Tag Archives: Fighter Pilot

Jew of the Week: David Goldfein

Chief of America’s Air Force

General David Goldfein

David Goldfein (b. 1959) was born on an American Air Force base in France, where his father served as an Air Force colonel. Goldfein became a fighter pilot, too, and graduated from the US Air Force Academy with a degree in philosophy. He first saw action in the Gulf War, then served as commander of the 555th Fighter Squadron in the Bosnian War, and during NATO’s Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia. On one mission in 1999, Goldfein’s F-16 was shot down. He ejected on time and parachuted down in a field. Three Serbian soldiers pursued him, but he managed to escape, hiding in a ravine. Goldfein miraculously traversed an area full of mines, before later being rescued from behind enemy lines in a daring operation. All in all, Goldfein logged over 4200 hours of flying time. In 2011, he became a three-star general and was appointed commander of US Air Forces in Southwest Asia. In 2016, now a four-star general, Goldfein was appointed the 21st Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. That made him the highest-ranking official in the Air Force, overseeing half a million airmen, over 5000 aircraft, and hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. As Chief of Staff, he directly advises the secretary of defense and the president. Goldfein’s primary goal as head of the Air Force was to ensure the US was secure from, and had detailed plans for countering, the “four-plus-one” threat: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist groups around the world. He also focused heavily on nuclear deterrence and preventing a catastrophic world war. Finally, he expanded the Air Force’s capabilities into the realms of cyberwarfare and space, too. It was during his tenure that ISIS was essentially wiped off the map and finally defeated, thanks in large part to the US Air Force. Goldfein has been decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Legion of Merit, Humanitarian Service Medal, and countless other awards. His term as Chief of Staff ends next week.

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Words of the Week

Experience shows us that many people imagine false ideas to be absolutely true, and they generally remain firm in their beliefs, refusing to see anything wrong with them.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746), Derekh Tevunot 

Jew of the Week: Lydia Litvyak

The White Lily of Stalingrad

Lydia Litvyak

Lydia Litvyak

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak (1921-1943) was born in Moscow in the early days of the Soviet Union. She was fascinated by flight from a young age, and enrolled in a flying club at 14. She flew her first plane at 15 before heading to a military flight school. After graduating, Litvyak became a flight instructor. In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Litvyak immediately volunteered to join a fighter pilot unit. However, she was rejected based on “lack of experience”, even though she had already trained 45 other pilots! Meanwhile, Marina Raskova established an all-female fighter force, and Litvyak was accepted. In 1942, Litvyak flew her first combat missions. She was soon moved to a standard (male) air force unit. In the battle for Stalingrad, Litvyak scored her first two kills, setting her name in history as the first female fighter pilot to take down an enemy plane. She went on to run 66 combat missions, and logged 16 victories. In 1943, now promoted to junior lieutenant and awarded the Red Star, Litvyak was assigned to the okhotniki, “hunters”, experienced fighter pilots who were given permission to roam the skies on their own, and strike at will. Despite suffering multiple wounds, and recommended to go on medical leave, Litvyak refused. Shortly after, she went on her final mission, and did not return to base. Her whereabouts were unknown. She was either killed or taken captive – the latter possibility preventing her from being awarded the prestigious ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ award. Litvyak was only 22 years old. In 1979, after decades of searching, the remains of her plane and body were found. She had been buried by local villagers, having died from a head wound. In 1990, she was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, with a rank of senior lieutenant. Nonetheless, some claim that she survived, and either perished in a German prisoner camp, or lived out the rest of her life in secret, marrying and having children. Litvyak’s story has been featured in several fiction novels, and even a stage production. In the Soviet Union, she was affectionately called the “White Lily of Stalingrad”.

Words of the Week

Everything is by Divine Providence. If a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by God to serve a particular function within the purpose of creation.
– Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

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