 'fab' at that point."[133] Harrison added that, having enjoyed recording Rubber Soul and Revolver, he disliked how the group's approach on Sgt. Pepper became "an assembly process" whereby, "A lot of the time it ended up with just Paul playing the piano and Ringo keeping the tempo, and we weren't allowed to play as a band as much."[90]

In Lewisohn's opinion, Sgt. Pepper represents the group's last unified effort, displaying a cohesion that deteriorated immediately following the album's completion and entirely disappeared by the release of The Beatles (also known as the "White Album") in 1968.[134] Martin recalled in 1987 that throughout the making of Sgt. Pepper, "There was a very good spirit at that time between all the Beatles and ourselves. We were all conscious that we were doing something that was great." He said that while McCartney effectively led the project, and sometimes annoyed his bandmates, "Paul appreciated John's contribution on Pepper. In terms of quantity, it wasn't great, but in terms of quality, it was enormous."[135]



Among musicologists, Allan Moore says that Sgt. Pepper is composed mainly of rock and pop music, while Michael Hannan and Naphtali Wagner both see it as an album of various genres; Hannan says it features "a broad variety of musical and theatrical genres".[136] According to Hannan and Wagner, the music incorporates the stylistic influences of rock and roll, vaudeville, big band, piano jazz, blues, chamber, circus, music hall, avant-garde, and Western and Indian classical music.[137] Wagner feels the album's music reconciles the "diametrically opposed aesthetic ideals" of classical and psychedelia, achieving a "psycheclassical synthesis" of the two forms.[138] Musicologist John Covach describes Sgt. Pepper as "proto-progressive".[139]

We didn't really shove the LP full of pot and drugs but, I mean, there was an effect. We were more consciously trying to keep it out. You wouldn't say, "I had some acid, baby, so groovy," but there was a feeling that something had happened between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.[90]

John Lennon, 1968

According to author George Case, all of the songs on Sgt. Pepper were perceived by contemporary listeners as being drug-inspired, with 1967 marking the pinnacle of LSD's influence on pop music.[140] Shortly before the album's release, the BBC banned "A Day in the Life" from British radio[141] because of the phrase "I'd love to turn you on";[142] the BBC stated that it could "encourage a permissive attitude towards drug-taking".[143] Although Lennon and McCartney denied any drug-related interpretation of the song at the time, McCartney later suggested that the line referred to either drugs or sex.[144] The meaning of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" became the subject of speculation, as many believed that the title was code for LSD.[145] In "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", the reference to "Henry the Horse" contains two common slang terms for heroin.[146] Fans speculated that Henry the Horse was a drug dealer and "Fixing a Hole" was a reference to heroin use.[147] Others noted lyrics such as "I get high" from "With a Little Help from My Friends", "take some tea" – slang for cannabis use – from "Lovely Rita", and "digging the weeds" from "When I'm Sixty-Four".[148]

The author Sheila Whiteley attributes Sgt. Pepper's underlying philosophy not only to the drug culture, but also to metaphysics and the non-violent approach of the flower power movement.[149] The musicologist Oliver Julien views the album as an embodiment of "the social, the musical, and more generally, the cultural changes of the 1960s".[150] The album's primary value, according to Moore, is its ability to "capture, more vividly than almost anything contemporaneous, its own time and place".[151] Whiteley agrees, crediting the album with "provid[ing] a historical snapshot of England during the run-up to the Summer of Love".[152] Several scholars have applied a hermeneutic strategy to their analysis of Sgt. Pepper's lyrics, identifying loss of innocence and the dangers of overindulgence in fantasies or illusions as the most prominent themes.[153]

Side one

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Sgt. Pepper opens with the title track, starting with 10 seconds of the combined sounds of a pit orchestra warming up and an audience waiting for a concert, creating the illusion of the album as a live performance.[156][nb 11] McCartney serves as the master of ceremonies, welcoming the audience to a twentieth-anniversary reunion concert by Sgt. Pepper's band, who, led by Lennon, then sing a message of appreciation for the crowd's warm response.[154] Womack says the lyric bridges the fourth wall between the artist and their audience.[159] He argues that, paradoxically, the lyrics "exemplify the mindless rhetoric of rock concert banter" while "mock[ing] the very notion of a pop album's capacity for engendering authentic interconnection between artist and audience".[159] In his view, the mixed message ironically serves to distance the group from their fans while simultaneously "gesturing toward" them as alter egos.[159]

The song's five-bar bridge is filled by a French horn quartet.[160][161] Womack credits the recording's use of a brass ensemble with distorted electric guitars as an early example of rock fusion.[159] MacDonald agrees, describing the track as an overture rather than a song, and a "fusion of Edwardian variety orchestra" and contemporary hard rock.[160][nb 12] Hannan describes the track's unorthodox stereo mix as "typical of the album", with the lead vocal in the right speaker during the verses, but in the left during the chorus and middle eight.[163] McCartney returns as the master of ceremonies near the end of the song,[164] announcing the entrance of an alter ego named Billy Shears.[117]

"With a Little Help from My Friends"

The title track segues into "With a Little Help from My Friends" amid the sound of screaming fans recorded during a Beatles concert at the Hollywood Bowl.[165] In his role as Billy Shears, Starr contributes a baritone lead vocal that Womack credits with imparting an element of "earnestness in sharp contrast with the ironic distance of the title track".[165] Written by Lennon and McCartney, the song's lyrics centre on a theme of questions,[166] beginning with Starr asking the audience whether they would leave if he sang out of tune.[167] In the call-and-response style, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison go on to ask their bandmate questions about the meaning of friendship and true love;[165] by the final verse, Starr provides unequivocal answers.[168] In MacDonald's opinion, the lyric is "at once communal and personal ... [and] meant as a gesture of inclusivity; everyone could join in."[169] Everett comments that the track's use of a major key double-plagal cadence became commonplace in pop music following the release of Sgt. Pepper.[168]

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"

Despite widespread suspicion that the title of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" contained a hidden reference to LSD, Lennon insisted that it was derived from a pastel drawing by his four-year-old son Julian. A hallucinatory chapter from Lewis Carroll's 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, a favourite of Lennon's, inspired the song's atmosphere.[172] According to MacDonald, "the lyric explicitly recreates the psychedelic experience".[145]

The first verse begins with what Womack characterises as "an invitation in the form of an imperative" through the line: "Picture yourself in a boat on a river", and continues with imaginative imagery, including "tangerine trees", "rocking horse people" and "newspaper taxis".[171] The musical backing includes a phrase played by McCartney on a Lowrey organ, treated with ADT to sound like a celeste,[173] and tambura drone.[171] Harrison also contributed a lead guitar part that doubles Lennon's vocal over the verses in the style of a sarangi player accompanying an Indian khyal singer.[174][102] The music critic Tim Riley identifies the track as a moment "in the album, [where] the material world is completely clouded in the mythical by both text and musical atmosphere".[175]

"Getting Better"

MacDonald considers "Getting Better" to contain "the most ebullient performance" on Sgt. Pepper.[176] Womack credits the track's "driving rock sound" with distinguishing it from the album's overtly psychedelic material; its lyrics inspire the listener "to usurp the past by living well and flourishing in the present".[171] He cites it as a strong example of Lennon and McCartney's collaborative songwriting, particularly Lennon's addition of the line "It can't get no worse",[177] which serves as a "sarcastic rejoinder" to McCartney's chorus: "It's getting better all the time".[178] Lennon's contribution to the lyric also includes a confessional regarding his having been violent with female companions: "I used to be cruel to my woman".[178] In Womack's opinion, the song encourages the listener to follow the speaker's example and "alter their own angst-ridden ways": "Man I was mean, but I'm changing my scene and I'm doing the best that I can."[178]

"Fixing a Hole"

"Fixing a Hole" deals with McCartney's desire to let his mind wander freely and to express his creativity without the burden of self-conscious insecurities.[179][nb 13] Womack interprets the lyric as "the speaker's search for identity among the crowd", in particular the "quests for consciousness and connection" that differentiate individuals from society as a whole.[178] MacDonald characterises it as a "distracted and introverted track", during which McCartney forgoes his "usual smooth design" in favour of "something more preoccupied".[181] He cites Harrison's electric guitar solo as serving the track well, capturing its mood by conveying detachment.[181] Womack notes McCartney's adaptation of the lyric "a hole in the roof where the rain leaks in" from Elvis Presley's "We're Gonna Move".[182]

"She's Leaving Home"

The Pablo Fanque Circus Royal poster from 1843 that inspired Lennon's lyrics to "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

In Everett's view, the lyrics to "She's Leaving Home" address the problem of alienation "between disagreeing peoples", particularly those distanced from each other by the generation gap.[183] McCartney's narrative details the plight of a young woman escaping the control of her parents, and was inspired by a piece about teenage runaways published in the Daily Mail.[184] Lennon supplies a supporting vocal that conveys the parents' anguish and confusion.[185] It is the first track on Sgt. Pepper that eschews the use of guitars and drums, featuring only a string nonet with a harp.[186][nb 14] Music historian Doyle Greene views it as the first of the album's songs to address "the crisis of middle-class life in the late 1960s" and comments on its surprisingly conservative sentiments, given McCartney's absorption in the London avant-garde scene.[190]

