The Adventures of a Jewish Bomber Pilot in World War II

Now ninety-seven, Si Spiegel is one of few American World War II B-17 pilots still alive. Spiegel, a Jew who grew up in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, enlisted in the army without telling his parents, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. To his disappointment, he was assigned to an aircraft-mechanic school; he instead wanted to fight Nazis, and to that end applied to be a pilot. Laurie Gwen Shapiro tells his story:

He was accepted into pilot training, which took him to Nashville, then California and then, as a cadet, to Hobbs, New Mexico where he’d learn to pilot a B-17, the massive bomber known as the Flying Fortress. . . . Then he left New Mexico and went to meet his crew, a motley collection of “leftovers.”

“We had five Catholics, two Jews,” he said. “Catholics weren’t treated too well, either. We had a Mormon, too.” Mr. Spiegel said the only WASP was a ball-turret gunner who had gotten into trouble with the law in Chicago.

Over the next year, Mr. Spiegel would carry out 35 missions, all of them in daylight, which conferred a strategic advantage but often resulted in significant casualties. Their odds of survival were terrible. Over 50,000 American airmen lost their lives in World War II, mostly on B-17s and B-24s. The Eighth Air Force suffered 40 percent of all casualties in the air war.

His plane was shot down over Berlin in February 1945, and he managed to crash land in Soviet-occupied Poland, from which he and his fellow crewmembers—tired of waiting for repatriation and eager to rejoin the fight—would make a daring escape. Shapiro continues:

Looking back, having spoken to other Jewish GI’s, [Spiegel] believes now that many Jewish soldiers were denied promotions because of anti-Semitism. He has some thorny memories: many heroes in the Army Air Corps joined the commercial airline industry after the war, which was then based in New York. But here too, Mr. Spiegel said he faced discrimination. “They weren’t taking Jews after World War II,” he recalled. “They were blatant.”

In the years after the war, Spiegel worked at a brush factory, and then made a fortune selling artificial Christmas trees.

Read more at New York Times

More about: American Jewish History, Jews in the military, World War II

Why Saturday Was a Resounding Defeat for Iran

Yaakov Lappin provides a concise and useful overview of what transpired on Saturday. For him, the bottom line is this:

Iran and its jihadist Middle Eastern axis sustained a resounding strategic defeat. . . . The fact that 99 percent of the threats were intercepted means that a central pillar of Iranian force projection—its missile and UAV arsenals—has been proven to be no match for Israel’s air force, for its multilayered air-defense system, or for regional cooperation with allies.

Iran must now await Israel’s retaliation, and unlike Israel, Iranian air defenses are by comparison limited in scope. After its own failure on Sunday, Iran now relies almost exclusively on Hizballah for an ability to threaten Israel.

And even as Iran continues to work on developing newer and deadlier missiles, the IDF is staying a few steps ahead:

Israel is expecting its Iron Beam laser-interception system, which can shoot down rockets, mortars, and UAVs, to become operational soon, and is developing an interceptor (Sky Sonic) for Iran’s future hypersonic missile (Fattah), which is in development.

The Iron Beam will change the situation in a crucial way. Israell’s defensive response on Saturday reportedly cost it around $1 billion. While Iron Beam may have to be used in concert with other systems, it is far cheaper and doesn’t run the risk of running out of ammunition.

Read more at JNS

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Iron Dome, Israeli Security, Israeli technology