This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Israel’s daring, and staggeringly successful, raid on Entebbe. It’s a simultaneously exciting and tragic story, and one that deserves to be remembered. This is a slightly edited version of a narrative I’ve published here before.
For those of you too young to remember, here is a short-ish version of the long and exciting story about the Entebbe raid. (I culled these facts from a much longer article by Maj. (Res.) Louis Williams, which I found once at the Israeli Defense Forces website, but can’t find now.)
It all started with the metal detector no one looked at. On June 27, 1976, as passengers in Athens boarded the already partially full Air France 139 flight to Paris, no one paid any attention to a young woman traveling on an Ecuadorian passport, a young blond man with a Peruvian passport, and two other men, one with Bahraini and the other with Kuwaiti papers. A little more on-the-job attention could have saved four lives and a world of trouble. It would later turn out that these four people were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Baader-Meinhof Gang and they were heavily armed.
The flight out of Athens began in ordinary enough fashion. It was a mid-day flight so, as soon as the plane was airborne, the flight attendants began bustling around, preparing lunch. The 246 passengers — 77 of whom were Israeli citizens — settled in to do what passengers do: read, sleep, and talk. Unfortunately, they had little time to engage in any of these ordinary activities. Within eight minutes of being airborne, the woman, who called herself Ortega; the blond man, who went by the name of Garcia, but was really Wilfried Boese; and their two Arab companions, sprang into action. Ortega, gun in hand, covered the first class compartment, the Arabs took over the coach compartment, and Garcia, who had both a revolver and a grenade, invaded the cockpit. Within minutes, they had secured the plane.