Another interesting figure involved in Israel’s rebirth has passed away.
Mike Flanagan, an Irishman, fought in the British army during World War II and participated in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. After the war, he was stationed in British Mandate Palestine as a technician in the armored forces. On June 29, 1948, Flanagan, alongside his friend and tank commander Harry McDonald, broke into a military base near the Haifa airport, stole the two tanks and drove them to Tel Aviv where Hagana operatives were waiting.
The tanks were hidden in Givatayim and later formed the basis of the Israeli Armored Corps. McDonald and Flanagan joined the Israeli troops and fought in the Mahal volunteer unit during the War of Independence.
“Grandfather said he wanted to stay in Israel and help the weak, the Jewish Yishuv, fight against the Arabs,” his grandson, Lior Hertz said Saturday. “He had sympathy for the Jews.”
Toward the end of the Second World War, Thomas O’Sullivan of Bantry, County Cork, decided to join the British army. He was assigned to the Coldstream Guards which was the first unit to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After the war he was transferred to the Sixth Airborne Division and was posted in Egypt along the Suez Canal. In 1947 his unit was moved to Palestine where his anti-British sentiments led him to befriend some members of the local Hagana Jewish underground. One night, fortified with a few belts of whiskey, O’Sullivan roared out of his base in Haifa with a “liberated” Cromwell tank. It was the Jewish state’s first tank.
O’Sullivan stayed in Israel to fight in its war of independence and married a Jewish girl who had been raised in the Cayman Islands. Eventually they moved to Louisiana, U.S.A. where they raised a family together. Their son, Ephraim O’Sullivan, was a policeman in New Orleans when the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973. He decided to enlist in the Israeli army and serve the fledgling Jewish nation. After the war he worked briefly as a policeman in Israel before deciding to return to the United States. Ephraim pursued a career in law enforcement and went on to become the police chief of Ocean Springs, the first Jewish chief in the history of Mississippi.
Ephraim “Fred” O’Sullivan collided with history when he was involved in investigating the JFK assassination.