"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

Lennon adapted the lyrics for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" from an 1843 poster for Pablo Fanque's circus that he purchased at an antique shop in Kent on the day of filming the promotional film for "Strawberry Fields Forever".[191] Womack views the track as an effective blending of a print source and music,[192] while MacDonald describes it as "a spontaneous expression of its author's playful hedonism".[193] Tasked by Lennon to evoke a circus atmosphere so vivid that he could "smell the sawdust", Martin and Emerick created a sound collage comprising randomly assembled recordings of harmoniums, harmonicas and calliopes.[194] Everett says that the track's use of Edwardian imagery thematically links it with the album's title song.[195] Gould also views "Mr. Kite!" as a return to the LP's opening motif, albeit that of show business and with the focus now on performers and a show in a radically different setting.[196][nb 15]

Side two

"Within You Without You"

We're not trying to outwit the public. The whole idea is to try a little bit to lead people into different tastes.[198]

George Harrison, 1967

Harrison's Hindustani classical music-inspired "Within You Without You" reflects his immersion in the teachings of the Hindu Vedas, while its musical form and Indian instrumentation, such as sitar, tabla, dilrubas and tamburas, recalls the Hindu devotional tradition known as bhajan.[199] Harrison recorded the song with London-based Indian musicians from the Asian Music Circle; none of the other Beatles played on the recording.[200] He and Martin then worked on a Western string arrangement that imitated the slides and bends typical of Indian music.[201][202] The song's pitch is derived from the eastern Khamaj scale, which is akin to the Mixolydian mode in the West.[202]

MacDonald regards "Within You Without You" as "the most distant departure from the staple Beatles sound in their discography", and a work that represents the "conscience" of the LP through the lyrics' rejection of Western materialism.[203] Womack calls it "quite arguably, the album's ethical soul" and views the line "With our love we could save the world" as a concise reflection of the Beatles' idealism that soon inspired the Summer of Love.[204] The track ends with a burst of laughter gleaned from a tape in the EMI archive;[123] some listeners interpreted this as a mockery of the song, but Harrison explained: "It's a release after five minutes of sad music ... You were supposed to hear the audience anyway, as they listen to Sergeant Pepper's Show. That was the style of the album."[205]

"When I'm Sixty-Four"

MacDonald characterises McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four" as a song "aimed chiefly at parents", borrowing heavily from the English music hall style of George Formby, while invoking images of the illustrator Donald McGill's seaside postcards.[207] Its sparse arrangement includes clarinets, chimes and piano.[208] Moore views the song as a synthesis of ragtime and pop, adding that its position following "Within You Without You" – a blend of Indian classical music and pop – demonstrates the diversity of the album's material.[209] He says the music hall atmosphere is reinforced by McCartney's vocal delivery and the recording's use of chromaticism, a harmonic pattern that can be traced to Scott Joplin's "The Ragtime Dance" and The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss.[210] Varispeeding was used on the track, raising its pitch by a semitone in an attempt to make McCartney sound younger.[211] Everett comments that the lyric's protagonist is sometimes associated with the Lonely Hearts Club Band, but in his opinion the song is thematically unconnected to the others on the album.[212]

"Lovely Rita"

Womack describes "Lovely Rita" as a work of "full-tilt psychedelia" that contrasts sharply with the preceding track.[213] Citing McCartney's recollection that he drew inspiration from learning that the American term for a female traffic warden was a meter maid, Gould deems it a celebration of an encounter that evokes Swinging London and the contemporaneous chic for military-style uniforms.[214] MacDonald regards the song as a "satire on authority" that is "imbued with an exuberant interest in life that lifts the spirits, dispersing self-absorption".[215] The arrangement includes a quartet of comb-and-paper kazoos,[215] a piano solo by Martin, and a coda in which the Beatles indulge in panting, groaning and other vocalised sounds.[216] In Gould's view, the track represents "the show-stopper in the Pepper Band's repertoire: a funny, sexy, extroverted song that comes closer to the spirit of rock 'n' roll than anything else on the album".[217]

"Good Morning Good Morning"

Lennon was inspired to write "Good Morning Good Morning" after watching a television commercial for Kellogg's Corn Flakes, the jingle from which he adapted for the song's refrain. The track uses the bluesy Mixolydian mode in A, which Everett credits with "perfectly express[ing] Lennon's grievance against complacency".[218] According to Greene, the song contrasts sharply with "She's Leaving Home" by providing "the more 'avant-garde' subversive study of suburban life".[219] The time signature varies across 5/4, 3/4 and 4/4,[220] while the arrangement includes a horn section comprising members of Sounds Inc.[221] MacDonald highlights the "rollicking" brass score, Starr's drumming and McCartney's "coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo" among the elements that convey a sense of aggression on a track he deems a "disgusted canter through the muck, mayhem, and mundanity of the human farmyard".[222] A series of animal noises appear during the fade-out that are sequenced – at Lennon's request – so that each successive animal could conceivably scare or devour the preceding one.[223] The sound of a chicken clucking overlaps with a stray guitar note at the start of the next track,[224] creating a seamless transition between the two songs.[225]

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" follows as a segue to the album's finale. The hard-rocking song was written after Neil Aspinall, the Beatles' road manager, suggested that since "Sgt. Pepper" opened the album, the fictional band should make an appearance near the end.[226] Sung by all four Beatles,[227] the reprise omits the brass section from the title track and has a faster tempo.[228] With Harrison on lead guitar, it serves as a rare example from the Sgt. Pepper sessions where the group taped a basic track live with their usual stage instrumentation.[229] MacDonald finds the Beatles' excitement tangibly translated on the recording,[226] which is again augmented with ambient crowd noise.[229]

"A Day in the Life"

The last chord of the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise segues amid audience applause to acoustic guitar strumming and the start of what Moore calls "one of the most harrowing songs ever written".[231] "A Day in the Life" consists of four verses by Lennon, a bridge, two aleatoric orchestral crescendos, and an interpolated middle part written and sung by McCartney. The first crescendo serves as a segue between the third verse and the middle part, leading to a bridge known as the "dream sequence".[231] Lennon drew inspiration for the lyrics from a Daily Mail report on potholes in the Lancashire town of Blackburn and an article in the same newspaper relating to the death of Beatles friend and Guinness heir Tara Browne.[232][233]

According to Martin, Lennon and McCartney were equally responsible for the decision to use an orchestra.[234] Martin said that Lennon requested "a tremendous build-up, from nothing up to something absolutely like the end of the world",[235] while McCartney realised this idea by drawing inspiration from Cage and Stockhausen.[236] Womack describes Starr's performance as "one of his most inventive drum parts on record".[237] The thunderous piano chord that concludes the track and the album was produced by recording Lennon, Starr, McCartney and Evans simultaneously sounding an E major chord on three separate pianos; Martin then augmented the sound with a harmonium.[238]

Riley characterises the song as a "postlude to the Pepper fantasy ... that sets all the other songs in perspective", while shattering the illusion of "Pepperland" by introducing the "parallel universe of everyday life".[239] MacDonald describes the track as "a song not of disillusionment with life itself, but of disenchantment with the limits of mundane perception".[233]

As "A Day in the Life" ends, a 15-kilohertz high-frequency tone is heard; it was added at Lennon's suggestion with the intention that it would annoy dogs.[240][nb 16] This is followed by the sounds of backwards laughter and random gibberish that were pressed into the record's concentric run-out groove, which loops back into itself endlessly on any record player not equipped with an automatic needle return. Lennon can be heard saying, "Been so high", followed by McCartney's response: "Never could be any other way."[242][nb 17]


According to Womack, with Sgt. Pepper's opening song "the Beatles manufacture an artificial textual space in which to stage their art."[117] The reprise of the title song appears on side two, just before the climactic "A Day in the Life", creating a framing device.[226] In Lennon and Starr's view, only the first two songs and the reprise are conceptually connected.[25] In a 1980 interview, Lennon stated that his compositions had nothing to do with the Sgt. Pepper concept, adding: "Sgt. Pepper is called the first concept album, but it doesn't go anywhere ... it works because we said it worked."[245]

In MacFarlane's view, the Beatles "chose to employ an overarching thematic concept in an apparent effort to unify individual tracks".[246] Everett contends that the album's "musical unity results ... from motivic relationships between key areas, particularly involving C, E, and G".[242] Moore argues that the recording's "use of common harmonic patterns and falling melodies" contributes to its overall cohesiveness, which he describes as narrative unity, but not necessarily conceptual unity.[247] MacFarlane agrees, suggesting that with the exception of the reprise, the album lacks the melodic and harmonic continuity that is consistent with cyclic form.[248]

In a 1995 interview, McCartney recalled that the Liverpool childhood theme behind the first three songs recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions was never formalised as an album-wide concept, but he said that it served as a "device" or underlying theme throughout the project.[36] MacDonald identifies allusions to the Beatles' upbringing throughout Sgt. Pepper that are "too persuasive to ignore". These include evocations of the postwar Northern music-hall tradition, references to Northern industrial towns and Liverpool schooldays, Lewis Carroll-inspired imagery (acknowledging Lennon's favourite childhood reading), the use of brass instrumentation in the style of park bandstand performances (familiar to McCartney through his visits to Sefton Park),[249] and the album cover's flower arrangement akin to a floral clock.[250] Norman partly agrees; he says that "In many ways, the album carried on the childhood and Liverpool theme with its circus and fairground effects, its pervading atmosphere of the traditional northern music hall that was in both its main creators' [McCartney and Lennon's] blood."[251][nb 18]


Front cover

Pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth designed the album cover for Sgt. Pepper.[252] Blake recalled of the concept: "I offered the idea that if they had just played a concert in the park, the cover could be a photograph of the group just after the concert with the crowd who had just watched the concert, watching them." He added, "If we did this by using cardboard cut-outs, it could be a magical crowd of whomever they wanted."[253] According to McCartney, he himself provided the ink drawing on which Blake and Haworth based the design.[254][nb 19] The cover was art-directed by Robert Fraser and photographed by Michael Cooper.[252]

