The Jan. 19 editorial “Stiffing an ally” should have reminded readers of the 1986 “stiffing” by France of its ally, the United States. In retaliation for the West Berlin discotheque bombing and other Libyan-sponsored terrorist attacks, the United States launched Operation El Dorado Canyon against Libyan targets. This massive air attack was designed to cripple Moammar Gaddafi’s ability to continue targeting several nations, including France. In a finely coordinated attack, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps carrier-based aircraft struck targets in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The U.S. Air Force’s mission in the attack was nearly thwarted when France, our “NATO ally,” refused to grant overflight rights for U.S. F-111 bombers flying out of RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. The French obstruction added more than 1,300 miles to that mission, requiring additional aerial refuelings for the Air Force aircraft, adding distance and risk. Those airmen had to fly around France and Spain and through the Straits of Gibraltar before reaching their targets in the morning darkness of April 15, 1986. One airman, Capt. Paul F. Lorence, is still missing in action from that raid.