Yoel Arnoff and the other U.S. and Foreign Volunteers with the Israeli Air Force during the October 1973 War

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U.S. and other Foreign Volunteers with the Israeli Air Force during the October 1973 War

What information has become available so far indicates the presence of only three U.S. officers with the IDF/AF during the October 1973 War

Arab, especially Egyptian observers repeatedly claimed that volunteers from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the U.S. Navy, with combat experience from Vietnam, were deployed to Israel to support the IDF/AF during the October 1973 War and that their appearance began to show not only in their much superior performance in air combats. For example, Egyptian Air Force (EAF) pilot Nassr Moussa recalled his thoughts after an engagement he fought on Oct. 16, 1973:

`After that air battle we discussed it in our squadron ready-room. Our conclusion was that the pilot of that Mirage did not fight the way the Israelis usually do. This, the lack of markings on his wings and darker camouflage colours drew us into a conclusion he must have been South African.’

Another EAF Pilot, Qadri Abd el-Hamid came to similar conclusions two days before, after his fight with Phantoms over el-Mansourah:

`These pilots were really good – it was not the same standard of performance we saw at the start of the war. These pilots were much better: either they were foreigners or more experienced, high-ranking pilots. They lost the new, inexperienced ones against our forest of missiles along the Suez Canal.’

U.S. and other Foreign Volunteers with the Israeli Air Force during the October 1973 War

Some of the Egyptians and Syrians interviewed for Tom Cooper & David Nicolle, with Albert Grandolini, Lon Nordeen & Martin Smisek’s book Arab MiGs, Volume 6, are convinced that the pilots in question were American-born Jews that served with the USAF, U.S. Navy, or U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), and that either quit their service or retired and then joined the IDF/AF. Others believe that the U.S. not only provided Israel with replacement aircraft, but replacement crews too.

Until today, there is no firm evidence for such claims. However, this is not to say that there were no U.S.-born pilots serving with the IDF/AF as of October 1973; even less so that there were no former U.S. military pilots in Israel. But, according to the Israeli version, there were very few of them, because their skills and the quality of their training were ‘sub-standard’. What is certain is that very little information has been released in this regard – which is unsurprising considering the lack of independent and scholarly research about the IDF/AF in general.

Indeed, what information has become available so far indicates the presence of only three U.S. officers with the IDF/AF during the October 1973 conflict: helicopter pilot Max Manning (or `Meron’, killed when his Bell 205 was shot down by Egyptian ground forces on Oct. 17, 1973); ‘Mark’, a former USMC pilot that served in an unknown capacity; and Yoel Arnoff.

While never mentioned in any of the usually available Israeli accounts – and this despite his involvement in such operations as the attack on the SyAAF HQ in Damascus, on Oct. 9, 1973 – Arnoff’s story became available only once he was interviewed by local media. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and veteran of three combat tours in Vietnam where he flew at least 200 (unofficially 222) combat sorties on F-4s, Arnoff arrived in Israel in October 1969, and joined the IDF/AF a year later. He was assigned to No. 107 Squadron and did not fly any combat sorties before October 1973, but when he started doing so, his influence was crucial in not only recovering the shattered morale of younger colleagues, but also in teaching them how to avoid SAMs.

U.S. and other Foreign Volunteers with the Israeli Air Force during the October 1973 War
Israeli Air Force Mirage 5 

Photo credit: IDF and Bukvoed via Wikipedia 

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