The front of the LP includes a colourful collage featuring the Beatles in costume as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, standing with a group of life-sized cardboard cut-outs of famous people.[256] Each of the Beatles sports a heavy moustache, after Harrison had first grown one as a disguise during his visit to India.[15] The moustaches reflected the growing influence of hippie style trends, while the group's clothing, in Gould's description, "spoofed the vogue in Britain for military fashions".[257] The centre of the cover depicts the Beatles standing behind a bass drum on which fairground artist Joe Ephgrave painted the words of the album's title. In front of the drum is an arrangement of flowers that spell out "Beatles".[258] The group are dressed in satin day-glo-coloured military-style uniforms that were manufactured by the London theatrical costumer M. Berman Ltd. Next to the Beatles are wax sculptures of the band members in their suits and moptop haircuts from the Beatlemania era, borrowed from Madame Tussauds.[259] Amid the greenery are figurines of the Eastern deities Buddha and Lakshmi.[260]

The cover collage includes 57 photographs and nine waxworks.[261] Author Ian Inglis views the tableau "as a guidebook to the cultural topography of the decade" that conveyed the increasing democratisation of society whereby "traditional barriers between 'high' and 'low' culture were being eroded",[261] while Case cites it as the most explicit demonstration of pop culture's "continuity with the avant-gardes of yesteryear".[262][nb 20] The final grouping included Stockhausen and Carroll, along with singers such as Bob Dylan and Bobby Breen; film stars Marlon Brando, Tyrone Power, Tony Curtis, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Marilyn Monroe; artist Aubrey Beardsley; boxer Sonny Liston and footballer Albert Stubbins. Also included were comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; writers H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde and Dylan Thomas; and the philosophers and scientists Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.[261] Harrison chose the Self-Realization Fellowship gurus Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda.[263] The Rolling Stones are represented by a doll wearing a shirt emblazoned with a message of welcome to the band.[262][264]

Fearing controversy, EMI rejected Lennon's request for images of Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ and Harrison's for Mahatma Gandhi.[70] When McCartney was asked why the Beatles did not include Elvis Presley among the musical artists, he replied: "Elvis was too important and too far above the rest even to mention."[265][266] Starr was the only Beatle who offered no suggestions for the collage, telling Blake, "Whatever the others say is fine by me."[267] The final cost for the cover art was nearly £3,000 (equivalent to £55,000 in 2019), an extravagant sum for a time when album covers would typically cost around £50 (equivalent to £900 in 2019).[268]

Back cover, gatefold and cut-outs

A colour image of four men in brightly coloured suits of cyan, magenta, yellow and orange
Sgt. Pepper's inner gatefold. McCartney (in blue) wears a badge on his left sleeve that bears the initials O.P.P. Proponents of the Paul is dead theory read them as O.P.D., which they interpret as "Officially Pronounced Dead".[269] McCartney acquired the badge when the Beatles were on tour in Canada;[265] the initials stand for "Ontario Provincial Police".[270][nb 21]

The 30 March 1967 photo session with Cooper also produced the back cover and the inside gatefold, which Inglis describes as conveying "an obvious and immediate warmth ... which distances it from the sterility and artifice typical of such images".[258] McCartney recalled the inner-gatefold image as an example of the Beatles' interest in "eye messages", adding: "So with Michael Cooper's inside photo, we all said, 'Now look into this camera and really say I love you! Really try and feel love; really give love through this!' ... [And] if you look at it you'll see the big effort from the eyes."[273] In Lennon's description, Cooper's photos of the band showed "two people who are flying [on drugs], and two who aren't".[265]

The album's lyrics were printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP.[274] The record's inner sleeve featured artwork by the Dutch design team the Fool that eschewed for the first time the standard white paper in favour of an abstract pattern of waves of maroon, red, pink and white.[258][nb 22] Included as a bonus gift was a sheet of cardboard cut-outs designed by Blake and Haworth. These consisted of a postcard-sized portrait of Sgt. Pepper, based on a statue from Lennon's house that was used on the front cover, a fake moustache, two sets of sergeant stripes, two lapel badges, and a stand-up cut-out of the Beatles in their satin uniforms.[268] Moore writes that the inclusion of these items helped fans "pretend to be in the band".[276]


Radio previews and launch party

The album was previewed on the pirate radio station Radio London on 12 May and officially on the BBC Light Programme's show Where It's At, by Kenny Everett, on 20 May.[277] Everett played the entire album apart from "A Day in the Life".[141] The day before Everett's broadcast, Epstein hosted a launch party for music journalists and disc jockeys at his house in Belgravia in central London.[278][279] The event was a new initiative in pop promotion and furthered the significance of the album's release.[280] Melody Maker's reporter described it as the first "listen-in" and typical of the Beatles' penchant for innovation.[281]

The Beatles at the Sgt. Pepper launch party, held at Brian Epstein's house on 19 May 1967

The party marked the band's first group interaction with the press in close to a year.[282][283] Norrie Drummond of the NME wrote that they had been "virtually incommunicado" over that time, leading a national newspaper to complain that the band were "contemplative, secretive and exclusive".[283] Some of the journalists present were shocked by the Beatles' appearance, particularly that of Lennon and Harrison,[284] as the band members' bohemian attire contrasted sharply with their former image.[282] Music journalist Ray Coleman recalled that Lennon looked "haggard, old, ill" and clearly under the influence of drugs.[285] Biographer Howard Sounes likens the Beatles' presence to a gathering of the British royal family and highlights a photo from the event that shows Lennon shaking McCartney's hand "in an exaggeratedly congratulatory way, throwing his head back in sarcastic laughter".[286]

On 26 May, Sgt. Pepper was given a rush-release in the UK, ahead of the scheduled date of 1 June.[287] The band's eighth LP,[288] it was the first Beatles album where the track listings were exactly the same for the UK and US versions.[81] The US release took place on 2 June.[287] Capitol Records' advertising for the album emphasised that the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper's band were one and the same.[289]

Public reaction

Sgt. Pepper was widely perceived by listeners as the soundtrack to the Summer of Love,[290][291] during a year that author Peter Lavezzoli calls "a watershed moment in the West when the search for higher consciousness and an alternative world view had reached critical mass".[292] Rolling Stone magazine's Langdon Winner recalled:

The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week the Sgt. Pepper album was released. In every city in Europe and America the radio stations played [it] ... and everyone listened ... For a brief while the irreparable fragmented consciousness of the West was unified, at least in the minds of the young.[293]

According to Riley, the album "drew people together through the common experience of pop on a larger scale than ever before".[294] In MacDonald's description, an "almost religious awe surrounded the LP"; he says that its impact was cross-generational, as "Young and old alike were entranced", and era-defining, in that the "psychic shiver" it inspired across the world was "nothing less than a cinematic dissolve from one Zeitgeist to another". In his view, Sgt. Pepper conveyed the psychedelic experience so effectively to listeners unfamiliar with hallucinogenic drugs that "If such a thing as a cultural 'contact high' is possible, it happened here."[295][nb 23] Music journalist Mark Ellen, a teenager in 1967, recalls listening to part of the album at a friend's house and then hearing the rest playing at the next house he visited as if the record was emanating communally from "one giant Dansette". He says the most remarkable thing was its acceptance by adults who had turned against the Beatles when they became "gaunt and enigmatic", and how the group, recast as polished "masters of ceremony", were now "the very family favourites they'd sought to satirise".[296][nb 24]

Writing in his book Electric Shock, Peter Doggett describes Sgt. Pepper as "the biggest pop happening" to take place between the Beatles' debut on American television in February 1964 and Lennon's murder in December 1980,[298] while Norman writes: "A whole generation, still used to happy landmarks through life, would always remember exactly when and where they first played it ..."[299] The album's impact was felt at the Monterey International Pop Festival, the second event in the Summer of Love, organised by Taylor and held over 16–18 June in county fairgrounds south of San Francisco.[300][301] Sgt. Pepper was played in kiosks and stands there, and festival staff wore badges carrying Lennon's lyric "A splendid time is guaranteed for all".[43]

American radio stations interrupted their regular scheduling, playing the album virtually non-stop, often from start to finish.[302] Emphasising its identity as a self-contained work, none of the songs were issued as singles at the time[303][304] or available on spin-off EPs.[305] Instead, the Beatles released "All You Need Is Love" as a single in July, after performing the song on the Our World satellite broadcast on 25 June[306] before an audience estimated at 400 million.[307] According to sociomusicologist Simon Frith, the international broadcast served to confirm "the Beatles' evangelical role" amid the public's embrace of Sgt. Pepper.[308] In the UK, Our World also quelled the furore that followed McCartney's repeated admission in mid June that he had taken LSD.[309] In Norman's description, this admission was indicative of how "invulnerable" McCartney felt after Sgt. Pepper;[310] it made the band's drug-taking public knowledge[311] and confirmed the link between the album and drugs.[312][nb 25]

Commercial performance

Sgt. Pepper topped the Record Retailer albums chart (now the UK Albums Chart) for 23 consecutive weeks from 10 June, with a further four weeks at number one in the period through to February 1968.[316] The record sold 250,000 copies in the UK during its first seven days on sale there.[287][nb 26] The album held the number one position on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the US for 15 weeks, from 1 July to 13 October 1967, and remained in the top 200 for 113 consecutive weeks.[320] It also topped charts in many other countries.[321]

With 2.5 million copies sold within three months of its release,[322] Sgt. Pepper's initial commercial success exceeded that of all previous Beatles albums.[147] In the UK, it was the best-selling album of 1967[323] and of the decade.[324] According to figures published in 2009 by former Capitol executive David Kronemyer, further to estimates he gave in MuseWire magazine,[325] the album had sold 2,360,423 copies in the US by 31 December 1967 and 3,372,581 copies by the end of the decade.[326]

