It doesn’t seem that long ago, but on July 4, 1976, the United States was set to celebrate its Bi-Centennial. Massive celebrations were set to take place across the USA but then a small Special Operations unit from a smaller Middle Eastern nation stole the spotlight with a daring raid that was stunningly executed.

Israeli commandos from the Sayeret Matkal known to the soldiers in it as only “The Unit”, stormed the Ugandan airport at Entebbe under the command of LTC Jonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu. There they freed about 100 Jewish hostages and 12 people from the flight crew from a combined force of terrorists and Ugandan troops.

The raid was a brilliantly executed Special Operation. Only one Israeli soldier, Netanyahu was killed along with three hostages. Another Israeli paratrooper was paralyzed by a gunshot wound to his neck and another hostage, Dora Bloch, who was taken to a hospital was murdered by Amin’s soldiers after the raid.

Benjamin ‘Yoni’ Netanyahu

Airplane Hijack Begins Siege: On Sunday, June 27, Air France’s Flight 139 left from Ben Gurion Airport, made a stopover in Athens, and then took off towards its final destination in Paris, with 248 passengers on board. At around 12:35 pm, four terrorists—two German and two Palestinian—hijacked the plane.

The hijackers landed briefly in Libya where they took on more terrorists before flying down to Entebbe, Uganda which was run at the time by the dictator Idi Amin. The hostages were led into the terminal building where they were guarded by terrorists and Ugandan soldiers. There the Jews and Israelis were separated from the other passengers.

On the 29th, the terrorist decided to release all the non-Jewish and Israeli hostages. But the Air France crew refused to leave their Jewish and Israeli passengers. This set-in-motion the operation that would be known as Operation Entebbe. This was a critical time because once the hostages were released, they were flown to Paris, and an Israeli officer interviewed a few of them. The hostages described where the Israeli hostages were located, how many terrorists there were, the floor plan of the building, and other important details.

A Mossad agent flew a light aircraft over Entebbe and pretended to have engine trouble. He took photographs of the area and reported that only dozens, not hundreds of Ugandan soldiers were guarding the building. That fact was corroborated by released hostages in Paris. That convinced the Israeli government that the mission had at least a modest chance of success.

The Israeli plan was to land 4 C-130 Hercules aircraft with 33 members of Sayeret Matkal on the tarmac of the Entebbe airport. There they would have a limo disguised as Idi Amin’s with soldiers dressed as Ugandan soldiers along with jeeps filled with commandos. Once they got close enough they would storm the terminal, kill the terrorists guarding the hostages with just six members of the unit. The rest would eliminate any remaining terrorists and soldiers.