Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History” as Want to Read:
Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,085 ratings  ·  150 reviews
The definitive account of one of the greatest Special Forces missions ever, the Raid of Entebbe, by acclaimed military historian Saul David.

On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by a group of Arab and German terrorists who demanded the release of 53 terrorists. The plane was forced to divert to Entebbe, in Uganda -- ruled by the murder
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Little, Brown and Company (first published July 2nd 2015)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,085 ratings  ·  150 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: terrorism, history
This book continues a recent trend in my reading list: terrorism. Just recently, I finished Simon Reeve’s One Day in September, which recounted Black September’s infiltration into the Olympic Village during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Initially, two members of the Israeli team were killed and nine taken hostage. Those nine hostages died during a horribly mishandled rescue attempt at Fürstenfeldbruck Airport. The Munich Massacre highlighted Germany’s unpreparedness for a terrorist event.

Saul David
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it

This is a decent offering from an author I had never read before. As in real life, comparatively little time is spent in action and way too much time is taken up with the political machinations leading up to deployment. Of course, this is unavoidable if one is to get the full story behind the deployment. As in any conflict, for every honest soldier frontally assaulting you there are a dozen oily backstabbers sending him on his way.

Full credit to the Israelis: this operation required a lot of ner
Bob Mayer
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
A detailed account of the mission from the hijacking through the rescue. This book moves fast, giving insight into all elements, from what happened in Uganda to military preparations in Israel, to the politicking. I just watched Eye in the Sky and it reminded me of this. Drawing from my own Special Forces background, it's always fascinating for people to see the story behind the headline. While we focus on the actual mission, the mission doesn't go it a lot of things are lined up.
I read this bo
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: israel
Very good, step-by-step account of the Israeli rescue of hostages from an Air France plane at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. My sole complaint: because then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been murdered by the time of the writing, the author doubtlessly had greater access to Defense Secretary Shimon Peres. The latter is portrayed as the moving force behind a military option. Knowing Peres's historic (and continued) "dovishness", I suspect the story was more complex. Interesting that the most famous ...more
Steven Z.
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After recent events in Paris and San Bernardino the world’s heightened awareness of possible terrorist attacks has been raised ever further. We have all heard about failed attempts to blow up airplanes by the “shoe bomber,” and the “underwear bomber,” and of course 9/11. We live in a world where fears of flying have increased, but it is not a unique feeling as is evidenced by Saul David’s new book OPERATION THUNDERBOLT: FLIGHT 139 AND THE RAID ON ENTEBBE AIRPORT, THE MOST AUDACIOUS HOSTAGE RESCU ...more
Igor Ljubuncic
Very nice. Tense, absurd, spectacular.

The story is well known. The personal stories of the people involved, less so. The author gives us an hour-by-hour thriller read of the most spectacular rescue operation in the modern history, starting with the overview of what it felt like to fly in the 70s. The fear of hijackings and plane bombings. The lax security at the Athens airport. The crew and the passengers. And then, the drama unfolds.

Saul tells us what it was like for everyone involved, and the
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stunner of a book. Informative and insightful, and it reads like the best thrillers out there. You can see it while you read almost as if you were watching a movie.
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
I can't remember how I heard of this book, but I am so glad I decided to read it because WOW - one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long while! This covers an event I knew nothing about before starting the book, the hijacking of a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris (after an unscheduled stopover in Athens, which had lax security). The terrorists diverted the flight to Uganda, where the country's dictator was actively conspiring to humiliate the Israelis and would not intervene to help des ...more
Koby Gould
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It’s my guess that a lot of people think that they know what happened in ‘that’ rescue but I doubt that many know it in as much detail as I do now that I have read this terrific book by Saul David.