Contemporary critical reception

Sgt. Pepper's arrival in late spring 1967 came at a most opportune moment in Western cultural history: mainstream journalism had at last warmed to the idea that the "rock" world ... could produce a lasting masterpiece that transcended the genre's lowly origins, while a new and legitimate niche called "rock journalism" was working up its own head of steam ... [E]veryone wanted the Beatles to succeed – and to lead. The wind was at their back, and they knew it.[327]

– Beatles biographer Robert Rodriguez, 2012

The release of Sgt. Pepper coincided with a period when, with the advent of dedicated rock criticism, commentators sought to recognise artistry in pop music, particularly in the Beatles' work, and identify albums as refined artistic statements.[328][329] In America, this approach had been heightened by the "Strawberry Fields Forever" / "Penny Lane" single,[330] and was also exemplified by Leonard Bernstein's television program Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, broadcast by CBS in April 1967.[328] Following the release of the Beatles' single, in author Bernard Gendron's description, a "discursive frenzy" ensued as Time, Newsweek and other publications from the cultural mainstream increasingly voiced their "ecstatic approbation toward the Beatles".[330]

The vast majority of contemporary reviews of Sgt. Pepper were positive, with the album receiving widespread critical acclaim.[331] Schaffner said that the consensus was aptly summed up by Tom Phillips in The Village Voice, when he called the LP "the most ambitious and most successful record album ever issued".[332] Among Britain's pop press, Peter Jones of Record Mirror said the album was "clever and brilliant, from raucous to poignant and back again", while Disc and Music Echo's reviewer called it "a beautiful and potent record, unique, clever, and stunning".[333] In The Times, William Mann described Sgt. Pepper as a "pop music master-class"[334] and commented that, so considerable were its musical advances, "the only track that would have been conceivable in pop songs five years ago" was "With a Little Help from My Friends".[335] Having been among the first British critics to fully appreciate Revolver,[336] Peter Clayton of Gramophone magazine said that the new album was "like nearly everything the Beatles do, bizarre, wonderful, perverse, beautiful, exciting, provocative, exasperating, compassionate and mocking". He found "plenty of electronic gimmickry on the record" before concluding: "but that isn't the heart of the thing. It's the combination of imagination, cheek and skill that make this such a rewarding LP."[337] Wilfrid Mellers, in his review for New Statesman, praised the album's elevation of pop music to the level of fine art,[334] while Kenneth Tynan, The Times' theatre critic, said it represented "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation".[338]

Newsweek's Jack Kroll called Sgt. Pepper a "masterpiece" and compared its lyrics with literary works by Edith Sitwell, Harold Pinter and T. S. Eliot, particularly "A Day in the Life", which he likened to Eliot's The Waste Land.[339] The New Yorker paired the Beatles with Duke Ellington, as artists who operated "in that special territory where entertainment slips into art".[340][341] One of the few well-known American rock critics at the time, and another early champion of Revolver, Richard Goldstein wrote a scathing review in The New York Times.[342] He characterised Sgt. Pepper as a "spoiled" child and "an album of special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent",[343][344] and was critical of the Beatles for sacrificing their authenticity to become "cloistered composers".[345] Although he admired "A Day in the Life", comparing it to a work by Wagner,[346] Goldstein said that the songs lacked lyrical substance such that "tone overtakes meaning", an aesthetic he blamed on "posturing and put-on" in the form of production effects such as echo and reverb.[347] As a near-lone voice of dissent, he was widely castigated for his views.[348][nb 27] Four days later, The Village Voice, where Goldstein had become a celebrated columnist since 1966, reacted to the "hornet's nest" of complaints, by publishing Phillips' highly favourable review.[350] According to Schaffner, Goldstein was "kept busy for months" justifying his opinions,[348] which included writing a defence of his review, for the Voice, in July.[351][nb 28]

Among the commentators who responded to Goldstein's critique,[353] composer Ned Rorem, writing in The New York Review of Books, credited the Beatles with possessing a "magic of genius" akin to Mozart and characterised Sgt. Pepper as a harbinger of a "golden Renaissance of Song".[332] Time quoted musicologists and avant-garde composers who equated the standard of the Beatles' songwriting to Schubert and Schumann, and located the band's work to electronic music;[354] the magazine concluded that the album was "a historic departure in the progress of music – any music".[147] Literary critic Richard Poirier wrote a laudatory appreciation of the Beatles in the journal Partisan Review[355] and said that "listening to the Sgt. Pepper album one thinks not simply of the history of popular music but the history of this century."[338] In his December 1967 column for Esquire, Robert Christgau described Sgt. Pepper as "a consolidation, more intricate than Revolver but not more substantial". He suggested that Goldstein had fallen "victim to overanticipation", identifying his primary error as "allow[ing] all the filters and reverbs and orchestral effects and overdubs to deafen him to the stuff underneath, which was pretty nice".[356]

Sociocultural influence

Contemporary youth and counterculture

In the wake of Sgt. Pepper, the underground and mainstream press widely publicised the Beatles as leaders of youth culture, as well as "lifestyle revolutionaries".[357] In Moore's description, the album "seems to have spoken (in a way no other has) for its generation".[358] An educator referenced in a July 1967 New York Times article was reported to have said on the topic of music studies and its relevance to the day's youth: "If you want to know what youths are thinking and feeling ... you cannot find anyone who speaks for them or to them more clearly than the Beatles."[359]

A hippie "flower power" bus (pictured in 2004). Sgt. Pepper conveyed the flower power ideology of 1967.[360]

Sgt. Pepper was the focus of much celebration by the counterculture.[361] American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg said of the album: "After the apocalypse of Hitler and the apocalypse of the Bomb, there was here an exclamation of joy, the rediscovery of joy and what it is to be alive."[362] The American psychologist and counterculture figure Timothy Leary labelled the Beatles "avatars of the new world order"[363] and said that the LP "gave a voice to the feeling that the old ways were over" by stressing the need for cultural change based on a peaceful agenda.[152][nb 29] According to author Michael Frontani, the Beatles "legitimiz[ed] the lifestyle of the counterculture", just as they did popular music, and formed the basis of Jann Wenner's scope on these issues when launching Rolling Stone magazine in late 1967.[365]

McCartney's LSD admission formalised the link between rock music and drugs, and attracted scorn from American religious leaders and conservatives.[366] Vice-President Spiro Agnew contended that the "friends" referred to in "With a Little Help from My Friends" were "assorted drugs". As part of an escalating national debate that triggered an investigation by the US Congress,[367] he launched a campaign in 1970[368] to address the issue of American youth being "brainwashed" into taking drugs through the music of the Beatles and other rock artists.[369] In the UK, according to historian David Simonelli, the album's obvious drug allusions inspired a hierarchy within the youth movement for the first time, based on listeners' ability to "get" psychedelia and align with the elite notion of Romantic artistry.[370][nb 30] Harrison was eager to separate the message of "Within You Without You" from the LSD experience, telling an interviewer: "It's nothing to do with pills ... It's just in your own head, the realisation."[201]

The album resonated with Vietnam War protestors at the 1967 "March on the Pentagon".

The Beatles' presentation as Sgt. Pepper's band resonated at a time when many young people in the UK and the US were seeking to redefine their own identity and were drawn to communities that espoused the transformational power of mind-altering drugs.[79] In the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, the recognised centre of the counterculture,[371] Sgt. Pepper was viewed as a "code for life", according to music journalist Alan Clayson, with street people such as the Merry Band of Pranksters offering "Beatle readings".[372] American social activist Abbie Hoffman credited the album as his inspiration for staging the attempted levitation of the Pentagon during the Mobe's anti-Vietnam War rally in October 1967.[373] The Byrds' David Crosby later expressed surprise that by 1970 the album's powerful sentiments had not been enough to stop the Vietnam War.[374]

Sgt. Pepper informed Frank Zappa's parody of the counterculture and flower power on the Mothers of Invention's 1968 album We're Only in It for the Money.[375][376] By 1968, according to music critic Greil Marcus, Sgt. Pepper appeared shallow against the emotional backdrop of the political and social upheavals of American life.[377] Simon Frith, in his overview of 1967 for The History of Rock, said that Sgt. Pepper "defined the year" by conveying the optimism and sense of empowerment at the centre of the youth movement. He added that the Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground & Nico – an album that contrasted sharply with the Beatles' message by "offer[ing] no escape" – became more relevant in a cultural climate typified by "the Sex Pistols, the new political aggression, the rioting in the streets" during the 1970s.[308] In a 1987 review for Q magazine, Charles Shaar Murray asserted that Sgt. Pepper "remains a central pillar of the mythology and iconography of the late '60s",[378] while Colin Larkin states in his Encyclopedia of Popular Music: "[it] turned out to be no mere pop album but a cultural icon, embracing the constituent elements of the 60s' youth culture: pop art, garish fashion, drugs, instant mysticism and freedom from parental control."[379]

Cultural legitimisation of popular music

In The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, Kevin Dettmar writes that Sgt. Pepper achieved "a combination of popular success and critical acclaim unequaled in twentieth-century art ... never before had an aesthetic and technical masterpiece enjoyed such popularity."[380] Through the level of attention it received from the rock press and more culturally elite publications, the album achieved full cultural legitimisation for pop music and recognition for the medium as a genuine art form.[334][381] Riley says that pop had been due this accreditation "at least as early as A Hard Day's Night" in 1964.[382] He adds that the timing of the album's release and its reception ensured that "Sgt. Pepper has attained the kind of populist adoration that renowned works often assume regardless of their larger significance – it's the Beatles' 'Mona Lisa'."[383] At the 10th Annual Grammy Awards in March 1968, Sgt. Pepper won awards in four categories:[384] Album of the Year; Best Contemporary Album; Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical; and Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.[385] Its win in the Album of the Year category marked the first time that a rock LP had received this honour.[386][387]

