Lou Lenart

US-born pilot who thwarted Egyptian attack in 1948 passes away

Lou Lenart, former US Marine who fought in WWII, led the IAF's first ever assault against an Egyptian force making its way to Latrun to join Jordanian troops; this attack helped save the newly-formed Israel.

American-born Lou Lenart, who led the Israel Air Force's first attack to push back a crucial Egyptian advance during Israel's War of Independence in 1948, passed away on Monday at the age of 94.



On May 29, 1948, Israel was facing defeat as a column of Egyptian tanks was making its way to central Israel to join forces with Jordanian troops in Latrun.


The newly-formed Air Force decided to recruit its entire fleet of fighter planes - four Messerschmitt planes - and sent them to attack the Egyptians.


Lou Lenart (Photo: IAF)
Lou Lenart (Photo: IAF)


The attack was led by the young Lou Lenart, with future president Ezer Weizman as his number three. The four planes dropped 70 kilogram bombs on the Egyptian force near what was then the Arab village of Isdud, and attacked them with gunfire.


The Egyptians, who were shocked to learn Israel had fighter planes, stopped their advance and later retreated.


"It was the most important event in my life," Lenart later told the IAF journal. "I survived World War II so I could lead this mission."


Lenart, who is also one of the founders of the IAF's 101 Squadron, also served in the US Marine Corps and flew missions over the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, participated in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah to bring Iraqi Jews to Israel, and worked as a pilot for El Al.


He also produced the 1986 Hollywood movie "Iron Eagle." Near LAX, a restaurant put a Messerschmitt plane on display in his honor.


Lenart is survived by his wife and two children. He will be laid to rest in the cemetery in Ra'anana on Wednesday.


פרסום ראשון: 07.21.15, 11:09
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