Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: Fire in the Sky: Flying in Defence of Israel

Amos Amir
Fire in the Sky: Flying in Defence of Israel
Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2005
Category: Israel Air Force - Biography

Rating: 4-Stars

Brig. Gen. Amos Amir served in the Israeli Air Force during that crucial period spanning from the 1956 Sinai Campaign, to the 1982 Lebanon War.  Both a Mirage and Phantom pilot, Amir's writing includes the kind of details that help to bring his experience to life, describing not only the events that happened, but the scenery and sensations that he experienced at the time.  Take for example his description of a reconnaissance mission over Egypt:
"The shimmering expanses of the Bardawil lagoon now came into view in all their beauty, and I had a couple of seconds free to make a mental note of the spot's extraordinary magnificence.  It even seemed to me that I caught a glimpse of a huge flock of flamingoes covering part of the blue-green lake."
The chapters of the book alternate between wartime events, and flash-backs to Amir's experiences as a child, then as a young man, and later as a cadet learning to fly.  For me, however, part of the charm of the book comes not merely from Amir's own retelling, but from the individuals and events that his life intersected - offering an alternate vantage point for recalling events and people that were also prominently featured among other memoirs and other pilot interviews.  There are Amir's own rememberances of the bright smile and gentle demeanor of Zorik Lev, for example - the Israeli pilot perhaps most fondly remembered among all his peers, and who died in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Or there were the missions that Amir flew as wingman to Ran Ronen, who was perhaps Israel's most famous squadron commander of the 1967 Six Day War.  Then there are his first encounters flying the Mirage, the fighter that formed the backbone of Israeli air power during the Six Day War: an elegant French weapon, contrasted sharply against the powerful but brutish F-4 Phantom.

Although shorter than some memoirs, Amir's book stands as an able companion to the story of the Israeli Air Force: its formation, evolution, and the men who made it all possible.

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