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Post Israel at War, 1948
Created by John Eipper on 09/11/17 3:42 AM

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Israel at War, 1948 (Luciano Dondero, Italy, 09/11/17 3:42 am)

Belatedly, may I also congratulate John Eipper for his persistent and resilient editorship at WAIS? I have known him (albeit, only virtually) for just a few years, but I have learned to value his qualities in holding together what my old mentor Posadas would call "una bolsa de gatos" [a sackful of cats--JE].

However, I have to raise a point of dissent with his statement while commenting on "Israel's Preemptive Strike, 1967" (Edward Jajko, USA), on September 6.

JE wrote: "Chalk up '67 as one preemptive strike that worked splendidly for the strikers (at least in the short term--Israel has had no lasting peace ever since)" (emphasis added, LD).

I understand why from a US standpoint that's how it might appear (a few words about this later), but in actual fact Israel has had no lasting peace since it was created in 1948, and indeed violence against it started the year before, as soon the UN voted to partition the rump Mandate Palestine into three sections: an Arab state, a Jewish state, and an internationally run enclave around Jerusalem.

In 1948 five Arab states with British military officers and weapons at their disposal, launched an attack against the new State of Israel, rejecting arms in hand the UN plan; they were Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, with additional contingents from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Between the 1949 armistice and 1956, a litany of terrorist assaults took place, from the Egypt-occupied Gaza strip and from the Jordan-occupied "West Bank," culminating with Egypt blockading Israel's southern port of Eilat closing navigation through the Straits of Tiran and forbidding Israeli ships from the Suez Canal, in violation of the international status of the Canal.

This prompted Israel to join Britain and France in the "Suez Crisis." The war was a military success, thwarted only by the United States, which was, in a strange alliance with the Soviet Union, hell-bent on curbing Britain's swan's song as a world power.

Israel's armor quickly took over the whole of Sinai and reached the Canal. But it was compelled to withdraw under threats from the US and the Soviet Union.

These events, by the way, played a crucial role in prompting France, and Israel in its wake, to develop its own nuclear military capability, independent of the US and NATO.

Terrorist activities against Israel continued after 1956, as well as the harassment against Israeli land-tillers in the north of the country by the Syrian armed forces installed in the Golan Heights. Preparation for war, with heavy military supply by the USSR, was undergoing in Syria and Egypt, as Edward Jajko witnessed.

What was different in 1967, with respect to the first twenty years of the State of Israel, was this: for the first time Israel fought with some US-supplied weaponry (not all, as the bulk of the air force was still made up of French Mirage).

And that is because, unlike the current anti-Zionist vulgata would imply, Israel was not "created by American and British imperialism to further their interests in the Middle East."

Israel owes its existence to the bravery and courage of its people, and to the hard determination of the Soviet Union to deliver the Jewish state.

At the UN in 1947, and on the ground in 1948-49, it was Stalin's intent to weaken "British imperialism" and put a wedge between Britain and the US, that meant support for the establishment of the State of Israel, and then, military supply; as well as granting Jews in Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe a chance to move to Palestine (but not from the USSR itself!).

Britain, under Bevin's Labour government, did all it could to stop Israel. In 1949, when Israel downed five British planes, it even threatened to intervene directly against the new State.

Some British soldiers and officers took the side of Israel, though: two Sherman tanks were stolen and became the beginning of Israeli armor. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Arab-Israeli_War )

The US, embroiled in a conflict between a mildly pro-Israel president (Truman) and an "oil-first" State Department, forbade in 1948-49 any export of weaponry to Israel and even threatened to strip US citizenship on anybody who went to fight for Israel. This was not implemented, ultimately.

The only Western country that amply supplied weapons to Israel, but only after 1949 though, was France, where a layer of public servants and ministry officials felt a sense of solidarity with those who had fought together with them against the scourge of Nazism.

