Michel Bacos

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Michel Bacos
Cdt Michel Bacos.jpg
BornMay 3, 1924 (1924-05-03)
Port Saïd, Egypt
Died26 March 2019(2019-03-26) (aged 94)
OccupationAirline pilot
EmployerAir France
Known forPilot involved in Entebbe hijacking
Captain Michel Bacos

Michel Bacos (3 May 1924 – 26 March 2019)[1][2] was a French airline pilot. He was the captain of Air France Flight 139 when it was hijacked on 27 June 1976 by Palestinian and German terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.[3][4][5] The hijacking was part of an international campaign of Palestinian terrorism.[5]

Bacos was a recipient of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France.[6][7] He was also 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]

Early life and career[edit]

Michel Bacos grew up in Port Said, Egypt where his father worked as a lawyer. At the age of seventeen, he joined the Forces Françaises Libres of General de Gaulle and, in 1943, joined the Force Navales Françaises Libres.

He was sent to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas where he became a naval aviation pilot. In the 1950s, he joined Air France as a pilot. This is where he met his wife, Rosemarie, a German, who was then a stewardess.[9]


On 27 June 1976, Bacos was piloting an Airbus A300 flight from Athens to Paris, originating in Tel Aviv. Minutes into the flight, Bacos heard screams and quickly realized that the plane was being hijacked.[3][5][10] Bacos was forced at gunpoint to re-route the plane.[11] 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,[12] and then to fly in a south-eastern direction. He landed the jet at Entebbe, Uganda, with only 20 minutes' fuel left.[5][10]

The terrorists freed the 148 non-Jewish passengers, and offered to release Bacos and his crew. They felt duty-bound to remain on the plane, and refused to leave. They stayed behind with the Jewish hostages.[3][12] The captives were freed in an Israeli commando raid known as Operation Entebbe, and Bacos was dazed in the attack.[13][14] After the hijacking, Bacos took a two-week holiday and requested that his first flight back be to Israel.[15]

Awards and later life[edit]

In 1976, Bacos was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France, by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.[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.[16]

Bacos retired from Air France in 1982,[17] and resided in Nice, France with his wife. They had seven grandchildren.[2][better source needed] In 2016, the American Jewish Congress awarded Bacos the organization's Moral Courage Award. Bacos lived in Nice at the time of his death on 26 March 2019.[18][19] The Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah, was played at his funeral.[20] Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi recognized Bacos, saying: "Michel, bravely refusing to give in to anti-Semitism and barbarism, did honor to France. The love of France and the defense of liberties have marked his destiny."[21]


Bacos played himself in the 2000 documentary film Operation Thunderbolt: Entebbe.[22] He is also depicted in:


  1. ^ Clarity, James F. (6 July 1976). "Pilot Says Africans Didn't Stand in for Gunmen". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b Arava, Yael (3 July 2006). "הקברניט שלא נטש את נוסעיו" [The captain who didn't abandon his passengers]. Maariv (in Hebrew). Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Dunstan, Simon (2011). Entebbe: The Most Daring Raid of Israel's Special Forces. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 9781448818686. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  4. ^ Katz, Samuel M. (2004). Against all odds: counterterrorist hostage rescues. Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 9780822515678. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Ensalaco, Mark (2008). Middle Eastern terrorism: from Black September to September 11. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 96, 99. ISBN 9780812240467. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Entebbe Postscript". Flight International. 17 July 1976. p. 122. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  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, 3 August 2006, Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  9. ^ "Air France pilot recounts: 'We were not going to leave the Jewish passengers in Entebbe'". Ynetnews. 28 June 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b Ami Pedahzur (2010). The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  11. ^ Lila Perl (2003). Terrorism. Columbia University Press. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  12. ^ a b John T. Correll (December 2010). "Entebbe" (PDF). Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  13. ^ Philip Ross (2 August 1976). "The Illustrated Story of the Great Israeli Rescue". New York Magazine. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  14. ^ Don Cook (8 July 1976). "Hijacked Pilot Won't Accuse Amin of Complicity". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  15. ^ "Michel Bacos, heroic French pilot of 1976 Entebbe hijacking, dies at 95". Washington Post. 27 March 2019.
  16. ^ Ménoras d'Or 2008 Archived 21 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, menorasdor.org, 2008, Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  17. ^ Roberts, Sam (28 March 2019). "Michel Bacos, Hero Pilot of Jet Hijacked to Entebbe, Dies at 94". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Hero pilot who stayed with Entebbe hostages dies". 27 March 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  19. ^ Spiro, Amy (27 March 2019). "Hero pilot from hijacked Entebbe flight dies at 95 - Israel News". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  20. ^ "L'hymne israélien résonne lors de l'enterrement du pilote Michel Bacos". Times of Israel. 7 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  21. ^ "French pilot who stayed with hijacked Israelis, Jews at Entebbe dies aged 95". The Times of Israel. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  22. ^ Operation Thunderbolt: Entebbe, TV 2000, IMDB, Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  23. ^ "Mivtsa Yonatan (Operation Thunderbolt) (1977)" – via www.rottentomatoes.com.
  24. ^ "Raid on Entebbe". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  25. ^ "7 Days in Entebbe (2018)" – via www.rottentomatoes.com.