Vladimir Urbanek sent us his new Spitfire artwork, illustrating Czech connections in the history of the Israeli Air Force. The artwork shows the famous black Spitfire Mk. IX of Ezer Weizman, by that time commander of the IAF, accompanied by Avia S.199. Both these fighters were supplied to the new state by Czechoslovakia, and where the backbone of its fighter force during the first formative years.
Weizman received his training in the British Army in which he enlisted in 1942 in order to fight the Nazi Germany. He served as a truck driver in the Western Desert campaigns in Egypt and Libya. In 1943, he joined the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and attended aviation school in Rhodesia. He served with the RAF in India in early 1944, ending his service as a sergeant pilot.
Returning to the newly-established state of Israel in 1947, Weizman became a pilot for the Haganah in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He was the commander of the Negev Air Squadron near Nir-Am. In May 1948, he learned to fly the Avia S-199 at the České Budějovice air base in Czechoslovakia and participated in Israel’s first fighter mission, a ground attack on an Egyptian column advancing toward Ad Halom near the Arab town of Isdud south of Tel Aviv.
In a battle between Israeli and British RAF aircraft on 7 January 1949, he flew one of four Israeli Spitfire fighters that clashed with 14 British fighters following a reconnaissance flight from Egypt that infringed on Israel’s southern border. Three planes were shot down by the IAF.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, Weizman joined the Israel Defense Forces and served as the Chief of Operations on the General Staff. In 1951 he attended the RAF Command and Staff College in England. Upon his return he became commander of Ramat David.
He served as the commander of the Israeli Air Force between 1958 to 1966, and later served as deputy Chief of the General Staff. He directed the early morning surprise air attacks against the Egyptian air bases, which resulted in giving the Israelis almost total air superiority over the Sinai battlefields.
Although he became the IDF’s Deputy Chief of Staff in 1966, he retired from military service in 1969.
[Vladimir Urbanek, used by permission of the artist]