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The Desert Hawks: An American Volunteer Fighter Pilot's Story of Israel's War of Independence, 1948 - Leo Nomis, Brian Cull

This book represents one of the few available that was written by one of the many foreign volunteers who made their way to the new State of Israel to help defend it against its Arab neighbors during its War of Independence in 1948. For that reason alone, "The Desert Hawks" (which refers to the name the Arab ground forces gave to the Messerschmitt fighters in the Israeli Air Force) is a priceless resource for anyone interested in the early history of the modern Jewish State.

Nomis, who had flown fighters with both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) during the Second World War, had been doing some crop dusting and barnstorming work as a pilot for hire when the Israeli War of Independence broke out in May 1948. With the help of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in New York, Nomis is able to get to Israel, where for most of the year, he experiences limited combat service with 101 Squadron, flying Messerschmitts (which the Israelis had acquired from Czechoslovakia, where Nomis spent a few days learning to fly them) and Spitfires. In Nomis' own words: "I was sympathetic to the cause and the plight of the new Jewish State from day one and contacted the Jewish Agency - within five days I was aboard a Constellation which had been requisitioned by Jewish sources and scheduled to be smuggled to Czechoslovakia."

Nomis also conveys to the reader (from notes he had made at the time of his service in Israel) a sense of the daily lives of his comrades and people he had met both on and off base in places as diverse as Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jaffa.

"The Desert Hawks" is a rare gem describing a time in history in which most of its direct participants are fast fading away. For that reason, it is a book well worth reading.