296th Night of Memory

Memories on Honors of Pilots

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


As reported by Iranian Oral History Website, 296th session of Holy Defense Memory Night was held in Soore Hall of Hozeh Honari in the evening Thursday, October 25, 2018. In this assembly, Hossein Katouzian, Alireza Namaki and Mahmoud Mahmoudi expressed gallantries of the pilots during the holy defense.


A monthly mission that lasted one year

The first narrator was pilot Hossein Katouzian. He said, "One month before the war, I was missioned by President of that time and Commander-in-Chief to go to Shiraz for a month. Exactly on the last day of my mission, I was ordered to fly a plane toward Tehran for repairing and maintenance. The aircraft was repaired and was supposed to be prepared to return to Shiraz at 5 p.m. At 2 p.m. in the same day (September 22, 2018), I discovered they had attacked Mehrabad airport and other airports in the country. I got to the airport and I realized that a 707 aircraft had been burnt where aircrafts were parked, and effects of quivers had caused to damage to other planes, including the aircraft that I had brought for repairing. I asked the flying group to repair the aircraft as far as possible with a special adhesive that is resistant like cover of the body. The flight crew vectored so that I could fly. I flew to Shiraz at a low altitude and speed. Maybe it was my honor to be pilot of the first airplane that appeared in Iran's sky after the Ba'athist attack. I got the plane to Shiraz airport safely. While it was my last mission day in Shiraz, I agreed to stay in Shiraz for one year.



Our mission in Shiraz was started. It was my pride to send special courier to bases by my aircraft. There was a room in Air Force headquarters called War Room that experts gathered in this room and formulated the war program. They wrote it with a pen and put it inside an envelope that its inside was painted in black and was not visible in any way even in front of the light. This set of missions was placed inside a special bag that its password was in hands of the destination. My mission was usually to take the cargo to Mehrabad airport between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. by a helicopter. I also undertook mission of eastern bases of the country. I flew from Isfahan airport to Bandar Abbas. After performing my mission, I flew from there to Bushehr. Unfortunately, all missions were accompanied by fire anti-aircraft defense, and then we went from there to Shiraz. Our mission was begun at Mehrabad Airport around 3 or 4 p.m. and was finished at 12 midnight. I continued this operation as I gained the first place, 19 grades more than the second rank, among pilots of base-1 in Mehrabad and base-7 in Shiraz in the first six months of the war and I was promoted for several months out of turn. Moreover, I undertook to be safety officer of base-7 and did a fairly good service.

I remember that one of our tanker aircraft flew from tarmac-13 of Shiraz Airport at midnight. That plane was very heavy and its wing hit a rig at the end of the runway. About four meters from right wing of the aircraft was avulsed. The aircraft-707 had gone to a mission. In a refueling, when they wanted to refuel from its right wing, they found out that a part of the wing was not existed. Pilot landed with his tact and artfully to Shiraz base at 7 o'clock in the morning. My mission in safety department was started here. I got photos and videos, as when my commander asked, what's up? I presented to the base the entire situation along with video, along that part of the aircraft which was remained.

In one of my missions, I experienced a very big incident, and it was that during one of my flights from Ahwaz to Shiraz, on the way, my right wing struck a fighter aircraft. We hailed each other wavingly, and I went and landed in Shiraz airport. The next week, in a family party, the host, had invited pilot of the same fighter aircraft. Without knowing me, he narrated that he was in the area last week and had a combat air patrol. The radar reported that an enemy aircraft was approaching the sensitive centers of the country and they should be ready to destroy it. He approached me and did not know that I was inner. There was a velitation between the pilot in command and the rear seat pilot, since the rear seat pilot was ordered several times to shoot, but it was God will and firing button didn't work. Eventually, here was a conflict between the two pilots and pilot in command said if you do not press the button, I'll have to betray you as soon as I land; they were ignored the fact that another science worked there. If that fighter aircraft shot, it would certainly hit me because of large size of my aircraft."



