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Survive and Tell (cont.)

The Research and Development Unit

I reported at Yatsa's office and cancelled my leave. Yatsa informed me that he had decided to appoint me head of the Electronics and Electronic Warfare Department. This was at the same level as a department at the General Staff and with a rank of Colonel

He wished me luck and explained what was ahead of me, regarding the job itself and my department. Yasta said that the research and development department mainly produces Staff Papers (SP's), which is the basis for management and decision-making.

He noted three different types of SP's – Excellent, good and bad. Excellent was the type only he knew how to prepare. He expected good SP's that would become excellent, incorporating principle data that could influence the decision making process. A good SP always arrives before the decision is made and can influence the outcome. Bad SP is the one, which details everything in full, but arrives after the decision has been made.

There were some people in the department who had come from the Armament department and some from the Chief Scientist's department.

The people did not sit together and there was no connection between them. Everyone continued to function as if the new unit had not yet been established. There was no office for me, or even a corner of the room that I could use as an office. The office was overcrowded. Yatsa and I had agreed that I would not wear my uniform until I received the rank of Colonel and, till then, I would spend my time getting to know the people in the new department.

I drew up an advanced study plan in the Signal corps and industry and Yatsa gave his approval and blessing. I planned the organizational framework of the department and where to position the people, together as much as possible. I came to the conclusion that I must receive another hut (either an existing one or new). I received authorization for an additional provisional building and was informed that a new building was going to be built within a year. I placed the people in the office according to the new plan, even though some of them were dissatisfied that they had to move around and bunch up in view of my arrival. I was given a secretary, Ilana Kapuza and began to work.

Without an in depth analysis and prior to understanding the work methods, I signed the first contract for a development project with IBM Israel, for the communications corps. The contract was for an in tank communications switching device. I decided that the most important issue here was to be on the map. I showed my people that I trusted them.

On January 9th 1973, I was ordered to report to the Chief of General Staff, David Elazar, where I was awarded the rank of Colonel. This was indeed a celebratory occasion for me. Many of my aspirations had come true. I was working in my profession, at the General Staff, in charge of electronic research and development and being promoted to the rank of Colonel. I had always thought that this rank would be the highest I would receive as someone serving in the Artillery corps, being that the highest rank in the corps during my years of service was Colonel. This job gave me lots of exposure throughout the IDF, at the General Staff and the departments and, primarily, in the defence and private industries dealing with electronics and electro-optics.

The ceremony was very moving. My family, Rivka, Anat, Ofra and Inbal came with me. The people at the bureau, who were used to such occasions, warmly received us and tried to make this occasion very special for us. Dado's deputy, Major General Israel Tal (Talik), was also present. In contrast to the tough image he portrayed, Talik played with Inbal who thoroughly enjoyed herself flirting with him. The girls and Rivka, excited and proud of me, watched the ceremony. I stood to attention and listened to Dado's clear and strong voice who, carefully read the essence of the appointment. I felt as I had felt many times beforehand, during the oath of allegiance in Cyprus and upon receipt of the officer's rank.

This time I was even more moved because I had realized my dream after an unpleasant succession of painful failures that had been a blow to my ego.

The two other moving events had occurred during the natural course of continued efforts and had been preceded by the pain of failure. As referred to in sports programs – "The agony of defeat and the joy of glory".


[20 KB]

General David Elazar (Dado) reads the
appointment letter and the promotion to Colonel

Standing: RtL Maj. Gen Israel Tal, BGen.
Uzi Elam, Inbal, Rivka, Anat's head and Ofra

[18 KB] [18 KB]

After the promotion ceremony, the generals entertain the family


A new era in my career had begun. The year that I had spent at Palmachim and my short chapter at the "Artik" was a marvelous transition period for my new position at the research and development unit. In addition to the experience I had attained, the new people I had met, the conditions and the different mentality to which I had been used to in the army and, in particular, at the antiaircraft array – I had undergone much soul-searching during the transition period. "The Dry Period" was very important for me in order to implement the job at the research and development. I needed to experience failure in order to put everything into perspective and to evaluate my worth and capabilities. Apart from the period where I had studied, I had never had to make great effort to succeed. It was enough that I did what I thought was right and it almost always came to me without effort and naturally.

Now, for the first time, I began to feel differently. I had done my best at the research and development and gained great satisfaction in everything I did. Very quickly I was able to realize my personal strengths and the operational power that the job granted me. I set myself goals and determined standards of behavior for myself in my new surroundings.

My elder brother David had worked for many years at the Ministry of Defense as head acquisitions for the Navy, spoke to me and said that in spite of the fact that he knows me well and he trusts me completely, he felt that it was his duty to warn me not to succumb to the efforts of the "foxes" from the industry to bribe me. He gave me a briefing on how to handle them. David made me swear that I would not make biased judgments against the industry. Even thought his speech seemed to me to be unnecessary and even a little insulting, I am very grateful to him because he made me act with the caution and vigilance that a man holding a governmental position dealing with budgets should possess.

