Giora Epstein - “The Ace of Aces”
How many aircraft would you need to shoot down to tie with the world-record holder of aircraft downs?
Known as the “Ace of Aces” Giora Epstein now Giora Even is the Israeli fighter pilot whose quick thinking, fast reactions, and good instincts earned him the nickname “Hawkeye” in the Israeli army.
Giora joined the IDF during the Sinai War, with the intention of becoming a paratrooper, but was rejected for a heart condition. It was only after he completed his service with the IDF that he reapplied for flight school, his stubbornness proving successful this time. Giora began training as a fighter pilot for the Israeli Air Force in 1961.
The Battle For It All
Over the course of three wars, Giora Even broke the world record for aircraft kills in his fight for Israeli sovereignty and security. It was October 20th, 1973, and the Yom Kippur War was in full swing, and Giora Even found himself surrounded by as many as ten Egyptian aircraft. His comrades fell back, but he refused to give up and ended the battle with a score of 4:0 in favor of Israel.
Giora Even fought three wars for Israel. His first down was an Egyptian Sukhoi-7 during the Six-Day War in 1967, and the count continued to rise during the War of Attrition with 4 more downs. In only three days, he managed to bring down twelve enemy aircraft during the Yom Kippur war in 1973.
For his courage and abilities, Giora Even received the Medal for Distinguished Service, one of Israel's highest military honors. He continued in the Air Force as the commander of Mirage and Kfir squadrons and was still flying missions until his 59th birthday. When he retired from the army service as a Brigadier General of the Israeli Air Force, he continued flying, but as a captain for El Al Airlines.
Oh, and if you weren’t keeping score, the answer is 17. It took three wars and 17 aircraft for Giora Even of the Israeli Air Force to break all records and become a warrior of the sky.