Narrating gallantry of Reza Labibi

The second narrator of 296th session of night of Memory is master pilot of Phantom. He was present in battle of breaking Siege of Abadan and was one of pilots of Bushehr Air Base. The pilot Alireza Namaki said, "Air Force memoires from the war are very different with memories of the ground force and the navy force. When the pilots approached their target, it was like a single combat and it could be even said that war of one person with a few people. The air force had two kinds of missions: a strategic mission and a tactical mission. In strategic missions, as a leader of the platoon, I wanted to strike a refinery. I needed fire support and some other aircrafts had to come along with us. The leader of the platoon should be able to get information and news of the target. We certainly needed support so that if a pilot fell into the enemy's territory, he would know what to do so that a helicopter came and took him.

We had a courageous and extraordinary pilot named Reza Labibi. In a flight in which we flew from behind, his fighter was shot and he was captured. He got high posts in Iran after captivity, because he was a very brave gallant. They introduced us a petroleum center and said it should be destroyed. We attacked the oil center three times, failed twice and we could not hit, but last time we struck it, as it was burned for a week. Reza and I were supposed to do this mission together. We exercised this mission with two aircrafts for five days, and in the sixth day we headed for the mission. A person who adjusted our flights and had replaced Mahmoud Zarabi as head was sitting in my rear cabin. He was a laser expert and could shine laser radiation at target. Reza Labibi carried two 2000-pound bombs. We flew in absolute silence and went all the way at low altitude in a way that radar of Iraqi cannons also did not include us. We moved the path to the goal in this way. We once had hit this oil center and this time supposed to blow its buildings. As an aircraft shone laser light to the target and another one dumped the bombs. The bombs followed laser beam and precisely struck at target. We went with two aircrafts, arrived at the target and then separated. We increased altitude according to the tactic we had predicted. Everything was according to the plan. If there was a problem, I should say Reza to not bomb. I shone laser and Reza dumped the bombs and heightened. I saw a missile followed him. He was fleeing from that missile. I was in high altitude, and if they fired rockets from below, it would not get me. As I looked to see if the bombs hit target, I saw that they struck near target. I found out at the moment I was saying to Reza "a missile is behind you", a person sitting in my back cabin, took his head from target system in order to see the rocket did not hit himself, while I was pilot and if the missile moved to struck us, I would guide the aircraft and I would not let this happen. Unfortunately, the bombs were wasted. I was saddened by this and bombarded the target and quarreled with the rear cabin pilot that why did you do it. The pilots, even those who are professional, when they are following a target, should not think of anything other than doing right their task.

In another operation, we were supposed to hit a refinery. Reza was also in aerial platoon in front of us. They reached the target and poured the bombs, but they struck Reza. He had told me before going to mission that "I'm no longer amazed for fight, I'm tired." He was captured that day and was captive for about ten years. We went after them and fired that refinery."


Distress of captivity and comrades

The third narrator of the session was an Azade (released from captivity) Brigadier General, pilot Mahmoud Mahmoudi. He said, "People like Shahid Akbar Burani were so distressed during captivity that left us very easy. I always told him God situated you in the captivity in order to be our comrade and helper. He was extraordinary. God created his hands to do art works. He was tailor, cook, architect, builder and blacksmith, and was skillful in painting and painting. He was excellent in all these arts. He really had been captured to just serve us. When I served in Hamedan base, I had the honor of be with him, and only I was commander of battalion in terms of hierarchy. In Bushehr, I was before great Amir (2nd brigadier general) Alireza Namaki. He has a very literate pilot and had good flights. He was a very valorous and role model young who remembered Amir (2nd brigadier general) Reza Labibi very well and well-spoken. He was really one of our excellent pilots. I honor to be with them.