Among the recognised composers who helped legitimise the Beatles as serious musicians at the time were Luciano Berio, Aaron Copland, John Cage, Ned Rorem and Leonard Bernstein.[388] According to Rodriguez, an element of exaggeration accompanied some of the acclaim for Sgt. Pepper, with particularly effusive approbation coming from Rorem, Bernstein and Tynan, "as if every critic was seeking to outdo the other for the most lavish embrace of the Beatles' new direction".[389][nb 31] In Gendron's view, the cultural approbation represented American "highbrow" commentators (Rorem and Poirier) looking to establish themselves over their "low-middlebrow" equivalent, after Time and Newsweek had led the way in recognising the Beatles' artistry, and over the new discipline of rock criticism.[391] Gendron describes the discourse as one whereby, during a period that lasted for six months, "highbrow" composers and musicologists "jostl[ed] to pen the definitive effusive appraisal of the Beatles".[392][nb 32]

Aside from the attention afforded the album in literary and scholarly journals, the American jazz magazines Down Beat and Jazz both began to cover rock music for the first time, with the latter changing its name to Jazz & Pop as a result.[396] In addition, following Sgt. Pepper, established American publications such as Vogue, Playboy and the San Francisco Chronicle started discussing rock as art, in terms usually reserved for jazz criticism.[397] Writing for Rolling Stone in 1969, Michael Lydon said that reviewers had had to invent "new criticism" to match pop's musical advances, since: "Writing had to be an appropriate response to the music; in writing about, say, Sgt. Pepper, you had to try to write something as good as Sgt. Pepper. Because, of course, what made that record beautiful was the beautiful response it created in you; if your written response was true to your listening response, the writing would stand on its own as a creation on par with the record."[398]

Through its acceptance by "serious" composers, according to Schaffner, Sgt. Pepper satisfied the ambitions of a staid, middle-age American audience keen to be seen as in tune with young people's tastes, and every major rock LP was subsequently given the same level of critical analysis.[332] In 1977, the LP won Best British Album at the inaugural Brit Awards,[399] held by the BPI to celebrate the best British music of the last 25 years as part of Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.[400] When EMI issued the Beatles' catalogue on CD in 1987, Sgt. Pepper was the only album afforded a dedicated release.[401] EMI marketed it as "the most important record ever released on compact disc".[402]

Development of popular music

Industry and market changes

[Because of Sgt. Pepper] people then started thinking that you could spend a year making an album and they began to consider an album as a sound composition and not just a musical composition. The idea was gradually forming of a record being a performance in its own right and not just a reproduction of a live performance.[403]

– Producer and EMI engineer Alan Parsons

Julien describes Sgt. Pepper as a "masterpiece of British psychedelia" and says that it represents the "epitome of the transformation of the recording studio into a compositional tool", marking the moment when "popular music entered the era of phonographic composition".[404] Many acts copied the album's psychedelic sounds[405] and imitated its production techniques, resulting in a rapid expansion of the producer's role.[406] In this regard, Lennon and McCartney complained that Martin had received too much attention for his part in the album's creation,[407] so beginning a feeling of resentment by the Beatles towards their longtime producer.[408][nb 33]

In 1987, Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone described Sgt. Pepper as the album that "revolutionized rock and roll",[409] while music journalists Andy Greene and Scott Plagenhoef credit it with marking the beginning of the album era.[410][411] For several years following its release, straightforward rock and roll was supplanted by a growing interest in extended form, and for the first time in the history of the music industry, sales of albums outpaced those of singles.[412] In Gould's description, Sgt. Pepper was "the catalyst for an explosion of mass enthusiasm for album-formatted rock that would revolutionize both the aesthetics and the economics of the record business in ways that far out-stripped the earlier pop explosions triggered by the Elvis phenomenon of 1956 and the Beatlemania phenomenon of 1963".[413] The music industry swiftly grew into a billion-dollar enterprise, although record company executives were blindsided by the appeal of new acts who defied established formulas.[414]

Music critic Greg Kot said that Sgt. Pepper introduced a template not only for creating album-oriented rock but also for consuming it, "with listeners no longer twisting the night away to an assortment of three-minute singles, but losing themselves in a succession of 20-minute album sides, taking a journey led by the artist".[415] In Moore's view, the album was "pivotal" in heralding "the realignment of rock from its working-class roots to its subsequent place on the college circuit", as students increasingly embraced the genre and record companies launched labels targeted towards this new market.[416] As another result of Sgt. Pepper, US record companies no longer altered the content of albums by major British acts such as the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Donovan, and their LPs were released in the artists' intended configuration.[417]

Albums and artistry

The Beatles three months after the release of Sgt. Pepper, filming a musical segment for the Magical Mystery Tour television film

According to Simonelli, Sgt. Pepper established the standard for rock musicians, particularly British acts, to strive towards in their self-identification as artists rather than pop stars, whereby, as in the Romantic tradition, creative vision dominated at the expense of all commercial concerns.[418] In the US, the album paved the way for British groups such as Pink Floyd and the Incredible String Band, whose work echoed the eclectic, mystical and escapist qualities of Sgt. Pepper.[414]

Following the Beatles' example, many acts spent months in the studio creating their albums, focused on an artistic aesthetic and in the hope of winning critical approval.[405] Among the many albums influenced by Sgt. Pepper were Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing at Baxter's, the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request[321] and the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed, all released in 1967;[419] and the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle, the Small Faces' Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake[420] and the Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow, all issued the following year.[421] Discussing Their Satanic Majesties Request, Wenner referred to "the post–Sgt. Pepper trap of trying to put out a 'progressive,' 'significant' and 'different' album, as revolutionary as the Beatles. But it couldn't be done, because only the Beatles can put out an album by the Beatles."[422]

The Guardian views the album's effect on Carla Bley as one of the "50 key events in the history of dance music".[423] Bley spent four years crafting her musical response to Sgt. Pepper[421] – the 1971 avant-jazz triple album Escalator Over the Hill[424] – which combined rock, Indo-jazz fusion and chamber jazz.[423] Roger Waters has cited Sgt. Pepper as his influence when Pink Floyd created their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, saying: "I learned from Lennon, McCartney and Harrison that it was OK for us to write about our lives and express what we felt ... More than any other record it gave me and my generation permission to branch out and do whatever we wanted."[421][nb 34]

Over subsequent decades, musical acts would refer to their major artistic work as "our Sgt. Pepper".[425] In this regard, Mojo magazine recognises Prince's Around the World in a Day (1985), Tears for Fears' The Seeds of Love (1989), Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995), Radiohead's OK Computer (1997), Oasis' Be Here Now (1997) and the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin (1999) as albums that "for better or for worse ... would not have existed" without Sgt. Pepper.[426] Writing for Mojo in 2007, John Harris said that the album's influence resonates in the "identity games" of Gnarls Barkley, in the ambitious song cycle of Green Day's 2004 album American Idiot, in the respect afforded adventurous musicians such as Damon Albarn and Wayne Coyne, and particularly in the audience's expectation that foremost artists will "progress" and perhaps "ascend to a watershed point at which influence, experience and ambition cohere into something that just might blow our minds".[425]

Stylistic developments

Sgt. Pepper was highly influential on bands in the US acid rock (or psychedelic rock) scene.[427] Lavezzoli views it as a key factor in 1967's standing as the "annus mirabilis" for Indian classical music's acceptance in the West, with the genre having been fully absorbed into psychedelic music.[428][nb 35] Sgt. Pepper is commonly recognised as having originated progressive rock, due to the album's self-conscious lyrics, its studio experimentation, and its efforts to expand the barriers of conventional three-minute tracks.[430] In addition to influencing Pink Floyd records such as Atom Heart Mother, it was a source of inspiration for Robert Fripp when he formed King Crimson.[424] The band's 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King was intended as a homage to Sgt. Pepper.[421]

MacFarlane writes that, despite concerns regarding its thematic unity, Sgt. Pepper "is widely regarded as the first true concept album in popular music".[246] According to author Martina Elicker, despite earlier examples, it was Sgt. Pepper that familiarised critics and listeners with the notion of a "concept and unified structure underlying a pop album", thus originating the term "concept album".[431] Further to Sgt. Pepper, musicians increasingly explored literary and sociological themes in their concept albums and adopted its anti-establishment sentiments.[432] It also inspired rock opera works such as the Who's double album Tommy and the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.[421]

Author Carys Wyn Jones locates Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper as the beginning of art rock.[433] Doyle Greene says that Sgt. Pepper provides a "crucial locus in the assemblage of popular music and avant-garde/experimental music", notwithstanding the Beatles' presentation of the latter within formal song structures.[434] He also says that, although the band are usually viewed as modernists, the album "can be heard as a crucial postmodernist moment", through its incorporation of self-conscious artistry, irony and pastiche, and "arguably marked rock music's entry into postmodernism as opposed to high-modernism".[435] During the 1970s, glam rock acts co-opted the Beatles' use of alter ego personas,[436] including David Bowie when he adopted the guise of Ziggy Stardust.[437]

