Pilot Mitchell Flint used Olympics as ruse to help Israelis fight

| December 2, 2013 | 1 Comment

IN LONDON with his British cousin Audrey Flint Thompson is Mitchell Flint and his son Michael.

It took a lot of bravery and one tiny white lie, but eventually a local fighter pilot was able to serve his two beloved countries during wartime.
Mitchell Flint, Hancock Park, was born in Kansas City, Mo. in 1923. He learned to fly on the Kansas airfields and registered for the U.S. Navy at age of 19. He served in the Pacific on the USS  Wasp, a naval air carrier, flew the Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft and shot down multiple Kamikaze, for which he won three Air Medals.

After he was discharged, Flint enrolled at UC Berkeley, but quickly realized that the newly declared state of Israel was struggling to defend itself against invading Arab armies. He wanted to help.

“I’m Jewish; Israel desperately needed trained fighter pilots, so I thought I could perhaps do something to sustain the state,” Flint told The Times of Israel in 2012. But there was one big catch: he couldn’t tell his widowed mother. As an only child, Flint was determined to fight for Israel, yet to protect his mother by keeping her in the dark.

It was illegal for an American citizen to fight for a foreign country, so Flint fibbed to the San Francisco passport office about his reason for going abroad in 1948. He told them he was going to see the London Olympics.  It was the same story he told his mother. Instead, Flint enlisted in the fledgling Israeli Air Force. As not to worry his mother back home, he created an elaborate ruse. His U.K. relatives, some of whom he’d never met, sent postcards to her back in the States at regular intervals, describing the games and the different historic sights he was exploring.

In the meantime, Flint went undercover and trained in Czechoslovakia with a Czech instructor, preparing to fly again.

While serving in the Israeli Air Force, Flint led multiple bombing missions, flying everything from Mustangs and Spitfires to reconfigured German Messerschmitts.

He never made it to those 1948 Olympics. Upon his return to the U.S., Flint served in the Korean war and then worked for Lockheed Martin, studied toward a law degree at UCLA and met his wife, Joyce, a former fashion designer-turned conservator.

In 2012, one of Flint’s two sons, Mike, a Hollywood producer, proposed that they go back to London to see the Olympic games that he missed 64 years earlier.  Flint jumped at the chance. Not only was he going to see the games, he was finally going to be able to meet one of the cousins, Audrey Thompson, who had faithfully mailed phony letters home to his mother month after month.

But the story doesn’t end there. On June 27th of this year, Flint’s 90th birthday, his entire family traveled back to Israel. Coincidentally, it was also the day of the Israeli Air Force graduation. Flint found himself in front of a crowd of 14,000 people, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all standing in ovation for Mitchell Flint. The head of the Air Force honored him with the rank of commander, a rank of which Flint was unable to accept 64 years earlier.

So, you’d think that this is where the story ends. But Mitchell Flint isn’t quite through yet. He plans to visit London again later this year, and it’s anyone’s guess what stories and honors he’ll come back with this time.


Category: People

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  1. Cheri Olaverty says:

    Loved this article!

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