|“Israel Prize Winner Al Schwimmer” and “Smoky Simon’s Eulogy at Al Schwimmer’s Funeral”|
Israel Prize winner Al Schwimmer dies on 94th birthday
Schwimmer, an American citizen born in New York, was convicted in 1950 of violating the US Neutrality Act for secretly bringing aircraft to Israel during the 1948 War.
He was pardoned in 2001 by then US President Bill Clinton.
After the establishment of Israel, Schwimmer joined the Israel Air Force and founded Israel Aircraft Industries which he ran for nearly 30 years. He was awarded the Israel Prize in 2006.
AL SCHWIMMER – SMOKY SIMON'S EULOGY
1. Al Schwimmer was one of 4,793 volunteers from abroad, known as Machal (Mitnadvei Chutz L'Aretz), who came from 58 countries to help Israel in its War of Independence in 1948-49.
2. Al played a crucial and pivotal role in securing Israel's victory in this War of Survival. In my judgement, had it not been for Al's contribution, it would have been extremely doubtful as to whether Israel would have survived the war.
3. Al was responsible for smuggling vital aircraft out of the USA – including 4 B-17 heavy bombers (an icon aircraft in World War II), as well as 10 C-46 Commando transport aircraft, 3 Constellations, Skymasters, and P-51 Mustangs.
4. On 15th May 1948, when Israel was attacked by 6 Arab armies, the Egyptian Air Force started bombing Tel Aviv with impunity – the Reading Power Station, the Tel Aviv Airport, the Central Bus Station, etc. etc, and Israel did not possess a single combat aircraft to defend the country.
5. When the Israel Air Force acquired its first combat aircraft – 25 Avia S-199s which were bought from Czechoslovakia, there was no way of flying the aircraft to Israel as there was a United Nation's arms embargo to the Middle East.
6. Air Transport Command was formed, composed of the 10 Commando transport aircraft, the Constellations, and the Skymasters, and an air bridge was established between Czechoslovakia and Israel. This air bridge was the only line of communication between Isael and the outside world for flying-in vitally important weapons and equipment for the Israel Air Force, the Army, and the Navy.
7. The Avia S-199s had to be dissembled in Czechoslovakia, packed into crates, flown to Israel, and then re-assembled in Israel.
8. On 29th May 1948, the very first operational mission of 4 Avia S-199s led by Machalnik Lou Lenart stopped the invading Egyptian Army at Ashdod, 30 kilometres from Tel Aviv.
9. On 3rd June, a formation of two Egyptian bombers escorted by 2 fighters was on its way to bomb Tel Aviv, when the late Modi Alon attacked the formation in an Avia S-199 and shot down both bombers.
10. On 15th July, 3 B-17 heavy bombers on their maiden flight from Czechoslovakia to Israel, attacked Cairo, Gaza, and Rafiach.
11. With the passage of time, the IAF acquired Beaufighters, Spitfires, Norsemen, Harvards, and gradually gained air superiority over the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian Air Forces. The B-17s and Commando C-46s were fully engaged throughout the war in the liberation of the Galilee and in driving the Egyptians out of the Negev and back into Sinai.
12. After the war, "Al's fleet of aircraft" formed the nucleus of the new-born El Al Israel Airlines.
13. In an address to the Machalniks in 1993 on the occasion of the consecration of the Machal Memorial, the Late Yitzhak Rabin who was then Prime Minister and Minister of Defense stated: "You came to us when we needed you most, during those dark and uncertain days in our War of Independence. You gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well. The People of Israel and the State of Israel will never forget, and will always cherish this unique contribution made by you – the volunteers of Machal".
14. Al Schwimmer made a unique contribution towards Israel's victory in the War of Independence. It was indeed his finest hour.