Graphic design

Inglis states that almost every account of the significance of Sgt. Pepper emphasises the cover's "unprecedented correspondence between music and art, time and space".[438] The cover helped to elevate album art as a respected topic for critical analysis whereby the "structures and cultures of popular music" could henceforth justify intellectual discourse in a way that – before Sgt. Pepper – would have seemed like "fanciful conceit".[439] He writes: "[The Sgt. Pepper] cover has been regarded as groundbreaking in its visual and aesthetic properties, congratulated for its innovative and imaginative design, credited with providing an early impetus for the expansion of the graphic design industry into popular music, and perceived as largely responsible for the connections between art and pop to be made explicit."[439]

Sgt. Pepper contributed to the popular trend for military-style fashions as adopted by London's boutique shops.[440] Following the LP's release, rock acts afforded cover art greater consideration and increasingly sought to create a thematic link between their album artwork and the record's musical statements.[405][nb 36] Riley describes the cover as "one of the best-known works that pop art ever produced",[444] while Norman calls it "the most famous album cover of all time".[445] The Beatles' 1968 self-titled double LP became known as the White Album for its plain white sleeve,[446] which the band chose as a contrast with the wave of psychedelic imagery and album covers inspired by Sgt. Pepper.[447] In the late 1990s, the BBC included the Sgt. Pepper cover in its list of British masterpieces of twentieth-century art and design, placing it ahead of the red telephone box, Mary Quant's miniskirt, and the Mini motorcar.[268]

Retrospective appraisal

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[448]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[449]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[450]
MusicHound Rock5/5[451]
Q4/5 stars[378]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[453]
The Village VoiceA[455]

Although few critics initially agreed with Richard Goldstein's criticism of the album, many came to appreciate his sentiments by the early 1980s.[338] In his 1979 book Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, Greil Marcus described Sgt. Pepper as "playful but contrived" and "a Day-Glo tombstone for its time".[456] Marcus believed that the album "strangled on its own conceits" while being "vindicated by world-wide acclaim".[457][nb 37] Lester Bangs – the so-called "godfather" of punk rock journalism – wrote in 1981 that "Goldstein was right in his much-vilified review ... predicting that this record had the power to almost singlehandedly destroy rock and roll."[460] He added: "In the sixties rock and roll began to think of itself as an 'art form'. Rock and roll is not an 'art form'; rock and roll is a raw wail from the bottom of the guts."[461]

In a 1976 article for The Village Voice, Christgau revisited the "supposedly epochal Works of Art" from 1967 and found that Sgt. Pepper appeared "bound to a moment" amid the year's culturally important music that had "dated in the sense that it speaks with unusually specific eloquence of a single point in history". Christgau said of the album's "dozen good songs and true", "Perhaps they're too precisely performed, but I'm not going to complain."[455] In his 1981 assessment, Simon Frith described Sgt. Pepper as "the last great pop album, the last LP ambitious to amuse everyone".[462]

It was inevitable that some of the critical assessment of subsequent generations would grumble. Some have griped about the archness of the band-within-a-band concept, the elaborate studio artifice, the dominance of McCartney's songs (routinely but unfairly considered as lightweight and bourgeois), the virtual freezing out of George Harrison … and the only episodic interest of a perpetually tripping Lennon.[463]

– Chris Ingham, 2006

Once the Beatles' catalogue became available on CD in 1987, a critical consensus formed around Revolver's standing as the band's best work; the White Album also surpassed Sgt. Pepper in many critics' estimation.[464] In his feature article on Sgt. Pepper's 40th anniversary, for Mojo, John Harris said that, such was its "seismic and universal" impact and subsequent identification with 1967, a "fashion for trashing" the album had become commonplace.[465][nb 38] He attributed this to iconoclasm, as successive generations identified the album with baby boomers' retreat into "nostalgia-tinged smugness" during the 1970s, combined with a general distaste for McCartney following Lennon's death.[465] Citing its absence from the NME's best-albums list in 1985 after it had topped the magazine's previous poll, in 1974, Harris wrote:

Though by no means universally degraded ... Sgt. Pepper had taken a protracted beating from which it has perhaps yet to fully recover. Regularly challenged and overtaken in the Best Beatle Album stakes ... it suffered more than any Beatles record from the long fall-out after punk, and even the band's Britpop-era revival mysteriously failed to improve its standing.[467]

Writing in the 2004 edition of The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Rob Sheffield described Sgt. Pepper as "a revelation of how far artists could go in a recording studio with only four tracks, plenty of imagination, and a drug or two", but also "a masterwork of sonics, not songwriting".[468] In his review for Rough Guides, Chris Ingham said that, while the album's detractors typically bemoan McCartney's dominant role, the reliance on studio innovation, and the unconvincing concept, "as long as there are pairs of ears willing to disappear under headphones for forty minutes ... Sgt. Pepper will continue to cast its considerable spell."[463] Among reviews of the 2009 remastered album, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph wrote: "It is impossible to overstate its impact: from a contemporary Sixties perspective it was utterly mind-blowing and original. Looking back from a point when its sonic innovations have been integrated into the mainstream, it remains a wonky, colourful and wildly improbable pop classic, although a little slighter and less cohesive than it may have seemed at the time."[449] Mark Kemp, writing for Paste, said the album was a "blast of avant-rock genius" but also "one of rock's most overrated albums".[452]

According to BBC Music critic Chris Jones, while Sgt. Pepper has long been subsumed under "an avalanche of hyperbole", the album retains an enduring quality "because its sum is greater than its whole ... These guys weren't just recording songs; they were inventing the stuff with which to make this record as they went along."[469] Although the lyrics, particularly McCartney's, were "a far cry from the militancy of their American peers", he continues, "what was revolutionary was the sonic carpet that enveloped the ears and sent the listener spinning into other realms."[470] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic considers the album to be a refinement of Revolver's "previously unheard-of level of sophistication and fearless experimentation" and a work that combines a wide range of musical styles yet "Not once does the diversity seem forced". He concludes: "After Sgt. Pepper, there were no rules to follow – rock and pop bands could try anything, for better or worse."[448]


Further public and critical recognition

Sgt. Pepper sustained its immense popularity into the 21st century while breaking numerous sales records.[471] With certified sales of 5.1 million copies in the UK, as of April 2019, Sgt. Pepper is the third-best-selling album in UK chart history and the best-selling studio album there.[472] It is one of the most commercially successful albums in the US, where the RIAA certified sales of 11 million copies in 1997.[473] By 2000, Sgt. Pepper was among the top 20 best-selling albums of all time worldwide.[474] As of 2011, it had sold more than 32 million copies worldwide, making it one of the highest-selling albums of all time.[475]

Sgt. Pepper has topped many "best album" lists.[476] It was voted in first place in Paul Gambaccini's 1978 book Critic's Choice: Top 200 Albums,[477] based on submissions from around 50 British and American critics and broadcasters including Christgau and Marcus,[478] and again in the 1987 edition.[479] In the latter year, it also topped Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years".[480] In 1994, it was ranked first in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[481][nb 39] It was voted best album of all time in the 1998 "Music of the Millennium" poll conducted by HMV and Channel 4,[485] and in the following year's expanded survey, which polled 600,000 people across the UK.[486][487] Among its appearances in other critics' polls, the album was third in Q's 2004 list "The Music That Changed the World" and fifth in the same magazine's 2005 list "The 40 Greatest Psychedelic Albums of All Time".[488]

In 1993, Sgt. Pepper was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame,[488] and ten years later it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, honouring the work as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[489] In 2003, Rolling Stone placed it at number one in the magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[490] a ranking it retained in the revised list of 2012, and described the album as "the pinnacle of the Beatles' eight years as recording artists".[491][nb 40] The editors also said that Sgt. Pepper was "the most important rock 'n' roll album ever made",[491] a point to which June Skinner Sawyers adds, in her 2006 collection of essays Read the Beatles: "It has been called the most famous album in the history of popular music. It is certainly among the most written about. It is still being written about."[494] On the list's 2020 revision, Sgt. Pepper descended to number 24, several positions behind Abbey Road, the White Album and Revolver.[495]

In 2006, Sgt. Pepper was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[496] Writing that year, Kevin Dettmar described it as "quite simply, the most important and influential rock-and-roll album ever recorded".[380] It is featured in Chris Smith's 2009 book 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music, where Smith highlights the album among the most "obvious" choices for inclusion due to its continued commercial success, the wealth of imitative works it inspired, and its ongoing recognition as "a defining moment in the history of music".[497] In the NME's 2014 article "25 Albums With the Most Incredible Production", Emily Barker described Sgt. Pepper as "kaleidoscopic" and an "orchestral baroque pop masterpiece the likes of which has rarely been matched since".[498]

Adaptations, tributes and anniversary projects

French horn players performing as "Sgt. Pepper's band" at Live 8 London in 2005

The Sgt. Pepper mythology was reimagined for the plot of Yellow Submarine. In the animated film, the Beatles travel to Pepperland and rescue Sgt. Pepper's band from evildoers, the Blue Meanies.[499] The album inspired the 1974 off-Broadway musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road, directed by Tom O'Horgan,[500] and the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, produced by Robert Stigwood.[465] In July 2012, athletes donned Sgt. Pepper uniforms to pay tribute to the Beatles' album during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.[501]

Sgt. Pepper has been the subject of many tribute albums,[502] including a multi-artist CD available with the March 2007 issue of Mojo and a 2009 live album, Sgt. Pepper Live, by Cheap Trick.[488] Other tribute recordings include Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, a multi-artist charity compilation released by the NME in 1988; Big Daddy's 1992 album Sgt. Pepper's, which Moore recognises as "the most audacious" of all the interpretations of the Beatles' LP up to 1997;[503] and the Flaming Lips' With a Little Help from My Fwends, released in 2014.[504] BBC Radio 2 broadcast Sgt. Pepper's 40th Anniversary in June 2007.[505] The programme contained new versions of the songs by artists such as Oasis, the Killers and Kaiser Chiefs, produced by Emerick using EMI's original four-track recording equipment.[506][507]

