Arts & Culture
4:22 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Pilot Gino Narboni On His Incredible Life And Autobiography

Now here's somebody who's led an interesting life.  He’s Gino Narboni. And no, he’s not Italian.

“I started in North Africa, in Algeria,” he said.

He’s a softspoken 90-something-year-old man now, but what a life he’s led. He ran off to join General de Gaulle’s free French movement. When they asked him what he wanted to do, he said, "I want to fly. Ha! I was barely 20 at the time.”

The free French didn’t have any airplanes then, but Gino eventually got his wish.

“I was sent to the United States for pilot training,” he said.

Narboni learned to fly, but as to seeing combat, the wars kept ending.

“When I finished (flying school) the European war was over, so I was slated to go to Japan,” he said.

The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki put an end to that, so he entered medical school in Paris. But yet another world event altered his plans: Israel.

“And Israel was looking for pilots," he said.

The young country had a huge need: "To fly airplanes from Europe to Israel.”

Israel faced an unusual problem though.

"There was no recognition of Israel by most European countries,” Gino said.

That meant he had to fly a bizarre, indirect route to get to Israel by going through what was then Czechoslovakia.

If you’re thinking, "My God! This sounds like a great novel!" according to his wife, Charlotte, you’re not the first to say so.

“Everybody at the end says, ‘You should write a book!' " she said.

So Charlotte and Gino co-wrote “When I Grow Up I Want to Be…” And she said she loves what they've created.

“It’s a great story. And you know the thing is: I learn new things every day!” Charlotte said.

Gino's story actually goes a lot deeper: He became a doctor, an American citizen, and flew night missions in Vietnam.

“There’s always more things to learn with Gino," Charlotte said.