Raid on Entebbe  (1976)

 

 

 

Director:  Irvin Kershner. 

Starring:  Peter Finch (Yitzhak Rabin), Martin Balsam (Daniel Cooper), Horst Buchholz (Wilfred Boese), John Saxon (Maj. Gen. Benny Peled), Sylvia Sidney (Dora Bloch), Jack Warden (Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur), Yaphet Kotto (President Idi Amin Dada), Charles Bronson (Brig. Gen. Dan Shomron), Tige Andrews (Shimon Peres), Eddie Constantine (Capt. Michel Becaud), Warren J. Kemmerling (Gad Yaakobi), Robert Loggia (Yigal Allon), David Opatoshu (Menachem Begin), Allan Arbus (Eli Melnick), Mariclare Costello (Gabrielle Krieger).

Israeli raid to free hostages at the Entebbe Airport, Uganda when it was under the murderer Idi Amin

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Late June and early July of 1976. The events lasted eight days beginning in Athens, Greece on Sunday, June 27.

The passengers board an Air France plane from Tel Aviv via Athens and Paris boarding at gate 12. The flight is headed to Paris. During the flight a woman gets up and takes a grenade from her purse. She pulls the pin but holds it in place. She also takes out a pistol. She announces her intentions to the passengers. A male accomplice in a business suit gets up with a pistol in his hand. Two more accomplices get up.

There are three men in the pilotís cabin. A woman screams several times and the captain tells the man standing up in the cabin to go see what is wrong. When the man opens the door, a German highjacker rushes in. The man takes over the cabin and demands the captain let him speak to the passengers. He announces that they are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Che Guevara group, Gaza brigade. The passengers must follow their orders or be killed.

The woman highjacker moves everyone one by one to the back of the plane. A pregnant woman gets up but is so frightened that she falls. A passenger named Dr. Daniel Cooper tries to help her, but is told to move to the back.

The Israeli cabinet meets in emergency session. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin asks if anything unusual happened at Athens?  The security guards were on strike. There has been no word from the French. Rabin asks someone to call Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur to join them. The meeting breaks up. There will be an immediate meeting of the Crisis Committee.

On the plane explosives are placed at all the exits. Cooper asks a highjacker for medical help with the hemorrhaging pregnant woman. The highjacker calls Cooper, Mr. Spokesman.

In Israel they learn that the plane has landed in Libya and the French say they will take responsibility. Gur says that this time they may have us.

In Libya the pregnant woman is taken off the plane and put into an ambulance. The highjacker leader uses the speaker system to tell the passengers thanks for their cooperation and this will be the final leg of the journey.

Rabin learns that the plane is heading to somewhere in Africa.

The plane makes its final landing in Entebbe, Uganda, some 2,000 miles south of Libya. The leader announces that they have done this to punish the French for selling Mirage aircraft and the nuclear reactor to the fascist Israelis and the blood-thirsty, imperialist state of Israel.

In Israel, Gen. Gur asks someone to get Brig. Gen. Dan Shomron here.

On the plane the passengers are extremely hot and fan themselves with papers they have been given by the highjackers. Nine hours have passed since they landed. There has been no food or water.

Now 24 hours have passed since they left Athens. The leader says that the bad dream is over at last and the passengers start to relax and hug each other. They start getting off the plane.

Cooper looks through the window and sees soldiers standing there. He asks the German leader what are they up to? The leader says it all depends on what the Israelis do. The passengers go into the airport building.

Gen. Gur tells the Crisis Committee that itís an impossible task for the army to get the hostages out alive. One problem is that they know so little about Entebbe airport.

Operation Thunderbolt is set into action. Shomron and Gur discuss the military option.

Tuesday, 6 p.m. A Ugandan soldier comes in and tells everyone to sit down. A helicopter lands at the airport. A small boy in a soldierís outfit comes into the passenger room followed by Idi Amin. He comes in and says that he is Field Marshal and President for Life Idi Amin. He welcomes them all to Uganda and promises to make their stay a pleasant one. The passengers clap their hands. He warns them not to try to escape because there are explosives all around the building.

The highjackers are demanding the release of 53 revolutionary "heroes" in jails in France, Germany, Switzerland and especially Israel. If the Israelis do not comply all the passengers will die. Thursday noon is the deadline.

The passengers are awakened. Many names are called. They sign a paper and are lined up against the wall. They are only calling Jews. One man says he is not going and he is knocked to the floor. A couple of honeymooners are split up because only one has an Israeli passport. Daniel Cooperís name is called. The procedure reminds one man of the Jewish hostages and what the Germans did to them at Auschwitz.

Yigal Allon tells Rabin that the French say they have done all they can and now want to know about the negotiations for the exchange of the prisoners held by the Israelis. Rabin says the deadline is tomorrow and tells the French they will negotiate. They need more time.

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. Idi Amin is back at the airport wearing what looks like a cowboy hat. He talks to the hostages. Idi announces that he has arranged for the release of 47 passengers, who are either women, children or the infirm. They will be released immediately.

