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Purity of Arms

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Samuel Back  E-mail

sam-backSam Back was born on 23rd June 1924 in Philadelphia to Joseph and Frieda Back. His father, Joseph, was a fifth-generation Palestinian who emigrated to the U.S. in 1921. His grandfather, Reb Yisrael Bak, who was a printer, had moved to Palestine in 1830 from Ukraine along with his family and 70 Hassidim.

Sam Back and his brother Nathan sailed to Israel on the converted troopship "S.S Director" without American passports, both having been denied passports by the State Department, in September 1948. Arriving in Israel, they met their sister Yaffa who had made aliyah in May 1948. The ship was renamed the "Galila," flew a Panamanian flag, had an Italian captain, a Norwegian crew and carried 45 American volunteers. The ship was converted in order to increase the capacity from 300 to 1200 refugees en route to Las Palmas, the Canary Islands, to refuel, and then Marseilles, France, where it picked up concentration camp survivors.

Upon arrival in Israel Sam was assigned as an aircraft mechanic to the Israel Air Force. He had served as an electrician in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He said to a reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper: "I was working as an electrician in an airfield outside of Tel Aviv. We used advanced trainers for bombers. I used to wire up the bomb racks, and we put 600 lbs of bombs on the planes. The pilots used to bomb Gaza. They had just enough fuel to fly to Gaza and back. One day a pilot was coming in from a mission unaware that he still had a bomb on board. The wiring must have gone wrong, or he would have dropped the bomb over Gaza. An Israeli and I saw him coming in with the bomb. The officer shouted and waved at him not to let the wing flaps down, but the pilot didn't understand. He lowered them. It jarred the mechanism and the bomb went off. It made holes in every part of the plane, but the pilot walked away unharmed. All I could think of was, I hope I didn't wire the
thing ..."

Source: The American Veterans of Israel Newsletter: Winter 2007