Saul David:

“…I decided to write it unfolding in real time, with the narrative shifting from the sweltering Old Terminal at Entebbe, where the hostages were kept, to the cabinet rooms of the governments involved (particularly Israel), the houses of the hostages’ families, the headquarters of the Israe
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book on an incredible and audacious rescue mission launched by the Israelis and led on the ground by Yoni Netanyahu the brother of Bibi. Well written, with excellent anecdotes from Inside the Israeli government and military circles as well as from the hostages. Very moving at times and heart rending too. Extraordinary to learn that it was not the multi-decorated former soldier Yitzhak Rabin who was Prime Minister at the time who was all for launching such a risky venture, he was up f ...more
Stephen Bishop
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Found it hard to put this book down! The gripping account of this hostage rescue mission carried out by the Israeli military deep in Africa back in 1976 brought out the incredible risks that were taken...and bravery of those involved. My only problem in reading through the details was the number of people who were involved - over one hundred hostages alone, each with a story to tell! So I needed to do a fair amount of backtracking - but worth the effort.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gripping account of the entebbe raid. The amount of luck or perhaps better put serendipity that made the difference between daring success or abject failure is brought to vivid life.
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ina time when reports of terrorism are all too frequent, we sometimes don't remember that this is not our first time at this dance. Airplane hijackings became much too frequent in the 1970s, and the decsion about how to free hostages held by hijackers was difficult and sometimes expensive. In june/July 1976, terrorists hijacked Air France flight 139, a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris, just after it left a stopover in Athens. . The plane and its crew and passengers ended up in Entebbe, Uganda, the ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thrilling account (non-fiction) of the the actual military operation with explicit details of the planning and the political machinations that happened during this time not only in Israel but almost across the globe..
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have long been fascinated by the story of the Israeli raid on Entebbe, Uganda in 1976 but had not been able to read a book on the account until now. If you are not familiar with this particular chain of events following the aircraft's highjacking, don't worry because there were a lot of highjackings during this period. Here's a 3-minute cartoon that can bring you up to speed quickly:

Although the events during the highjacking and the daring rescue are riv
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Couldn't recommend it higher
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent overview of both the military operation at Entebbe, along with the planning (or relative lack) that led up to it, but the discussions, tensions, conflict and jealousies within the Israeli cabinet, most notably between Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres, who later became PM himself. One can picture the barely-hidden, smoldering anger and disdain both had for each other, with Rabin considering Peres (who had little active military service himself) a grandstande ...more
Steven Gutierrez
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Detailed and enthralling factual story set linearly with times and cities explaining how officials around the world reacted to the dramatic terrorist hijacking.

Easy to read and filled with depth to entertain you through many commutes. Excellent account of the event, leaving you thoroughly informed and amazed about this incredible story.
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Easy to read, packed with action from the first page. Kept your interest throughout the book. Interesting to see people involved that would shape and still are shaping Israel today. Rabin, Begin, Peres etc...
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I knew very little about this history prior to reading this book. The author does an excellent job of the day by day narrative. Stories are built from a number of perspectives.

Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The story of the Isreali rescue of over a 100 hostages from Entebbe in Uganda in 1976 is incredible, fabulously told by Saul David.

The sheer audacity of it is mind boggling. To fly 4 huge planes over 2000 miles at night into the middle of Africa. Into a hostile country where President-for-Life Field Marshal Dr Idi Amin Dada and his army and air force would strike back if they could. To land at an airport only 1 of the 4 pilots had used before. On a darkened runway (the lights were switched off
Dec 10, 2019 rated it liked it
OPERATION THUNDERBOLT recounts the daring rescue of hostages in Uganda by Israeli commandos in 1972. It has since been regarded as the most famous hostage rescue in history. Those over 50 will recall the subterfuge used to achieve the objective: dressed as Ugandan soldiers and passing themselves off as a high level general with his entourage, the Israeli commandos drove a Mercedes from one of several cargo transport planes (which had flown undetected to Uganda) to the airport terminal where host ...more
Rodney Harvill
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Having experienced nothing but defeat in force on force engagements with the Israelis, the Palestinians turned to acts of terrorism against soft targets, including attacks on public places and hijacking of airliners. A typical hijack would be followed by a ransom demand, such as the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons, in exchange for the release of the hostages. Because the Israeli government saw such a capitulation to terror as an invitation for more terror, it had a policy of not negot ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an exciting minute by minute account of the 1976 hijacking of AirFrance flight 139 and the dramatic rescue by Israeli commandos. For several hundred pages, my usual melancholy about the State of Israel was suspended as I cheered on its military and political leaders in the face of unjustified terrorism. The breakaway PFLP faction of Waddie Haddad collaborated with the German far-left "Revolutionary Cells," and Idi Amin, to hijack the plane, landing in Entebbe, Uganda. Committed to murder ...more
In 1976 socialist terrorists out of Germany teamed up with Palestinian terrorists and hijacked a commercial flight traveling from Greece to France (after starting from Israel) and forced them to fly to Uganda. Once they arrived there, with the cooperation of the dictator they demanded the release of around 40 terrorists in custody from several nations. A majority of the passengers were Jewish and the Jews were treated differently (worse) than the other passengers.

