“A Wing and a Prayer” airs this Sunday at 3 p.m. on WUFT-TV
Don’t forget, “A Wing and a Prayer” airs this Sunday at 3 p.m. on WUFT-TV. The hour-long documentary tells the virtually unknown story of World War II aviators who raced against the clock in 1948 to prevent a second Holocaust.
The film was written, directed and produced by Boaz Dvir, an alumnus of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications and a faculty member at Penn State University. It features exclusive interviews with operations leader Al Schwimmer and other American Jewish and Christian pilots who volunteered to fly transport and combat aircraft for Israel during its 1948 War of Independence.
It also features Dean Emeritus Ralph Lowenstein, who spent his spare time for 30 years archiving the American participation in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Lowenstein, who at 18 volunteered for Israel’s armored corps during that war, served as the film’s historical consultant. He was later a U.S. soldier during the Korean War.
The film’s other College connections include Tim Sorel, who served as director of photography.
American Public Television (APT) is releasing the film on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. Nearly 100 public broadcasting stations around the country will broadcast “A Wing and a Prayer,” which is narrated by William Baldwin (“Hawaii-Five-O,” “Parenthood”).
“A Wing and a Prayer” features firsthand accounts of daring escapes and heart-pounding action by Schwimmer and members of his group, including chief pilot Sam Lewis and Christian radio operator Eddie Styrak. Styrak, arrested by the British for trying to bring Holocaust survivors into the burgeoning Jewish state had to escape prison to join Schwimmer’s operation.
Schwimmer’s recruits thought they were done fighting after WWII, which ended in 1945. Yet Schwimmer convinced them to risk their lives and U.S. citizenship to give the newborn Jewish state a fighting chance in the 1948 Arab-Israel War, the stage for which was set six months earlier when the United Nations voted to partition British-controlled Palestine.
The morning after Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, five well-equipped Arab armies invaded. The Jews’ return to their ancient land appeared short-lived. Only a miracle or an ingenious plan could save them.
Schwimmer’s plan called for eluding the FBI and outsmarting the U.S. State Department by creating a fictitious airline, buying war-surplus aircraft and smuggling in surplus Nazi weapons from behind the Iron Curtain. As a result, the Israeli air force in 1948 was English-speaking, with mostly American pilots.
Schwimmer and his American volunteers helped reshape history. Yet history books have ignored them. “A Wing and a Prayer” fills in that missing chapter.