It's very easy to check on all this. Not only there are plenty of history books and memoirs which describe the events, but you can just look at any picture of the time, and see what kind of weaponry the Israelis used. In 1948 they had German Me109 in the air, fighting and winning against the Spitfires of the Egyptians and the Jordanians--but Israel also had quite a few Spitfires as well, and a hodge-podge of hybrid and semi-cannibalised flying thingies. I'm enclosing some of these pics, taken from an Italian magazine for military buffs, Aerei nella storia.

JE comments:  Who knew that Israel used German planes to combat British ones in 1948?  Luciano Dondero did, and I thank him for this very informative post.  The AVIA 199 was Israel's first fighter plane.  They were constructed in Czechoslovakia from parts left over from the German workhorse Me (Messerschmitt) 109.  The Israeli pilots called them "Messer" or knife in Yiddish and German.  Due to the cobbling together of mismatched parts, including the "wrong" engine, they handled poorly and had a bad reputation among the pilots.  (This from Wikipedia.)

I would be interested to learn more about the British officers who advised the warring Arab states in 1948.  Mainstream history certainly doesn't remember them.

Sherman Tanks of the Israeli Armored Brigade, 1948


Israeli AVIA 199 (ex-Me 109)


Two Israeli Spitfires Escorting a Bomber



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  • MiG 15s in Egypt, North Korea (John Heelan, UK 09/11/17 10:17 AM)
    Luciano Dondero (11 September) might add to his list of aircraft the Russian MiG 15s. Allegedly the planes were better than Egyptian pilots who were prone to crash them despite the special runway built for training purposes.

    (Ed Jajko might recall this problem.)

    The death toll was surpassed only by the later Lockheed Lightning F-104 Starfighter, nicknamed the "Witwenmacher" by the Luftwaffe and the "Lawn Nail" by the Canadians.


    The joke in Germany at the time was: Q. How do I get a Starfighter? A: buy a field and just wait!


    By the way, I think that Kim still has a MiG-15 in his air force. "The NKAF's most capable combat aircraft are its MiG-29s, procured from the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, its MiG-23, and its SU-25 ground-attack aircraft," the Pentagon report reads. "However, the majority of its aircraft are less capable MiG-15s, MiG-17s, MiG-19s (F-6), and MiG-21s."


    One wonders if Putin and his oligarchs are profiting from training aero engineers and replacing parts of these old aircraft.


    JE comments: Wikipedia says that North Korea still employs the antediluvian MiG 15s (1947) as trainers.  How can they keep them going, 60 years later?  Interestingly, the AK-47 also appeared in that same annus mirabilis for instruments of death.


    I'm sure WAISer Michael Sullivan met a few angry MiG 15s in Vietnam.  What can you teach us, General?

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    • A MiG Encounter over Cuba, 1962 (Michael Sullivan, USA 09/12/17 4:16 AM)
      In response to John E's question, the North Vietnamese flew MiG 17s, 19s and 21s. I never saw a MiG in Vietnam, though I flew several B-52 MiG escort missions around the Mu Gia Pass. The Marines had the mission of flying the night barrier combat air patrol (BARCAP) off Haiphong in our F-4s. Problem was, the NV didn't fly at night, but it allowed the carriers' F-4s in the Gulf to get some rest. We'd go round and round in oval patterns, air-refueling about every 35 minutes. Every now and then we would be vectored on an actual target that would turn out to be another US aircraft or a false target.



      The only time I ever saw MiGs for real except during training, I intercepted two MiG 17s during the Cuban Missile crisis aftermath and that was a flight I'll never forget. I was on the alert "hot pad" (must be airborne in 5 minutes) at NAS Key West. When the scramble bell went off we'd run to our aircraft. The starboard engine would already be at 10%, as the troops started the starting units as soon as they heard the bell so we could hit the right engine igniter switch and it'd start immediately while getting help to strap in. All this took about 2 and 1/2 minutes to get both engines running and fully strapped in. We were only 50 yards from the end of the runway, so we'd add power, go around a 45-degree turn onto the runway getting a green light from the tower meaning we were cleared for take-off, light the afterburners and take off on RWY 31. We had no radios, radar or navigational aids as it took about 5-7 minutes for them to come on line after engine start.



