Major General Ezer Weizman during a briefing
David Ben Gurion during the Independence War
A “Volunteer from Abroad” with basic aviation equipment They were called the “Volunteers from Abroad”: World Wars veterans, pilots and fighters who arrived at the new born Israel with one purpose in mind – contributing to the people and to the new evolving military forces
Harold Simon, or “Smokey” as he has been known in the past 70 years, was born in South Africa in the early 20’s of the past century.
“I was a normal child”, smiles Harold as he reminisced the old days, the days before he was “Smokey”. Many memories wallow through the 91-year old eyes, tales of battle legacies passed down generations, motivated adventurous soldiers who arrived at an unknown, forming land: “Volunteers from Abroad”. No one ever imagined that the foreign en will be written in history books for years to come as some of the founders of Israeli Defense Forces.
“Thousands of volunteers from the world’s various countries came to Israel to fight during the independence war. They were young, motivated and from different cultures”, says Harold. “I am one of the “Volunteer’s from Abroad”, maybe I should tell you a bit about myself first”.
“We Felt the Urge for Revenge”
“In January 1941 I joined the South African Air Force after completing my first degree in accounting. As the year went by I finished the Air Force Aviation Course as a bombing navigator”, says Harold.
“Soon after the course was over I was sent to the battle frontier at the “Western Desert””. Harold took part in a mission fighting Nazi submarines until the war ended. In 1948 he gathered his belongings and came to Israel as many Zionist immigrants had done.
“Many immigrants from Europe had arrived at South Africa, brining the Holocaust’s horrors with them. As we heard the stories, we felt vengeance burning within our bodies. We felt that as Jewish men we had to get revenge”.
A day after they arrived in Israel, Harold and his friends took over the headquarters of the Air force, and volunteered to the army as pilots and navigators.
“It wasn’t long after Ben Gurion had declared the establishment of Israel that we had gone out to our first mission. While everyone was celebrating the new state, we knew that the Jordanian Legion was soon to take action and come our way. We didn’t have the option of denying reality and celebrating”.
Harold also mentions that he got on the plane with a pilot and a photographer, and the view that they saw below astounded them. “We relied on Military information. As we took flight towards the north, we noticed a horrific fire. The Jordanian forces were coming in from one side and from the other we had seen a hostile Supermarine Spitfire aircraft nearing towards us”. As learned in World War II, Harold and his team had flown towards the sun and succeeded in dazzling the Jordanian pilot and evading a fight.
Some of the volunteers were involved in developing new tool like the first radar of the IAF, while others continued fighting in the battle fields.