Michel Bacos

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Michel Bacos
Born 1924 (age 90–91)
Occupation Pilot
Employer Air France
Known for
  • Refusing to leave Jewish passengers behind, when terrorists in Entebbe hijacking released non-Jewish hostages, and offered to release Bacos
  • Awards for heroism
Title Captain
Awards

Michel Bacos (born 1924)[1][2] was captain of Air France Flight 139 when the plane was hijacked on June 27, 1976, by Palestinian and German terrorists.[3][4][5] The hijacking, by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was part of an international campaign of Palestinian political violence.[5]

Bacos is a recipient of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France.[6][7] He also was awarded a medal by the Israeli government, for refusing to leave his Jewish passengers behind when the terrorists released their non-Jewish hostages, and offered to release Bacos and his crew.[8]

Hijacking[edit]

His Airbus A300 plane originated in Tel Aviv and was on its way from Athens to Paris, with Bacos at the controls. Minutes into the flight, Bacos heard screams and quickly realized that the plane was hijacked.[3][5][9] Bacos was forced to re-route the plane, at gunpoint.[10] He recalled later: "The terrorist had his gun pointed continuously at my head and occasionally he would poke my neck not to look at him. We could only obey the orders of the terrorists".[3] Bacos was forced to turn the plane south to Benghazi, Libya, for refueling,[11] and then he was forced to fly it in a south-eastern direction. He ultimately landed the jet at Entebbe in Uganda, with only 20 more minutes of fuel left.[5][9]

The terrorists freed the 148 non-Jewish passengers, and offered to release Bacos and his crew, but Bacos refused to leave the plane and the remaining 94 Jewish passengers,[11][12] saying it was his duty to stay with them until the end "no matter what happens", and that he would not leave any of them.[3][13][13][14][15] He and his crew stayed behind as prisoners, with the Jewish hostages.[3][14][16][17][18][19]

The captives were freed in an Israeli commando raid known as Operation Entebbe, and Bacos was dazed in the attack.[15][20] After the raid, Bacos was asked if he ever thought the Israeli army would fly thousands of kilometres to rescue them. Looking at the cameras, he said, "Who else?"[21]

Awards[edit]

In 1976, Bacos was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France, by the President of France.[6]

The Israeli government awarded Bacos and his crew medals for heroism, for refusing to leave the Jewish passengers behind.[8]

In June 2008, Bacos was awarded the B'nai B'rith International "Ménoras d'Or" (Golden Menorah) in Cannes, France.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Bacos retired from Air France in 1982, and resides in Nice, France with his wife. As of 2006, he had seven grandchildren.[2]

Films[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Clarity, James. "Pilot Says Africans Didn't Stand In for Gunmen", New York Times, July 6, 1976
  2. ^ a b Arava, Yael: "The captain who didn't abandon his passengers". Maariv. July 2006 (Hebrew)
  3. ^ a b c d e Simon Dunstan (2011). Entebbe: The Most Daring Raid of Israel's Special Forces. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ Samuel M. Katz (2004). Against all odds: counterterrorist hostage rescues. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d Mark Ensalaco (2008). Middle Eastern terrorism: from Black September to September 11. University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Entebbe Postscript", Flight International, July 17, 1976, p. 122. Retrieved from Flightglobal Archive
  7. ^ Air et Cosmos, Issues 618–634, Impr. Reaumur., 1976, p. 48 (in French)
  8. ^ a b David Kaplan, "A Historic Hostage-Taking Revisited," The Jerusalem Post, August 3, 2006, Retrieved June 20, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Ami Pedahzur (2010). The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ Lila Perl (2003). Terrorism. Columbia University Press. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b John T. Correll (December 2010). "Entebbe". Air Force Magazine. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Entebbe; Thirty Years On; miracle on the runway". Jewish Telegraph. 2006. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Aaron Cohen, Douglas Century (2009). Brotherhood of Warriors: Behind Enemy Lines with a Commando in One of the World's Most Elite Counterterrorism Units. HarperCollins. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Ephraim Kahana (2006). Historical dictionary of Israeli intelligence. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Philip Ross (August 2, 1976). "The Illustrated Story of the Great Israeli Rescue". New York Magazine. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  16. ^ Against all odds: counterterrorist hostage rescues. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  17. ^ Daniel Byman (2011). A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism. Oxford University Press US. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  18. ^ Marv Wolfman, Mario Ruiz, William J. Rubin (2011). Homeland: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  19. ^ Loch K. Johnson (2007). Strategic intelligence'', Volume 1. Greenwood Publishing Group. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  20. ^ Don Cook (July 8, 1976). "Hijacked Pilot Won't Accuse Amin of Complicity". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Celebrating triumph over adversity", Dvir Abramovich, The Age, May 8, 2008
  22. ^ Ménoras d'Or 2008, menorasdor.org, 2008, Retrieved June 20, 2011.
  23. ^ "Raid on Entebbe". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 22, 2011. 
  24. ^ Operation Thunderbolt: Entebbe, TV 2000, IMDB, Retrieved June 20, 2011.