Here I introduce two of comrades who had been in prison for 10 years with me as missing, without contact with family and without visiting the Red Cross: pilot 2nd brigadier general Yousef Ahmadbeigi and pilot 2nd brigadier general Mohammad Haddadi. We were 28 pilots and 30 non-pilots who so-called had been packed in gunnybag by Saddam. I was superior of a platoon which had been captured. They initially kept us in two different wards. They did not even allow us to go out together for airing, but when we went out, we talked through the small windows that were available for airing in ward. After pursing and conflicts that I had with the warden, they opened the door between our wards and allowed us to visit each other. We sat in cells and went out for airing together. From one to two hours in a week, our airing gradually resulted in a time that they opened the door for us from morning till evening, and all of these were done through hunger strike and much pursuing. You know by these two of my friends as handful the whole sack who were role model of patience and resistance, so that as a commander I did not feel have a problem in captivity.

Apart from having spent two years as a pilotage student in the United States, I went there two times during my career. One was a six-month period for electronic warfare and operation information. Operation information included captivity, keeping captives, interrogation captives and resistance to interrogation. As ordered by commander of a base in which I worked, I was obliged to teach what I had been trained to pilots about 15 minutes each time in military morning routine for eight hours. Pilot trainings were very important in captivity. The pilots I taught know that it was not possible to kill a captive in captivity. A captive is very valuable; first, he/she is source of information; secondly, captive number is very effective in captive exchanges. From the beginning of my captivity to February 7, 1981, I was in solitary confinement for a hundred days, and then I joined the crowd. When I joined the crowed, I noticed that some of pilots had done things that even hurt themselves due to lack of familiarity with situation of keeping prisoners. They (the enemy) rack a captive brutally, but would not kill him."

Mahmoudi continued, "I am 75 years old and I was born in Sari. I entered pilotage school in 1964. They dispatched me to United States after graduating preliminary courses and passing basic flight training and being accepted in them -Americans tested us in terms of speaking English and flight- and spent flight trainings there for two years. When I returned to Tehran, I was missioned to work F-5 fighter battalion of Mehrabad. In 1966 or 1967, I was transferred to Phantom fighter battalions. In 1970, I was transferred to Hamedan and I was a fighter aircraft until I went to Bushehr and became battalion commander, and I had honor to work with Mr. Namaki there. In Mehrabad, I was head of the base and on the very day that Saddam Hossein attacked, it was about two o'clock that I had arrived at home and I hadn't take off my dress that they called and said: Go back to the base immediately, they struck all our bases. I went to Mehrabad and saw that fighters who were in nest had not been hurt, but they damaged the fighters that were in front of repair shop. All air and military units throughout the world predict that their best and friend neighbor country one day to be their enemy. As Iraq was our neighbor and we had the same religion that Saddam Hussein suddenly went out of his mind and came in the afternoon September 22, 1980 and hit our bases.

We always had operational projects, and I was an author of the projects because of courses I had passed. Based on those plans, we did operations with aircraft that had become ready, and attacked their bases in the next morning; such as attack on Rasheed base that we conducted with eight aircrafts of Tehran, and I had honor of flying one of them. I did supporting our troops in several air missions in Abadan and Ahvaz that had been surrounded by Iraqis, because when we went to Iraq for operations in the first day, we had a gasoline problem, and when we returned to Mehrabad, gasoline warning lamps had been turned on. When we were doing aerial refueling on the way coming back, we were so numerous that I could not stay in refueling turn, because my fighter gasoline might was not enough to bring me to Tehran. This was the situation and our pilots went the whole hog and fought bravely and heartily and took Saddam down a peg. When I was captive, I heard roar of these aircrafts that came and bombarded Rasheed base. Hearing sound of these aircrafts enlivened me. However, after ten years minus 27 days, I returned to Iran as a missing. After being 5 to 6 days in quarantine, they gave us to our families."

