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Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History

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The definitive account of one of the greatest Special Forces missions ever, the Raid of Entebbe, by acclaimed military historian Saul David. On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by a group of Arab and German terrorists who demanded the release of 53 terrorists. The plane was forced to divert to Entebbe, in Uganda -- ruled by the murder The definitive account of one of the greatest Special Forces missions ever, the Raid of Entebbe, by acclaimed military historian Saul David. On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by a group of Arab and German terrorists who demanded the release of 53 terrorists. The plane was forced to divert to Entebbe, in Uganda -- ruled by the murderous despot Idi Amin, who had no interest in intervening. Days later, Israeli commandos disguised as Ugandan soldiers assaulted the airport terminal, killed all the terrorists, and rescued all the hostages but three who were killed in the crossfire. The assault force suffered just one fatality: its commander, Yoni Netanyahu (brother of Israel's Prime Minister.) Three of the country's greatest leaders -- Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin -- planned and pulled off one of the most astonishing military operations in history.


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The definitive account of one of the greatest Special Forces missions ever, the Raid of Entebbe, by acclaimed military historian Saul David. On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by a group of Arab and German terrorists who demanded the release of 53 terrorists. The plane was forced to divert to Entebbe, in Uganda -- ruled by the murder The definitive account of one of the greatest Special Forces missions ever, the Raid of Entebbe, by acclaimed military historian Saul David. On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by a group of Arab and German terrorists who demanded the release of 53 terrorists. The plane was forced to divert to Entebbe, in Uganda -- ruled by the murderous despot Idi Amin, who had no interest in intervening. Days later, Israeli commandos disguised as Ugandan soldiers assaulted the airport terminal, killed all the terrorists, and rescued all the hostages but three who were killed in the crossfire. The assault force suffered just one fatality: its commander, Yoni Netanyahu (brother of Israel's Prime Minister.) Three of the country's greatest leaders -- Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin -- planned and pulled off one of the most astonishing military operations in history.

30 review for Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This book continues a recent trend in my reading list: terrorism. Just recently, I finished Simon Reeve’s One Day in September, which recounted Black September’s infiltration into the Olympic Village during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Initially, two members of the Israeli team were killed and nine taken hostage. Those nine hostages died during a horribly mishandled rescue attempt at Fürstenfeldbruck Airport. The Munich Massacre highlighted Germany’s unpreparedness for a terrorist event. Saul David This book continues a recent trend in my reading list: terrorism. Just recently, I finished Simon Reeve’s One Day in September, which recounted Black September’s infiltration into the Olympic Village during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Initially, two members of the Israeli team were killed and nine taken hostage. Those nine hostages died during a horribly mishandled rescue attempt at Fürstenfeldbruck Airport. The Munich Massacre highlighted Germany’s unpreparedness for a terrorist event. Saul David’s Operation Thunderbolt tells a much different story, with a much different outcome. On June 27, 1976, four terrorists – two from Germany (connected to Baader-Meinhof), two from Palestine – hijacked Air France 139 as it flew from Tel Aviv to Paris, taking 253 passengers and crew hostage. The terrorists diverted the plane to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, which was under the control of the mercurial and violent Idi Amin. Not only did Amin allow the terrorists to decamp, and put their hostages in the old terminal building, but he provided active support, including armed guards. In a sickening echo of the Holocaust, the passengers were separated according to nationality: Israelis and everyone else. (Interestingly, non-Israeli Jews were allowed to remain with the bulk of the passengers). In Israel, a fierce debate ensued between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who seriously contemplated negotiating for the hostages release (he was under fierce pressure from the families, who noted, correctly, that Israel had bartered prisoners for bodies in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War), and Defense Minister Shimon Peres, who favored a rescue mission by the elite Sayeret Matkal (known as the Unit). Peres eventually won out, and the Unit went in like a boss. But you knew that already, since the subtitle of this book is “the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History.” David tells the story of this semi-forgotten event in gripping fashion. Operation Thunderbolt reads like a novel, replete with tense dialogue, internal monologues, and gritty detail. With the pacing of a thriller, David takes you through the eight days of the hostage situation, with each day getting its own chapter. Within each chapter, he cuts swiftly from Israeli cabinet meetings to the hostages in the airport and then onto the members of the Unit hastily training for their mission. Each of these jumps is prefaced by a dateline giving location and time. It can occasionally get a little too breathless, but the book has stickiness. It’s hard to put down. David’s does a very good job leading you through the complex decision-making process. Still, Operation Thunderbolt is at its best when it focuses on the experiences of the hostages. There is something relentlessly fascinating in the exploration of ordinary people under extraordinary duress. Some of the passengers behaved heroically; some selfishly. One male passenger apparently got to second base with several female passengers, though apparently never scored. The interactions between these forced companions in an unimaginably tense and uncomfortable environment is captivating. Of course, it should be noted that there is probably a bit of bias in the firsthand accounts that David uses (both contemporary and new). The heroes among the passengers tend to be the ones who wrote the books or gave the interviews. Whether that means anything is something that David does not explore. Another high point is the Unit’s raid on Entebbe Airport, led by Jonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu. Much of the tension in Operation Thunderbolt derives from the countdown to this sequence. Thus, in a sense, everything rises and falls on how David delivers the climax. Undoubtedly he succeeds. The fierce gun-battle that ensued is pulse-pounding and detailed. It combines fluid action with a sense of scrupulous recreation. This section is helped along by several maps and diagrams that give the layout of the airfields and the terminal. While boldly conceived and daringly executed, the mission was not flawless. At the last moment, things went wrong, and as David explains, it was probably the two Germans who prevented a slaughter. At the last moment, when they saw the Israeli commandos coming in, they decided that executing hostages wasn’t what they signed on for. There is a cost to everything, and the downside of a history book styled as a techno-thriller is that you lose some context. David does not necessarily neglect any aspects of this tale, but there are certain areas that needed more amplification. Rather than deliver information in a measured and analytical fashion, facts are distributed piecemeal throughout the course of the narrative. This is especially evident in David’s description of the hijackers. As I mentioned above, there were two Germans (a man and woman) from a left-wing West German terror cell; and two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Instead of naming these hijackers and giving background information, David needlessly hides their identity by referring to them as they referred to themselves, as Number 1, 10, 39, and 54. This would be fine if I was reading an actual novel, but I’m not. At a certain point, I really do want to have certain information just given to me on a silver platter. Eventually, David spends a bit of time on the two Germans; the Palestinians, however, are mostly forgotten. I might have missed something, but even now, as I’m paging through the book, I can’t find anything but a passing reference to them. (In fairness, he does devote several pages to the history of the PFLP). In David’s zeal to provide a taut storyline (though at 373 pages it’s not that taut), things go unexplained. There are dozens of times when a passenger is referred to by a pseudonym or by a surname only. I wanted an explanation why. Is there a reason, 40 years on, that we are still withholding identifying information? If so, explain that. I’m interested in this question because it goes to the credibility of the eyewitnesses. Some of the “better” stories told by the freed hostages are pseudonymous, which to me screams out exaggeration. This is not to say that anyone is lying, but that it is a very human tendency to make a great story (“I survived a hostage situation in Idi Amin’s Uganda!”) even better (“And when we were taken out, one of the Air France stewardesses was wearing only sexy lingerie!”). To that end, a passenger manifest does not seem unreasonable. Today’s terrorists feel different from yesteryear’s. The PFLP is defined by most western countries as a terrorist organization – but at the very least it has definable goals relating to Palestine. Contrasted to ISIS, they look like rational actors. It’s unclear what ISIS wants, other than to spread. (One is tempted to feel nostalgia for yesterday’s terrorists, who at least came at you with quantifiable demands). We live in the Age of Terror. The threat is not existential, but it is frightening. It is comforting to believe that hyper-competent counterterror operatives stand by to protect us. In this environment, Navy SEALs and Army DELTA operatives have achieved rocks start status. Israel’s Sayeret Matkal is among the world’s elite military units. Entebbe saw them at their best. Yet, even though David doesn’t come out and say it, you can see another factor at play. You need audacity, you need training, you need courage. And you need luck. A lot of luck.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This is a decent offering from an author I had never read before. As in real life, comparatively little time is spent in action and way too much time is taken up with the political machinations leading up to deployment. Of course, this is unavoidable if one is to get the full story behind the deployment. As in any conflict, for every honest soldier frontally assaulting you there are a dozen oily backstabbers sending him on his way. Full credit to the Israelis: this operation required a lot of ner This is a decent offering from an author I had never read before. As in real life, comparatively little time is spent in action and way too much time is taken up with the political machinations leading up to deployment. Of course, this is unavoidable if one is to get the full story behind the deployment. As in any conflict, for every honest soldier frontally assaulting you there are a dozen oily backstabbers sending him on his way. Full credit to the Israelis: this operation required a lot of nerve. It could have gone wrong in so many ways. In fact, had Entebbe been situated in any country other than a backwater like Uganda the mission to rescue the hostages would have been impossible. The rescuers counted on the fact that no one would have expected the Israeli military to have the capability to show up in total darkness in the middle of Africa, and they relied heavily on the probability that the Ugandan troops would be panicked and ineffective....which they were, for the most part, until the Israelis departed from the script and started shooting at soldiers on the way to the terminal. As it was, if only a few more Ugandan troops had stuck around the rescue force could have been stranded quite easily. The rescue relied as much on fortune as it did on skill. This operation, if attempted today, would be unlikely to have any chance of ending happily. Our modern souped-up terrorist is a far cry from the almost benevolent PFLP type of the 1970s. The mixed bag of European and Middle Eastern hostage-takers were very permissive, turning a blind eye to alcohol consumption and even fornication among the hostages. And while they threatened much, they restricted their abuse to a couple of sound beatings, which, when you consider the whiny and rebellious nature of some hostages, was probably pretty mild compared to what would happen if the same provocation were to be offered to a modern terrorist. The raid itself is so well known that most people will already know the outcome. One Israeli soldier dead, another crippled for life. Casualties among the hostages were miraculously light. Mr David goes on to record the reactions of hostages and their next of kin after the raid: the inexplicable stupidity of Israeli officials in telling a grieving father that his bullet-riddled son expired from a bout of asthma, for example. (No Sir, those are asthma holes). And the grief of the relatives of the fallen hostages, who had to endure the exultation of the relatives of returnees while mourning their own fallen. This is a complete book, carefully crafted by Mr David to relate the story completely from start to finish. He has included photographs, diagrams, and a complete Bibliography. Sadly, one story remains untold: that of the unknown Ugandan soldier who single handedly engaged the Israeli troops from the control tower, staying at his post in the face of impossible odds. Good Sir, I salute you, and I hope some day you write your story. You fought for the wrong side, but you fought well and almost single-handedly stopped an entire assaulting force. Pity someone hasn't tracked you down to record your impressions of that very active night.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bob Mayer

