In a gesture of forgiveness for an American considered a hero in Israel, US President George W. Bush on Tuesday granted a pardon posthumously to a man who broke the law to supply aircraft to Jews fighting in Israel's 1948 war of independence.
Charles Winters was listed in a batch of 19 pardons and one commutation that Bush issued before leaving for Camp David to spend the holidays. No high-profile lawbreakers were on the list.
In the summer of 1948, Winters, a non-Jewish Miami businessman who exported produce, worked with others to transfer two converted B-17 "Flying Fortresses" to Israel's defense forces. He personally flew one of the aircraft from Miami to Czechoslovakia, where that plane and a third B-17 were retrofitted for use as bombers.
The three B-17s were the only heavy bombers in the Israeli Air Force. It is reported that counterattacks with the bombers helped turned the war in Israel's favor. In March 1961, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir issued a letter of commendation to Winters to recognize his contributions to Israel's survival as an independent state.