Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review: Hammers - Israel's Long-Range Heavy Bomber Arm

Shlomo Aloni and Zvi Avidror
Hammers - Israel's Long-Range Heavy Bomber Arm: The Story of 69 Squadron
Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2010
Category: Israel Air Force - History

Rating: 4-Stars

This is the story of on of Israel's oldest Air Force squadrons: Squadron 69, the "Hammers".  Israel's 69th Squadron began operations in the 1948 War of Independence, flying B-17 Fortresses - aircraft which they continued to fly into the 1950s.  The squadron was decommissioned, and then reactivated in the latter 1960s, to fly the F-4 Phantom - the cutting edge of Israel's heavy air power at the time.  Finally, the squadron would transition to the F-15I - the Israeli version of the Strike Eagle - in the 1990s.  This is therefore a story that spans between decades, and between generations, covering some of the most tumultuous periods in Israel's history - both then and now.

True to form, Shlomo Aloni delivers the detailed stories and first hand interviews that he is famous for.  In the front line of Israeli air strikes, whether in Egypt, Syria, or in the future, perhaps Iran, the history of the 69th Squadron resonates with the war torn memories of the past half century.  Aloni's co-author for this book, Zvi Avidror was himself a member of the 69th Squadron in its early days, serving as a gunner on the B-17.  The book was therefore able to draw on a wide array of sources to provide a consistent level of coverage for both the early days of operation, flying the B-17, to the later, jet propelled era.

The kind of air-to-ground missions that the Hammers were assigned to were not always the roles that won them accolades in the count of air-to-air kills.  But they were the kind of roles that could make a real difference to the war on the ground.  And they were among the most dangerous.  As one Phantom pilot recalled from the War of Attrition,

"At least on two occasions I remember looking out after the attack and seeing the whole desert firing at us with AAA and SA-7s.  On another mission they launched seven SAMs against our Kurnass during pull up!"

This book therefore bridges that important gap in memory, reminding us of that life and death struggle in each generation that - willingly or not - Israel has been forced to endure.

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