    A detailed account of the mission from the hijacking through the rescue. This book moves fast, giving insight into all elements, from what happened in Uganda to military preparations in Israel, to the politicking. I just watched Eye in the Sky and it reminded me of this. Drawing from my own Special Forces background, it's always fascinating for people to see the story behind the headline. While we focus on the actual mission, the mission doesn't go it a lot of things are lined up. I read this bo A detailed account of the mission from the hijacking through the rescue. This book moves fast, giving insight into all elements, from what happened in Uganda to military preparations in Israel, to the politicking. I just watched Eye in the Sky and it reminded me of this. Drawing from my own Special Forces background, it's always fascinating for people to see the story behind the headline. While we focus on the actual mission, the mission doesn't go it a lot of things are lined up. I read this book as part of the research for one of the six missions in Independence Day (Time Patrol) as I invented a second team going in to the water-- a mission that this book said was first promulgated as the plan using Shayetet 13, their equivalent of the SEALs. The question is what if the mission failed? What if Yoni Netanyahu wasn't killed? How would that change history? That's part of taking history, as laid out in this book, and what-iffing it. It's also key to remember this was four years after Munich so it was a key turning point in counter-terrorism.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Very good, step-by-step account of the Israeli rescue of hostages from an Air France plane at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. My sole complaint: because then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been murdered by the time of the writing, the author doubtlessly had greater access to Defense Secretary Shimon Peres. The latter is portrayed as the moving force behind a military option. Knowing Peres's historic (and continued) "dovishness", I suspect the story was more complex. Interesting that the most famous Very good, step-by-step account of the Israeli rescue of hostages from an Air France plane at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. My sole complaint: because then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been murdered by the time of the writing, the author doubtlessly had greater access to Defense Secretary Shimon Peres. The latter is portrayed as the moving force behind a military option. Knowing Peres's historic (and continued) "dovishness", I suspect the story was more complex. Interesting that the most famous Israeli KIA of the mission -- its on-ground commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Yoni Netanyahu, older brother of the current Prime Minister -- acted inconsistent with his own mission plan in a way that Yoni himself said would draw premature and dangerous fire.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    After recent events in Paris and San Bernardino the world’s heightened awareness of possible terrorist attacks has been raised ever further. We have all heard about failed attempts to blow up airplanes by the “shoe bomber,” and the “underwear bomber,” and of course 9/11. We live in a world where fears of flying have increased, but it is not a unique feeling as is evidenced by Saul David’s new book OPERATION THUNDERBOLT: FLIGHT 139 AND THE RAID ON ENTEBBE AIRPORT, THE MOST AUDACIOUS HOSTAGE RESCU After recent events in Paris and San Bernardino the world’s heightened awareness of possible terrorist attacks has been raised ever further. We have all heard about failed attempts to blow up airplanes by the “shoe bomber,” and the “underwear bomber,” and of course 9/11. We live in a world where fears of flying have increased, but it is not a unique feeling as is evidenced by Saul David’s new book OPERATION THUNDERBOLT: FLIGHT 139 AND THE RAID ON ENTEBBE AIRPORT, THE MOST AUDACIOUS HOSTAGE RESCUE MISSION IN HISTORY that recounts the hijacking of Air France’s Flight 139 on June 27, 1976 originating in Tel Aviv, with a stopover in Athens and a final destination in Paris. The flight spawned the Israeli rescue of 102 people out of an original total of 253 passengers and flight crew after the plane was diverted from Athens, where the hijackers boarded and forced the pilots to fly to Benghazi, Libya before proceeding to Entebbe Airport outside Kampala, Uganda. The reader should remember that the hijacking of Flight 139 was not an isolated event as the 1970s witnessed terror attacks across Britain and Ireland, as well as those related to the Middle East and Africa. At the time Uganda was led by the dictator Dr. Idi Amin Dada, a former paratrooper in the British army, who had come to power by a coup in 1971, and was in cahoots with the hijackers. Like today, the passengers of Flight 139 were quite aware of a possible terrorist attack if the plane stopped in Athens, but like most, they threw caution to the wind resulting in the Israeli raid and the death of four of the hostages, one Israeli commando, Yoni Netanyahu, the brother of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 45 Ugandan soldiers and the hijackers. The plane was seized by an offshoot of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group that had pioneered the hijacking of airplanes as a means of striking Israel, which did not bode well for a passenger list dominated by Jews and Israelis. David present a day by day, and at times, hour by hour description of the hijacking allowing the reader to enter the mindset of the passengers as the plane was seized, flown to Entebbe, and their incarceration in the old terminal at the airport. We witness the feelings and emotions of the hostages as they were separated by Jews/Israelis and others, and as they dealt with the release of 40 hostages, then another 100 or so, leaving just Jews and Israelis to face their fate. The hostages go through many highs and lows during their detention and David provides many insights into how they tried to cope with their situation. David takes the reader inside the Israeli government as they debated their response to terrorist demands for the release of 53 prisoners, 40 of which were held in Israel and other countries. What emerges is a major disagreement between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who favored negotiations with the terrorists if a military response was not available, and Defense Minister Shimon Peres, who advocated for a rescue mission and no negotiations. Rabin was placed in a quandary because he wanted to limit concessions but there was a precedent for a prisoner swap dating back to the Yom Kippur War when Israel traded imprisoned terrorists for Israeli war corpses. Feeling the pressure of the hostage’s families, how could Israel not trade prisoners for people that were alive? David presents a detailed description of how the Israeli intelligence community and military ferreted out information and went about planning the rescue mission. We meet a number of important characters led by Major Muki Bester, the head of Sayeret Matkal (the Unit), Israel’s most efficient reconnaissance unit that had previously trained Ugandan soldiers, Yoni Netanyahu, the Unit commander, Brigadier-General Dan Shomron, one of the major architects of the rescue, Lieutenant-Colonel Ehud Barak, another Unit commander and future Prime Minister of Israel among numerous others. The major problem that military planners faced was refueling. The Hercules C-130 airplanes needed to refuel because of the distance between Israel and Kampala, in addition, the weight of equipment and soldiers made it impossible for the planes to fly roundtrip. After a few tense days, the Kenyan government agreed to allow the Israeli planes to refuel in Nairobi because the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence arm had foiled an attempted shoot down of an El Al airliner over Nairobi Airport, and their desire to get even with Amin who was smuggling weapons across the Kenyan-Ugandan border. The key to the crisis came on July 2 when Amin, who enjoyed the attention, announced that the deadline for a decision regarding the prisoner swap would be extended three days while he chaired a meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Mauritius. This gave the Israeli military a window to plan, train, and implement a rescue attempt. David provides an almost minute by minute account of the raid from takeoff in Sharm el-Sheik at Israel’s southern tip all the way to Entebbe. As the first Hercules landed things did not go as planned as Netanyahu insisted on taking out two Ugandan sentries, thus forgoing the element of surprise. However, the IDF was able to improvise, and in the end the raid was an overall success. All the terrorists were killed, as were numerous Ugandan soldiers, but with five casualties, including a number of wounded. Once the hostages were secure as part of their agreement with the Kenyan government the Israelis destroyed 11 Soviet Migs of the Ugandan air force parked in front of the old terminal as a concession to the Kenyan government for its cooperation. Once the planes landed in Nairobi, they were refueled and the wounded were taken care of. David provides an aftermath explaining to the reader some of the interesting ramifications of the rescue operation. As one could have been expected the United Nations condemned Zionist aggression. Idi Amin had Dora Bloch, an elderly hostage who had been hospitalized and was not freed, was murdered by Amin in an act of revenge. The French worried about their position in Africa and the Arab world remained very subdued in its public statements following the operation. Idi Amin was overthrown in 1979 and was provided with a “golden parachute” by the Saudi Arabian government. Lastly, and most importantly it showed the world what could be done to stop terrorism, and a number of western countries developed their own version of the Unit. Although the Entebbe raid has been explored by many books, three full length movies, and a number of documentaries, military historian, Saul David has written an engrossing narrative that encapsulates all aspects of the seizure and raid. David interviewed numerous hostages and has full command of government sources and other materials. The result is a carefully constructed book that reads like fiction. The problem is that it is a true story that hopefully will not be repeated in our current climate of fear and terrorist operatives.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Igor Ljubuncic

