US pilot hailed as ”The Man Who saved Tel Aviv” is dead

Louis (Lou) Lenart, an American fighter pilot, hailed as “The Man who saved Tel Aviv” during the opening days of Israel’s War of Independence, has died, aged 94 in Raanana, Israel. High-ranking officers of the US Marine Corps and Israeli Air Force will attend his funeral Wednesday. Born in Hungary, the son of Jewish farmers, the family moved to the US when he was ten and settled in Pennsylvania. At 17 he enlisted to the US Marine Corps and saw action in the Battle for Okinawa and other Pacific missions. Discharged with the rank of captain, he learned that 14 of his Hungarian relatives had died in Auschwitz. In early 1948, Lenart joined the clandestine effort to smuggle surplus planes to the nascent state of Israel. On May 29, large Egyptian forces had advanced to within 16 miles of Tel Aviv when Lenart, as only of four Israeli fighter pilots, led the attack on the Egyptian columns. They retreated. That was how the US pilot won the soubriquet of “The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv. After the war, Lenart participated in the airlift of Iraqi Jews to Israel, was a pilot for El Al Airlines and produced six feature films, including “Iron Eagle” and “Iron Eagle II.” He is survived by his wife Rachel, daughter and grandson.


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