I named the department "Electronic Systems And Electronic Warfare" (ESEW). Even though electronic warfare was part of the electronics, Yatsa wanted to emphasize the "electronic warfare" activities, which, at that time, were very important and very "In". I gave the various branches abbreviated names, a practice used by all military organizations. REW (Radar and Electronic Warfare) headed by Dr. Menashe Simchi. Mr Dov Eden headed the CCC or C3 (Communications, Command and Control). Lieutenant Colonel Shaul Aharoni together with Captain Robi Shechter, Captain Arieh Pick and headed the Fire Control and Enemy Location Branch and Lieutenant Zeev Bauman the electro-optics team. A compact department incorporating civilians and army personnel, veterans and new people, with experience and trainees, permanent and temporary staff, nice and diligent people and few tired individuals.

In short, a wide range of characters without any uniting factors except for a head of department who wanted them to work in harmony and be of use to the IDF and to the MOD, in the best possible fashion.

The one sphere that I had not been acquainted with beforehand and had had no idea of its existence, captured my imagination. This was electro-optics. I heard many explanations, visited factories - Prof. Joe Yaffe's "Rehovot Instruments", the El-Op Company, Uzi Sharoni's "Pan-Engineering" Company and more. I read a lot of material about this field and was excited by its potential, such as Laser range finder and designator, but most with regard to the night vision via low light level starlight scope amplifiers and thermal vision. From the literature I learned that some European countries term this sphere as "Optronics". I adopted this name and very much wanted to introduce it for use in the IDF. To my great satisfaction, I was successful in doing so.

For me, the three years of research and development were very hard on the one hand but a continuing celebration on the other. I established excellent connections with the industry and with IDF purchasers. It was a little more difficult to work with the Air Force because they did not like the R&D Unit, mainly due to Benny Peled's (who had been appointed Commander of the Air Force) attitude.

The Air Force had always liked to do things its own way, without the interference of the General Command. Up till the establishment of the R&D Unit, there had never been a real professional entity at the General Command with enough authority to present a "convincing" assessment to the Chief of Operations Branch or to the Chief of Staff for the various corps. Even the General Command had not been wise enough to recognize the importance of the new technology arm, which it had at its disposal, and did not always know how to use it.

My main task was to establish an infrastructure in the Israeli Industry, including the national laboratories, universities and colleges, in order to lessen the dependence on imported items, especially with regard to special and classified systems. The remainder of my job was to assist the corps in finding solutions for their operational needs and to act as a commercial entity for signing contracts with issues pertaining to research and development.

In order to overcome the transitional problems from development to production, an administration called "Program Management Staff" was established, which was managed by someone from research and development during the development phase and, during the production phase, was headed by The Acquisition Authority. The size of the budget for each department was determined according to the total volume of research and development budget and the nature and importance of the projects presented in the plan.

My department, which received many of its ideas from the industry, was always full of ideas and ready at all times to tackle a new project. We made connections, signed deals with the industries during the first months of the budgetary year.

During the second half of the year, we began using the budgets of the research and development departments with less haste. Every year we utilized a large percentage of the budget and this, we termed, as successful. We undertook a large number of projects, some of them established a product and some just contributed to infrastructure and potential capability.

There were other projects that were withdrawn due to failure or cancellation of the operational necessity. In order to portray a certain picture of the activities - I will detail some of the projects, each one in a different sphere.

My Relationship with Management and the Rest of the Departments

Yatsa left his job as Head of R&D Unit on Rosh HaShana prior to the "Yom Kippur" War (9/73). We bade our farewells to him at the home of Rachel and Zvi Zur (Tschera) who, as Assistant to the Minister of Defense, was directly responsible for the Research and Development Unit. The Zur family lived in Zahala in a very well kept house, but mostly I enjoyed the ambience that the couple inspired. They gave us a very pleasant feeling.

I had only managed to work with Yatsa for a short while. Most of my job was with his assistants Uzi Elam and Yedidia Shamir. Uzi guided me with regards to operational aspects of the department. Yedidia, the scientific deputy, was my direct and chief instructor. I really appreciated Yedidia's approach; he was a most intelligent man with extensive knowledge in many spheres and vast experience in development. Yedidia instructed in a similar fashion as customary in Universities, making observations, encouraging opinions and leaving you to deal with solving problems. Yedidia was a role model for me with regard to scientific caution and his modesty while dealing with experts and inventors with whom he was in contact.

I was on very good terms with all the heads of departments, especially with Dr. Hanoch, Head of Research and Infrastructure Department. I occasionally had disagreements with Yosh Rozen's Ordnance and Mobility Department about territory and at the beginning I could not work with Dr. Arieh Lavi in view of his aggressive imperialism. I once approached Yedidia to receive assistance but he did not return my letter because of the uncultured way I had written my request. Yedidia was right about my style, but I was right about the content of the letter. Over time, I learnt how to work with Arieh Lavi and we even became friends, after I made a special effort to get to know him and his methods.

