8x10 inch photo signed by Rudy Augarten.
Israel was in short supply of almost everything: it had fewer than ten serviceable fighter planes in the entire country, and only one fighter squadron. Consequently, it didn't have enough planes for the two dozen pilots who were capable of flying them, and there was always competition for each flight.
On October 16, 1948, one day into the first major Israeli offensive against the Egyptians, called Operation Yoav, Augarten's turn had finally arrived. Egypt's air base at El Arish had been one of the sites of the previous day's raid by Israel's only fighter squadron, the 101st. Augarten was on a photo-reconnaissance mission to determine what targets the Air Force had destroyed, and what it still needed to finish off. Although his assignment was not very demanding, he was happy for the chance to fly at all. Rudy flew southward toward the coast. Suddenly, in the distance, he spotted two Spitfires flying in formation. Augarten could tell by their shape that they were not ME-109s, like the plane he was flying. He was too far away to make out their markings, but that didn't really matter. Though the Israeli Air Force had several Spitfires in its arsenal, he knew immediately that the two Spits were Egyptian, because mechanical problems and fuel shortages limited the Israeli Air Force to using only a few planes in the air at any one time. When pilots in the air saw another plane, they could always be confident that it wasn't one of their own.
Augarten carefully got into position behind the two Egyptians, hoping they wouldn't detect his approach. Just then, fellow 101 pilot Leon Frankel, who was patrolling in the area, saw Augarten beginning to engage the Spits. Trying to come to Augarten's aid, Frankel rolled his plane over and dove toward the combatants. But before he reached the scene, Augarten lined up one of the Spits in his gun sight, and fired a burst from the Me-109's two 7.92 millimeter machine guns. Pieces of the Spitfire flew off as the bullets pierced its thin aluminum body. The Egyptian plane plummeted toward Israeli lines, leaving a trail of black smoke. The other Spit fled the battle scene. With no other enemy planes in sight, Frankel and Augarten fell into formation for the trip back to the base. A few days later Augarten got a treat that few fighter pilots ever receive. An army unit took him by jeep to see firsthand the wreckage of the plane he had downed. Smiling broadly, he posed for a photograph in front of what remained of the Spit. With that victory, Augarten had experienced the Czech version of the ME-109 at its best.
His victory at the beginning of Operation Yoav was his first as a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, but it would not be his last. The next day after the capture of Beersheba, Rudy Augarten was again in the air over the Negev. This time Augarten was in one of the squadron's new Spitfires. He was not alone on this flight. Canadian Jack Doyle flew the other Spit at Augarten's side. As the two patrolled, they spotted four Egyptian Spitfires. Veteran pilots, Doyle and Augarten turned to come out of the sun at the enemy planes. They each picked a target, coming in with their guns blazing. Augarten recorded his second kill of the war, Doyle his first. The two pilots also damaged the other two Egyptian planes before returning home.
On October 15th Augarten, together with South Africans pilots Syd Cohen and Jack Cohen, had also been involved in the raid on El Arish air base which put the airport and all of its planes out of action,. When their three radios failed them, they used visual signals amongst themselves, dropped bombs on the runway, and strafed everything in sight. Hitting the aircraft in the hangars called for some low flying: the three veterans proved equal to all that was required of them.
On December 22 he climbed into a Spitfire in response to a report of Egyptian planes in the area, and damaged a Macchi that was about to land at the El Arish air-field. Two days later he flew a P-51 Mustang on a fighter patrol. Later that same day he was back in the Spitfire for a photo-reconnaissance mission over Egyptian positions.
During the course of the war, he shot down four Egyptian planes, a total matched only by Jack Doyle. Augarten, who had flown a P-47 Thunderbolt during World War II, made his four kills from an Me-109, a P-51 Mustang and twice from Spitfires, in a remarkable display of flying skill.
WW2 and Israel war ace Rudy Augarten signed photo
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