StandWithUs Honors the “Iron Man” Crew Nearly 70 Years LaterJune 26, 2018
It was a magical evening, to be sure. Dozens of StandWithUs San Diego supporters gathered on May 31, 2018 for an uplifting event in the historical Maps and Atlas Museum of La Jolla, befitting an event with a renowned U.S. aviator. The honored guest was Captain Elgen M. Long, 92, the last surviving member of an Alaskan Airlines crew, who embarked on one of the greatest rescue missions in Jewish history: the secret transport of 1,800 starving Jewish refugees from Yemen to Israel in March, 1949.
Israel was still fighting its War of Independence. Long, then a 21-year old flight navigator for Alaska Airlines DC-4 charter flights (together with three others) flew consecutively for the first seven days of the mission earning the nickname, “Ironman Crew.” They took out seats in the airplane so it could carry up to 150 passengers and completed 12 clandestine runs between Aden and Lydda (Lod) airport.
Their trips became the precursor to “Operation Magic Carpet,” which rescued another 48,000 Jews in 1950.
Although neither he nor any of the other members of the crew were Jewish, they never questioned the necessity of the operation. “It was our responsibility to help those that needed help, and they needed help,” Long recounts.
Shahar Azani, executive Director of StandWithUs Northeast, whose Yemenite grandparents were rescued on one of those missions, introduced the hero. StandWithUs’ Azani took Long to Israel where the people he helped save and their descendants hugged and thanked him for bringing them to the Promised Land.
Sara Miller, director StandWithUs San Diego, stated, “It was remarkable to hear audible gasps as guests drew the connection – they were alive because of Elgen’s heroic and selfless actions. Elgen’s courage paved the way to their very existence! To see the look on their faces, to watch them stare into the eyes of their hero and pour out their gratitude was stunning. Elgen is a credit to all who know him and StandWithUs is honored to be part of his platform in sharing his tremendous and heroic life experiences.”
As one guest aptly put it, “Elgen’s inspiration, positivity, and courage is the nutrition we need to keep our spirits up when we get overwhelmed by negativity.” It will be a long, long time before we forget the kind man whose fierce spirit dared to save a generation.
Guests were given a copy of Captain Elgen M. Long’s book, “On Eagle’s Wings: An Untold Story of the Magic Carpet.”