Reliving the raid and rescue at Entebbe

The chief pilot for the mission, Brig. Gen. (res.) Joshua Shani, was interviewed recently and it occurred to me while reading it that many today have probably never heard of what took place 36 years ago.

This, coming our way via Seraphic Secret, is worth your time and worth passing around:

Entebbe-no-1-crewHow did the crisis at Entebbe begin?

On June 27, 1976, a Paris-bound Air France flight from Tel Aviv, via Athens, was hijacked and diverted to Entebbe, Uganda. Two of the hijackers were members of the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, and two were from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They demanded the release of 53 jailed terrorists in Israel.

On the third day of the crisis, the terrorists separated Israeli and Jewish passengers from the others. The captors freed the non-Jews and sent them to France the next day. Quietly, while the rest of the world talked but did nothing, the Israel Defense Forces planned a rescue mission.

How did you first find out that you would be asked to help rescue the hostages?

I was at a wedding when the commander of the Israel Air Force, Maj. Gen. Benny Peled, approached me and began asking questions about the capabilities of the C-130. It was a strange situation — the commander of the IAF, a major general, asking a lieutenant colonel questions about an airplane. But the C-130 was a new plane, and the IAF top brass were always focused on fighter jets, not transport planes. Peled asked me if it was possible to fly to Entebbe, how long it would take and what it could carry. I left him with the impression that a rescue would be possible.

How did the operation begin?

We began our journey from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which at the time was under Israeli control. The takeoff from Sharm was one of the heaviest ever in the history of this airplane. I didn’t have a clue what would happen. The aircraft was crowded. I was carrying the Sayeret Matkal assault team, led by Yonatan Netanyahu. I was also carrying a Mercedes, which was supposed to confuse Ugandan soldiers at the airport, because Idi Amin, the country’s dictator, had the same car. And I also found room to pack Land Rovers and a paratrooper force.

I gave the plane maximum power, and it was just taxiing, not accelerating. At the very end of the runway, I was probably two knots over the stall speed, and I had to lift off. I took off to the north, but had to turn south where our destination was. I couldn’t make the turn until I gained more speed. Just making that turn, I was struggling to keep control, but you know, airplanes have feelings, and all turned out well.

The flight to Entebbe is about 2,500 miles (4,000 km). How’d you do it?

We had to fly very close to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, over the Gulf of Suez. We weren’t afraid of violating anyone’s air space — it’s an international air route. The problem was that they might pick us up on radar. We flew really low — 100 feet above the water, a formation of four planes. The main element was surprise. All it takes is one truck to block a runway, and that’s all. The operation would be over. Therefore, secrecy was critical.

At some places that were particularly dangerous, we flew at an altitude of 35 feet. I recall the altimeter reading. Trust me, this is scary! In this situation, you cannot fly close formation. As flight leader, I didn’t know if I still had planes 2, 3 and 4 behind me because there was total radio silence. You can’t see behind you in a C-130. Luckily, they were smart, so from time to time they would show themselves to me and then go back to their place in the formation, so I still knew I had my formation with me.

What was going through your head as you approached the runway in Uganda?

My biggest fear was not being shot at from the ground, but making a mistake as a pilot. All I could think the entire time was “Don’t screw this up!” True, the risks to my life were real, but I was more worried about botching the landing and endangering the success of the entire operation. Think about it — how many people would have died at Entebbe if I had made a mistake?

In case something did go wrong, though, I was prepared for the worst. I was wearing a helmet, a bullet-proof vest, and I had an Uzi. I was also given a thick wad of cash in case I needed to use it to escape Uganda. Luckily, I never had to use it. I returned the cash after returning to Israel.

What happened after you landed?

I stopped in the middle of the runway, and a group of paratroopers jumped out from the side doors and marked the runway with electric lights, so that the other planes behind me could have an easier time landing. The paratroopers went on to take the control tower. The Mercedes and Land Rovers drove out from the back cargo door of my airplane, and the commandos stormed the old terminal building where the hostages were. While coordinating the assault, Yonatan Netanyahu, Sayeret Matkal’s commander, was fatally shot by a Ugandan soldier.

There’s more and it’s historically enlightening.

Read it all and pass it on.

Shortlink:

Posted by on July 8, 2012.
Filed under History, Israel.
I blog more regularly at my own place where plain thoughts are delivered roughly. My about page gives you more on who I am.

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  • Commander_Chico

    It was a ballsy mission and well-executed. Netanyahu’s brother Yonathan was a hero.

    • jim_m

      Careful Chico, you’re saying something nice about a Jew.

    • jim_m

      Hey, dumbass! Netanyahu was born in the US and emigrated to Israel and served its government. According to you that makes him a traitor! Which is it? Stand by your remarks or deny them like a coward,

      • Commander_Chico

        I didn’t know Yonathan was born in the USA. Netanyahu’s father emigrated to Mandate Palestine before Israeli independence and just happened to be working in the USA, so Yonathan’s family was long committed to Israel. It’s different from making a choice as an adult and turning your back on the USA. Oren’s parents were Americans – his father served in the US Army. Oren emigrated at age 23 on his own.

        • jim_m

          So is he a traitor or not? Answer the question. His family was “long committed to Israel” does that mean you are calling him a spy? His father was a part oif the Zionist movement a movement you and your leftist friends compare to apartheid and the nazis. Yonathan probably shared the same values, yet you are going to call him a hero?

          You are trying to have it both ways as I said you would. You’re a fraud. You have no moral or ethical compass. You just make this shit up as you go along.