The pilot continued, "From October 17, 1980 to February 7, 1981 when I joined another captives, I was in solitary confinement and it was a very difficult time. When the captive authorities came and brought food and ice and fruit on the part of Saddam to us, I returned those gifts, because I knew rules of Geneva. Iraqi soldiers thanked me for not accepting those gifts because they themselves took them. They called Saddam, Quaid-i-Azam (Grand Leader), and I called him Saddam Hossein. I protested why we should not visit opposite ward that you have imprisoned some non-pilot? Why should not we relate to our family and exchange photo? Before separation, I was one year with friends who later they separated them. They kept half of people, including the two friends I mentioned and me, in the same prison in Abu Ghraib and took the other half to the camp. Those who went to the camp, regarding their relations, mentioned us in their letters to inform our families of us. People like us who had been left missing had no particular advantage. From I who was brass hat to noncommissioned officers who were sergeant major and warrant officer where among us. There were people from the navy too. Pilot martyr Lashkari was also with us. He was first captive. He went with Lieutenant Nemati to identify borders and Iraqi anti-aircraft struck them. At that time, Iraqis even had occupied some of our border checkpoints and Saddam Hossein had invaded our territory. Nemati died a martyr and Lashkari was captured. When we were released, Saddam held Lashkari. He was released eight years after us and pressures of captivity lead him to have a stroke at a young age and died."

At the end, Mahmoudi said, "Campus of ​​Rasheed prison that we were had gravel and sand. They did not give us shoes and we walked with slipper. My son's name was Sam and Iraqis told me AbuSam. I was so close with my comrades that they told me Baba Sami (Sam daddy). Akbar Burani, who was versatile, told me: If you can take them necessary material, I will cement floor with your help. We had a Shia Arab warden who was intimate with me. I asked him to give us gravel and sand that was outside our campus in order to pave there. The same warrior friends whom I introduced brought gravel and sand bags and we emptied them and Akbar Burani shaped it block by block like an engineer. He opened a water path if it rains to have slope and water goes out through the exit. The officers who came to visit the prison asked wonderingly, who did make these? The Shia warden showed us and said: These made. Those officers asked they are pilots, aren't they? How did they make these? He showed Akbar Burani and said they created these under his supervision. We eventually forced them to bring shoes for us. At early, they allowed to go for a walk twice a week, but later we could walked from morning till evening, and we scheduled one hour to be football hour, one hour basketball, and they determined times for other people to walk and running. I did all these with support of these friends and I have proud of them. Their biggest virtue was that they never had any demand, because if demanded, we should took Iraqis by insistence. We ate what they gave us and thanked God. We mashed meat they gave us by plastic cups. Akbar Burani made food and cutlet with the same meats. Iraqi authorities told me where is here you think? How many days do you think you stay here that make such requests? I said: We follow line of Imam Ali (AS) and live as if we are leaving this world every moment and live again as if we are eternal in this world.

I loved football and now too. Once we played and pilot 2nd brigadier general Hossein Zolfaghari was with opponent team. We jumped together to head the ball. A severe blow hit just my spinal cord and I fainted. God bless him, Ahmad Kottab who was with us, based on the memory my wife later narrated, after I fell down, he put his hand in my mouth and prevented closing my mouth and returning my tongue into my mouth and strangulation. For a long time, my teeth trace stayed on his hand. After this incident I infected to diplopia. They gave us two dates in a week, and I was very interested in date. Akbar Burani came to me and said: Baba Sami these four dates for you, and I would say him: You are spoofing me. You know that I have diplopia and you have brought two dates but you say I have brought four dates, and Akbar laughs. Eventually, the guys struck and forced them to take me to hospital, and I was hospitalized for a week. They took an image my brain and fortunately I had no brain injury. After a while, I opened my eyes in a morning and found that I saw the light just one."

At the end of the session, there was book launch of "An Inscription in The Sky (Katibe'i Bar Aseman)" on the Sky" containing memories of pilot Second Brigadier General Akbar Sayyad Burani, attended by wife of the deceased.



296th session of Holy Defense's night of memory, managed by the Center for Studies and Research on Resistance Culture and Literature and the Center for Resistance Literature and Art, was held in Soore Hall of Hozeh Honari in the evening Thursday, October 25, 2018. The next session will be held at early Azar (November/December).

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