This book recounts the politics
John Minster
An exhaustive telling of the lead up to the raid, the operation itself, and the fallout. I came out with a very detailed understanding of the hijacking. Not much commentary from the author and there is a wide breadth of source material. At times it's a bit slow but overall it's an enjoyable account
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great story of a bold and great rescue mission.
Only disappointment is, I see no reason to learn about the fornications of those facing possible death.

Some of the passengers were heroic and the soldiers definitely were.

Great lesson: don’t negotiate with terrorists.
The terrorists were cowards who received exactly what they deserved.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reads like a 50,000 word Washington Post story, in the good way. The author puts a compelling story together about a compelling, first-of-its-kind story. Enjoyable reading, and useful context for today when looking at how we fly, how nations interact with terrorists and how special operators do their work.

Also, I didn't know airline hijackings were so common in the 70's. Or that a whole crop of Israeli politicos made their names in this operation.
Andrew Tollemache
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very enthralling read about a subject I was vaguely familiar with (I saw the TV movie with Chuck Bronson as a kid), the Israeli raid on Entebbe airport to free the 80 or so jews + French aire crew of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris hijacked by the PFLP (70s Palestinian terror group) and flown to Benghazi and Entebbe Uganda.
Saul David uses GMT time stamps at each relevant location to detail all the involved POVs in the story: the plane's passengers and hijackers, Israeli politcal
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I knew a little about the famous Israeli rescue of hostages held in Entebbe but didn't know a lot. 'Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, The Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History' by Saul David was an interesting way to learn about it.

David takes you through each day, in 'real time', as it were, bringing you back and forth from the hostages and terrorists to Israeli diplomats and military men, international political leaders and others, continually switc
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response
  • Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
  • Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory
  • Viking Britain
  • The Munich Massacre: The History and Legacy of the Notorious Terrorist Attack on Israeli Athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics
  • Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz
  • Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee
  • The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup
  • The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II
  • Four Hours of Fury: The Untold Story of World War II's Largest Airborne Invasion and the Final Push into Nazi Germany
  • Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal
  • To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
  • Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017
  • The Way Inn
  • Care of Wooden Floors
  • Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk
  • The Panopticon
  • Burma '44: The Battle That Turned Britain's War in the East
See similar books…
SAUL DAVID was born in Monmouth in 1966 and educated at Ampleforth College and Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities (History MA and PhD).

An expert in the wars of the Victorian period, he began writing his first history book when he was twenty-five and has since completed eight more. They include: The Homicidal Earl: The Life of Lord Cardigan (1997), a critically-acclaimed biography of the man who le

Related Articles

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman know the radical life-changing power of a good friendship. The two launched their hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend ...
15 likes · 3 comments
“Begin then made the inevitable–if inaccurate–analogy between the German-sanctioned selektzia at Entebbe and the more infamous actions of Dr Mengele at Auschwitz when a finger to the right had condemned Jewish men, women and children to death. Then there had been ‘no one to save them’; now there was. ‘Now,’ he said, his voice rising for emphasis, ‘we declare for all to hear: Never again! Our generation has taken a solemn oath consecrated in the blood of our slain mothers, our butchered fathers, our asphyxiated babes, and our fallen brave–never again will the blood of the Jew be shed with impunity. Never again will Jewish honour be easy prey.’ The world should know, he added, that if ‘anyone anywhere’ is ‘persecuted, or humiliated, or threatened, or abducted, or is in any way endangered simply because he or she is a” 0 likes
“said Yitzhak Rabin, addressing the first full meeting of the Israeli Cabinet since the crisis had begun on Sunday, ‘I want to say that any information that leaks out today can end up costing lives. So I ask you not to behave normally regarding this issue.’ In other words, speak to no one. An hour and a half earlier he had met with Yitzhak Navon, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs” 0 likes
More quotes…