Saturday, December 26, 2015

Documentary Review: Above and Beyond

This is a very intriguing movie about the Israeli air force.  When Israel was granted the right to move to Palestine, they still had to win the right from the surrounding Arab nations.  War was inevitable.  Those in Israel were outnumbered and out armed on all sides.  At that time Israel was without large arms, and had no air force.  It was felt that if they could establish an air presence maybe they could even up the odds some.  To do so they were facing two obstacles.  They needed pilots and they needed plans and support equipment.  The United States had put a moratorium against selling arms to the Middle East, including Israel.  However this didn't preclude former WWII pilots from being recruited and being able to fight in the war.  Paul Reubens talks of his father being recruited.  That his father volunteered because he believed in the cause.  Other American Jewish pilots also joined the effort.  There were many mothballed planes in the United States.  Many of these were sold to Panamanian Airlines (one of the Israeli's had a relationship with the president.)  These planes were actually a fake airline, but this scheme allowed them to get the planes out of the United States.  The planes went to Panama, and from their to Czechoslovakia.  This was about the only country that would allow the Israeli's access in and out as they had declared neutrality in the conflict.  They were also needing American dollars and they were available because of many American donations to this cause.  Here many of the Israeli pilots were trained.  These planes were instrumental in carrying needed cargo, war and civilian to Israel.  They were able to get four old planes to Israel,  old German type planes, and this was they start of the Israel Air Force.  They had brought them inside the cargo planes, so they were a surprise to everyone.  These small planes had outdated technology.  Even so, with the Egyptians rolling toward Tel Aviv, these  planes attacked the advancing tank column.  The inflicted enough damage that the Egyptians stopped their advance and went into defensive mode.  One of the planes and the pilot were lost due to malfunction.  The three remaining planes were able to do the same against the Jordanians.  Consequently the advance against Israel was stopped.
However the small air force was still not enough to turn the tide.
During times of truce, the Israeli's would reinforce better than the Arabs.  Consequently the air force ways always becoming more robust and better able to defend Israel.  They were able to smuggle planes out which afforded planes bombing Cairo.  Israel was the first to get a credible bomber force.  The Israelis were also able to win the air war by catching many Arab planes on the ground, and destroying more in the air.  The air force also was able to help supply many of the outlying communities which were cut off from supplies by land.  Many makeshift runways were made.  Many communities were saved from starvation in this manner.
The Israeli Air Force was not without its tragedies.  Many of the deceased pilots were foreign volunteers, including some form the United States.  Many of the older planes were replaced by Spitfires which were bought from Czechoslovakia.  

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