The Yom Kippur War, 18.10.73

Location: Dwer Suer, Downed Plane: Egyptian Mi-8 helicopter


Time: 17:00 on 18.10.73.

Formation: Epstein - Geva. Plane: Shahak Mirage No. 11.

Location: Dwer Suer.

Result: an Mi-8 helicopter shot down with cannon.


For me, the Yom Kippur War began with a miscalculation, four months earlier. My thinking was, I was better off going for a position with IAF Staff rather than opting for the Flight School - where I could wind up as an instructor and be transferred from Hatzor. I figured there was no danger of a war breaking out during the period I was to spend in the Staff.

 

On the Friday before the war I went down to Refidim for Saturday readiness duty. Early Friday evening, 'Cheetah' came in and informed us that he had been placed in command of Refidim. He said there was a very high state of alert and a possibilty of war breaking out the next day. I gathered all of the young guys in, carried out a war briefing and explained the importance of taking the planes out before finding shelter, the dangers of an attack against Refidim, etc.

In the evening we saw films and played cards and went to sleep late, as usual, but there was a feeling that all of it was just exaggerated panic. At first light on Saturday there were already phone calls coming in that said war was a certainty. Furman called me and ordered me to come to the staff HQ immediately. The squadron arranged for Tzuk to come and pick me up at 09:00 - and for Tzuk to take my place at Nevatim.

Feeling heavy hearted and shamed, I galloped home, passing over the kibbutz, waving hello to Sarah and the kids, who were there, and went on toward the HQ, which I reached at 11:00. I only got to fly about seven days during the war - and they wouldn't have given me that, either, if I hadn't fought them desperately and threatened to go AWOL.

On the 16th of the month, after having flown twice before (on the 8th and 11th, but without anything special occurring), I came to the squadron again - and this time I was staying.

On the 18th, in the afternoon hours, I was on readiness duty with Geva. I asked him to lead, because on all of my previous sorties, I failed to see a single [enemy] plane - while the rest of the guys - even Marom, who had only been there for two days - were dropping MiGs like flies.

Geva was against the idea, and when we were scrambled for patrol it was I who flew lead. After about half an hour of patrolling and just before dusk we were directed to the area of the [Israeli] bridge [across the Suez], to defend against an attack by enemy planes.

We arrived, executed a pass and saw nothing. Suddenly, on a turn, I saw a napalm blast on the ground which lit up one of our APCs. By the light from the blast, I could see a helicopter. I informed the controller and he told me that it wasn't ours, and that I should shoot it down. I turned sharply, decreased speed, went into a pass on him and shot from 1,100 meters. I reaimed a bit further forward and it went up in flames immediately, and crashed onto the Great Lake.

Since I was supposed to go down to Refidim that evening anyways, I landed at Refidim and stayed there for readiness duty. To be honest: the feeling was one of relief. At long last I had a victory in this war, even if it was only a helicopter.

After the war, I visited the place. I found the pilots' graves and the remains of the helicopter, and took some of the pieces as souvenirs.