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Transcript of Interview with Ron Arad's co-pilot and rescuers. (1993)
Produced by the Israel Air Force Youth Corps

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.

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, Israel.
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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