Aviation History

The Story of Israeli Air Force First Two Aerial Victories that Never Were

Jun. 3, 1948 is widely considered as the day on which Israeli Air Force scored its first two aerial victories. But no aircraft were shot down on that day.

Jun. 3, 1948 is widely considered as the day on which what was then the nascent Israeli Air Force/Defence Force (IDF/AF) scored its first aerial victory. Sorry: its first two aerial victories. ‘Everybody knows’ – and this is a ‘matter of fact’ that’s so firmly and widely accepted that it must be ‘beyond any doubt’ – that on that day Mordechai ‘Modi’ Alon has ‘shot down’ two Douglas C-47 Dakotas of the Royal Egyptian Air Force (REAF) over Tel Aviv.

This is not only a ‘claim’: it’s ‘confirmed’ by the ‘legendary’ photo attached to this post.

Or isn’t it?

Well, it’s officially confirmed by the IDF/AF, and went down as such in history. It doesn’t matter that the Israelis never released any gun-camera photographs, or photographs of wreckage, or that there are no reports about any captured or killed Egyptian crewmembers, or any other kind of evidence – ‘facts’ – confirming the two claims in question.

Actually, the only thing that’s ‘beyond any doubt’ in this case is that Alon – flying a single Avia S.199 (Czechoslovak-made variant of Messerschmitt Bf.109G) – attacked a formation of two REAF’s C-47s, escorted by a pair of REAF’s Spitfires.

How comes? Well, the two C-47s in question were modified to carry bombs on shackles installed under their fuselages. And they bombed Tel Aviv in revenge for an earlier Israeli bombardment of Amman (capital of what was then Transjordan).

Exploiting the low speed of the two Egyptian Spitfires (they had to fly slow, because C-47s couldn’t fly any faster) Alon came in close enough to open fire. Surprisingly enough, instead of shooting off his propeller (which happened often enough with Israeli S-199s), he damaged one of two C-47s before disengaging.

The crew of the Dakota in question was forced to make an emergency landing on the beach near Isdud. It repaired the aircraft and flew it back to Egypt, a day or two later.

What happened to the other C-47? Nothing. It returned to Almazza AB, near Cairo. Namely, no C-47s were ‘shot down’ in this clash.

In other words: the story of ‘two Egyptian C-47 Dakotas shot down by Modi Alon over Tel Aviv on Jun. 3, 1948’ is an urban legend. Fact is, only one of Egyptian Dakotas was damaged during that clash.

…and the photo supposedly showing ‘Alon pursuing’ or ‘shooting down an Egyptian Dakota over Tel Aviv’?

It’s actually showing one of REAF C-47s escorted by one of REAF’s Spits.

How comes this is ‘facts’?

Because it’s based on translation from the Operational Diary of what was then the ‘Tactical Air Force’: REAF’s units forward deployed at el-Arish AB, in Egypt’s Sinai.

Photo credit: Bukvoed via Wikipedia

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in the worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in Middle Eastern, African and Asian air forces. As well as authoring and co-authoring 560 books and over 1,000 articles, he has co-authored the Arab MiGs book series – a six-volume, in-depth analysis of the Arab air forces at war with Israel, in the 1955–73 period. Cooper has been working as editor of the five @War series since 2017. tom@acig.info

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