Saving Paratrooper Perlos — Part 1

This was 1950 and the Israeli War of Independence was at its end. One evening during the first week of December during which we were free from flying my two room-mates: Gershon Litwitz and Nathan Novick and I went to the Paratroopers Club for a drink and a chat with a few of the Paratroop-Instructors. In 1950 the huge base of Ekron was divided between the Air Force and the Paratroopers Regiment and they had a nice Club while we did not yet. At that time the Paratroopers were in a trauma: Two years earlier, at the time when the Paratroopers Regiment was still based in Ramat-David a grave accident happened during a training para-drop. During the drop from a Curtis-Wright C-46 airplane flown by Swedish volunteer Bertyl Kroksted the canopy of the parachute of paratrooper Itamar Golani got caught between the left horizontal tail-stabilizer and the fuselage. Kroksted was ordered by the Paratroopers Commanding Officer who was at the field where the Paratroopers were to set-down to fly to Haifa bay and try to shake-off Golany by violently maneuvering the airplane. Kroksted obeyed the order but the violent maneuvers which he carried out so as to tear the parachute off the airplane failed. Finally the Paratroopers which remained in the airplane succeeded in showing Golani by gestures and signs to release his parachute harness and jump down into the sea below. Golani did just that and was killed as soon as he touched the water. Any intelligent person knows that any person hitting the sea at such a speed is doomed to be killed instantly. This training accident left the Paratroopers in a deep mental depression for a very long time. They started looking for ways and means whereby they would be able to pull back the unfortunate Paratrooper into the airplane.

Meanwhile the Paratroopers Regiment moved from Ramat-David to Ekron. Drops from C-46 airplanes were curtailed and Douglas C-47 airplanes became the standard airplanes for dropping Paratroopers. Paratroop-Instructors continued to search for a remedy to their problem and during the evening of our visit this item was in discussion. Soon a few Paratroop-Instructors brought along a small anchor with four prongs tied to a long nylon rope and explained to us their theory: They would throw out the anchor attached to the rope which they would be able to move and maneuver in the strong slipstream alongside the airplane all the way to any Paratrooper which might get caught anywhere at the back. The Paratrooper would slip the anchor into his harness and the men in the airplane will pull the nylon rope and get the poor fellow in. It sounded quite good. It sounded feasible. It was certainly worthwhile to carry such a contraption in every airplane which was dropping Paratroopers just in case of need. And so henceforth the Paratroopers did indeed carry this kind of equipment on each airplane which was carrying-out para-drops.

On the 14th of December 1950 I was instructed to drop 24 paratroopers over the recruiting base at Tsrifin (Sarafend). This drop was intended to create interest and desire among the soldiers who just completed their recruitment course to volunteer to the Paratroopers Regiment. The airplane which I was to fly on this drop was number 1408 and it was the airplane which I flew to Rome, Italy and back one month earlier. During this period it was not the crew which did the preflight outside-check, it was the mechanic who serviced the airplane and who had to carry out the outside check just as soon as the crew arrived. On this flight my crew included co-pilot Avraham Portugali and wireless operator Shimeon (Simon) Pozniakov. There were altogether 26 paratroopers in the airplane: 2 Dispatchers: First-Dispatcher Shmuel (Sami) Refael and Second-Dispatcher Tsvi Zuker as well as 24 paratroopers 10 of whom were chosen from the Paratroopers-Instructors’ Course. Usually the paratroopers used to jump-out in 3 sticks of 8 men each but this time it had been decided that the first stick will include all 10 men from the Paratroopers-Instructors’ Course and the other two sticks will include only 7 men each.

After take-off I turned the airplane towards Tsrifin and climbed to 1200 feet which was the altitude chosen for this show-drop. When we arrived over our target I spotted the recruits standing beside the dropping-zone and watching us and the paratroopers who were there and at their head the Regiment Commanding-Officer Major Yehuda Harari. They threw a Smoke-Grenade to show me the direction and velocity of the wind and I flew into a pattern which was intended for dropping the 24 paratroopers so that they should all land on the chosen dropping-zone. As we came close for the first stick to jump I gave the necessary orders to activate the standby bell, then the red light and finally the green light. Portugali activated them and as soon as he pressed the green light I could feel how the paratroopers of the first stick were charging towards the open door and jumping-out causing my steering-wheel to vibrate. Several years later I had a long talk with George Perlos (Yeshayahu Dar) as to what happend then, and here is what he told me:

“As soon as the Green light came on and the first 10-men stick, in which I was number 8, charged towards the open door I was unintentionally pushed by Fisher, who was number 9, just behind me. It made me fall to the floor of the airplane and since I did not want to delay the charging stick of men I rolled on the floor towards the door and rolled out of it. I fell-out close to the fuselage of the airplane and not at a distance from it as we usually were when we jumped out vigorously and so my parachute which started falling-out of its pack as soon as the strop stretched-out came fully open and slid under the bottom of the airplane fuselage. Suddenly I felt and saw that I was not floating under my parachute as I usually did and that I was not getting away from the airplane either but that I stopped with a jerk in my harness and was being pulled through the air at a terrific speed. As I looked back I saw that my parachute got caught by the towing-hook of the airplane which is installed on the right-hand side of the tailwheel. The canopy of my parachute was stuck there and all its 28 lines were stretched all the way back in the slipstream with myself tied to them by my harness.”

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