Transcript of Interview with Ron Arad's co-pilot and rescuers. (1993)
For military reasons, the names of the pilots and air crew members in this movie
transcript are mentioned by initial only: Y. is the pilot who flew with Ron Arad and
was rescued on the skid of a helicopter. G. is the fighter pilot of the other Phantom.
And A. is the head of the rescue team, the commander of the Cobra helicopters who
rescued the pilot and who could not rescue Ron Arad.
Produced by the Israel Air Force Youth Corps
Captain G. (Participant in the battle): It was Thursday the 16th of October. We were
at the squadron, and suddenly an order was issued for an attack in Lebanon. We chose
young pilots, but for one of the Phantoms we chose the reserve pilots: Y. and Ron Arad.
We finished listening to the instructions and took off. At 4:30 we received the instruction
to take off.
Captain Y. (Ron's co-pilot): 1986, October 16th. I was invited to the squadron and we
took off in the afternoon to attack terrorist bases in Southern Lebanon. It was me and my
navigator Ron Arad- we flew the Phantom together. This was 5 o'clock- southeast Sidon.
Everything went smoothly, everything was fine. We see the targets, we identify the
terrorist base. We start releasing the bombs. As we are releasing the bombs, all of a
sudden I hear a terrible, terrible noise.
G (the pilot of the second Phantom) : I see a great ball of fire, I hear loud loud noises. I
wasn't even sure what it was. A great ball of fire. I'm not even sure it's the pilot. I think
it might be the pilot's aircraft. I think of yelling "Eject! Eject!" in the radio. After
attacking I fly in the direction of the sea. I call to him on the radio; he doesn't answer and
I understand that it was Ron and Y.
Captain Y.: I immediately know there is a serious ammunition problem. I wait for it to
away. My world turns red and black; I realize that I am dying. I knew I could not make it
alive. I get into a trance where I don't even think of ejecting: the dead cannot, are not able
to eject. Everything is dark and bleak. Suddenly I wake up- something is pulling me up!
I am under a parachute. I see my Phantom in pieces on the ground. Ron Arad is behind
me in his parachute. I call to him on the radio, he doesn't answer, but he's fine. I yell to
him, he doesn't answer, but he's fine. He's in one piece. I call to G.- the pilot of the other
Phantom which attacked with us. Suddenly I see a swarm of terrorists running in our
direction- shooting at us. I realize it's not the right place to land, so I head to the south
and I succeed to land in a Wadi, in a ravine. I hide under a tree, under a berry tree. I lie
on the floor for two whole hours.
Captain A. (member of the rescue team): We were called to the squadron, an
emergency, concerning the Phantom in southern Lebanon. We rushed to our Cobra
helicopters and took our helicopters to southern Lebanon. We took off in the late
afternoon, and headed to the direction of Sidon. I can't concentrate on what is being said on the radio- everyone is communicating with everyone, everyone is yelling into the radio, and it's very hard to keep track who is telling what to who. I understand that there is a connection through the radio with the survivor. The F16's are protecting our survivors, shooting at the terrorists.
Captain Y.: There were two hours that I was lying in the Wadi. The terrorists from both
villages,on both sides of the ravine are shooting at me, chasing after me. They're speaking
of me, only 30 meters away. I speak to the F16's and ask them to strike and shoot at the
terrorists. The F16's begin striking at them, pretty soon they're all gone and I feel much
safer, much better. I speak to the F16's, I feel good.
Captain A.: I see the bits and pieces of the Phantom, so dark and bleak. A little bit of
moonlight shining through. I have a feeling it's going to be a suicidal mission- the ravine is
too deep, it's too steep, too dangerous.
Captain Y.: I finally came out of my hiding place. I directed them towards me- the
rescue team was on its way. There was a serious problem though: when they were
attempting to get into the Wadi, they suddenly took off and flew away.
Captain A.: During our attempt to get into the Wadi, the pilot reported that he had been
injured. All of a sudden, all electricity is out. I have no choice but to return to Israel; my
electricity is not working- I must fly to the south, to Israel. All of a sudden, through an
instinct, I pull all buttons and knobs back- my electricity is back! I go back to the Wadi,
to rescue Y. Now, all of a sudden the whole Israeli Air Force is dependent upon me. We
were not aware of the problem of very very steep walls. The pilot reports through the
radio that he has managed to climb 15 meters. He is inside that black dark hole I went
straight into the Wadi and tried to get as close to the survivor as I could. He's very cool
calm, very collected.
