He arrived in Israel with one purpose in mind–contributing to the establishment of the Israeli Air Force. He was the second Commander of the “101 Squadron” and a one of a kind pilot. The IAF is saying goodbye to one of the most influential people to ever serve the State of Israel.
Sid Cohen was born in South Africa into a large family, joining seven brothers. When World War II began, 19-year-old Sid decided to join the South African National Defense Force. In 1941 Sid received his “Pilot Wings” pin after learning to fly on the “Avro Anson” and the “Hawker Hurricane”.
A month after completing his Pilot Training Course, Sid was sent to Cairo, where he participated in an operational flight in the Western Desert, with a South African Squadron who was a part of the Royal British Air Force. Sid and two of his brothers (who were also serving the South African National Defense Force) participated in the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, and during which Sid lost one of his brothers.
Once the battle was over Sid got a certificate from the King of England and the Chief of Staff of the South African National Defense Force, symbolizing their deep appreciation for his actions during the war.
A New Homeland
After the war, Sid returned to South Africa and began his medical studies.
Cohen took a leave of absence from medical school in order to go to Israel in its War of Independence in 1947, and came aboard a volunteering delegacy that was on its way to Israel.
On June 1948, Sid arrived in Israel and was drafted to the “101 Squadron” of the Israeli Air Force. The Commander of the Squadron at the time was Mordechai “Modi” Alon and some of Cohen’s friends were Lou Lenart, Milton Robenfeld, Eddy Cohen, Ezer Weitzman and many other Pilots from England, Canada, the United States of America and South Africa.
In September, Cohen took part in the operation “Velvetta” which began in order to transport aircrafts from the Czechoslovakia to Israel. In the middle of October, the Squadron lost its Commander who crashed with his plane before landing at the Herzeliyah Airport.
On that same day, Aaron Remez, Commander of the IAF at the time, requested that Sid Cohen take over Alon’s position.
On November 1948, The Squadron moved from Herzeliyah to the “Hatzor” IAF Airbase, under the command of Cohen who served as Commander of the Airbase and of the “101 Squadron”.
After a short period of time, four new Pilots joined the Squadron and Cohen had the duty of improving their aviation skills. He called them to his office and told them that their training wouldn’t only be about aviation matters but will also cover how they could be successful commanders.
The four Pilots were, Moti Hod, Isaiah Gazit, Dani Shapira and Tibby Ben Shachar. On February 14, 1949 Sid presented the pilots with “Pilot Wings” pin in the first Pilot Training Course completion ceremony in the IAF along with Commander in Chief of the IDF at the time, Lieutenant General Yaakov Dori.
Doctor & Pilot
Several years back, some of the founders of the IAF visited its museum along with an IAF Magazine reporter. The first airplane they all crowded around was the “Messerschmitt BF109” who is also called “The Czechoslovakian Knife”. The Messerschmitt was the first combat aircraft of the IAF.
Dr. Sid Cohen, a South African Pilot, leaned over the antique aircraft, which has the symbol of the Squadron all over it, and reminisces: “We began flying in the area of Mishmar HaYarden in order to patrol and find abandoned aircrafts. On our way I was shooting the cannons. At that moment I started feeling very odd vibrations in the plane. I was sure that is was one of the common problems old planes have but when we landed, I found out that there were holes in the plane’s blades”. It was eventually figured out that the fire coming from the Messerschmitt was what pierced the holes in the blades since the canons weren’t aimed correctly. Sid Cohen almost brought himself down.
When Sid decided to move back to South Africa to finish his medical studies, he was shown an aerial demonstration directed by Ezer Weitzman as a goodbye gift. The flyover was done with four “Spitfire” airplanes escorting the passenger airplane that took off from Lod’s airport. In 1950, Cohen married Adeline and they had three daughters.
In 1965, with Ezer Weitzman’s encouragement, Cohen decided to return to Israel with his family.
Cohen worked as a doctor in “Tel-Hashomer” Hospital, though he wasn’t done with his military life. He remained a part of the “El-Al” Aerial Medical Unit until he retired at 85.
During the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, Cohen operated as a Aerial Doctor, and as a military reserve man was one of the founders of Emergency Aerial Medicine in the IAF, saving many lives.
On December 2nd 2011, Sid Cohen passed away in his house in Ramat HaSharon at age 90. Leaving his wife Adeline and three daughters: Liora, Keren and Janet.
Many say that Sid was a quiet man, his actions speaking for themselves. He was a Zionist in every meaning of the word and loved by everyone who knew him.