Word + Quiz: sortie – The New York Times


1. a military action in which besieged troops burst forth from their position

2. (military) an operational flight by a single aircraft (as in a military operation)


The word sortie has appeared in five articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on May 8 in “These Jewish World War II Veterans Would Be Legends, if People Knew Their Stories” by Aron Heller:

… Unlike their American counterparts, the Canadians and the Royal Air Force flew their missions at night. Their aircraft had no belly gunners and were at the mercy of Luftwaffe fighters that attacked from below. Whenever they lifted off on a mission, they departed with the knowledge that this sortie could easily be their last.

“The Germans used to come up from the bottom, and boom, that was it,” my grandfather told me in a rare revelation. In addition to flying in daytime, American crews flew en masse, and “they had five or six gunners in each plane, and lots of firepower, so the Germans couldn’t get close to them,” he said. The Royal Air Force and Canadian forces, by contrast, “had a terrible time.”


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