Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Book Review: Eagle in the Sky
Eagle in the Sky
Tel Aviv: Contento De Semrik, 2013
Category: Israel Air Force - Biography
Ran Ronen has been described by the men who served under him as "the greatest squadron commander ever." A man who exemplified the ethos of the Israeli fighter pilot, Ronen was among Israel's earliest high-speed reconnaissance pilots, flying Mirage fighters deep into enemy territory to gather intelligence in the years prior to the Six Day War. The commander of Squadron 119 in 1967 (the "Bat" squadron), he ran a rigorous training regimen - and was rewarded with the only squadron not to loose a single pilot or aircraft throughout the Six Day War. When Shmuel Hetz, Israel's first F-4 Phantom squadron commander was later killed during the War of Attrition, Ran Ronen would be selected to rebuild the shattered squadron, leading it into battle throughout the latter days of that war. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Ronen was a base commander, flying F-4 Phantoms on some of the most hazardous missions of that conflict.
Ronen was an Israeli legend, and it comes through in the pages of his memoirs. From his eight-minute-long battle with a Jordanian Hunter (the longest one-on-one air battle in IAF history), to his recovery of an engineless Mirage fighter at low altitude, Ronen's career spanned the heyday of Israel's Air Force. Anyone who follows this period of Israel's Air Force history will have come across Ronen's name, over and over again. Giora Romm, Israel's first jet fighter ace, served under Ronen in the 119 Squadron during the Six Day War. Menachem Shmul, who went on to be the lead test pilot at Israel Aircraft Industries, also served in the 119 Squadron in 1967. Yiftach Spector, the commander of Israel's third Phantom squadron, attended one of Ran Ronen's training courses and wrote in praise of demanding methods. Even Ezer Weizman, the Air Force Commander who transformed Israel's fighter fleet during the 1960s, speaks fondly of Ronen in his own memoirs. Well written, with detailed descriptions of aerial encounters, Ronen's autobiography provides the back story to the most accomplished air force of the jet age.