        • deltamary

          I think you would check their bios – Yoni born in US-Bibi in TelAviv their father was a teacher at Cornel- They did not turn their back on the USA- They just went home- and served. Yoni was a hero and lost his life at Entebe. Jim m who posted that cruel post is the Dumbass.

          • jim_m

            I agree with you. Yoni was a hero.

            You need to follow this back a few threads where Chico was calling the Israeli Ambassador a traitor because he renounced his US citizenship and became an Israeli. http://wizbangblog.com/2012/07/08/state-department-spokeswoman-we-are-not-always-consistent/#disqus_thread

            Chico is having this both ways. He wants to call some people traitors for doing the same thing that he calls other people heroes for (ie serving a foreign nation).

            I believe that Netanyahu IS a hero. I believe that Chico is being the fool when he calls out someone as a traitor because that person in Jewish and decides to emigrate to Israel and then serves that country in government. THAT is antisemitic. He would not do that if the person were of Mexican heritage and returned to Mexico. He does not do that for Netanyahu because Netanyahu gave his life in a heroic fashion.

            Chico refuses to answer the question. Hew refuses to address his bigoted remarks and revise them to be consistent between the two threads.

            My supposition is that Chico thinks Netanyahu is a hero because he is dead and the Ambassador is a traitor because he is alive.

          • deltamary

            I did not see all these comments by Chico- but he needs to be educated – and read the book about Yoni. In my opinion, anyone using Chico as a name will deal from the bottom of the deck.

          • jim_m

            I did not mean to offend you and I am sorry that my remarks were misconstrued. The raid on Entebbe is one of the all time heroic acts and is remarkable for its success against terrible odds.

          • jim_m

            His father was working in NYC for a number of years. Yonathan spent his first 10 years or so in Israel and then his adolescence in the US. He went back to Israel and then returned here for college.

            You are still trying to have it both ways. So by your new definition anyone who moved to Israel in the 40′s was a traitor to wherever they came from. Your position is untenable. You cannot call some people traitors for having an ethnic and religious connection to their people and their homeland. Your accusation of the ambassador was vicious and uncalled for and stems from an ugly bias against people of his religion.

      • deltamary

        Jim m.That is a cruel post- You need to check before you sprout off. Yes Yoni was born in the US – Bibi was born in Tel Aviv. Their father was a teacher at Cornell – Just check their bios and APOLOGIZE. Yoni was a hero and lost his life in Entebbe – Bibi is my hero, too – and I am not Jewish but big supporter of Israel. Bet you could not do what Yoni did.

        • jim_m

          See my post above. And follow the discussion before you call me a dumbass you fool.

          Chico explicitly stated that ANYONE who leaves the US and serves a foreign government is a traitor. PERIOD. NO DISCUSSION.

          Then he comes here and says that someone who does that very thing is a hero. I am calling him out because he was a bigot in the other thread and he is inconsistent in his beliefs.

          If I am being cruel it is not intended for Netanyahu, it is for Chico, who calls people like Netanyahu traitors while they are alive, but heroes if they are dead. Chico has repeatedly posted anti Israeli and anti Jewish statements. I find it all too convenient for him to vilify the living Jews as traitors and honor the dead ones as heroes. It says a lot about his mentality of the value of the Jewish people.

          • deltamary

            I’m lost now in all this – so I’m the dumbass, I guess.

          • jim_m

            No. I can see where, coming in in the middle, you did not understand the context of my remark.

          • deltamary

            Glad you understand- I’ve got to foucus on what is happening to our country- I see another Executive Order was signed last Friday – Got to figure out where we are with that – Have a good day-

  • herddog505

    Just think: Hollywood used to make movies about this. That, of course, was when the left considered Jews to be brave heroes and not nasty ol’ nazi-esque oppressors, bent on genocide against the harmless, lovable, Palestinians.

    As an aside, I love airplanes, and the Herky-bird has always been a favorite: there’s just not much it can’t do.

    • Commander_Chico

      Forty years of occupation and land confiscation will do that for you – things change. It’s sad.

      Moshe Dayan’s widow:

      What is your Israel?
      My Israel is the country, the landscape I see when I travel from north to south. The mountains, the ocean – just like it was back then. For a moment I even enjoy myself. I remember when we would pick anemones of various colors in the hills that surround Nahalal. I’m from Jerusalem, and there they had red anemones. I miss the old Israel, when there were still ideals, when we settled the land.
      And we expelled?
      We didn’t expel. During my childhood, we didn’t expel. We bought those tracts of land. Since then, however, many things have happened and today Israel is not the same. It’s cliche to talk about how we’re in a state of occupation and we’re trying to occupy more and more. I’m at that age where I don’t even talk about peace anymore. We don’t know how to make peace. We go from war to war and this will never end.
      Whose fault is it?
      Ours, mainly. Are we, with all our power, incapable of taking a step?

      http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/moshe-dayan-s-widow-israel-doesn-t-know-how-to-make-peace-1.263858

      • jim_m

        What you miss is that the Jews NEVER expelled the palestinians. Back in the time of the Mandate the arab land owners sold their land at inflated rates and it was they who evicted their tenants, not the Jews. The arabs became rich by selling their lands (and impoverishing their fellow arabs) and now they want to take back the land they sold by force.

        The palis lost all credibility when Arafat refused the Israeli offer that would have given the Palis everything they were asking for. The palis don’t want peace, they want another Holocaust. Frankly, so does today’s American left,