Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Airman Nathan Narboni, Flew for Israel, France and U.S., Dies at 92

— Nathan “Gino” Narboni, a veteran of the French Air Force who volunteered to fly a combat plane during Israel’s War of Independence and also served in the U.S. Air Force, has died.

Narboni died July 16 at his home near San Antonio, Texas. He was 92.

Narboni, who was born in a Jewish community in what was then French Algeria, was the son of a prominent physician and had planned to attend medical school.

He joined the French Air Force in 1943 and trained in the United States as a pilot on a B-26 bomber. World War II ended before he could serve in combat, however.

In July 1948, at the age of 25, Narboni secretly flew a cargo plane into the new State of Israel, evading an embargo set up by the United Nations and the United States, and became a part of the Mahal brigade comprised of volunteers from abroad. Mahal included some 4,000 Jewish and some non-Jewish volunteers from the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Britain, France, Scandinavia and approximately 20 other countries.

“Why did I come to Israel in 1948? I was not brought up in a religious atmosphere, but my family and I felt strongly about our Jewish heritage,” Narboni told The Jerusalem Post in an interview published in June 2014. “I had a skill that Israel could use, so I decided to volunteer. Today, I am still attached to Israel.”

Following the war, Narboni flew as a pilot for Israel’s national airline El before eventually returning to his medical studies.

In the mid-1950s he immigrated to the United States, serving as a flight surgeon, including a one-year tour in Vietnam during the war there. He retired as a colonel from the U.S. Air Force in 1981.

Narboni worked another 22 years as a civilian doctor in San Antonio before retiring.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and two daughters, Nicole and Cecile.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.