    Very nice. Tense, absurd, spectacular. The story is well known. The personal stories of the people involved, less so. The author gives us an hour-by-hour thriller read of the most spectacular rescue operation in the modern history, starting with the overview of what it felt like to fly in the 70s. The fear of hijackings and plane bombings. The lax security at the Athens airport. The crew and the passengers. And then, the drama unfolds. Saul tells us what it was like for everyone involved, and the Very nice. Tense, absurd, spectacular. The story is well known. The personal stories of the people involved, less so. The author gives us an hour-by-hour thriller read of the most spectacular rescue operation in the modern history, starting with the overview of what it felt like to fly in the 70s. The fear of hijackings and plane bombings. The lax security at the Athens airport. The crew and the passengers. And then, the drama unfolds. Saul tells us what it was like for everyone involved, and the details are really captivating. Some of the situations are just crazy. For instance, among the hostage, eventually, almost everyone had diarrhea from badly cooked food, even though it was prepared at a supposedly luxry hotel. The hostages, despite their difficult situation, still managed to engage in sex (plus noise complaints), buy duty free goods from Amin's airport staff, and cheer him when he gave his speeches. We also get a glimpse into the life of Bruce McKenzie, the heroic and cool-headed behavior by some of the hostages, personal phone conversations between Muki Betzer (an Israeli spec op) and Idi Amin (who has trained with the Israeli paratroopers in the 60s). Then, we have the deliberation and pain and responsibility of the Israeli government, and how it went from desperate and willing to negotiate the release of terrorists (something not done before in the West) and running a daring operating 4,000 km away from home. It really was a textbook operation. Four C-130 planes landing in the middle of the night, with Israeli "Matkal" soldiers impersonating Amin's top-brass with a custom Mercedes and Ugandan uniforms, the Kenyan connection, the airborne Boeing 707 C&C plane, the ground battle with the special forces and APCs, and the rescue of the 100 odd people in less than one hour, from landing to takeoff. We also get the fatalistic personal view from the leader of the special forces team, who died to sniper fire, and the stories of the four civilians who lost their lives in the mission. Then, we have the legacy of the operation - and you can read more about that in my review on the British effort to spot the Argentinian Exocet missile threat in the Falklands War, how the West perceived Operation Thunderbolt, the prestige, the strategic impact, and what it meant for similar, future endeavors, and the change in what terror signifies today. Remarkable and extremely interesting, down to the tiniest detail. Highly recommended. Igor

  7. 5 out of 5

    Federica

    A stunner of a book. Informative and insightful, and it reads like the best thrillers out there. You can see it while you read almost as if you were watching a movie.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I can't remember how I heard of this book, but I am so glad I decided to read it because WOW - one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long while! This covers an event I knew nothing about before starting the book, the hijacking of a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris (after an unscheduled stopover in Athens, which had lax security). The terrorists diverted the flight to Uganda, where the country's dictator was actively conspiring to humiliate the Israelis and would not intervene to help des I can't remember how I heard of this book, but I am so glad I decided to read it because WOW - one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long while! This covers an event I knew nothing about before starting the book, the hijacking of a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris (after an unscheduled stopover in Athens, which had lax security). The terrorists diverted the flight to Uganda, where the country's dictator was actively conspiring to humiliate the Israelis and would not intervene to help despite his protests to the contrary. The terrorists demanded the release of a number of prisoners in exchange for the safe release of hostages, and because the passengers were mostly Israeli and the demands mostly targeted prisoners the Israelis held, the Israelis had to decide if they'd capitulate to the demands or if they could somehow mount a military rescue operation despite being more than 1000 miles away and the hostages being on foreign soil. While this book was non-fiction, it read like a thriller. The author did an amazing job researching this and keeping the narration moving around from location to location, keeping it all moving forward in chronological order; the book was broken up into days and, within those chapters, further broken down into mini-chapters based on times and locations. I found it fascinating to read about what was going on in each place, from the hostages' discomfort and worry to the Israeli special forces trying to figure out how a military rescue could even be possible. It's easy to look back now and come up with ideas for how the rescue strategy could be improved or changes that should have been made, but these were clearly difficult decisions at the time, without knowing all the information. I had a terrible time putting down this book, it was so gripping and tense! I just wanted to keep reading, to find out what would happen next, even though (based on the subtitle alone!) I already knew that there's be a military rescue and (based on the book's dedication) how successful it would be. The storytelling in here kept me glued to the page and truly made me care about the outcome. I would easily recommend this book to anyone looking for a gripping non-fiction read or even just an engrossing thriller. My heart is still racing from the last part of the book. What an amazing story and crazy to think it actually happened, and all that came out of this rescue mission. Excellent book!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Koby Gould

