IAF Commanders

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Yisrael Amir

May 1948 - July 1948

Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Yisrael Amir (born Yisrael Zabludovsky(, the Israeli Air Force's first Commander in Chief, was born in Russia in 1903, and in 1923 emigrated to Mandatory Palestine. The same year he enlisted in the Haganah. In 1924, influenced by pioneering ideology, Amir turned to agriculture, working as a labourer in Mikveh Yisrael, the yishuv's first Jewish agricultural school.

In 1926, on completion of the Haganah Commanders Course in Tel Aviv, in addition to his work as a labourer, Amir took charge of the defence of Mikveh Yisrael and was placed in command of the New-Recruits Platoon in Tel Aviv.

Later, he was responsible for the North Tel Aviv Front, and for concealing weapons. In 1928 the Haganah placed him in charge of the security and defence of the Sharon Area, which included Herzliyah, Ramat HaSharon and Kiryat Shaul in the south, and Rishpon and Shefayim in the north.

In 1937 Amir was made manager of the underground military industry. Amongst his main achievements were the design and production of many kinds of ammunition and weapons, including three-inch mortars and sub-machine guns. Amir also spent time in charge of the Yarkon District, and in 1942 he was appointed head of the Haganah's news service. In 1943 he completed a senior Commanders Course at Joara.

On 1st May 1946 Amir was appointed commander of the Jerusalem District. Under his rule not one Jewish settlement was lost, and the size of the Haganah's force grew 3-4 fold. In February 1948 Amir left for Europe to train thousands of young Jewish refugees, many of them Holocaust survivors, in preparation for their emigration to the Land of Israel and in order to fight for the Jewish homeland.

On 16th May 1948, two days after the establishment of the State of Israel, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion appointed Amir the first Commander in Chief of the Israeli Air Force. He served in this role for two and a half months, until the end of July 1948.

When Amir was appointed, the IAF consisted of eight usable light aircraft, but not one functioning airstrip. Amir began an extensive acquisition operation abroad, and by the end of the "ten days" (the fourth stage of Israel's independence war), the IAF had grown to around sixty functioning aircraft, including Messerschmitt, B-17s ("Flying Fortresses"), Commandos, Dakotas and additional light aircraft.  Amir helped open the IAF's technical school and in establishing the content of numerous professional training courses, including the pilot training and air crew courses.

Under his leadership the Herzliya Airbase was established, and began functioning as a base for combat aircraft as early as 2nd June. Numerous other airfields were absorbed into the IAF's growing infrastructure, including the Ramat David Airfield, which was improved for use by the Bomber Group, the Tel Nof Airfield, which was used by the Air Transport Group and many other airfields around the country.

During the same period, the IAF enlisted numerous foreign volunteers, and by the time of Amir's departure had grown to more than 3,000 people. Amongst the units established during Amir's time as commander were the IAF Intelligence Services, workshops on bases, maintenance units and aerial photography units.

On the 29th July 1948, Amir passed command of the IAF to Aharon Remez, in order to help establish the Ministry of Defence. Within a short period of time he had been appointed head of the Ordnance Branch.

On the 1st of January 1952, he was appointed head of IDF Personnel, and as part of this role he dealt with departments responsible for enlistment, rehabilitation (including care of older veterans), memorials, dealing with discharged soldiers and more.

Amir retired from military service in 1969, at the age of 66, but continued to work on numerous public projects, serving as Vice-President of Magen David Adom (Israel's ambulance service) and in many other roles. Yisrael Amir passed away on 1st November 2002, at the age of 99.

Yisrael Amir
Yisrael Amir