The 1987 CD release attracted considerable media interest[477][402] and coincided with a Granada TV documentary, It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, that located the album at the centre of the Summer of Love.[508][509] The reissue peaked at number three on the UK Albums Chart[508] and topped Billboard's CDs chart.[510] The album's 25th anniversary was observed with The South Bank Show's presentation[511] of Martin's TV documentary The Making of Sgt. Pepper, which included interviews with the three surviving Beatles.[512][nb 41] Although there was no official campaign for the 30th anniversary, BBC Radio 2 broadcast Pepper Forever in the UK and some 12,000 schools across the US listened to a radio special dedicated to the album on 2 June 1997.[515] Aside from Radio 2's June 2007 project, the 40th anniversary was marked by the University of Leeds hosting a meeting of British and American commentators to debate the extent of the album's social and cultural impact.[506]

Sgt. Pepper 50th anniversary billboard in London

On 26 May 2017, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was reissued for the album's 50th anniversary as a six-disc box set.[516] The first CD contains a new stereo remix of the album, created by Giles Martin using first-generation tapes rather than their subsequent mixdowns.[517] Apple Corps produced the TV documentary Sgt. Pepper's Musical Revolution to commemorate the anniversary,[518] which was also celebrated with posters, billboards and other decorations in cities around the world.[519] In Liverpool, the anniversary was the focus of a three-week cultural festival that included events dedicated to each of the album's thirteen songs.[520] As part of the festival, Mark Morris choreographed Pepperland to four of the songs from Sgt. Pepper and "Penny Lane", arranged by Ethan Iverson, plus six original compositions by Iverson,[521] and a dawn-to-dusk celebration of Indian music was held in recognition of Harrison's absorption in the genre.[520][522] The 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper topped the UK Albums Chart.[471]

Track listing

All songs written by Lennon–McCartney, except "Within You Without You" by George Harrison. Track lengths and lead vocals per Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald.[523]

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"McCartney2:00
2."With a Little Help from My Friends"Starr2:42
3."Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"Lennon3:28
4."Getting Better"McCartney with Lennon2:48
5."Fixing a Hole"McCartney2:36
6."She's Leaving Home"McCartney with Lennon3:25
7."Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"Lennon2:37
Total length:19:34
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Within You Without You"Harrison5:05
2."When I'm Sixty-Four"McCartney2:37
3."Lovely Rita"McCartney2:42
4."Good Morning Good Morning"Lennon2:42
5."Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr1:18
6."A Day in the Life"Lennon with McCartney5:38
Total length:20:02


According to Mark Lewisohn and Ian MacDonald,[524] except where noted:

The Beatles

Additional musicians and production

  • Sounds Inc. – saxophones, trombones and French horn on "Good Morning Good Morning"
  • Neil Aspinall – tambura, harmonica
  • Geoff Emerickaudio engineering; tape loops, sound effects[nb 42]
  • Mal Evans – counting, harmonica, alarm clock, final piano E chord
  • George Martin – producer, mixer; tape loops, sound effects; harpsichord on "Fixing a Hole", harmonium, Lowrey organ and glockenspiel on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", Hammond organ on "With a Little Help from My Friends", piano on "Getting Better", piano solo on "Lovely Rita"; final harmonium chord.
  • Session musicians – four French horns on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band": Neill Sanders, James W. Buck, John Burden, Tony Randall, arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; string section and harp on "She's Leaving Home", arranged by Mike Leander and conducted by Martin; tabla by Natwar Soni, dilrubas by Anna Joshi and Amrit Gajjar, and tambura by Buddhadev Kansara on "Within You Without You",[527] with eight violins and four cellos arranged and conducted by Harrison and Martin; clarinet trio on "When I'm Sixty-Four": Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie, Frank Reidy, arranged and conducted by Martin and McCartney; saxophones on "Good Morning Good Morning", arranged and conducted by Martin and Lennon; and forty-piece orchestra, including strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion on "A Day in the Life", arranged by Martin, Lennon and McCartney, and conducted by Martin and McCartney.