    It’s my guess that a lot of people think that they know what happened in ‘that’ rescue but I doubt that many know it in as much detail as I do now that I have read this terrific book by Saul David. Saul David: “…I decided to write it unfolding in real time, with the narrative shifting from the sweltering Old Terminal at Entebbe, where the hostages were kept, to the cabinet rooms of the governments involved (particularly Israel), the houses of the hostages’ families, the headquarters of the Israe It’s my guess that a lot of people think that they know what happened in ‘that’ rescue but I doubt that many know it in as much detail as I do now that I have read this terrific book by Saul David. Saul David: “…I decided to write it unfolding in real time, with the narrative shifting from the sweltering Old Terminal at Entebbe, where the hostages were kept, to the cabinet rooms of the governments involved (particularly Israel), the houses of the hostages’ families, the headquarters of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), the airport in Paris where the released hostages were debriefed, the bases of the soldiers chosen to spearhead the rescue force and, finally, the C-130 Hercules planes that were used to ferry the rescue force to Entebbe. The intention was to convey the unbearable tension felt by all involved as the clock ticked towards the final, bloody denouement….The result is, I hope, an exciting true story that is exhaustively researched yet reads more like a novel than a traditional history…” SUCCEEDED. That is what Saul David planned and set out to do and he has done it – or has done it as well as I guess one can. One obviously cannot fully convey the ‘unbearable tension’, the horror of the situation. Remember, this was in the 1970’s, a decade during which Arab groups and their sympathisers were hijacking and taking hostages with bloody consequences (eg Lod/Ben Gurion Airport Massacre 1972 which involved the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], terrifyingly for the Entebbe hostages, the same group that spearheaded the Air France hijack which was the start of their nightmare). 1976 was also, and I think that this is important to bear in mind, just 31 years after the liberation of the Nazi extermination camps. Imagine (not that you can unless you were in one of the camps) the horror (I repeat that word but it is the right one) of being a Jew and/or an Israeli in Entebbe and being removed from the group of hostages simply because you are Jewish/Israeli, being ‘selected’ for a move to another room in Entebbe Airport’s ‘Old Terminal’. Horror which cannot be fully conveyed but David does as well as is possible. He does very well! Tension, suspense, speed, it’s all here, David achieves it. He moves, minute by minute sometimes, from location to location, the reader is in many places simultaneously. Very clever writing. David provides not just a window into the scenes, windows into the European Government Cabinet meetings, windows into the rooms in which the hostages were enduring a living hell, windows into the bellies of the C-130 Hercules planes as they were flying towards Entebbe. David’s narrative puts the reader into those scenes, into the rooms with the hostages, into the meetings, into the planes. So, plenty of drama. Full marks – but I also learnt a lot. I read, some time ago, “Yoni’s Last Battle” by one of his brothers, Iddo Netanyahu. That is a terrific book and, of course, it reveals, in some detail, what happened before and during the rescue mission but it was, as it was meant to be, more about Yoni Netanyahu than the mission itself. Lt.-Col. Yonotan ‘Yoni’ Netanyahu, Commander of Sayeret Matkal, the ‘Unit’ which spearheaded the rescue mission, was the only member of the rescue team killed during the mission. Saul David’s book, as the title suggests, is about the mission. It is common knowledge that the then Israeli Defence Minister, Shimon Peres, and the then Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, were not best buddies (though I believe that they ‘made up’ later on in their lives) and the reader sees a lot of the strained relationship in this book. They had very differing opinions as to how the hijack/hostage-taking should be handled and we also discover Menachem Begin’s position and his views on what was happening. I’ll say no more on that in this book recommendation as I don’t want to spoil it for the reader. Idi Amin, the then President of Uganda, he features, of course, very much in the book. All I’ll say here, again because I don’t want to spoil it for the reader, is that although I knew that he was not one of nature’s gents, I now know how appalling he was! I think he must have been a psychopath – what he did, when I read about it, it left me cold! He was an absolute monster!! Also, I don’t think I realized/knew/remembered, before I read the book, that hostages were killed. I think that my being told, as I was growing up, about the success of the mission (and, of course, it was – overall – an incredible success), I think I always believed that Yoni Netanyahu was the only one who was killed. I now know that whilst he was the only member of the rescue force who was killed (and, in the circumstances, that is incredible), 4 hostages also lost their lives. That is, though, also staggering in the circumstances, that it was ‘only’ 4 but that ‘only 4′ will have been no consolation to the families of those who didn’t come back alive. So, a rip-roaring read, tension, suspense, horror and a history lesson to boot. A great read!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pirate

    Outstanding book on an incredible and audacious rescue mission launched by the Israelis and led on the ground by Yoni Netanyahu the brother of Bibi. Well written, with excellent anecdotes from Inside the Israeli government and military circles as well as from the hostages. Very moving at times and heart rending too. Extraordinary to learn that it was not the multi-decorated former soldier Yitzhak Rabin who was Prime Minister at the time who was all for launching such a risky venture, he was up f Outstanding book on an incredible and audacious rescue mission launched by the Israelis and led on the ground by Yoni Netanyahu the brother of Bibi. Well written, with excellent anecdotes from Inside the Israeli government and military circles as well as from the hostages. Very moving at times and heart rending too. Extraordinary to learn that it was not the multi-decorated former soldier Yitzhak Rabin who was Prime Minister at the time who was all for launching such a risky venture, he was up for negotiating with the terrorists a mix of German and Palestinians, but Shimon Peres, who was Defence Minister and perhaps because he was not proven in the maelstrom of war all too keen to prove he deserved such a portfolio. Whatever the reason he stuck to his task and all the better for it. The collusion of the repllent Amin with the hijackers is well illustrated as is the revolting revenge he took after being humiliated both by the Israelis and the Kenyans. Most sinister of all is when the hostages are split into Israeli and non Israeli provoking all too clearly memories of the Nazis and the concentration camps. Ironic given the German terrorists cast themselves as a reaction to the evils of Nazism but in the end followed similar modis operandi in the sélections. Truly great account and well worth reading from a very fine historian.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Bishop

    Found it hard to put this book down! The gripping account of this hostage rescue mission carried out by the Israeli military deep in Africa back in 1976 brought out the incredible risks that were taken...and bravery of those involved. My only problem in reading through the details was the number of people who were involved - over one hundred hostages alone, each with a story to tell! So I needed to do a fair amount of backtracking - but worth the effort.

  12. 5 out of 5

    James

    Gripping account of the entebbe raid. The amount of luck or perhaps better put serendipity that made the difference between daring success or abject failure is brought to vivid life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Ina time when reports of terrorism are all too frequent, we sometimes don't remember that this is not our first time at this dance. Airplane hijackings became much too frequent in the 1970s, and the decsion about how to free hostages held by hijackers was difficult and sometimes expensive. In june/July 1976, terrorists hijacked Air France flight 139, a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris, just after it left a stopover in Athens. . The plane and its crew and passengers ended up in Entebbe, Uganda, the Ina time when reports of terrorism are all too frequent, we sometimes don't remember that this is not our first time at this dance. Airplane hijackings became much too frequent in the 1970s, and the decsion about how to free hostages held by hijackers was difficult and sometimes expensive. In june/July 1976, terrorists hijacked Air France flight 139, a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris, just after it left a stopover in Athens. . The plane and its crew and passengers ended up in Entebbe, Uganda, the "guests of Idi Amin, by way of Bengazi. The Israelis, after much debate , launched a highly successful rescue operation, Operation Thunderbolt. Saul David's recounting of the operation is thorough, well-researched, and (even though we know the outcome) suspenseful. He creates dramatic tension by switching perspective between the Israeli military and politicians, the passengers, and, occasionally, the Ugandans. The operation was important because it established the possibility of success even when one refused to negotiate with the terrorists - a policy that is imprtant in today's world as well. This is an interesting and important bit of history, well-told.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Neeti

    A thrilling account (non-fiction) of the the actual military operation with explicit details of the planning and the political machinations that happened during this time not only in Israel but almost across the globe..

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jared

    I have long been fascinated by the story of the Israeli raid on Entebbe, Uganda in 1976 but had not been able to read a book on the account until now. If you are not familiar with this particular chain of events following the aircraft's highjacking, don't worry because there were a lot of highjackings during this period. Here's a 3-minute cartoon that can bring you up to speed quickly: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=q6C8b2L... Although the events during the highjacking and the daring rescue are riv I have long been fascinated by the story of the Israeli raid on Entebbe, Uganda in 1976 but had not been able to read a book on the account until now. If you are not familiar with this particular chain of events following the aircraft's highjacking, don't worry because there were a lot of highjackings during this period. Here's a 3-minute cartoon that can bring you up to speed quickly: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=q6C8b2L... Although the events during the highjacking and the daring rescue are riveting, what the Israelis did in this instance had tremendous effects of how the world saw- and responded to- terrorism. Prior to this event, it was common practice for most governments to negotiate with terrorists, and this is what Israel originally intended to do. As the book points out: - "The immediate legacy of Operation Thunderbolt was twofold: it encouraged most Western governments to conclude that the correct political response to a hostage-taking situation was not to negotiate with the terrorists and, instead, to launch a military counter-strike if at all possible; this in turn prompted countries like France and the United States to set up specialist counter-terrorist units." - "...the IDF had never previously launched a military operation outside the Middle East." - "Operation Thunderbolt remains the first, and arguably most successful, counter-strike in the West’s long War on Terror." - "Colonel Bill McRaven–later the architect of the successful US mission to kill Osama bin Laden–described the Entebbe Raid as ‘the best illustration of the theory of special operations yet presented’." - "Did it make peace with the Palestinian Arabs less likely because it convinced Israel’s political leaders–and populace in general–that their intelligence services and soldiers could deal with any security threat?" At any rate, this book is very well-written and even a slow reader such as myself could not help but read this book in a few days. There are so many fascinating/strange aspects of this event and era: - The raid took place on the 4th of July, 1976 (how patriotic, right!?) - Abysmally-poor airport security that allowed terrorists to waltz onto a plane with duffel bags full of weapons and explosives (good job, Athens) - People being allowed to smoke on flights - A 3rd-world dictator (Uganda's Ida Amin) being complicit - even helping the terrorists to guard the hostages - The hostages being given the 'opportunity' to buy duty-free goods while in captivity - Captivity not stifling the sexual proclivities of certain hostages, despite being surrounded by 100s of other people - The Ugandans providing the hostages mattresses, but not allowing them to take the protective coverings off because they are new and are ultimately to be taken to a hotel - The Israelis conducted the raid with some captured BTRs (assault vehicles) that they had acquired in fighting previous conflicts (I hope that they at least covered up their former foe's markings...) - The Israelis made sure that they got out safely (and did the Kenyans a favor) by blowing up Uganda's 11 MiGs while they were at the airport - Yoni Yetanyahu (sp?), who was Bejamin Y's (then-future prime minister of Israel) brother, helped lead the assault and was tragically killed - The Israelis had a little more than a day, very poor intelligence on the airfield and only conducted limited practice on a shoddy structure that in no way represented an accurate mock-up of the target building (compare this to the bin Laden preparation and intel) If you enjoy learning about history, special ops missions, terrorism, etc. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book, you'll be glad that you did.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Couldn't recommend it higher Couldn't recommend it higher

