Thursday, July 30, 2015
Book Review: Loud and Clear
Loud and Clear: The Memoir of an Israeli Fighter Pilot
Minneapolis, MN: Zenith Press, 2009
Category: Israel Air Force - Biography
A book is about more than just a simple retelling of a story. It is about the relationship between the reader, the writer, and the story. When it comes to Iftach Spector, that relationship is complicated.
On the one hand, Spector was a first-hand eyewitness to many major events in the history of Israel's Air Force. His first squadron assignment in December 1960 was to the Scorpions - under Yak Nevo, the pilot who had literally written the book on Israeli air combat tactics. In the course of his career, Spector's path would repeatedly intersect those of such figures as Zorik Lev, Ran Ronen, and Shmuel Hetz. Spector would take part in every major Israeli war and operation from the 1967 Six Day War, to the 1982 Lebanon War - with more than his fair share of MiG kills along the way. The insights that he provides into each individual, and into each event are invaluable.
On the other hand, as becomes apparent through the pages of the book, Spector's own relationship to his peers and subordinates was somewhat terse, and removed. A loner since his youth, Spector repeatedly made choices that cast into doubt his personal judgement. As newly appointed commanding officer of the 101st fighter squadron, Spector's demanding, sometimes dictatorial leadership style succeeded in alienating most of the pilots under his command. In another episode, years later as base commander of Ramat David he would insist on taking part in the historic raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor - bumping a younger pilot with far more hands-on experience in the F-16. Past his prime and less familiar with the airplane, Spector would become disoriented over the reactor site, dropping the only two bombs that missed a direct hit on the reactor dome. Still later, long after retirement, Spector would write a letter in protest of Israeli tactics that called on the IAF to carry out targeted killings of individual terrorist leaders in Gaza - a letter that was published precisely as waves of suicide bombers were targeting Israeli bus stops, restaurants, and night clubs on a daily basis. His public letter of protest could not possibly have been more poorly timed.
So for a supporter of Israel and a student of modern Israeli military history, the relationship with this book will be complicated. Spector was an expert dogfighter, and delivers detailed accounts of historic engagements. He was also, however, a man - flawed like any other - who lays bare many of those flaws for all to see. Still a great book, still a lot of history to absorb, but . . . complicated.