Idi tells the hostages when they get to France to tell the leaders that the Palestinians only want a little piece of land of their own. He says the Palestinians only want peace. Idi then goes to speak to the Jewish hostages in another room. He says that he hopes the Israelis will release the prisoners before the explosives are used on the Jews in this room. He tells them he now goes to negotiate for their release and safety.

In Israel Maj. Gen. Benny Peled talks about the difficulties of flying into the Entebbe airport. The flight is 2,500 miles and they will have to land in the dark. Then they need gas to go home. They have less than a day to get ready.

Rabin comes under a lot of pressure to bring the hostages home. He warns of the danger of releasing the 40 murdering terrorists.

Idi Amin tells the hostages that they have extended the negotiations for three more days. He tells one Israeli woman, Doris Bloch, that he has been appointed their savior. She replies: "I wouldnít doubt it for a moment." He tells the Israelis that they should write a letter to their government telling them to accept the terms of the Palestinians. He says he is now arranging the release of all the rest of the non-Israeli hostages.

The non-Jewish hostages are flown out. They provide valuable information for the Israelis about the airport and the hostages. The Israelis get a man who knows Idi Amin to call him and see if he can get him to free the hostages. Idi Amin wonít budge. He tells the Israelis to get their government to stop their Zionist, fascist policies.

Shamron presents the military plan. They will be in the air for seven hours. They will approach as a commercial airline into Entebbe.

Except for one man, the hostages agree to send the letter.

Friday, 11 a.m. Shamron says they will use the C-150 airplane, with 130s and two 707s, one for medical and one for communications. Intelligence informs them that the terrorists will begin killing hostages on Sunday. Two hundred men will be involved in the operation. It is said that Rabin is going to wait until the last minute. Rabin gets the approval of the opposition party in Israel.

Lt. Col. Yonatan 'Yonni' Netanyahu will lead the forces on the ground. He agrees to use only marksmen. He will start with Sammy Berg. Sammy quickly packs his bag along with his weapon. He tells his parents that he is going fishing with some friends from work they donít know.

It will be a three-pronged attack. They have drawings of each of the terrorists. They must learn their faces so they can be immediately identified. The troops have a dress rehearsal of the raid. They run into a model with the dimensions of the rooms at Entebbe. Sammy thinks they should hit the terminal with fewer men.

Good news. The Kenyans will allow the Israelis to refill. Rabin gives the okay to go.

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. The equipment and men are loaded onto the planes. The planes start taking off.

Rabin informs the politicians that Operation Thunderbolt is already in operation. They are shocked. They keep on debating, until there is only ten minutes left to decide. They will take the vote. The vote is unanimous. Operation Thunderbolt is a go.

It is night in Uganda. The terrorist guards pace around the airport building.

Touch down. When the plane stops, the soldiers rush out. Two Ugandan soldiers hear the running footsteps but they are killed using rifles with silencers on them. A black car pulls up by the guards at the airport building entrance and the soldiers use their automatic weapons to kill the terrorists. The soldiers burst through the main doors. Terrorists guards are killed. The woman terrorist who started the highjacking announcement is killed. An Israeli gets up from the floor and shouts that the Israelis are here and gets killed by a terrorist. The German terrorist leader is killed.

Two terrorists flee upstairs shooting as they go. An Israeli soldier busts open the door of the room they are hiding in and the other soldier throws in a grenade. Thatís it for the two terrorists. The main terminal is secure. The medics are sent in.

They tell the former hostages that they have a plane to take them home. They have doctors on the plane. Mrs. Bloch is in the hospital, but the soldiers will not be able to rescue her. The Israelis blow up the Mig planes at the airport using an artillery piece placed on a jeep.

As the hostages start coming out of the building, machine gun fire erupts in their direction. They race back into the building. The cannon takes out the top level of the tower and the machine gun. Reinforcements are arriving at the north gate. The Israelis rush to block them. There are two trucks of soldiers. The cannon comes in handy again as they blow up the trucks. The Ugandans take heavy casualties and the rest surrender.

The Plane comes close to the main building and the former hostages run to the plane. A lone sniper in the tower hits one of the Israeli soldiers. The sniper is then killed.

On the plane heading back, Lt. Col. Netanyahu dies.

Gen. Shamron examines the rooms where the hostages were held. He also examines the dead bodies of the seven terrorists.

The planes arrives at the airport in Israel. There is a mass greeting of the survivors by family and friends, soldiers and politicians.

Before the raid on Entebbe, the British consul visited Dora Bloch at the hospital in Uganda. She was recovering. After the raid, the consul went back to visit her. No one could tell him of her whereabouts. Her bed was empty. She has never been heard from again.

 

Pretty good movie. It tells the entire story of the highjacking and the rescue of the Israeli hostages at Entebbe airport. At times, it was a little slow with a lot of probably unnecessary detail. It was very much an ensemble movie. There were a lot of familiar faces in the film with well-known main and character actors.  Similar to the film Victory at Entebbe (1976).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981) --  beginning 1975, the Uganda ruler kills a half-million of his nation's people

 

 

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