In first person…Volunteer pilot recalls adventures flying Yankee Pasha the Bagel Lancer

One week after the state of Israel was born, we arrived there from Czechoslovakia. Inside our Panama Airlines C-46 cargo airplane was a disassembled fighter plane and other firepower for the Israel army.

Israel was hanging onto its life by a toehold. Arab artillery was pounding the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway. To break the blockade, Israel's three B-17 bombers, also flown by volunteers, were ordered to bomb the Arab artillery.

In those desperate weeks anything that could fly became a bomber, including a favorite of mine, a 22-passenger Douglas DC-5 airliner. Our crew included eight bomb chuckers — immigrant soldiers who hopefully understood enough English to handle live bombs without exploding them inside the airplane.

To add a little shmaltz to a risky mission, we named the DC-5 Yankee Pasha the Bagel Lancer and joined up with the B-17s in flight. When we saw their bombs drop, we heaved ours out the back door. Mission successful.

As the swift seasons roll and bold pilots grow old, they get sentimental about their favorite airplanes. I'm no exception. Of the roughly 50,000 miles I flew as a volunteer for Israel, my fondest experience was flying Yankee Pasha the Bagel Lancer.

As a memorial on Israel's 50th birthday, I say Kaddish for this noble airplane who brought us home safely from the skies over Israel.

Farewell, DC-5. Shalom Yankee Pasha.