Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: 101: Israeli Air Force First Fighter Squadron

Shlomo Aloni
101: Israeli Air Force First Fighter Squadron
Bat-Hefer, Israel: IsraDecal Publications, 2007
Category: Israel Air Force - History

Rating: 5-Stars

Shlomo Aloni has authored dozens of books and articles on Israel's Air Force during his long writing career, gaining first hand access to the pilots and official records that was often denied to others.  Nonetheless, out of a long career writing on this topic, I would have to rate this book as among my favorite texts that Aloni has written.

The 101st was Israel's first fighter squadron - indeed, Israel's only fighter squadron during the War of Independence.  The book chronicles the evolution of the 101st from its days flying the S-199 (a sorry combination of an Me 109 airframe equipped with a Junkers Jumo engine), to Spitfires and Mustangs, then to the Mystere, the Mirage, the Nesher, the Kfir, and finally the F-16D.  Throughout the text, Aloni delivers the kind of first-hand accounts that he has been famous for: providing a pilot's perspective of the operations, the aircraft, and the men who made up the 101st.

Take for example the account of Yossi Arazi, a pilot in the 101st during the Six Day War, describing his encounter with Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin just days before the outbreak of war.  At the time, tensions throughout Israel were running high, with near certainty that the impending conflict would mean the death of thousands of Israelis.  Yet despite this tension, the morale within Israel's Air Force remained high:
"When Rabin visited the squadron before the war he was nervous and stressed and he smoked a lot. . . . We sat in the briefing room and we told him, 'Yitzhak, do not worry.  We will do the job for you!'"

Richly illustrated with color and black-and-white images, Aloni caps his definitive history with appendices which list every air-to-air kill credited to the squadron, as well as every combat loss and accident from 1948 to 1995.  This is the story of Israel's most famous squadron, told in detail such as few have known it.

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