Saving Paratrooper Perlos — Part 3

I performed the approach to land 20 mph faster than normal due to the fact that the parachute was still stuck to the towing-hook and the canopy was fully inflated and caused a lot of drag. Shortly after the airplane touched the runway it stopped. Our Squadron Commander, Avisar, was at Air Force Headquarters that day. Poupko who replaced him arrived immediately at the airplane which I left standing where it stopped, on the runway, until we check where and how this parachute got stuck. When I got off the airplane I saw that while the left side of the tail-wheel was covered properly by a fairing the right side was bare and the towing-hook was right there, ready to be connected to the towing bar of the small caterpillar which used to tow our airplanes. This was the hook which caught George Perlos’ parachute. Poupko arrived at the airplane in a bad mood and told me that Yehuda Harari phoned him from Tsrifin ( the flight took only 60 minutes from take-off to landing) and both agreed that if Perlos will agree as well then he will jump again over Tsrifin in order to show all the soldiers that a paratrooper is as tough as it gets. Perlos immediately agreed. I then understood that Poupko intended to fly this drop. I could not agree to this change because it could imply that whatever happened was due to my mistake. I told Poupko that this was out of the question as far as I was concerned and therefore it was finally decided that I shall perform this paratroop-drop-flight as Captain of the airplane and Poupko will fly co-pilot instead of Portugali. We changed airplanes and took C-47 number 1402. Perlos jumped over Tsrifin and everybody on the ground shouted with admiration.

When evening came I went to the Link-Section and trained for 90 minutes on instrument-flying so as to relax myself after this horrid day. There was a new instructor at the Link Section called Ulaf Christirenson who was a Swedish volunteer. During the Second-World-War he flew with the RAF and with us he flew with Air Transport Command. Ulaf did not hear yet about this flight and so he did not bother me with any questions and I came out of the Link-Trainer as cool as a cucumber. What seemed very strange to me was the fact that there was never any investigation or inquiry about this flight, neither within the Air Force nor within the Paratrooper Regiment. Instead – unfounded stories and evil rumors started circling around here and there. On the one hand my true friends congratulated me and praised me for what I did but on the other hand I met a lot of guys who looked at me with anger as if they just found out that I did something shameful which smeared the good name of all the Israeli pilots. My “dearest” friends argued at the Base and at Air Force Headquarters that I endangered the airplane as well as the life of the paratroopers by shutting the engine and feathering the propeller. There were even some in the Squadron, pilots as well as others. One pilot took the liberty of going all the way to Air Force Headquarters in order to voice his learned judgement saying that I should be Court Martialed and punished most severely for my lack of responsibility.

But the Commanding Officers who took the time to investigate this flight although they were not instructed to do so came to quite a different conclusion. The daily-orders of 103 Squadron which were issued by the Squadron’s CO Major Yaakov Avisar on the 15-16.12.1950 contained Order No. 516 “Distinguished Flying” as follows: “Captain Oded Abarbanell performed some distinguished flying today on a Para-drop flight. Due to his cool handling of the flight he saved the life of one of the paratroopers, returned to base with the remaining men and landed safely.”

Five days later the daily-orders of Wing No. 4, by Lieutenant-Colonel Gideon Alrom, on the 21.12.1950, in Order No. 450 “Distinguished Flying”, cited as follows: “Captain Oded Abarbanell – cited for distinguished flying and extreme devotion to duty.” For Gideon Alrom, who never liked me, this dry and laconic paragraph was equal to a mass of praise and compliments issued by any other superior officer. It must have cost him some pride.

On the 14th of January 1951 I received an official form which I had to add to my log-book. It said as follows: “Cited for Meritorious Service: On the 14th of December 1950 Captain Oded Abarbanell (K/92052) who flew as Captain of C-47 1408 helped to save the life of a paratrooper who got stuck at the airplane’s tail while jumping out, by courageously and thoughtfully flying the airplane. Colonel Ezer Weizman, CO Air, IAF. (Later on: President of Israel.)

On the 4.2.1951 the General Israel Defence Army Headquarters’ Orders by Lieutenant-General Yigeal Yadin were published. The following appeared on page 8:
5/5 Citation of Merit. Herewith is the Citation of Merit ordered by the IDF Chief of Staff to three IDF soldiers:
“I hereby cite for Merit the following:
“1. 64678 Corporal Perlos George – Paratrooper unit, who showed extraordinary orientation and coolness while being in danger of losing his life during a para-drop exercise.
“2. 65656 First Sergeant Shmuel Refael -Paratrooper unit, who showed during a para-drop exercise coolness, initiative, fast orientation and unusual esprit-de-corps.
3. K/92052 Captain Oded Abarbanell – Air Force, who while flying an airplane during a para-drop exercise showed coolness, daring and esprit-de-corps.
” Yigeal Yadin, Lieutenant-General, Chief of Staff, Israel Defense Forces.

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