  17. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Excellent overview of both the military operation at Entebbe, along with the planning (or relative lack) that led up to it, but the discussions, tensions, conflict and jealousies within the Israeli cabinet, most notably between Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres, who later became PM himself. One can picture the barely-hidden, smoldering anger and disdain both had for each other, with Rabin considering Peres (who had little active military service himself) a grandstande Excellent overview of both the military operation at Entebbe, along with the planning (or relative lack) that led up to it, but the discussions, tensions, conflict and jealousies within the Israeli cabinet, most notably between Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres, who later became PM himself. One can picture the barely-hidden, smoldering anger and disdain both had for each other, with Rabin considering Peres (who had little active military service himself) a grandstander and Peres seeing Rabin as an appeaser or something. As for the military operation itself, it is well detailed. The planning for it, such as it was, is more detailed. So, too, is the trigger finger of the commander of the one special forces unit. Don't be shocked at the name on the trigger finger — it's Netanyahu. Bibi's older brother, Yoni, got suspicious of the first Ugandan trooper met at the airport, even those his "front team" was driving in a Mercedes designed to look like a Ugandan civilian brass car, and Yoni and a driver were in a vehicle immediately behind. Yoni decided to gun him down, which soon drew fire from the airport control tower, with Yoni being killed. His brother as dead hero was a major propellant for Bibi's political rise, and his hardening of political stances as well. David doesn't stop there, though. He talks about the hijackers, the passengers as they waited in Uganda, "understandings" that Israel reached with West Germany and more. A fantastic book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steven Gutierrez

    Detailed and enthralling factual story set linearly with times and cities explaining how officials around the world reacted to the dramatic terrorist hijacking. Easy to read and filled with depth to entertain you through many commutes. Excellent account of the event, leaving you thoroughly informed and amazed about this incredible story.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Easy to read, packed with action from the first page. Kept your interest throughout the book. Interesting to see people involved that would shape and still are shaping Israel today. Rabin, Begin, Peres etc...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Excellent book. I knew very little about this history prior to reading this book. The author does an excellent job of the day by day narrative. Stories are built from a number of perspectives.

  21. 4 out of 5

    GrabAsia

    The story of the Isreali rescue of over a 100 hostages from Entebbe in Uganda in 1976 is incredible, fabulously told by Saul David. The sheer audacity of it is mind boggling. To fly 4 huge planes over 2000 miles at night into the middle of Africa. Into a hostile country where President-for-Life Field Marshal Dr Idi Amin Dada and his army and air force would strike back if they could. To land at an airport only 1 of the 4 pilots had used before. On a darkened runway (the lights were switched off The story of the Isreali rescue of over a 100 hostages from Entebbe in Uganda in 1976 is incredible, fabulously told by Saul David. The sheer audacity of it is mind boggling. To fly 4 huge planes over 2000 miles at night into the middle of Africa. Into a hostile country where President-for-Life Field Marshal Dr Idi Amin Dada and his army and air force would strike back if they could. To land at an airport only 1 of the 4 pilots had used before. On a darkened runway (the lights were switched off after the first plane landed). Where there were 11 fighter planes that could have shot the defence-less planes down. To dash through the Ugandan troops guarding the building where the hostages were. Pretending to be a Ugandan general driving in a black Mercedes 600 “Dictatorship” limousine (a brilliant touch) accompanied by 2 Land Rovers packed with soldiers. To lose the element of surprise in the beginning when automatic gunfire riddled the (till then quiet) night. To find and take out 7 terrorists guarding the hostages. To do this after losing your leader, the famous Yoni Netanyahu, in the first few minutes. With the sad but incredibly low loss of 2 hostage and 2 Isreali military lives. The episode took 8 days to unfold. The story starts on June 27, 1976 with how some passengers just happened to be on Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris, having changed their plans at the last minute. With an unscheduled stop at Athens where security was notoriously slack, as it turned out. I learnt that at this time there were 3-4 hijackings of Isreal related planes each month, so the threat was acute. The hijacking started few minutes after take off. In those days, cockpits doors were not locked and the hijackers barged in, taking control of the plane. Once news reached Isreal, we start meeting the caste of political and military leaders who included past Prime Minister Golda Meir, the current Yitzhak Rabin, and future ones Menachim Begin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak & Bibi Netanyahu. Diverting to Benghazi in Libya, the plane refueled, served food to the passengers, and after 6 and half hours on the ground tookoff with fuel for 5 hours with its destination unknown to the world. Day2 (June 28) dawns with a landing at Entebbe, the airport for the Ugandan capital Kampala. Idi Amin had seized power 5 years ago, and after first a warm relationship with Isreal, broke off diplomatic links. So Isreal could only expect, and received, hostility on the ground. After a few hours on board the stifling Airbus, the passengers are taken to the old terminal building. Its most famous passenger was Queen Elizabeth II who flew back to London from here after her father George VI had died in 1952. Idi Amin makes his first visit. He disclaims any role in this drama, though we know now he has been an integral part of it from the start. Meanwhile in Isreal, unprompted by his superiors, Lt.Colonel Joshua Shani who commanded the elite Yellow Bird squadron of C130 Hercules planes started planning a rescue. This was the kernel that sprouted into the final rescue operation. Day 3 (June 29) After a day spent in the poor conditions, medical problems abounded and 1 of the out 254 hostages was released to their embassy. Later that day the hijackers finally made their demands – the release of 53 terrorists held in prison in Isreal, Germany, Kenya & 2 other countries, by July 1 and a payment of U$5million. Meanwhile in Entebbe, the hostages demanded more space, and got it. But the group were split into (largely) Isreali and non-Isreali nationals. Then some clearly (through their Orthodox habit) non-Isreali Jews were added. The clear implication terrified everyone. Many dual national Isreali’s objected, but one non-Isreali (Janet Almog) actually joined her Isreali husband Ezra. Day 4 (June 30) As the deadline rapidly approached, the Isreali’s went through various rescue plans, none of which were considered robust enough. Idi Amin made his 2nd visit to the hostages wearing his 10 gallon Stetson cowboy hat and announces the release of the elderly and children. 47 are released later that day and flown by Air France to Paris. Later that day, the first two of Colonel Bar-Lev’s amazing phone calls to his erstwhile “friend” Idi Amin happen. Bar-Lev urges Idi Amin to kick the hijackers out and win a Nobel peace prize while doing so, but he doesn’t agree! Day 5 (July 1) As the deadline later that day approaches, the Isreali government works out the negotiation plan. Bar-Lev calls Idi Amin for the 3rd time, but he still doesn’t budge, telling him to wait for fresh news. Idi Amin delivers this news at his 3rd visit to the hostages, announcing the release of 100 hostages and the miraculous extension of the deadline to July 4. He actually controls everything and the new deadline is meant to give him time to return from his visit to Mauritius for the OAU summit. It gives critical time to Isreal for its rescue. Later that day the 100 released hostages are flown back, including Michel Cojot, who gives valuable information on the situation in Entebbe to agents in Paris. That left 105 hostages, 83 in the Isreali room, the 12 Air France crew & 10 others. All the hostages are reunited into the main room after the 100 leave. Meanwhile, in Isreal the military flesh out their plan, and later that night Yoni Netanyahu returns from exercises in the Sinai desert to hear about the plan for the first time from his deputy Major Metser. A critical obstacle is overcome when the Kenyan Attorney General Charles Njonjo agrees to let the Isreali planes to refuel on the way back. Day 6 (July 2) Idi Amin makes his 4th visit to the hostages after his return from Mauritius, asking them to write a letter to the Isreali government to release the prisoners. They write a watered down version that the hijackers finally accept. Meanwhile, as the military hone their rescue plan, Defence Minister Shimon Peres rallies support from key ministers for it. The tragedy of the 1st of the 5 non-Ugandan deaths in this episode unravels when Mrs Dora Bloch chokes on a piece of meat and is taken to a hospital in Kampala. She never sees freedom again, but more on that later. Initially, future Prime Minister Ehud Barak is to lead the rescue, but he is instead asked to lead the team to ensure the refueling in Nairobi happens smoothly, reaching later that day. Yoni Netanyahu is now to be the leader. Yoni’s team meet the lead pilot Lt.Colonel Shani for the first time to coordinate. Colonel Shani conducts a night-time landing in a blacked out airport to test if they can actually do it at Entebbe. After a failed first try, it works Day 7 (July 3) Literally a few hours before the planes need to take-off, Shimon Peres presents the rescue plan to the cabinet for the first time. Short of time, the planes are already in the air (to be turn back if not approved), before the OK comes. Meanwhile, Idi Amin makes his 5th and last visit to the hostages, a mere 4 hours before the rescue team lands. He tells them the negotiations are ongoing, Isreal is being difficult but he hoped they would be released tomorrow. He didn’t know how true his words were, except that how they would be released would be very different from what he had imagined. Idi Amin tells his Health Minster Henry Kyemba to return Mrs Bloch to the airport, but on humanitarian grounds he doesn’t, thus unwittingly sealing her fate. She was killed apparently on Idi Amin’s orders on July 4. The rescue, Day 8 (July 4, 1976 the 200th anniversary of the founding of the USA). Beating all odds, the Isreali planes land and spill out their elite troops. Amazingly, Lt. Colonel Shani, the pilot of the lead plane managed to avoid taxing into the gutter next to runway, and the lead assault team set out in their Mercedes “Dictatorship”. All was going well when a Ugandan soldier challenged the Isrealis. Major Metser, Yoni’s deputy, having served in Uganda, knew this was not really a challenge and told Yoni. But to the unknowing Yoni, this challenge had to be met. So he shot the Ugandan with a silenced-pistol, but the soldier got back up and one of the Isreali soldiers shattered the silence of the night with automatic gunfire. The element of surprise was gone. The hostage taking terrorists, now aware of an attack, could have killed scores of hostages but, crucially, did not. Just before this, Yoni hesitated for a second during his approach to the terminal where the hostages were. The second was all it took. He was hit by a bullet from Ugandan soldiers in the control tower and later died. The lead team didn’t know this and kept on the task. They quickly took out first 2, then 2 more and then the final 3 terrorists. There was the resultant chaos when at first the hostages didn’t know what was happening. They were told to stay down, but 2 didn’t and tragically died. The hostages were taken to Hercules 4, the escape plane, and after a frantic few minutes when the count was done and redone, they took off after a mere 51 minutes of the arrival of the 1st plane. After destroying the parked Ugandan air force jets, the last plane took off an hour and 39 minutes after the 1st plane landed. The most important part of the rescue was done. Now the planes needed to refuel in Nairobi and fly back safely to Isreal, past 1000s of miles of hostile territory. They did. You have to read this book. Saul David has indeed done justice to Operation Thunderbolt.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

