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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Famous picture of TWA pilot in Beirut faked

In a piece in which he raises the possibility that terrorist Imad Mugniyah's death was faked (a possibility I would discount), CNN's John Clancy reveals that the famous picture of TWA pilot John Testrake aboard hijacked Flight 847 in Beirut (see top left) was faked. (Hat Tip: Ouwet)
Let me take you back to Beirut, Lebanon, in June of 1985, where I was covering a hostage situation for CNN.

It became the very image of terror. On the runway at Beirut International Airport, a TWA pilot looks down from the cockpit window as a "hijacker" holds a gun to his head. What a remarkable coincidence that the media was there to capture the moment.

But it wasn't what it appeared to be.

The gunman was actually a teenager. He hadn't been one of the four men who hijacked TWA flight 847. He was nothing more than a security guard for a few crewmembers left aboard the jetliner while 40 other hostages had been hauled off to Beirut's southern suburbs.

He just wanted to be on television.

I was permitted to sit down and talk with pilot John Testrake while he was still held hostage. Testrake told me the teenager saw a television news crew approaching and insisted on staging the photo. He became agitated when Testrake refused.

So determined to get his "Kodak moment" as a terrorist, the young man had unloaded the gun and handed it to Testrake to prove it was empty. Testrake told me he only agreed when he feared the young gunman might become unhinged if he didn't get his way.

The so-called "face of terror" photo was really a picture of media manipulation.
I guess 'fauxtography' has a longer history than we all thought.


At 12:18 AM, Blogger John Testrake said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:21 AM, Blogger John Testrake said...

While it's true that the gun held to Captain Testrake's head was unloaded, there were other guards aboard with loaded weapons ready to be used. It's true that the gunman was a teenager, but perhaps we should consider that many terrorists are teenagers and their victims are just as dead. The crew was kept under armed guard with orders to shoot to kill. Captain Testrake was able to persuade the gunman to empty his weapon through the forcefulness of his personality, but he certainly didn't hold the chips in the situation. Had the gunman wished to press the issue and hold the loaded weapon to my father's head, there would have been nothing anyone could do about it. Captain Testrake was my father.

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Classy said...

Your Dad was an awesome awesome man. I wish I could have met him.


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