Thanks to the late Emanuel Tzur, 18 planes were brought to Israel within four months
The story was published in the British press, which tried to understand the meaning of the disappearance of the planes.
A cartoon in the British press after the operation
Correspondence between the Commander of the IAF, Aharon Remez (nickname Isaiah) and Emanuel Tzur (nickname Tzur) This week, April “Fools’ Day” will be celebrated around the world and as part of the annual tradition, people will pull pranks on one another. In honor of this tradition, IAF Site brings you the unbelievable story of Emanuel Tzur’s prank
On June 18th, 1948, the late Emanuel Tzur, one of the aviation pioneers in Israel, was sent by then-Prime Minister David Ben Gurion to execute an almost-impossible mission: to procure fighter jets from Britain amid the UN-imposed arms embargo on the State of Israel.
To execute the mission, Tzur had to be creative and find a cover story that would allow him to smuggle six Beaufighter bombers in defiance of the UN-imposed embargo. Ultimately, Tzur came up with a bold idea: he would smuggle the planes to Israel under the pretext of shooting a film about war heroes from New Zealand who served as pilots in WWII.
From Oxford To Ekron
To complete the mission, a fictitious film production company was set up under the name “Air Pilot Film Company” and a director, technical crew and production workers were recruited for the company. Later on, pilots and 40 extras were chosen to act in film segments. During the preparations for the film production, the IAF worked on the rest of the smuggling plan: on July 30th, the late Major General (res.) Aharon Remez, the then-Commander of the IAF, issued detailed instructions to land the planes in Sde Ekron, today’s Tel Nof airbase.
In order for the Beaufighters to takeoff from an airport near Oxford, one-time approval from the British Civil Aviation Authority was needed. The alleged target was the Exeter airport in Scotland, which was chosen as the filming site, under the pretext that its landscape was similar to that of New Zealand.During the scene in which the aircrews and ground crews were dispatched and the planes took off for military operations, the mission reached a critical point and the aircrews took off, with the intention of not returning.
Behind the Scenes
On August 2nd, four of the chosen planes landed in the “Campo Del Oro” airport in Italy and the next day took off to Yugoslavia, where they stayed the night.
“The next day, we took off”, said the late Tzur, when talking about the evening in Yugoslavia according to Arieh Hashavya’s book “Touching The Sky: The Story of the First Hebrew Pilot”. “My transition to flying the Beaufighter was too short period of time and I started to deviate, which I luckily managed to stop but I missed my turn and I was the last one to take off. Within five hours, we flew at a low altitude above Israel and we landed in Ekron”. A number of days after landing at Ekron airbase, the story was published in the British press, which tried to understand the meaning of the disappearance of the planes.
Thanks to the late Emanuel Tzur, 18 planes were brought to Israel within four months-among them six bombing fighters, spare parts and ammunition.
The official history of the IAF reads as follows: “Emanuel Tzur’s successes were impressive especially in light of the work he did independently, almost without using the official procurement mechanism of Israel in Europe. His exploits are a wonderful chapter in the history of arms procurements during the War of Independence”.