CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Buzz Beurling’s flying career

The Story

On May 21, 1948 news reaches Canada that Second World War flying ace George "Buzz" Beurling was killed in a plane crash in Rome yesterday. Beurling gained fame for shooting down 31 enemy aircraft while serving with the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force. The plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff yesterday. He was hoping to begin a second career flying fighter planes for Israel. After the War, Beurling returned to Canada a hero and crossed the country speaking about his experiences while promoting the sale of Victory Bonds. A devout man with a killer instinct, he acquired legendary status as one of Canada's greatest air aces. In this radio excerpt, the daring pilot speaks to CBC Radio about his experiences and the mechanics and rhythm of flying.

Medium: Radio
Program: Comrades in Arms
Broadcast Date: Nov. 13, 1942
Guest(s): Buzz Beurling
Interviewer: Robert Bowman
Duration: 6:49
Photo: National Archives of Canada PA-161443

Did You know?

• Beurling obtained his private flying licence in 1939. He later entered a flying competition in Edmonton and outperformed more experienced Royal Canadian Air Force pilots. Pleased with his accomplishment, Beurling bragged that if this was the best the RCAF could offer, the country was in a lot of trouble. He was later rejected by the RCAF because of his poor academic grades but he believed his earlier remarks were the true cause of his snub.

• When Beurling returned to Canada after serving with the RAF in Malta, he received a hero's welcome. AC deNiverville, the senior officer for the RCAF, publicly admitted that they never should have rejected Beurling.

• When Beurling transferred to the RCAF, he increasingly demonstrated a refusal to follow orders. A true maverick, he once slipped out of formation, destroyed an enemy aircraft, and slipped back into line again before anyone noticed. At this time, the RCAF was emphasizing team unity. He received an honorable discharge in 1944. He applied but was rejected from the United States Army Air Force. In 1948, he joined the Israeli Air Force.

• Rumors persisted after his death that an anti-Israeli element of the British secret service sabotaged Beurling's plane. Officials believed, however, that the crash was a result of Beurling's inexperience with the plane model.
• Beurling was buried in Verano Cemetary in Rome before being relocated two years later to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Israel.
• Beurling was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973.



Other Second World War more