Bush Pardons Man who helped Bombing of Damascus

Bush Pardons Man who Supplied B-17 bombers to Israel in 1948, which bombed the house of America’s military attaché in Damascus, wounding him.

President Bush pardoned Charles Winters, who served 18 months in prison for violating the US neutrality Act by helping to deliver two converted B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to Israel in 1948. The US has promised that it would embargo arms sales to both Arabs and Israelis in 1948.

Private Americans however defied this policy and helped build up Israel’s military. The three Flying fortresses which were delivered to Israel made their first appearance over Syrian skys in July 1948, breaking the cease fire that had been signed by both sides. Israel used them to bomb Syrian positions on the front and in down-town Damascus for three days after the truce had been declared.

The Syrian government complained bitterly to American officials in Damascus that the airplanes proved that the U.S. was not respecting its arms embargo. U.S. officials responded that “the planes had been acquired from American civilians over whom the U.S. government had no control.” All the same, many at the embassy in Damascus were unhappy with this response. They had particular cause to lament America’s inability to uphold the embargo when one of the bombs dropped by a Flying Fortress hit the residence of the U.S. military attaché, badly damaging his house and wounding the attaché himself. The Syrian government censored all press reports about the provenance of the bombers in order to avoid further stirring up the passions of the local populace. 

Here is the BBC article covering the pardon of the US smuggler.

Bush pardons Israel bomber seller
BBC, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The B-17s were Israels only heavy bombers in the 1948 war

The B-17s were Israel's only heavy bombers in the 1948 war

US President George W Bush has granted a rare posthumous pardon to a man who broke the law to supply aircraft to Jews fighting for the state of Israel.

Charles Winters served 18 months in prison for violating the US Neutrality Act by helping to deliver in 1948 two converted B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

In 1961, then Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir commended Mr Winters for his contribution to her country’s survival.

Two others convicted with him in 1949 were pardoned by previous presidents.

President John F Kennedy pardoned Herman Greenspun in 1961, and President Bill Clinton pardoned Al Schwimmer in 2000. Mr Winters died in 1984.


In the summer of 1948, Charles Winters worked with the two men to transfer to Israel two B-17s that he had converted for use in his Florida fruit business.

Winters flew one of the two aircraft himself to Czechoslovakia, where they and a third B-17 were retrofitted to be bombers before being flown to Israel.

The Hollywood film director, Steven Spielberg, was one of the many people who wrote a letter to President Bush in support of a pardon. “There are probably many unsung heroes of America and of Israel, but Charlie Winters is surely one of them,” wrote Steven Spielberg.

The three aircraft were the only heavy bombers in the Israeli Air Force, and historians say they helped turn the 1948 war against Arab armies in Israel’s favour….

 The following quote is from my 1997 Princeton dissertation:  NATIONALISM AND THE POLITICS OF ZA`AMA: THE COLLAPSE OF REPUBLICAN SYRIA, 1945-1949.

As the American military Attaché reported, “July was a bitter month for Syria. Arab acceptance of the Security Council cease-fire order practically ended chances for an immediate success of the Palestine `Jihad.’”[1]On the eve of the cease-fire the Syrian army had repulsed strong Zionist attacks on the Mishmar Hay Yarden bridgehead and had taken a key height overlooking the settlements of Dan and Dafne. Even though the odds against continued Syrian success were overwhelming, the soldiers at the front took the view that “if only” they had not been double-crossed by the politicians they could have pressed forward to victory. To make matters worse for Quwwatli, the Israelis had recently acquired three Flying Fortresses from America which they used to bomb Syrian positions on the front and down-town Damascus for three days after the truce had been declared.[2]When Quwwatli announced the cease-fire, the Syrian public was at the height of martial ardor. The question which plagued the government was whether the Syrian “volcano” would erupt on hearing the news.

