If not for them, there would be no Israel ~ Eran Ramot
The book Angels In the Sky: How a Band of Volunteer Airmen Saved the New State of Israel, authored by Robert Gandt, is about a band of volunteer airmen who, in 1948, arrived to Israel from the United States, Canada, Britain, France and South Africa to help the nascent Jewish state to victoriously earn her independence.
Most of those aviators, many were Jews, a third were not, have passed; they were World War II veterans-young, idealistic, swaggering, noble, eccentric and courageous beyond measure.
Most of them knowingly violated their nations’ embargoes on the shipment of arms and aircraft to Israel. They smuggled into Israel Messerschmitt fighters from Czechoslovakia, painted over the swastika symbol on those aircraft the Star of David Jewish symbol. Defying their own countries’ strict laws, the airmen risked everything-their lives, careers, citizenship-to fight for Israel.
This portion of Israel’s history is about to be all forgotten but for a few who continue carrying this history with passion. One such person is Mike Flint whose father, Commander Mitchell (Mitch) Flint, was one of those aviators who took upon themselves to do the almost impossible, fly a mix bag of hardly one can call planes and help win Israel’s War of Independence.
Publisher Gil Tagar of Opus Publishing took upon himself to translate the book in the English language to Hebrew and bring this story closer to the people of the country where it all took place.
The book was given to Boaz Wiess to be translated. Wiess was missing the professional aviation terminology and thus Opus Publishing called the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, an Israeli NGO, established by the Israeli Air Force Association its main objective is to promote public awareness towards air and space issues, to hold conferences, conduct researches and organize educational activities, for help.
Eran Ramot is a lieutenant colonel (Res.) in the Israel Air Force (IAF), a veteran pilot and the IAF former test pilot and a veteran pilot with El-Al, Israel’s national airlines. Eran, is a member of the Fisher Institute, in charge of the Institute’s aviation research and safety. In his position Opus Publishing asked Eran for his professional assistance in the translation of the book from English to Hebrew.
Due to the fact that the book was already in a translation to Hebrew process, and because he already had experience and had translated several books in the past, such as the Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Eran jumped on the occasion.
Once Eran was approached to help in the translation he was willing to do so under the condition that he will be responsible for the entire translation of the book. However, and since the actual translation was almost completed Eran became the book’s professional editor and assistant translator. The book became available for purchase in 2018.
Eran and I met to speak about his experience translating the book on which the author, Robert Gandt spent a week interviewing Mitchell and Mike Flint at their home in Los Angeles.
“Though I was familiar with the facts of history the book tells about, I did not know the many intimate stories the book brought to light. I was thrilled to make acquaintance with events mentioned in the book that were a true eye opener,” Eran told me. “As a pilot and Israel Air Force (IAF) veteran, these stories touched my heart deeply. I was extremely moved by the uncovering of the people mentioned in the book, the way they flew the planes, the way the bombed the enemy and the way some of them crashed.”
“Except for my contribution to the publishing of this book, I think it deserves a wide introduction to the public and a spread, especially to the air force commanders.”
The foreseeing future, the outcome of Eran’s introduction to the book
“What is next for the book?” I asked Eran.
ER: “With the book published in Hebrew I went to see the IAF commander Aluf Amikam Norkin. I gave him a book to read and told him that there must be an IAF heritage officer post. The Commander was very enthusiastic to read the book between his duty and flights to Gaza and Syria.”
Eran did not slumber; he also went to see the management of the Israel Air Force Veterans Association and asked them to organize an event in which they will introduce the Angels In The Sky story, the aviators volunteers who came to Israel in 1948 and introduce the book to their members.
The result, on December 16, 2018, the IAF Association held its annual get together, all of its content was dedicated to the story of those daring foreign aviators. And there, in front of 1500 attendees, Aluf Norkin stated that Angels In Th Sky is the best aviation book he has ever read and it is a must read for everyone in the audience. He is also contemplating to make the book a compulsory read for every cadet in the pilot course.
In that special event, the IAF Association gave Harold (Smoky) Simon, who joined the South African Air Force (SAAF) in January 1941 and came to Israel as a volunteer and was appointed as Chief of Air Operations at IAF Head Quarters in 1948, a special award.
As the result of getting to know some intimate details about those foreign aviators who answered the call to come help Israel fight her was for independence, Eran applied to the Israel Ministry of transportation to give them an everlasting commemoration.
In their memory the now called Herzliya Airport, located in the city of Herzliya in central Israel, an airport mainly used by flight schools and for general aviation, will be named after Modi Alon.
Mordechai “Modi” Alon was an Israeli fighter pilot who, with the formation of the Israeli Air Force in May 1948, assumed command of Squadron 101, the IAF first fighter squadron. Alon flew the Avia S-199 plane and on 29 May 1948 participated in the IAF’s first combat sortie. On June 3, 1948 Alon scored the IAF’s very first aerial victories, downing a pair of Royal Egyptian Air Force C-47 over el Aviv.
On 16 October 1948, Alon and Ezer Weizman took off from Herzliya to attack Egyptian forces operating in the vicinity of Ashdod. At the end of the mission, Alon had trouble lowering the plane’s landing gear and the Avia plane hit the ground and burst into flames, instantly killing Alon. He was survived by his wife, Mina, then three months pregnant. Alon’s daughter, Michal, would later serve her mandatory IDF service with 101 Squadron which her father was its first commander.
Last week Eran received the Minister of Transportation formal approval to change the name of the Herzliya Airport to Modi Alon Airport and it is possible that the road leading to this airport will be named MACHAL Road. MACHAL is the acronym for ‘foreign volunteers’.
We can expect a plaque dedicated to those exceptional aviators and as well as an unveiling ceremony.
If not for the MACHAL, there would not be such IAF command and such glorious Israel Air Force.