Michel Bacos, 1924–2019
The French pilot who became a hero at Entebbe
Bacos was born in Port Said, Egypt, where his father worked at the Suez Canal, said The Times (U.K.). At age 17, he joined the Free French Forces battling the Nazis and was stationed in Morocco as a naval aviation officer. During the Cold War, Bacos regularly flew supplies and passengers between West Berlin and West Germany, where he met his German-born wife, a flight attendant. She was a member of the cabin crew during the Air France hijacking.
When the terrorists ordered the Jews separated from the rest of the passengers during that crisis, Bacos insisted on being allowed to move between the two groups, said The Washington Post. “I’m responsible for all the passengers,” he told the militants, “be they Israeli or not.” Bacos and the remaining captives were freed after six days in a daring raid by Israeli commandos, said The New York Times. Three passengers died during the operation as well as an Israeli soldier, Lieut. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the elder brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the flight back to Israel, the soldiers honored Bacos by inviting him to sit in the cockpit. He was later decorated by both France and Israel for his bravery, but always insisted he had simply done what was right. “I fought the Nazis,” he said. “I knew precisely what fascism was all about.”