      We immediately turned to 120 degrees, which was the closest vector toward Cuba and the 28th degrees N latitude in the Florida Straits. When the radios came on line we could then talk to the ground radar site (GCI) and they'd tell us what heading to fly to intercept the unknown target. The criteria was to launch our fighters if any unidentified aircraft crossed 28th deg. North. GCI then told me to go "Gate," which is max speed terminology for using full afterburner power. My target was 47 NM on the nose when we got a radar contact. They were heading SE and it's only about 90 miles to Cuba from Key West. I leveled off at 800 ft. and was doing 700kts indicated airspeed, or right around 1.1 Mach, which was the fastest I'd ever been.  However, at 40,000 feet, Mach 2 is only about 610 kts. indicated.



      My intake ramps and hydraulic gauges were cycling but we caught the MiGs just north of the Cuban cays. The GCI site communicated with me via my wingman, who was at 10,000 ft. relaying the instructions, as we were too low to be able to hear the GCI instructions ourselves. My wingman said to maintain 5-mile trail but by then I was into three miles with a 470 kts. overtake in speed! A few seconds later I got a "break X," where a big "X" come up on the radar scope and the target is lost! This is done to keep you from running into the target at night or bad weather. I did a high G barrel roll, reduced the power to idle and put the speed brakes out to dissipate airspeed ASAP. I slowed to around 350 kts. fairly quickly, but I didn't see the two MiGs so I thought I flew out in front of them and was thinking, "Oh s---t, I'm in trouble now," when luckily I spotted them 30 degree high at about 3,000 ft. and about a half a mile.



      The MiGs went into a port turn, so I thought the game was on. I immediately rolled right into lag pursuit with my Sidewinder missile screaming a loud tone, indicating I was in the perfect position to fire but I noticed the MiGs weren't pulling any Gs in the turn and the wingman looked like he was practicing flying formation as he was pretty shaky. Then I realized they'd never seen me and their GCI (if they had any) didn't know I was there. The MiGs pretty soon set a course for Santa Clara de Las Banos which was a Cuban MiG base. I broke it off, flying over the outer cays and dove down to the water to stay out of their SAM envelope.  I stayed there till North of the 28th and climbed to altitude to make an idle descent into Key West. I landed with about 600-800 lbs. of gas which is low for an F-4 as the fuel "low level" light comes on at 2,000 lbs.



      The F-4 in full afterburner burns 70,000 lbs. of fuel per hour at sea level and we only take off with about 12,500. My flight lasted 24 minutes as I remember. Both my Sidewinders, which had half-round seeker heads, had gone from clear glass prior to flight to frosted glass after the flight because of the friction on the heads, but they still worked as I had a good, solid tone. However, after the data from that flight was analyzed the Sidewinder was modified to have a mostly pointed seeker head vice half round and it's still that way today!

      Great times, great memories!


      JE comments:  You have given us 24 minutes of adrenaline, Michael!  What a ride, and what a close call at the end.  Doesn't an F-4 drop like a rock if you run out of fuel?


      A naive question:  were the pilots of those MiGs Cuban, Soviet, or could they have been either?


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      • Running Out of Gas in an F-4 (Michael Sullivan, USA 09/14/17 4:18 AM)
        This is a followup to my post of September 12th. If you run the F-4 out of fuel and the engines quit, they will start to unwind and the RPM decreases immediately. Once the RPM drops below 53% the powered flight controls freeze and you're just along for the ride and must eject.

        However, you can keep a nose-down attitude to keep the air speed up and engine RPMs above 53% but you're approaching the ground or water fairly rapidly. Depending on the altitude, if the engines flame out you may be able to glide for several miles while still being able to steer the aircraft, which could get you from land to over water for rescue by the US Navy which was preferred for Vietnam, so you wouldn't become a POW.



