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

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  786 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
*By the historical consultant to the major motion picture Seven Days in Entebbe*

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 terrori
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Little, Brown and Company (first published July 2nd 2015)
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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
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: saul-david
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.
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.
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 Israeli
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
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 it was amazing
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
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
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
May 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Saul David's account of the Israeli Special Forces raid on Entebbe Airport to free hostages held by terrorists who hijacked an Air France flight in June of 1976 is meticulously researched and inherently interesting. Unfortunately, Saul never quite solves the problem of how to sustain narrative drive while cross-cutting between events in Uganda and Israel.

The parts of the book where Saul explains how the daring rescue attempt was planned move swiftly, but are slowed by a flurry of detail about t
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Despite happening over 40 years ago, Operation Thunderbolt still awes students of military studies as the most audacious hostage rescue mission in history. In June 1976, a group of hijackers sympathetic to the Palestinian cause took over an Air France flight bound from Tel Aviv to Paris. They diverted the aircraft to Uganda, and demanded for the release of their leaders, failing which they will kill the hostages one by one. Under the cover of the night, four Israeli C-130s manoeuvred around host ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good book which covers all aspects of the event in the time it happened. The hijacking of the airplane. The feelings and actions of the terrorists and the hostages. The options and thought frames of the Israeli politicians as they debated whether to give in to demands or go for a military option. The planning of the raid by the military. The execution and rescue of the hostages and the afterword. Good read.
Dave Hoff
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it
In 1976 an Air France Plane flying from Israel was highjacked by 2 German and 2 Arab terrorists. Plane ends up at Entebbe, Uganda. Book goes into much detail of the lives of hostages, terrorists, Israeli officials and the Ugandan Dictator Idi Ami . Remainder of book is the discussions in Israel by the hard liners and the appeasers if they should meet the terrorists demands. Book only of interest near the end when the raid by Commandos frees the hostages and they are back in Israel.

Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Excellent. The real-life tale is immensely interesting on its own, but I really appreciate the way this was written. It chronologically goes through it, with small sections every page or two giving the place and time in GMT (e.g. Tel Aviv 07:10), and then narratively giving this contribution to the story. It really weaves it together, showing a multitude of viewpoints, which makes it even more interesting.
Robert Morganbesser
How terrorists should be dealt with

A good book about a difficult time when terrorists took an air France plane song with its passengers hostage. Israel has been a target for terror since its rebirth in the modern era. This book shows how the Entebbe raid was planned and carried out, a tale of triumph and tragedy.
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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
More about Saul David
“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
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