Mitchell Flint, a fighter pilot who flew combat missions for the United States in World War II and for Israel in its War of Independence in 1948, died of natural causes Sept. 17 at his Los Angeles home. He was 94.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Flint enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 18, following in the footsteps of his father, who served as a combat pilot in World War I. The son trained as a fighter pilot and saw action in the Pacific in numerous dogfights and dive-bombing missions. He was awarded three Air Medals and eight Navy Unit Commendations.
Flint attended UC Berkeley, but with full-scale war between Israel and five Arab nations breaking out in 1948, he clandestinely became one of the first Americans to join Israel’s legendary 101 Squadron.
He explained his motivation in a 2012 Journal interview, saying, “I’m Jewish, Israel desperately needed trained fighter pilots, so I thought I could perhaps do something to sustain the state.”
After surviving 50 missions and two crashes, Flint flew above the 1949 Independence Day parade in one of 12 aircraft that made up Israel’s entire force of fighter planes. He was the last survivor among the dozen pilots.
Flint is believed to be the only wartime combat pilot to have flown the four greatest fighter planes of that era — Corsair, P-51 Mustang, Germany’s ME 109 Messerschmitt and Britain’s Supermarine Spitfire. Israel used a version of the 109, bought from Czechoslovakia.
Back in the U.S., Flint earned his law degree at UCLA and established a family practice, from which he retired after 50 years.
A recent book, “Angels in the Sky,” by Bob Gandt, details the exploits of Flint and his fellow foreign volunteers during Israel’s War of Independence.
Flint is survived by his wife of 59 years, Joyce, and sons Michael and Guy.
The family requests that any memorial donations be directed to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at fidf.org