Colonel (Res.) Amitay Hasson, one of the most decorated pilots in the IDF, took off for countless missions and operations–most of which are classified to this day. Nonetheless, he is able to share bits of his stories which succeed in painting the big, thrilling picture
Shany Poms and Michal Khayut
It is easy to imagine that anyone who receives the medal of distinguished service or honorable citations, will keep them in a shiny crystal box, in a place of honor where it is safe from any harm, a place to which anyone who walks in the room could see it and be impressed. Well, that’s not how things work at the house of Colonel (Res.) Amitay Hasson, a combat helicopter pilot who received three of the IDF Chief of General Staff Citations. One of them was modified into honors citations, making him one of the three most appreciated and decorated soldiers of the IDF, alongside General Staff Reconnaissance Unit Captain Nehemiya Cohen and the previous IDF Chief of General Staff Ehud Barak. In the center of his living room stands a doll in the shape of a woman detailed with mosaic stones, which was designed by his wife Ruti. If you take a second look at the doll you see that it is “decorated” with “Pilot Wings”, “Paratrooper Wings”, and war citations–basically emblazoned with Hasson’s entire military career.
Most of Colonel (Res.) Hasson operations are classified, although many years have since passed. Not many stories can be told, but the ones we heard are quite astonishing. “We were four Mustangs heading towards Sinai, not too far from Nitzana”, he opens one of them. “One of our pilots had a problem with his engines, and had to abandon his place–smack in the middle of our forces and the Egyptians’. He was able to land, but accidentally started running towards the Egyptians. Without thinking twice I flew over and shot toward his legs. He understood my message and ran back our way”, he says. The Egyptian forces were near and the Aerial Assistance Officer entered the vehicle and rushed towards the pilot in order to rescue him. “We shot at the Egyptians from a low altitude. We had to watch our men”.
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This was a mission for which Hasson and the other people involved did not receive a citation, though it seems he doesn’t give it much thought. “Once the IAF didn’t give citations”, he explains. “It was a very ordinary operation and we had to complete it. If we had gotten a citation for every operation we completed we would have received at least 20 or 30 citations”.
Hasson wasn’t even supposed to participate in the missions that granted him his honorable citations. “Only a pilot and a navigator were supposed to go out on a mission. I insisted that two pilots should be on the helicopter in case something went wrong”, he says. “We even reached Ezer Weitzman, previously Commander of the IAF”. What was the IAF commander’s answer after giving each team member a citation? “He said that we were out of our minds, and that if one thing were to go wrong we would all go to jail”.