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US pilot Harold Livingstone, who helped start the Israeli Air Force & wrote Star Trek, dies at 97

Harold Livingston, one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force and a screenwriter and novelist, appears in the documentary, 'Above and Beyond,' in 2014.

Harold Livingston, an American aviator who helped found the Israeli Air Force and later hit fame as Star Trek screenwriter, died on Thursday at the age of 97, according to a report in The Times of Israel.

Livingstone was born in 1924 and raised in Haverhill outside Boston. He served as a radio operator in the US Army Air Force in World War II after colour-blindness prevented him from becoming a pilot.

However, in early 1948 he became a pilot as a friend, who owned a small airline, offered him a job to carry weapons to the Jews in then-Mandatory Palestine, The Time of Israel report states.

His friend Irwin Schindler, an American Jewish pilot gave his airline, Service Airways, to the pre-state Haganah militia to use as a front for its operations as various arms embargoes — by the United States, United Kingdom and other European nations — prevented the Jews in Mandatory Palestine from openly purchasing military equipment.

Livingston was one of the first people to join what would eventually become the Israeli Air Force, according to the newspaper.

Livingston also helped recruit more aviators, scouring stolen military records for pilots with Jewish-sounding names.

Once Service Airways illicitly acquired transport aircraft and found enough aviators to fly them, Livingston and the others made their way in US military surplus Curtiss C-46 Commando airplanes from the US to Czechoslovakia, from which they would transport material to Mandatory Palestine.

The Jewish militias in those days faced a major shortage of arms and ammunition. 

The Times of Israel states that despite the American air volunteers’ crucial role in the 1948 war, their contributions were underplayed or ignored by the Israeli government. In recent years, however, a number of books and documentaries have been produced about their efforts.

Apart from supplying arms, Livingston and his team also conducted some bombing raids with the C-46 transport planes by rolling bombs out of the doors as the country at the time didn’t own bomber aircraft. Later a track was installed to make this exercise safer and more accurate.

Though Livingston was fiercely committed to helping the nascent State of Israel, he considered himself to be an American.

He was also opposed to the move to merge the Air Transport Command with the newly formed Israeli Air Force in late 1948 as that could endanger his American citizenship.

A short time later, Livingston completed his commission and returned home to the US. He wrote his first book a few years later, “The Coasts of the Earth,” a novel about American aviators who volunteered to fly for Israel. He wrote two more novels before moving to television, writing for a number of shows in the 1960s and 1970s, including “Mission: Impossible” and “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

In 1979, he wrote the script for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” which was a box office hit and has since gained a cult following.

Livingston revisited his time literally getting the Israeli Air Force off the ground in 1994, writing a 262-page book about his experience, “No Trophy, No Sword.”

He is survived by his daughters, Leah Livingston Hopkins and Eve Livingston, his son, David Livingston, and his nephew, Robert Livingston.