Eagle Profile

Joshua Shani flew lead in one of history’s most dramatic and successful aerial commando operations. Upon graduation from the Israeli Air Force (IAF) Academy, he received his wings in 1965 and began a career in airlift and special operations, first flying the Nord 2501 Noratlas. In 1966, his skill as a pilot earned him a two-year tour at the IAF Flight Instructor School, flying another French aircraft, the twin-jet Fouga Magister. When the IAF made preemptive air strikes on the forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in June 1967 to open the Six Day War, Shani returned to the Noratlas. He supported armored forces rolling south across the Sinai with repeated airdrops of fuel and ammunition.

At war’s end, he resumed flying training missions during the day and continued resupply missions at night. In 1970, Shani became the first IAF pilot to fly the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. He not only picked up the first “Herk” from the factory, but also developed a comprehensive training program with airdrops and LAPES (Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System) deliveries. In October 1973, when the Egyptians and Syrians launched the Yom Kippur War in an effort to regain lost territory, Shani accelerated training and quickly had a full complement of 24 crews. In the heat of battle, he took command of Squadron 120 and flew the Boeing C-97 on aerial refueling and electronic warfare missions.

In 1974, he was named to command Squadron 131, a C-130 unit, where he developed doctrine and perfected tactics. During this time, the Israelis mounted the spectacular Entebbe Raid and other still classified missions. After one year at IAF HQ, Shani became one of his nation’s youngest-ever wing commanders in 1977. His wing employed the C-130 and a wide range of other aircraft including the Boeing 707 and C-97, the Douglas C-47, the Grumman OV-1 and the Israeli Aircraft Industries Westwind II. During this time, he helped in planning and flying missions for “Operation Moses, ” the evacuation of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He also helped to develop IAF aerial refueling capability.

In 1982, he attended the USAF Air War College and then returned to IAF HQ as Director of the Office of Manpower and Personnel. Next, as Air Attach, in Washington, he worked many joint US-Israeli projects. These included the Have Nap standoff television and infrared guided air-to-ground missiles and Peace Marble III, the purchase of General Dynamics F-16s. In 1988, Shani returned home, got an advanced degree in international marketing, and then retired from active IAF duty. He travels frequently to the United States and consults for Martin Marietta. He has also formed BVR Technologies in Israel. He continues to fly the Israeli-modified Boeing 707 tanker in the reserves.

Years Honored:


1993 Lithograph

Lithograph Setting(s):

On 3 July 1976, Lt Col Joshua Shani flew lead in a 4800-mile airborne commando raid to rescue Jewish hostages from terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda. Departing Sharm-el-Sheikh, heading south over the Red Sea, the four C-130s stayed at extreme low level-rarely more than 50 feet over the water. They approached the coast, turned inland, and climbed to 20,000 feet. Shani landed on an unlit runway and off loaded his commandos. Within minutes, they stormed the terminal and freed the hostages in one of the most successful special operations missions in history.