    OPERATION THUNDERBOLT recounts the daring rescue of hostages in Uganda by Israeli commandos in 1972. It has since been regarded as the most famous hostage rescue in history. Those over 50 will recall the subterfuge used to achieve the objective: dressed as Ugandan soldiers and passing themselves off as a high level general with his entourage, the Israeli commandos drove a Mercedes from one of several cargo transport planes (which had flown undetected to Uganda) to the airport terminal where host OPERATION THUNDERBOLT recounts the daring rescue of hostages in Uganda by Israeli commandos in 1972. It has since been regarded as the most famous hostage rescue in history. Those over 50 will recall the subterfuge used to achieve the objective: dressed as Ugandan soldiers and passing themselves off as a high level general with his entourage, the Israeli commandos drove a Mercedes from one of several cargo transport planes (which had flown undetected to Uganda) to the airport terminal where hostages were held captive. Books about such events provide background information and fill in the blanks for a number of unknown details. This book certainly does not disappoint in that regard, as it has been deeply researched. An extensive bibliography, chapter notes, and detailed index round out its bona fides. An impressive hagiography has developed over the years on team leader Yoni Netanyahu. Author Saul David presents a balanced view of the man, whose leadership qualities and military prowess were well established by the time of the Entebbe raid. Despite his vast capabilities, the author does not shy from presenting a man who labours under the fallibilities of human nature. Yoni was susceptible to professional jealousy, rivalry, querulousness, and aloofness in his personal relationships. A number of those in his command were disgruntled with his abrasive manner. It is noted that during one of the briefings for the mission, he seemed inattentive and acted in a somewhat dismissive manner. He is presented as a man who didn't seem to feel that all rules applied to him. [SPOILER ALERT FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS PARAGRAPH]. There was one point early in the actual raid itself where none other than the team leader jeopardized the whole operation. Everyone was acutely aware of the need for surprise, and the success of the mission pivoted on this element. As the Israeli entourage, under partial cover of darkness, approached the terminal where the hostages were sequestered, they encountered a Ugandan sentry stationed 100 yards from their destination. Yoni prepared a silenced pistol to take out the soldier. Before shooting, his second in command, who had had previous experience with Ugandan troops, told him to stand down. Ignoring this advice, Yoni engaged the sentry. Unfortunately, the sentry's submachine gun was not silenced, and the element of surprise was lost in the return fire. This necessitated the rescue team to disembark from their vehicles and run the remaining distance to the terminal under a gauntlet of gunfire, thus losing precious time. The four terrorists, who had hijacked the plane, were standing guard in front of the terminal. After a brief exchange of gunfire with the commandos, they retreated into the terminal and took up positions a short distance from the entrance to await the commandos' arrival. At this point, one of the terrorists surprisingly instructed the hostages nearest him to go to the back of the room to take cover, after which a firefight ensued between the commandos and terrorists. The important point in all this is that from the point at which the element of surprise was lost at the sentry's post, to the point when the rescue team burst into the terminal, enough time was afforded the terrorists to wreak havoc amongst the hostages with grenades and guns. Why did this not happen? During the botched rescue attempt of Israeli hostages in Munich during the 1972 Olympics, it didn't take long for terrorists to slaughter hostages once gunfire erupted. The Entebbe hostages had been similarly threatened: should any rescue attempt be made, they would be the first to die. As Saul David deduces, the terrorists were prepared to die for their beliefs, but not with the blood of innocents (including children) on their hands. It's impossible to sympathize with terrorists and their vile acts, but grudging respect is hard to withhold in this case. Another disturbing revelation in the book compares the treatment accorded the French crew members of the hijacked plane (a French Airbus) vis-a-vis the French hostages on the flight. Early in their captivity, crew had discussed amongst themselves the possibility of remaining with any hostages who weren't released by the terrorists (though there were some naysayers), even if offered their freedom by the terrorists (about half of the hostages had been released earlier). This sentiment was never relayed to the terrorists. Because the hijackers may have been required to fly on to a further destination, the crew were told in no uncertain terms that, come what may, they would not be on any hostage-release list. When the whole hostage affair was finally over, the entirety of the flight crew were feted in film and in print over a putative self-sacrifice which never existed. This went on for some time. The non-crew French hostages, on the other hand, were treated dismissively and even rudely by authorities. Indeed, some of the French hostages had performed courageously and selflessly in their efforts to provide comfort and support to all the hostages. Many of the non-French hostages were eternally grateful for the efforts of those honourable Frenchmen. Their endeavours went unremarked. There were a few more incidents where the unfair world of politics and bureaucracy trounced the noble sensibilities of human nature. It was frustrating to read such things. The story is presented in chronological time order, with geographical locations varying as events developed. This is a naturally effective technique for building suspense to a climax. Regrettably, the author seems intent on including details from every person interviewed for this book. The result is superfluous information which is not germane to the story itself and, as a result, has the effect of retarding the crescendo. Another quibble is the emphasis on the political/bureaucratic aspects of the story, as well as events as seen from the viewpoint of the hostages, at the expense of endeavours made on the military side of this story. There was no mention whatsoever as to how covert aerial reconnaissance photographs were taken of Entebbe Airport (an interesting story in itself) and rushed, with literally seconds to spare, to the transport planes on the tarmac as they prepared to leave on their mission. Also, it would have been nice to hear how the commandos obtained such a rare automobile as a Mercedes for their subterfuge in so short a period of time as what they had to deal with. There was no mention, either, as to how intelligence acquired a Ugandan military uniform, or the timeframe the support staff faced in fashioning a number of these uniforms. Moreover, when the C-130 cargo transport planes took off on their mission, they were severely overburdened. They had never been subjected to that kind of stress before. The tension and excitement accompanying their liftoff (in one case, the plane had literally run out of runway before becoming airborne) was worthy of inclusion in this story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rodney Harvill

