|Born||1924 (age 88–89)|
Michel Bacos (born 1924) was captain of Air France Flight 139 when the plane was hijacked on June 27, 1976, by Palestinian and German terrorists. The hijacking, by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was part of an international campaign of Palestinian political violence.
Bacos is a recipient of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France. 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.
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. Bacos was forced to re-route the plane, at gunpoint. 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". Bacos was forced to turn the plane south to Benghazi, Libya, for refueling, and then Bacos 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.
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. 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. He and his crew stayed behind as prisoners, with the Jewish hostages.
The captives were freed in an Israeli commando raid known as Operation Entebbe, and Bacos was dazed in the attack. 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?"
Suspension by Air France
Following Operation Entebbe, Air France reprimanded Bacos for his decision to remain with the Jewish hostages with his crew. It also temporarily suspended him from flying duties for his actions.
The Israeli government awarded Bacos and his crew medals for heroism, for refusing to leave the Jewish passengers behind.
- 1977: Mivtsa Yonatan, played by Henri Czarniak
- 1977: Raid on Entebbe, played by Eddie Constantine
- 2000: Operation Thunderbolt: Entebbe, played by Michel Bacos himself (documentary)
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