        I have no idea of the nationality of the MiG pilots I mentioned earlier, but I believe the wingman was a "new guy." The Rules of Engagement stated you couldn't shoot unless you observed a hostile act or were cleared to shoot by GCI. There were only a few hostile acts ever committed by Cuban aircraft in all the years of US fighters were intercepting unknown aircraft above the 24 N. I remember one incident where a US fishing boat was dead in the water below 24 N, and Cuban jets made a couple of strafing passes on it but US fighters arrived too late to take any action.



        In my earlier post I stated 28 deg. N was the "scramble" line when actually it was the 24 deg. N line. It's been about 55 years, so this morning 24 N popped into my mind after reading John's response and I looked it up on the map and 24 N is what it was!


        JE comments: "You're just along for the ride"--what an example of USMC composure!  I would be saying something more along the lines of "Holy S#%$" or crying for Mommy.


        I noticed, Michael, that you spoke of "running out of gas" (not jet fuel).  Is this a common way for Marine pilots to refer to their fuel supply, or were you "translating" for us civilians?


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        • Mid-Air Refueling: a Tutorial (Michael Sullivan, USA 09/15/17 2:19 PM)
          In response to John E's question about "gas" vs. "jet fuel," we use the term "gas" most of the time as it's so casual. We're always air refueling but we still call it "gas"!

          The air refueling tanker would say to us as we approached the tanker to refuel, "How much gas do you need?" Then we'd respond in "X" amount of gallons which translates to pounds on the aircraft's fuel gauge. Sounds confusing but it's very simple, and many times we air refuel in EMCON conditions which is no radio transmissions. There are three lights on the back of the tanker's refueling pod.



          Green: You're cleared to plug in and gas is flowing once plugged in and moving the hose up about half way to open the tanker's fuel valve to permit gas to flow.



          Amber: You're cleared to the stabilized position 3-5 ft. behind the refueling basket on the end of the tanker's hose that we plug into. We start from that position.


          Red: Not cleared to plug in or make an emergency breakaway if refueling, as there's an emergency with the tanker aircraft or its hose and drogue system.



          Navy and Marine aircraft use the hose and drogue system, while the USAF uses a boom from the refueler aircraft to plug into the refueling receptacle located on top of the receiver aircraft. The receiver pilot just flies formation under the tanker and the boom operator in the tanker does all the work!



          Navy and Marine aircraft can refuel on USAF tankers if they attach a short hose to the end of the boom, but there is no takeup reel so you can't vary your formation flying hardly at all, as you'll slip out. We do it all the time so it isn't a big deal. The problem for the USAF tankers is that they can either refuel USAF aircraft with the boom or Navy/Marine aircraft with the short hose attached to the boom. The decision is made prior to the tanker's take-off so they can configure the aircraft correctly. USAF aircraft can't use our hose and drogue system as they don't have an in-flght refueling probe.



          You have just had "Air-to-Air Refueling 101," and we're launching you tomorrow on your first air refueling hop...at night!


          JE comments: One quick definition.  Drogue (in tanker aircraft): "a funnel-shaped part on the end of the hose
          into which a probe is inserted by an aircraft being refueled in flight."



          Now I'm ready, General!


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        • Some Praise for WAIS: from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 09/15/17 5:02 PM)

          Gary Moore writes:



          So many great posts appear on WAIS that, as I feel compelled to
          thank Michael Sullivan for that fantastic cockpit tour over the Florida Straits
          in Castro Standard Time, I realize I'm slighting all the other WAIS landmarks
          that it felt too disingenuous to keep congratulating.


          I hope all those authors,
          too, realize how much is absorbed from their expertise, and how much unspoken
          impact they have--with all of it, of course, redounding to the credit of the central force
          that makes it all happen: the Sage of Adrian.


          JE comments:  Adrian has a sage?  (Blush.)  Thank you, Gary.  Yours is the perfect post to set the tone for the weekend.  Here in Adrian it's promising to be a beautiful one:  sunny and in the upper 70s (24-25C).

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