Harold 'Smoky' Simon, South African Who Helped Found Israel's Air Force, Dies at 101

Simon came to Israel during its War of Independence and went on to serve as the Air Force's chief of operations

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Harold 'Smoky' Simon.
Harold 'Smoky' Simon.Credit: Israeli Air Force

Harold "Smoky" Simon, one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force, passed away on Sunday at the age of 101, the force has announced.

A former South African military pilot who served in World War II, Simon was one of many foreign volunteers who flocked to Israel during its War of Independence, eventually flying 24 missions in 1948 as well as serving as the air branch’s chief of operations.

"When we really wanted to start showing our muscle, we attacked Damascus,” Simon recalled in his logbook from the War of Independence.

"We flew in a DC-3 Dakota aircraft and we loaded her with 16 80-kilogram bombs, boxes of incendiaries and crates of empty bottles, which created a terrifying noise when they fell to the ground. The planes didn't have bomb racks in the early days, so we had a category of 'bomb-chucker,' young Israelis who carried the bombs on their laps and pitched them when we were over the target.”

After retiring from the air force in 1950 with the rank of major, he went into the insurance business and served as chairman of World Machal, an organization for overseas veterans of Israel’s wars.

He was awarded aliyah organization Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Sylvan Adams Bonei Zion award for his achievements in 2019.

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