Interesting story for those who don't know about him...and please let's ask QR332 et al to leave the politics out of this one!
Robert F. Maguire Jr., the chief pilot of Operation Magic Carpet, which evacuated more than 40,000 Jewish refugees from Yemen to the newly created state of Israel between late 1948 and early 1950, died on June 10 at his home in Northridge, Calif. He was 94
Starting in November 1947, when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine, Arabs and Jews were at war. Pogroms against the Jews of Yemen soon followed. In an operation that was arduous, dangerous and secret, nearly the entire Jewish population of Yemen was evacuated beginning in December 1948.
The flight from Yemen to Israel, a journey of more than 1,400 miles, was almost entirely over hostile territory. Though the evacuation was kept secret for fear of sabotage, the planes were routinely fired on by Egyptian forces. Fuel was scarce. Pilots were warned that if they were forced to land in enemy territory, the passengers, and perhaps the crew, risked being executed.
Requiring a little more than a year and 380 flights, Operation Magic Carpet evacuated 40,000 to 50,000 Yemenite Jews without loss of life. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was reported to have called Mr. Maguire "the Irish Moses." The writer Leon Uris based a character in his 1958 novel, "Exodus," on him.
Robert Francis Maguire Jr. was born in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 7, 1911. His father, Robert Francis Sr., was a lawyer who became a judge at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials in the late 1940's. Robert Jr. began flying as a teenager, later attending Reed College and the University of Oregon. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps the day after Pearl Harbor, and flew in the Pacific region in the war.
After the war, Mr. Maguire became a pilot for Alaska Airlines. With the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948, the airline won a contract to fly Jewish refugees there from around the globe. Mr. Maguire flew thousands of Jews out of Shanghai before being sent to the Middle East to help start Operation Magic Carpet in conjunction with the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee, a humanitarian organization.
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