Friday, March 09, 2007

More tiny contributions to society

101 Squadron records for the period before August 1948 are spotty, and one of the riddles has been which Avia S-199 Lionel Bloch, a South African volunteer, was flying when he perished near Quneitra, Syria on July 10, 1948.

Bloch chased a Syrian AT-6 (a Harvard for our Commonwealth friends, although this particular one had indeed once been a USAAF AT-6) over the Golan Heights. The agent of his demise has never been proven. All that's known for sure is that Bloch died and so did the Syrian tailgunner.

Did the Syrian tailgunner shoot him down? Did Bloch shoot his own propeller off (that was a nasty fault of the S-199s)? Did Bloch survive the landing to be killed on the ground?

Syria handed Bloch's body over to Israel in 1949, but the IDF buried him as an unidentified soldier. Only in 1994, after DNA testing of the remains and of Bloch's brother, was the body identified. The IDF reburied Bloch with full military honours in Tel Aviv's Nachalat Yitzchak military cemetery, where Modi Alon rests as well.

For decades, historians have assumed that Bloch was flying aircraft serial number D-107. So did I, until Alex Yofe showed me a photo taken in December 1948 of the scavenged wreck of D-107. That photo will be in our upcoming book.

Able to eliminate D-107, I scrutinized all my squadron documents. I have the answer. I can prove beyond reasonable doubt which aircraft Bloch was flying. You'll have to buy the book to find out which.

Bonus information:

Elvi and Child One will be leaving on a one-week road trip to D.C. tomorrow.


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