US pilot who made history for Israeli Air Force to be buried at Arlington
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US pilot who made history for Israeli Air Force to be buried at Arlington

Gideon Lichtman registered nascent air force’s first aerial kill of an enemy fighter as a volunteer during the War of Independence

David Ben Gurion visits 101 'First Fighter' Squadron. With sunglasses Modi Alon. Behind Alon's left shoulder stands Syd Cohen, and to the left, Gideon Lichtman and Maurice Mann (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)
David Ben Gurion visits 101 'First Fighter' Squadron. With sunglasses Modi Alon. Behind Alon's left shoulder stands Syd Cohen, and to the left, Gideon Lichtman and Maurice Mann (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Gideon Lichtman, an American fighter pilot who as a volunteer during Israel’s War of Independence scored its nascent air force’s first aerial kill of an enemy fighter, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lichtman, who died in March at 94 and was buried in Hollywood, Florida, will be interred Friday at the cemetery in suburban Washington, DC. He fought for the United States in the Pacific during World War II.

He was a member of the Machal 101 squadron, a unit of American volunteers — many of them non-Jewish — who came to fight for the fledgling Jewish state in 1948 and helped stop the Egyptian army’s advance on Tel Aviv. He was the unit’s last surviving member.

After the war he returned to the US and subsequently fought in Korea. In the 1960s he again returned to Israel, spending a stint there as a test pilot.

“I was risking my citizenship and possibly jail time,” he said in “Above and Beyond,” a 2015 documentary by Nancy Spielberg. “I didn’t give a s**t. I was gonna help the Jews out. I was going to help my people out.”

According to The Miami Herald, Lichtman, a high school teacher, spent more than 30 years working under an assumed name because, according to his son Bruce, “he was told by Ezer Weizman, president of Israel and former minister of defense, that Israel had intercepted Arab intelligence that they were intent on targeting foreign pilots who served in Israel.”

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