Raid on Entebbe (film)

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Raid on Entebbe
Original film poster by John Solie
  • Action
  • Drama
  • History
Written byBarry Beckerman
Directed byIrvin Kershner
Music byDavid Shire
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Production location(s)Stockton Metropolitan Airport, Stockton, California
CinematographyBill Butler
  • Nick Archer
  • Bud S. Isaacs
  • Art Seid
Running time150 minutes
Production company(s)20th Century Fox Television
Distributor20th Television
Budget$3.5 million[1]
Original networkNBC
Original release
  • January 9, 1977 (1977-01-09)

Raid on Entebbe is a 1977 NBC television film directed by Irvin Kershner. It is based on an actual event: Operation Entebbe and the freeing of hostages at Entebbe Airport in Entebbe, Uganda, on July 4, 1976. The portrayal of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was Peter Finch's final performance; he died five days after the film's release.

Raid on Entebbe describes the rescue of the hostages held in Uganda, the discussions within the Israeli government, and the controversy prompted by the rescue. A similar production on the Entebbe raid, Victory at Entebbe, was rushed through production by ABC and broadcast one month earlier in December 1976.


On 27 June 1976, four terrorists belonging to a splinter group of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine under the orders of Wadie Haddad boarded and hijacked an Air France Airbus A300 at Athens. With President Idi Amin's blessing, the terrorists divert the airliner and its hostages to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. After identifying Israeli passengers, the non-Jewish passengers are freed while a series of demands are made, including the release of 40 Palestinian militants held in Israel, in exchange for the hostages.

The Cabinet of Israel, led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, unwilling to give in to terrorist demands, is faced with difficult decisions as their deliberations lead to a top-secret military raid. The difficult and daring commando operation, "Operation Thunderbolt", will be carried out over 2,500 miles (4 000 km) from home and will take place on the Jewish Sabbath.

While still negotiating with the terrorists, who now numbered seven individuals including Palestinians and two Germans, the Israeli military prepared two Lockheed C-130 Hercules transports for the raid. The transports refueled in Kenya before landing at Entebbe Airport under the cover of darkness. The commandos led by Brig. Gen Dan Shomron had to contend with a large armed Ugandan military detachment and used a ruse to overcome the defenses. A black Mercedes limousine had been carried on board and was used to fool sentries that it was the official car that President Amin used on an impromptu visit to the airport.

Nearly complete surprise was achieved but a firefight resulted, ending with all seven terrorists and 45 Ugandan soldiers killed. The hostages were gathered together and most were quickly put on the idling C-130 aircraft. During the raid, one commando (the breach unit commander Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), and three of the hostages, died. A fourth hostage, Dora Bloch, who had been taken to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, was murdered by the Ugandans on Idi Amin's orders.

With 102 hostages aboard and on their way to freedom, a group of Israeli commandos remained behind to destroy the Ugandan Air Force MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighters to prevent a retaliation. All the survivors of the attack force then joined in flying back to Israel via Nairobi and Sharm El Sheikh.[Note 1]



Raid on Entebbe was filmed entirely in the United States, with the Stockton Metropolitan Airport in Stockton, California, serving as both Entebbe Airport and an Israeli Air Force (IAF) base. Producers Blatt and Scherick turned to the "Hollywood Squadron", the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard to provide three C-130 Hercules transports.[2] Scenes were also shot at the Van Nuys Military airport, Los Angeles; these included footage of passenger jets, and the interior of a C-130 in which Bronson made his speech to the team about to attack Entebbe.

The C-130E variant used by the Israeli Air Force was the same variant that was flown by the 146th Wing. The camouflage scheme used by both the United States Air Force and IAF was virtually identical, and with the overpainting of Israeli markings, the Hercules transports became both "set dressing" for an Israeli airfield and as the aircraft used in the raid on Entebbe. The 146th Airlift Wing also supplied all the military equipment, such as M151 jeeps and weapons that would be seen at an active base.[3]

Other aircraft used in Raid on Entebbe include an Airbus A300B2 F-BVGA (seen in archive footage); a Boeing 707, two Douglas DC-8-31s, 10 North American F-86 Sabre (1/2 scale models representing the Ugandan Air Force MiGs), North American FJ-3 Fury and Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter.[4]

Principal photography on Raid on Entebbe took place in November 1976, with the training for the raid that took place using a replica of the Entebbe Airport. The actual airport had been built by an Israeli construction company and their involvement led to an accurate mockup being built to test out tactics devised for the raid.[5]


Raid on Entebbe received initially good reviews. Capitalizing on its strong all-star ensemble cast, a film version was released theatrically in the UK and Europe in early 1977.[6]

In May 1977, local Thai authorities banned the film from being shown in Thailand. They argued it presented a one-sided image of the Middle East conflict and posed a risk to the nation's relations with Arab states.[7]


Cinematographer Bill Butler won an Emmy Award for his work on Raid on Entebbe. Others nominated were actors Peter Finch (his last screen role), Martin Balsam and Yaphet Kotto, director Irvin Kershner, writer Barry Beckerman, composer David Shire, and editors Bud S. Isaacs, Nick Archer and Art Seid.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The Jewish hymn sung on the aircraft by the commandos is "Hine ma tov."


  1. ^ Solomon 1989, p. 258.
  2. ^ Barron 2016, pp. 214–215.
  3. ^ Barron 2016, p. 215.
  4. ^ Santoir. Christian. "Film: 'Raid on Entebbe'." Aeromovies. Retrieved: March 9, 2017.
  5. ^ Barron 2016, p. 216.
  6. ^ Barron 2016, p. 209.
  7. ^ "Thais ban film on Entebbe raid." The New York Times, May 15, 1977. Retrieved: March 9, 2017.


  • Barron, Colin N. Planes on Film: Ten Favourite Aviation Films. Stirling, UK: Extremis Publishing, 2016. ISBN 978-0-9934-9326-3.
  • Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-81084-244-1.

External links[edit]