Captain Y.: He managed to get very close to me, it was a very difficult mission. He
stopped ten meters away from me. The pilots are pointing at me, having some sort of an
argument. I have no choice and I hang on to the skid of the Cobra helicopter with my
arms; there is no time to get into the helicopter.
Captain A.: I was very concerned about Y. The other pilot told me 'he's hanging on to
the skid of the Cobra!' This can't be! It's impossible! This doesn't happen in reality!
Captain Y.: I feel that they are having some sort of a discussion inside the helicopter
while I am hanging onto the skid.
Captain A.: My co-pilot told me 'It's OK, he's fine.' Liftoff at full speed, and I feel
terrible, terrible- a knot forming in my stomach.
Captain Y.: I feel horrible- I'm getting out of there alone. Ron is still in Lebanon. I feel
very frustrated and there's nothing I can do.
Captain A.: I must point out that during this whole time I was absolutely certain that
there was only survivor, not two- is this the man I spoke to on the radio, he's the one who
got to my helicopter, he's the one I rescued.
Captain Y.: I hang on to the skid of the Cobra with my arms until we get to Israel. Then
I can sit on the skid of the helicopter, and then we got to Rambam, the hospital in Haifa,
Captain A.: We get to Haifa and I see all of the Israel Defense Forces and Y.'s wife
waiting for him. All of a sudden I come to realize that very same second, that it was
actually a Phantom, a two-seater- and the code name was 'front' which means there was a
back! At 3 a.m. we're called upon again- an emergency: someone thought they heard Ron
Arad, on the radio, in southern Lebanon. We fly again to try to rescue him as well. We
get there- again strong strong heavy anti-aircraft fire- constant. We call upon Ron Arad
on the radio again, and again, and again. He doesn't answer.
Captain G.: This feels so frustrating to know that Ron Arad is alive and is still there and
there's nothing the squadron can do about it right now. Anything we can do is just
reminding everyone that he's alive and he must come back.
Captain Y.: Each and every one of us must remember this figure of Ron and hopefully
he'll be back very very soon.
Ron Arad- born to be free.
According to the authorities in Israel, Ron Arad is still alive and is being held by the
Iranians. The Iranians have failed to acknowledge their international responsibility, and
contrary to international law, are not allowing him to receive visits by the Red Cross, to
receive medical attention and to regularly correspond to his family, his wife and his eight
year old daughter- Yuval Arad.
Y. is being interviewed by First Lieutentant Avi of the Israeli Air Force Reserves.
Captain Y.: It's very drastic changing your situation from a powerful pilot to being
chased by terrorists in the middle of Lebanon.
First Lieutenant Avi: It's true- there's no preparation for this kind of situation.
Captain Y.: In the morning you're a regular civilian, working in your regular job. A few
hours later you're in the army doing your mandatory reserve service- flying to Lebanon. A
little while later, you're being chased by terrorists. And two hours later you're back in
Israel with your wife and your children. With such drastic changes- they take weeks to
comprehend. But during those critical moments you must function and conform- give it
everything you've got. There's no rehearsal, there's no second chance.
First Lieutenant Avi: Coming back alone, without your partner, without Ron Arad,
hanging onto the skid of a Cobra…
Captain Y.: It has been a terrible, terrible trauma for me. I haven't been able to get over
it since '86. Seven years and it's getting worse and worse with each passing day. We can't
forget him, I can't forget Ron. Getting out of there was a terrible terrible nightmare, was a
real horror. It's a terrible terrible feeling. Simply terrible. When the helicopter took off, I
had this fantasy that Ron was suddenly going to run towards us and hang on to the skid of
the helicopter. But of course it didn't happen.
First Lieutenant Avi: I think it's admirable the way two pilots really risked their lives in
order to save someone they didn't even know. In retrospect, it turns out that you were the
pilots' guide in the fighter pilots academy in the Air Force.
Captain Y.: Yeah, they only found that out much later. They did a wonderful, excellent
job- very professional. They really, really risked their lives. It was very close to suicide as
far as the Cobra pilots were concerned. I was starting to think that they would get hurt-
seriously hurt and I would have to take care of them. As soon as we took off and left the
Wadi, I felt much better. I think they did a really good job. They claim it's very very
routine, but I don't believe them. I wouldn't be able to fly like that in a Wadi.
Lieutenant Avi: If he would hear you know, if Ron were here and would hear you, what
would you say to him?
Captain Y.: I don't want to tell him anything, I only want to hold him in my arms.
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