Well over 100 people gathered last Wednesday afternoon on the tarmac at Santa Monica airport for a memorial service for Captain Robert Maguire, Jr., who was dubbed the “Irish Moses” for flying 50,000 Jews out of Yemen to Israel in the covert “Operation Magic Carpet” between 1948 and 1951.
Maguire died at his home in Northridge in June. He was 94.
Speakers at the service included hiss son, Robert Maguire III, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Ehud Danoch, the Consul General to Israel, and Lynn Weiner, a reporter who flew on some of the rescue missions.
Rabbi Hier presented the younger Maguire with a humanitarian award on behalf of the United States
The service took place in the shadow of “The Spirit of Freedom,” a DC-4 airplane, the same model that Maguire flew on his missions. Now a flying museum commemorating the Berlin Airlift, it performed a flyby and was open for tours following the service. Both the planes were built at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica in 1945.
Robert Francis Maguire, Jr. was born in Portland, Oregon on January 7, 1911 and started flying as boy. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps the day after Pearl Harbor. When the war ended, he became a pilot for Alaska Airlines. When the airline won a contract to fly Jewish refugees from around the world to the new state of Israel, Maguire was named “Operation Magic Carpet’s ” chief pilot.
When the airline withdraw from the operation, Maguire started his own airline, Near East Air Transport, and continued to transport the Yemenite Jews. He was honored with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Medal of Valor for his efforts in 2004.”Amazingly, Maguire and his planes completed this operation of 380 flights with not a single life lost, not a single plane crashed,” Hier said.