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Purity of Arms

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Yedidia "Eddy" Kaplansky  E-mail

Eddy KaplanYedidia Kaplansky, better known to all as Eddy, was born in Montreal. He studied at an Orthodox Jewish school, where he learned Hebrew. During World War II he volunteered for the Canadian Air Force, where he was trained  to fly and also passed an advanced course in navigation. After the war, as part of the Aliyah Bet clandestine immigration operations, he navigated an illegal immigrants' ship to Palestine, but was arrested by the British. When he was released from prison in Cyprus, he arrived in Israel with Machal (a Hebrew acronym for "volunteer from abroad") on June 22, 1948. Here, he became one of the first members of the 103 Transport and Bombing Squadron, stationed at Ramat David.

Conditions at the base were hard, there were no workshops but operations had placed its faith in the resourcefulness of Machal mechanics, such as: American chief engineer Harry Axelrod, South African Abe Nurick, and their mechanics.  On July 21, during a bombing run over Mishmar Hayarden, which had been attacked by the Syrians, a bomb dropped from the plane hit its tail and caused it to go into a spin. The captain Cyril Katz ordered the crew to bail out, but in the ensuing panic, Eddy's parachute opened inside the plane. The co-pilot Arthur Cooper finally managed to take control of the Dakota, landing it on its belly at Ramat David.

In September Eddy was transferred to No. 1 Squadron (light aircraft) where he carried out a top secret mission, Operation “Taskit” ("radio skit") in a De-Havilland Rapide plane, dropping pyrotechnics over a number of specifically targeted areas on five consecutive nights.  Simultaneously, Signal Corps operators on the ground monitored various frequencies for enemy signal activity.  The amount and content of such signals aided by the observations of the airplane’s crew provided the required picture.

On December 7, Eddy tried to convince the squadron commander, Ralph Moster, also a Canadian volunteer, not to fly to Lake Kinneret on a test flight of a Grumman Widgeon seaplane for water take-offs on the Seas of Galilee, but instead to join him for a flyover of the Hulda grove in honor of the opening of the road to Jerusalem. Moster declined, but Eddy did manage to convince another passenger waiting for the Widgeon’s take-off, Hugo Steiner, to join him. Hugo's brother, Ludwig, who worked at the base officers club, took off with Moster. On their return from Hulda, Eddy found out that the Grumman had crashed into the sea. He took off immediately assisting in the search, but to no avail. The debris of the plane and the bodies were found only a week later.

A short time after that, Eddy was transferred to Flight 35, which had the task of maintaining communications with besieged Sdom in Norseman aircraft. When the unit got a Harvard plane, he took off in it to take part in Operation “Horev” against the Egyptian army, attacking Khan Yunis and Dir al-Balah. In January 1949, after the downing of five British airplanes by the Israel Air Force, the Machal airmen celebrated victory. As Eddy later described it, someone took out a gun and shot the lock off the liquor cabinet, took out a bottle, and left an I.O.U. Another happy pilot, he said, shot two bullets through a tin roof in the exact cadence of the music that was playing.

One of the last chapters of Eddy's War of Independence career took place in support of Operation “Uvda” (the capture of Eilat) which had ended on March 10.  On March 17th he took off as co-pilot in a C-40 Commando from Sde Avraham in the Negev”.  Because of a motor malfunction on take-off, the crew attempted to re-land, crashing in the dunes. Miraculously, no one was injured, but a few minutes after the crew was evacuated to safety, the bombs the plane was carrying exploded, destroying it.
The last flight Eddy made for the IAF was as pilot on a C-47 Dakota, dropping paratroopers.  

Eddy married Leah Gellman, and had three children - Dafna, Daniel, and Gilad. He returned to Canada, but in 1971 he came back to Israel and settled in Haifa, devoting himself to research and commemoration of the contribution of Machal volunteers to the air force in its early days. Major Avi Cohen, of the Israel Air Force history department, says Kaplansky's book, "The First Fliers" is an important foundation of Cohen's own major research project on the history of the air force in the War of Independence.

Eddy assisted the Israel Air Force Museum at Hatzor in arranging for interviews with Machal veterans. Rama Flint, former deputy head of the Defense Ministry's department of commemoration, says that somewhere near Vancouver Eddy had managed to locate the whereabouts of the daughter of Len Fitchett, a Machal pilot who was shot down during the attack on Iraq-el-Suweidan police station east of Ashkelon. He invited her for what proved to be a very emotional visit to Israel.

Eddy's Machal comrades, David Teperson and Sol Jacobs laud his contribution to the World Machal Committee and Harold ("Smoky") Simon, chairman of the Committee, calls him a "first class air force character."

Joe Woolf, World Machal researcher notes, “From the late 1980’s Eddy and I served together on the World Machal Committee, and we researched the names of Machal Fallen and, later, general Machal history.  Eddy was a meticulous historian and it was a great honor and pleasure for me to have been associated with him.


Based on an article in Haaretz newspaper “A First-Class Air Force Character” By Uri Dromi.   Adapted and updated by Joe Woolf

Link to article: "Suddenly, After 40 Years"