    Having experienced nothing but defeat in force on force engagements with the Israelis, the Palestinians turned to acts of terrorism against soft targets, including attacks on public places and hijacking of airliners. A typical hijack would be followed by a ransom demand, such as the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons, in exchange for the release of the hostages. Because the Israeli government saw such a capitulation to terror as an invitation for more terror, it had a policy of not negot Having experienced nothing but defeat in force on force engagements with the Israelis, the Palestinians turned to acts of terrorism against soft targets, including attacks on public places and hijacking of airliners. A typical hijack would be followed by a ransom demand, such as the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons, in exchange for the release of the hostages. Because the Israeli government saw such a capitulation to terror as an invitation for more terror, it had a policy of not negotiating with terrorists and quickly developed a reputation for raids to free the hostages by killing or capturing the terrorists. In 1976, a group of terrorists changed tactics with a hijacking that diverted an Air France flight that originated in Tel Aviv to the Entebbe airport in Uganda’s capital city Kampala, theoretically out of range of Israeli commandos. As a result, the Israeli government was faced with the very real prospect of having to negotiate with the hijackers and freeing imprisoned terrorists in exchange for the hostages. Over the next few days, the Israeli government weighed its options while members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) brainstormed possible rescue options. Finally, at the eleventh hour, a military rescue plan with a reasonable chance of success came together as a result of various factors: • When non-Israeli hostages were freed, some of them provided valuable intelligence on where the Israeli hostages and air crew were being kept. They also provided intelligence that Uganda’s dictator Idi Amin was in league with the hijackers, precluding any rescue plan that included cooperation with Ugandan authorities. • Backdoor channels with Kenya’s government secured authorization for Israeli aircraft to land at Nairobi’s airport following the rescue raid on Entebbe. Israel’s C-130’s and 707’s used in the raid had sufficient range to get to Entebbe from Israel but could not make a round trip without being refueled. The rescue mission came with the risk of catastrophic failure that would deprive the IDF of its best soldiers and potentially embolden its hostile neighbors to attack. Furthermore, the lives of the hostages were also at risk. On the other hand, giving in to the hijackers would only encourage more acts of terrorism that would endanger the lives of more Israelis. After all you get more of what you reward, and giving in to terrorists is to them a reward. After weighing these risks, the Israeli government authorized the rescue mission. The rescue mission was a success. All the hijackers were killed, along with a number of Ugandan soldiers guarding the airport. Only one IDF soldier and three hostages were killed. One hostage, an elderly grandmother who had been taken to a local hospital for medical treatment, was not at the airport and could not be rescued. She was subsequently murdered by some of Idi Amin’s thugs in reprisal for the raid. All the other hostages were rescued. The airport included a fighter base. To prevent its Migs from being used to pursue the departing Israeli aircraft and to prevent them from being used to conduct reprisal raids on Kenyan territory for their assistance to Israel, the IDF destroyed all of them. Although the rescue mission was a success, a lot could have gone wrong. It is said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and the rescue raid at Entebbe was no different. An early mistake by one of the IDF commanders resulted in gunfire before they were at the building where the hostages were being held. As a result, the terrorists had a few seconds of advance warning and could have started killing hostages. Instead, their choice to defend against the commandos probably prevented the deaths of numerous hostages. In spite of the greatly abbreviated planning and this early error, the mission was a success. The risk paid off. Israel had demonstrated that it was willing to go after terrorists whenever and wherever they threatened its citizens. Instead of emboldening terrorists to further acts of mayhem, the hijacking and subsequent rescue operation emboldened western governments to invest in counter-terrorism efforts. Well done, Israel! Well done! The author has written this book to read like a thriller. If you choose to read it, make sure you have plenty of free time. It is hard to put down.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Ratzman

    This is an exciting minute by minute account of the 1976 hijacking of AirFrance flight 139 and the dramatic rescue by Israeli commandos. For several hundred pages, my usual melancholy about the State of Israel was suspended as I cheered on its military and political leaders in the face of unjustified terrorism. The breakaway PFLP faction of Waddie Haddad collaborated with the German far-left "Revolutionary Cells," and Idi Amin, to hijack the plane, landing in Entebbe, Uganda. Committed to murder This is an exciting minute by minute account of the 1976 hijacking of AirFrance flight 139 and the dramatic rescue by Israeli commandos. For several hundred pages, my usual melancholy about the State of Israel was suspended as I cheered on its military and political leaders in the face of unjustified terrorism. The breakaway PFLP faction of Waddie Haddad collaborated with the German far-left "Revolutionary Cells," and Idi Amin, to hijack the plane, landing in Entebbe, Uganda. Committed to murdering hundreds of civilians for the release of comrades who had murdered other civilians, I wonder how anyone could be rooting for the hijackers. The German terrorists were unnerved by the separation of Jews/Israelis from non-Israelis, reminding them, and especially the hostages, of Nazi tactics. There have been plenty of films and books on the raid; this has the advantage of synthesizing new revelations, such as the extend of Israeli coordination with Kenya, but shows some small errors in detail.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Relstuart

    In 1976 socialist terrorists out of Germany teamed up with Palestinian terrorists and hijacked a commercial flight traveling from Greece to France (after starting from Israel) and forced them to fly to Uganda. Once they arrived there, with the cooperation of the dictator they demanded the release of around 40 terrorists in custody from several nations. A majority of the passengers were Jewish and the Jews were treated differently (worse) than the other passengers. This book recounts the politics In 1976 socialist terrorists out of Germany teamed up with Palestinian terrorists and hijacked a commercial flight traveling from Greece to France (after starting from Israel) and forced them to fly to Uganda. Once they arrived there, with the cooperation of the dictator they demanded the release of around 40 terrorists in custody from several nations. A majority of the passengers were Jewish and the Jews were treated differently (worse) than the other passengers. This book recounts the politics in play and the planning that led to Israel to send four C-130s with a special forces team into Uganda where they were able to rescue the hostages. While there were losses, the action was successful and this has potentially had a dramatic impact on many nations refusing to negotiate with terrorists. This history remains very relevant. The author does a good job telling the stories of the people that were taken hostage, the people trying to help them, and the politics it took to made the rescue mission happen. This book is recommended reading by the United State's Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Minster

    An exhaustive telling of the lead up to the raid, the operation itself, and the fallout. I came out with a very detailed understanding of the hijacking. Not much commentary from the author and there is a wide breadth of source material. At times it's a bit slow but overall it's an enjoyable account An exhaustive telling of the lead up to the raid, the operation itself, and the fallout. I came out with a very detailed understanding of the hijacking. Not much commentary from the author and there is a wide breadth of source material. At times it's a bit slow but overall it's an enjoyable account