Weekly charts


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[578] 2× Platinum 120,000^
Argentina (CAPIF)[578]
1987 CD issue
3× Platinum 180,000^
Australia (ARIA)[579] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[580] Gold 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[581] 8× Platinum 800,000^
France (SNEP)[583] Gold 717,400[582]
Germany (BVMI)[584] Platinum 500,000^
Italy (FIMI)[585] Platinum 100,000*
Japan (Oricon Charts) 208,000[536]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[586] 6× Platinum 90,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[588] 17× Platinum 5,340,000[587]
United States (RIAA)[589] 11× Platinum 11,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ According to author Allen J. Wiener, the album's intended release date of 1 June has been "traditionally observed" over the ensuing decades, yet the true release date was 26 May.[1]
  2. ^ McCartney has said that the idea for the title came from his mishearing Evans asking for "salt and pepper" over a meal.[30]
  3. ^ In Emerick's opinion, the recording of Sgt. Pepper marks the emergence of McCartney as the Beatles' de facto producer, as Martin was increasingly absent near the end of late-night sessions that often lasted until dawn.[58]
  4. ^ Wilson was similarly impressed with the intricate bass playing on Rubber Soul.[62] McCartney later said that he, Wilson and Motown's James Jamerson were the three players "doing melodic bass lines at that time ... all picking up on what each other did".[63]
  5. ^ "Strawberry Fields Forever" made prominent use of Mellotron,[65][66] a keyboard instrument on which the keys triggered tape-recordings of a variety of instruments, enabling its user to play keyboard parts using those voices.[67]
  6. ^ In a 2017 interview, Starr said with regard to Harrison's guitar contributions: "Actually, Paul and I were talking about him when we were both listening to Sgt Pepper's for the [50th] anniversary and saying how important George's work on guitar was on that record."[72]
  7. ^ During a 24 February overdubbing session for "Lovely Rita", the Beatles' guests included Crosby and Shawn Phillips, Donovan's guitarist.[83] Photos published in Beatles Monthly magazine showed Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Crosby grouped around a microphone,[84] and a Beat Instrumental report stated that the backing vocals were recorded that night with Crosby's participation.[83] Phillips later supported this and said that he too sang backing vocals with the three Beatles.[84] However, Phillips' recollection is not supported by others,[84] and the group vocals were instead overdubbed on 7 March.[83]
  8. ^ While recording the vocals for "Getting Better" on 21 March, Lennon started feeling ill,[87] having accidentally taken LSD when he meant to take an upper.[88] Unaware that he was under the influence, Martin escorted him to the roof of the building for some fresh air and returned to the studio. When they learned that Lennon was alone on the rail-less rooftop, Harrison and McCartney rushed up to retrieve him and prevent a possible accident.[89][90]
  9. ^ Following the "Day in the Life" filming, the music press often reported on the idea of a Sgt. Pepper TV special.[93] Although a report in July stated that the plan had been scrapped, a filming schedule was drawn up for late in the year, by which point the Beatles were committed to making Magical Mystery Tour.[100]
  10. ^ "Sgt. Pepper" was crossfaded into "With a Little Help from My Friends" and the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise was crossfaded into "A Day in the Life".[123]
  11. ^ The crowd noises were gleaned from EMI's tape archive, including audience sounds recorded at the Royal Albert Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the murmuring, and Martin's recording of a 1961 comedy show, Beyond the Fringe, for the laughter.[157] The opening ambient sounds were captured during the 10 February orchestral session for "A Day in the Life".[158]
  12. ^ The song's lead guitar part was played by McCartney, who replaced an earlier effort by Harrison.[162]
  13. ^ The backing track for "Fixing a Hole" was recorded at Regent Sound Studio, in central London, after the Beatles were unable to arrange a last-minute session at EMI Studios.[180]
  14. ^ McCartney hired Mike Leander to arrange the string section on "She's Leaving Home" since Martin was producing a session by another artist and was unable to meet with him straightaway.[187] Martin was highly upset at McCartney's impatience,[188] but conducted the musicians using the score more or less as written.[189]
  15. ^ In the initial running order, dated 6 April, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" was sequenced as the third track, following "With a Little Help from My Friends".[197]
  16. ^ Lennon was unaware that most record players and speakers of the time were incapable of reproducing the tone, which many listeners would not hear until the release of the CD version in 1987.[241]
  17. ^ When the audio contained in the run-out groove is played in reverse and slowed-down, McCartney can be heard shouting, "I will fuck you like Superman", with Starr and Harrison giggling in the background.[243] The author Will Romano comments that, in this way, Sgt. Pepper closes with nonsensical vocals just as Freak Out! does.[244]
  18. ^ Norman also identifies Sgt. Pepper as being "in other places, grown-up to an unprecedented, indeed perilous, degree". He concludes of this combination: "Its superabundance reflected a conscious wish on the Beatles' part to make amends to their fans for their abandonment of touring. Clamped between headphones in a recording studio, they managed to put on a live show more exciting, more intimate, than any since they'd left the Cavern."[251]
  19. ^ Blake said that Haworth conceived the idea to present the crowd as an imaginary audience. McCartney's original idea, according to Blake, was for the Beatles to pose in an Edwardian-era drawing room in front of a wall filled with portraits of their heroes.[255]
  20. ^ Inglis is paraphrasing George Melly, who in 1970 described the Sgt. Pepper cover as "a microcosm of the Underground world".[261]
  21. ^ The Sgt. Pepper cover piqued a frenzy of analysis.[271] Inglis cites it as the only example in popular music where the album art attracted as much attention as the album. He notes several elements of the cover that were interpreted as evidence of McCartney's death, including: the Beatles are supposedly standing about a grave, the hand above McCartney's head is regarded as a "symbol of death", and on the back cover, he is turned away from the camera.[272]
  22. ^ The Fool also submitted a design for the LP cover, but the Beatles rejected it.[275]
  23. ^ MacDonald cites EMI chairman Joseph Lockwood's recollection of attending a dinner party where "rich older women" sat on the floor and began singing the album's songs, and the description of Jefferson Airplane guitarist Paul Kantner of how he and Crosby played the LP all night in a Seattle hotel lobby to around a hundred entranced fans. Kantner later said: "Something enveloped the whole world at that time and it just exploded into a renaissance."[295]
  24. ^ Miles recalls hearing the album playing from "every shop" along King's Road and that it was similarly ubiquitous in the most fashionable areas of New York. He remembers the record as "the soundtrack to that summer, and that winter ... You just could not get away from it."[297]
  25. ^ Although suspicious of McCartney's motives, Lennon and Harrison, together with Epstein, demonstrated their support by announcing that they too had taken LSD.[313][314] In July, all four Beatles added their signatures to a petition demanding the legalisation of marijuana and paid for its publication in a full-page ad in The Times.[315]
  26. ^ On 4 June, the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened a show at London's Saville Theatre with their rendition of "Sgt. Pepper".[317] Epstein leased the Saville at the time,[318] and Harrison and McCartney attended the performance.[317] McCartney described the moment: "The curtains flew back and [Hendrix] came walking forward playing 'Sgt. Pepper' ... I put that down as one of the great honours of my career."[319]
  27. ^ According to Moore, Goldstein's position was an exception among a group of primarily positive contemporary reviewers that he characterises as the most for any single album at the time. He adds that some negative letters were sent to Melody Maker that he speculates were written by jazz enthusiasts.[349]
  28. ^ In this piece, Goldstein explained that, although the album was not on-par with the best of the Beatles' previous work, he considered it "better than 80 per cent of the music around". He also said that, underneath the production when "the compositions are stripped to their musical and lyrical essentials", the LP was shown to be "an elaboration without improvement" on the group's music.[352]
  29. ^ In his 1968 autobiography, High Priest, Leary adapted lyrics from Sgt. Pepper to relate his psychedelic experiences and journey towards higher consciousness.[364]
  30. ^ In August 1967, The Beatles Book published an article discussing whether the album was "too advanced for the average pop fan". One reader complained that all the songs except "Sgt. Pepper" and "When I'm Sixty-Four" were "over our heads", adding, "The Beatles ought to stop being so clever and give us tunes we can enjoy."[297]
  31. ^ In the November 1967 issue of Down Beat magazine, John Gabree complained that the Beatles were being afforded excessive praise by writers that were unfamiliar with rock music and unaware of the advances made by rival acts such as the Mothers of Invention and the Who.[390]
  32. ^ Lennon's lyrics to "I Am the Walrus" were purposely nonsensical and intended to confound commentators' analysis of the Beatles' work, particularly interpretations of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".[393] Harrison later said that Sgt. Pepper became both "a milestone and a millstone in music history". In his view, it paled beside the band's previous two albums, since "There's about half the songs I like and the other half I can't stand."[394] Lennon publicly disparaged the album in the years following its release,[395] a turnaround that offended Martin and other studio personnel.[81]
  33. ^ The group were particularly annoyed that Time had referred to Sgt. Pepper as "George Martin's new album".[408] Years later McCartney said: "I mean, we don't mind him helping us ... but it's not his album, folks, you know. And there's got to be a little bitterness over that."[71]
  34. ^ After listening to Sgt. Pepper, Sandy Dennis decided to abandon her solo career as a folk singer and joined the band Fairport Convention. Crosby recalled that whereas previous Beatles releases might have brought out a competitive instinct in him, with Sgt. Pepper "they were so far ahead of everybody ... But it was inspiring; all I wanted to do was approach my music with the same freedom."[297]
  35. ^ Lavezzoli cites Sgt. Pepper's Grammy for Album of the Year along with wins for Shankar's collaboration with violinist Yehudi Menuhin (West Meets East) and for Duke Ellington (Far East Suite) as the only time that Indian-influenced albums have won in categories encompassing rock, classical music and jazz at the annual Grammy awards.[429]
  36. ^ Due to the alleged clues in its artwork, Sgt. Pepper returned to the Billboard LPs chart in late 1969, at the height of the "Paul is dead" rumours.[441][442] One contention in this conspiracy theory was that McCartney had been replaced in the Beatles by a man named William Shears Campbell, or Billy Shears.[443]
  37. ^ According to Riley, Rubber Soul and Revolver are "miracles of intuition" that are "greater than the sum of their parts" while in comparison "Sgt. Pepper is tinged with conceit."[458] He describes Sgt. Pepper as "a flawed masterpiece that can only echo the strength of Revolver".[459]
  38. ^ In a 1998 Melody Maker poll of pop stars, DJs and journalists, the album was voted the worst ever made, with the magazine's editor, Mark Sutherland, commenting: "This poll shows people are sick and tired of having the Beatles rammed down their throats as the greatest rock band ever. It's time to make way for great new music." One of those polled, musician and journalist John Robb, declared the album "the low water point of rock 'n' roll", highlighting the Beatles' moustaches as indicative of this.[466]
  39. ^ In the book's second edition, published four years later, Revolver was ranked first, with Sgt. Pepper second followed by the White Album.[482] In the third edition, published in 2000, Sgt. Pepper was ranked third to Revolver and Radiohead's The Bends.[483][484]
  40. ^ The editors ranked Pet Sounds second in the list in recognition of its influence on the album.[492] In the liner notes to the 1997 CD reissue of the Beach Boys' album, Martin said: "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened ... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."[493]
  41. ^ The Making of Sgt. Pepper first aired in the US in September 1992 on the Disney Channel.[512] In keeping with the channel's family image,[513] the band members' comments on the role that drugs played in the album's creation were cut from the broadcast and replaced with alternative footage.[514]
  42. ^ Despite Martin's efforts to secure an engineer's credit for Emerick on Sgt. Pepper, EMI refused the request.[287] Emerick was nevertheless the recipient of the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.[526]


  1. ^ Wiener 1992, p. 31.
  2. ^ Miles 1997, p. 303.
  3. ^ Lewisohn 2010, p. 210.
  4. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 229.
  5. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 212.
  6. ^ a b Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 7.
  7. ^ Lewisohn 2010, p. 211; Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 7.
  8. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 212–213.
  9. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 213.
  10. ^ Lewisohn 2010, p. 230: the Beatles' final commercial performance; Turner 2016, pp. 295, 299: reduced ticket sales, record attendances in 1965; MacDonald 2005, p. 213: subpar performances.
  11. ^ Schaffner 1978, pp. 58–59.
  12. ^ Julien 2008b, p. 1.
  13. ^ Gould 2007, p. 367.
  14. ^ a b Julien 2008b, p. 2.
  15. ^ a b Everett 1999, p. 71.
  16. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 18.
  17. ^ Sounes 2010, pp. 158–59.
  18. ^ Turner 2016, pp. 364–65.
  19. ^ Womack 2007, p. 158, 160–161.
  20. ^ Harry 2000, pp. 323, 333; Julien 2008b, p. 2.
  21. ^ Gould 2007, p. 388.
  22. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 54–56.
  23. ^ Gould 2007, pp. 388–89.
  24. ^ Turner 2016, pp. 332–33.
  25. ^ a b c d Everett 1999, p. 99.
  26. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 88.
  27. ^ Sounes 2010, p. 165.
  28. ^ Prendergast 2003, p. 193.
  29. ^ Womack 2007, p. 168.
  30. ^ "'You Gave Me The Answer' – Sgt. Pepper Special". Paulmccartney.com. 26 April 2017. Archived from the original on 14 August 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  31. ^ Moore 1997, pp. 20–21.
  32. ^ Miles 1997, pp. 303–04.
  33. ^ Turner 2016, p. 378.
  34. ^ Martin 1994, p. 202.
  35. ^ a b Hannan 2008, p. 62.
  36. ^ a b c MacDonald 2005, p. 215.
  37. ^ a b Babiuk 2002, p. 197.
  38. ^ Babiuk 2002, p. 204.
  39. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 253.
  40. ^ a b Julien 2008c, p. 160.
  41. ^ Julien 2008c, p. 158.
  42. ^ Reck 2008, pp. 69, 72–73.
  43. ^ a b Philo 2015, p. 119.
  44. ^ Greene 2016, p. 19.
  45. ^ Lewisohn 2005.
  46. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, pp. 184, 190.
  47. ^ Lewisohn 2010, p. 232.
  48. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 142.
  49. ^ Lewisohn 2005, p. 89.
  50. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 99, 100; MacDonald 2005, pp. 212–223.
  51. ^ Moore 1997, pp. 19–20.
  52. ^ Harry 2002, p. 714.
  53. ^ Greene 2016, pp. 34, 42.
  54. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 218fn.
  55. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 219: 55 hours of studio time; Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 13: "set the agenda for the whole album".
  56. ^ a b Julien 2008b, p. 6.
  57. ^ Martin & Pearson 1994, p. 111.
  58. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 163.
  59. ^ Davies 2009, p. 270.
  60. ^ Hannan 2008, p. 52.
  61. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, pp. 169–70; Miles 1997, p. 281: "one of the qualities he especially admired on Pet Sounds".
  62. ^ Turner 2016, p. 44.
  63. ^ Miles 1997, p. 271.
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