Sherut Ha’avir’s first aerial attack

RWD-13 Sherut Ha’avir carries out its first raid: Pinhas Ben Porat, in an RWD-13, attacks Arab marauders who had been besieging Nevatim.

On December 17th reports came in from the Negev which told of an attack upon a Jewish convoy between Revivim and ‘Asluj, with several fighters seriously wounded. Sherut Ha’avir pilot Pinhas (‘Pinyeh’) Ben Porat and a doctor named Polak took off in an RWD-13 towards the settlement of Beit Eshel, to give medical aid to the wounded. Upon landing, they learned that one of the injured men had died of his wounds, and the other had already been taken to a hospital. They were informed, however, that a group of Arabs was attacking the settlement Nevatim, eight km. to the east, and that there were wounded there who were awaiting evacuation.

A short time after he had landed at Beit Eshel, an armored British police car pulled in. The police officer, from the station at Be’er Sheva, questioned Ben Porat as to his reason for landing there, and wanted to know whether he possessed a flight permit from the Department of Civilian Aviation.

Ben Porat replied that he had been sent by (private aviation company) Aviron, and that the doctor accompanying him was from the Magen David Adom emergency medical service. The police officer went out to Nevatim, to find out what was happening there. He returned a half hour later, and reported that the settlement was encircled by hundreds of Arabs who were preventing anyone from entering or leaving.

When the officer had left, Ben Porat decided to fly to Nevatim immediately. He asked the people of Beit Eshel for a machine gun and hand grenades, and one of the men volunteered to come along as gunner. Ben Porat removed the two side doors, placed the gun in a way that would prevent its bullets from hitting the propeller or wheels, and took off for Nevatim.

When he arrived at Nevatim, Ben Porat saw that there was a large scale attack under way, although the terrain – which afforded the Arabs camouflage – prevented him from assessing the number of attackers involved. Since it was not possible to shoot in the direction of flight – only diagonally and downwards – Ben Porat tilted the aircraft towards the target he chose each time, and told the gunner when to fire. The two fired and threw grenades on any spot where they saw people, or thought people might be hiding. It was not long before the attackers began fleeing for their lives.

After effectively stopping the attack on Nevatim, Ben Porat landed his plane near the settlement’s perimeter fence, got off the plane without turning off the engine, and inquired as to the condition of the wounded. He was told that one of the fighters was badly wounded. Ben Porat decided to leave the gunner behind and take the injured man with him. The gunner helped Ben Porat lift the wounded man up onto the plane, and Ben Porat took him to Beit Eshel, where he received initial medical care. In the early afternoon Ben Porat evacuated him to Tel Aviv, and then came back for another wounded man.

Ben Porat’s self-assigned mission had been Sherut Ha’avir’s first attack sortie, and it received much attention. The British authorities were furious and announced that from that time onwards, any Jewish plane which used weapons would be shot down.