  27. 5 out of 5

    Francis

    Great story of a bold and great rescue mission. Only disappointment is, I see no reason to learn about the fornications of those facing possible death. Some of the passengers were heroic and the soldiers definitely were. Great lesson: don’t negotiate with terrorists. The terrorists were cowards who received exactly what they deserved.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Reads like a 50,000 word Washington Post story, in the good way. The author puts a compelling story together about a compelling, first-of-its-kind story. Enjoyable reading, and useful context for today when looking at how we fly, how nations interact with terrorists and how special operators do their work. Also, I didn't know airline hijackings were so common in the 70's. Or that a whole crop of Israeli politicos made their names in this operation. Reads like a 50,000 word Washington Post story, in the good way. The author puts a compelling story together about a compelling, first-of-its-kind story. Enjoyable reading, and useful context for today when looking at how we fly, how nations interact with terrorists and how special operators do their work. Also, I didn't know airline hijackings were so common in the 70's. Or that a whole crop of Israeli politicos made their names in this operation.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Tollemache

    A very enthralling read about a subject I was vaguely familiar with (I saw the TV movie with Chuck Bronson as a kid), the Israeli raid on Entebbe airport to free the 80 or so jews + French aire crew of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris hijacked by the PFLP (70s Palestinian terror group) and flown to Benghazi and Entebbe Uganda. Saul David uses GMT time stamps at each relevant location to detail all the involved POVs in the story: the plane's passengers and hijackers, Israeli politcal A very enthralling read about a subject I was vaguely familiar with (I saw the TV movie with Chuck Bronson as a kid), the Israeli raid on Entebbe airport to free the 80 or so jews + French aire crew of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris hijacked by the PFLP (70s Palestinian terror group) and flown to Benghazi and Entebbe Uganda. Saul David uses GMT time stamps at each relevant location to detail all the involved POVs in the story: the plane's passengers and hijackers, Israeli politcal and military planners and assorted diplomats in France, the UK and Kenya. Having set down in mid 1970s Uganda, the megalomaniacal Ugandan leader Idi Amin figures prominently. the Israeli's initially reluctantly pursured a negotiated end to the crisis as no military options seemed viable, but as the plight of the hostages grew more dire a nascent plan for a unprecedented and daring operation came into being the Israeli govt under Yitzhak Rabin decided to send the a rescue team. Flying 4 cargo planes and 1 command 707 from Israel to Uganda while avoiding the Soviet, Saudi, Jordian and Ugandan radar the Israelis seized the Entebbe airport with 1 new Mercedes masquerading as Ugandan brass staff car, some captured Egyptian BTRs and dozens of Isaeli special forces. In short order the airport was seized all by 3 of the hostages were freed and all the PFLP hijackers were killed along side 2-3 dozen Ugandan soldiers that had been garrisoned in support of the hijackers (Amin had covertly supported and cooperated with the PFLP's plan). Israeli mission commander Joni Netanyahu (big brother to current Israel PM Bibi Netanyahu) was killed by a Ugandan sniper in the opening sprint to the terminal. After a quick refuel and medical stop in secretly helpful Kenya , the Israelis were flying home. David's story does a great job of Iding the personalities, efforts and agaendas of all those involved. The tricky choice by the Kenyans to allow the mission to use Nairobi as a way station on the way back to Israel really stands out. Officially Jomo Kenyatta told his advisors he knew nothing of their plans beforehand, but Kenyatta was balancing not losing faith with fellow African nations who did not like Israel or the West in general and his personal dislike and conflict with Amin. At the David notes how influential the IDF success at Entebbe was since in the coming years numerous Western states like the West Germans and the USA would build SOF forces like GSG9 and Delta Force to serve those needs. A year later the GSG9 would successfully rescue a KLM plan hijacked to Mogadishu and end the Palestinian use of hijacking...others still used into 1980s. David also noted that Entebbe served as the high water mark of Israel's status in the world. The raid happened when most still saw them as underdogs, but in the coming decade things like the invasion of Lebanon would upend that status.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I knew a little about the famous Israeli rescue of hostages held in Entebbe but didn't know a lot. 'Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, The Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History' by Saul David was an interesting way to learn about it. David takes you through each day, in 'real time', as it were, bringing you back and forth from the hostages and terrorists to Israeli diplomats and military men, international political leaders and others, continually switc I knew a little about the famous Israeli rescue of hostages held in Entebbe but didn't know a lot. 'Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, The Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History' by Saul David was an interesting way to learn about it. David takes you through each day, in 'real time', as it were, bringing you back and forth from the hostages and terrorists to Israeli diplomats and military men, international political leaders and others, continually switching locations to give you a perspective of what was going on in these significant places and among the various significant people throughout each of these 8 days of tension. It was quite interesting, and very informative. I did not know that hijackings were such a common thing in the late 60s into the early 70s. And that they were mainly to make demands of Israel! Nor did I know that there were Japanese terrorists fighting for the Palestinian cause! Nor did I know that the PFLP was founded by a Palestinian "Christian"(so-called) The knowledge of the many previous hijackings leads to the misgivings of several of the people who were about to be passengers(Many of whom were Jewish) of flight 139 when they found that the plane will not be making a direct flight from Israel (which had heavy airport security checks) but would be stopping over in Athens. Some consider changing flights and you feel anxious when they decide to take the flight anyway. The book was well written, I found myself quite drawn into the account, getting to know the various people involved (David gives the background of many), you get to know the background of many of the hostages, the politicians who are involved in trying to figure out what to do, and that of the terrorists. Some of the people are brave, others exhibit cowardly behavior, but you really become interested in the fate of pretty much everyone. Though not necessarily caring about everyone. I liked the real time format too. It was fascinating to come to the realization (pretty much along with the hostages themselves) that the president of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada is working with the terrorists and therefore the hostages are being held, not just by a group of terrorists, but essentially they were imprisoned by a whole country. That made it even harder for Israel to attempt a rescue, though it really did help with the element of surprise as neither the terrorists nor Idi Amin seemed to think a rescue attempt was even possible. I also found myself getting frustrated at certain people. For instance, when the terrorists first took over the plane, some were for attacking the terrorists, others were for remaining passive - you kind of feel like yelling at the ones who think they shouldn't attack the terrorists, "Do something! They're probably going to kill you anyway!" It was also bothersome to hear Yitzhak Rabin's arguments for negotiating with terrorists and I really felt for Peres in his arguments to the contrary, basically saying that by giving in it would make all terrorists realize that taking hostages and threatening to kill them works and then they'd have many, many more hijackings on their hands! There were some amusing things in the book as well, such when the terrorists suspect one of the hostages of being an Israeli Spy and they force him to write an account of his life in Israel and he writes a monotonous account about picking grapefruit! And the part, after the rescue, where one of the Israeli diplomats calls Idi Amin to thank him for his 'help' and Idi Amin, who doesn't know that a rescue has taken place yet, is confused. Amin and some of his military officers didn't know what was happening when the Operation took place, they suspected a mutiny and so did not send reinforcements right away (giving more time to the Israelis) Now, I do feel the need to mention that some of the facts given in this book were awkward to discover, for instance, apparently several of the hostages were rather scantily clad (some extremely so)when they were rescued. Also, some of the casual dialogue of the hostages was indecent, as well as some of their actions (particularly one man nicknamed 'the flirt'), so I skipped those parts. There are some things I just don't care to know about history. Also, at the end of the book (in the 'Acknowledgements' section) I noticed that the author mentions that in certain places he constructed dialogue himself (as none is yet available), based upon the character of those speaking. He did it to make it read more like a novel than a traditional story. I don't know that I like that very much, when I read a history book I want to know I'm reading about facts. But he describes them as "occasional bits of the story" where he did that, and so it sounds as though it wasn't a lot of made-up dialogue. And another comforting thing is that in the back of the book there is a section that shows various reference sources quoted, or referred to in the book (and numbering which page of this book that the info was used on). I just wish that, if David was going to make up dialogue he would at least put a footnote or something under the dialogue to indicate where these 'bits' are. That said, all in all, I (and several of my siblings) found the book to be very interesting. And I wasn't the only one in my family who liked this book. I had decided that instead of merely reading the book to myself I would read this book out loud to two of my sisters and we all found it interesting. One of my younger brothers was nearby when we reached the day when the rescue mission was happening, I didn't know for sure that he was listening until I was showing one of the maps of the airport to my sisters and all of a sudden he was leaning over me as well gazing at the map. He seemed quite intrigued with the rescue, I could even hear him chuckling in amazement at certain parts. If you want to read a book on the topic, I'd recommend this one. It's the first one I've read on the topic and I think that it was pretty informative, and also interesting enough to make the information stick. Many thanks to the folks at Little Brown and Company for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

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