            Foreign observers were surprised that it did not. To keep the Syrian capital from breaking out into protests and riots, Quwwatli used every resource at his disposal. In an attempt to deflect blame for the decision, he announced that Syria had voted for the continuation of war and had agreed to the cease-fire order only to maintain Arab League unity. This line, many Syrians believed, was a “first class face-saving device for the Mardam Government.” Foreign sources, however, later confirmed that the government version “was not far from wrong, for all reports indicated Syria had argued against surrender.”[3]

            Jamil Mardam, who since 14 May had been named military governor of Syria and ruled under martial law, took firm action to control crowds and clamp down on the press. The Muslim Brotherhood chief, Mustafa Siba`i, under threat from the government, personally gave the order that dispersed the biggest Damascus demonstration. Barazi ordered prompt police action in seizing leading agitators which caused several other demonstrations to fizzle out.[4]The success of such measures could not last forever. But as the U.S. Attaché reported, the government had been very lucky that “neither Parliament nor the schools, two forces which could challenge even a dictatorship, were in session. But there might be repercussions when they convene.”[5]Indeed, few schools did begin classes in September as scheduled, for they were conveniently housing Palestinian refugees. Moreover, Michel `Aflaq was arrested in September as insurance against student agitation. In taking these measures to suppress public opposition to his government, Quwwatli took a large step down the slippery slope toward military rule.


     [1]USNA, Robert Memminger, charge’ d’affaires, (Damascus) to Sec. of State, “Syria, Monthly Political Review – July – 1948,” (31 July 1948) 890D.00/7-3148.

     [2]Ibid. Though the Syrian government complained bitterly to American officials in Damascus that the airplanes proved the U.S. was not respecting its arms embargo, U.S. officials announced that the planes had been acquired from American civilians over whom the U.S. government had no control. Damascenes found some poetic justice when one of the bombs dropped by a Flying Fortress hit the residence of the U.S. military Attaché, badly damaging his house and slightly wounding the Attaché. The Syrian government censored all press reports about the provenance of the bombers in order to avoid further stirring up the passions of the local populace.




Comments (10)

norman said:


Does that explain the lack of trust by the militery for the politicians in Syria,

December 29th, 2008, 10:11 pm


ghassan said:

Is this an appropriate subject at the time when thousands of Palestinians are being killed and injured?

Is Syria trying to distract the attention from Gaza?

Is Syria as usual only talk?

Where are the “full-men”? Playing on his playstation?

Did Syria sell out Hamas and later Hizballah? For what? Golan Heights, Lebanon, International tribunal, financial aid, or to get out of isolation? Which one?

December 30th, 2008, 1:37 am


majedkhaldoun said:

The Arab needs new leader,all the current Arab leaders are impotent.The Arab people are to blame.

December 30th, 2008, 4:15 am


Sami Moubayed said:

Thanks for the info Josh. It must be noted that while the US was illegally poviding Israel with arms, Syria’s request in 1948, made by Prime Minister Faris al-Khury, who was at the UN, was turned down. Truman hated the Syrians, and will forever be remembered for authorizing the horrendous ordeal of Husni al-Zaim, which toppled President Quwatli, the democratically elected president of the republic. A strange world indeed. I always believed, and have said it in person, that Joshua Landis is a great historian. His dissertation, which is published here, is one of the finest I have read on Syria in the 1940s. Josh, you should get that book out. It is a duty for Syria.

December 30th, 2008, 12:17 pm


Atassi said:

I would love to have a copy of Joshua book.. Happy new year to all

December 30th, 2008, 3:35 pm


trustquest said:

Thanks Joshua for the post.
Timely and valuable piece of information, even the nationalist regime never mention it in any literature.
The expectation that it is a matter of time, in the future the Palestinians in Diaspora around the world will bring or make equivalent to the fortress to Gaza, and the drama will continue.
Happy new year for all on SC forum.

December 30th, 2008, 5:44 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai just cancelled all new years celebrations in support with the Palestinians

December 30th, 2008, 7:14 pm


Akbar Palace said:

And now the rest of the story…

From “A History of Israel” by H. Sachar, 2nd Ed., pp. 327-328

The First United Nations Truce

The Arabs were generally receptive to the idea of a truce, but the Jews were unprepared to accept Bernadette’s limitations on immigration during the projected month-long cease-fire. Eventually a compromise was reached. It provided for a ban to be imposed on the introduction of additional weapons, and male immigrants of military age would be gathered in camps under United Nations supervision (neither side, as it turned out, observed this restriction). All fighting would stop on June 11.

By the first week of July, the number of Arab regular troops in Palestine had grown from 32,000 to some 45,000.

By the truce provisions, neither side was permitted to introduce new troops.

So much for Princeton dissertations….

December 30th, 2008, 8:00 pm


qunfuz said:

Does Sheikh Mohammed think we’re impressed?

December 30th, 2008, 8:38 pm


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