When Uzi Elam was promoted to Brig General and appointed Head of Research and Development, a good friend of mine, Nachum Dayagi was appointed Deputy Head of R & D. I liked Nachum very much and we worked together in complete harmony.

The Yom Kippur War

On the eve of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) I left with my family and my neighbor-friend Menachem Oz and his family for a holiday in the Sinai. We erected a tent in Dahab, as did many other Israelis. In spite of the heat and the blazing sunshine, we had a wonderful time. The ambiance had a calming effect on everyone there. The Israeli tourists even behaved politely. The sea was calm and clear and this, and the shared experience, characterized the general atmosphere of our holiday. We returned north, just beyond Eilat, in order to become re-accustomed to civilization and our return home.

At work, we continued with our regular load. I was still busy with moving to the new building that had been built for the new R&D departments. I received the first floor level, Research and Infrastructure was on the second floor and the Ordnance and Mobility was on the third. We all drew up work procedures for the departments themselves and between the various departments.

On Wednesday, a meeting was held for Heads of Departments and we still had no clue of what was about to occur two and a half days later. On Thursday, at a special meeting of the Heads of Department, Uzi Elam informed us of the massive concentration of forces in the area of the Suez Canal, in the form of a defensive force, which could easily become an offensive force. This was similar to what had occurred in May that year. Then it had turned out that the concentration of forces was for exercise purposes. In May, Israel recruited reservists and went into high alert procedures that cost the nation approx. two hundred million dollars. The Prime Minister, Golda Meir was upset about this high expense and was more careful this time. This was a summary of what we heard at the meeting on the Thursday. The debates between the various ranks in the Intelligence Branch with regard to the nature of concentration of the Egyptian army continued and the concept that the Egyptians do not have the ability to defeat us was the governing opinion of the Intelligence officials and that of the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense. General de Gaulle's threats prior to and his reactions following the war also influenced Golda Meir's decision not to open a defensive attack, and not to be the first to open fire or instigate provocation, which would prompt war.

On Friday, we heard for the first time that the alert level may be increased and we should all be prepared. At lunchtime that day, Uzi Elam informed us that we might send everyone home. I assumed that reliable information had been received proving that the concentration of Egyptian forces was for exercise purposes only.

On the eve of Yom Kippur, we ate our last meal before the fast. Of all of the Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is the only one I keep in full, meaning that I fast.

The fast is the way I identify myself with my ancestors who kept the tradition and especially the Yom Kippur rituals. Fasting on Yom Kippur is, for me, an annual reminder of the suffering a hunger I suffered in the Mogilev Ghetto and Transnistria. On Saturday morning, on Yom Kippur, the phone range. The Secretary of the Head of R&D asked that I immediately come to my office. I collected my driver who lived in Yehud and on the roads there was traffic, which was strange for Yom Kippur when it is very unusual to see cars on the roads. I saw people rushing out of the synagogues and some driving in cars still wearing their "Talits" (praying shawls). This was an unbelievable sight.

I was informed of the beginning of the combat during the Heads of Departments meeting, which seemed like an orders group.

Uzi participated in the discussions at the General Command and informed us what he was allowed to tell. Uzi read from his little notebook the principle issues and, every now and then, added his own interpretation. The first reports were shocking. In the coming days there were reports of hope, but still not actions or achievements, just appraisals, planning and hope.

Some of the R&D people were emergency appointments. They immediately reported to the emergency units. Some of the officers volunteered and joined their former units. There were those in my department who did this.

It was strange being in the General Command, without an operational job, or even assisting one of the branches that support the IDF during wartime, especially such a hard war that caught the Israeli nation and the IDF with their pants down. The Chief of R&D continued to report to us on what was occurring in the front. His reports were calm and reassuring. He was well acquainted with the commanders in the front and, each time he mentioned the name of one of them, described his skills, which in such hard times was very encouraging. I very much hope that one day the notes that he attached to his notebooks, in which he wrote the General Command reports and helped him to keep us updated, will be published.

The day following the outbreak of war we could hear Sager antitank missiles. These missiles were well known in the IDF but apparently they had not been paid enough attention and did not correctly assess the danger they threat to our tanks. The victories of the armed forces in the Sinai Campaign and in the Six-Day War reinforced our confidence in the armed forces.

On Yom HaKippurim a "surprise" occurred even with regard to the missiles. The concern was great and anyone with a brain in his head, and the issue was important to him, offered suggestions. All of us at the R&D stayed just for that reason, to find immediate solutions to the unforeseen problems that could occur during the war.

We established a "think tank" and results were immediately determined. The Sager missile was navigated by a soldier according to the pink color on the tail of the missile. The idea was to create a flare colored similarly to that on the tail and operate them the moment the missile was fired. Within 48 hours, the Military Industry created a flare which seemed very promising during the testing process. We had to find other means for exposing the missile or the firing post. Being that the navigator used an optical system, we considered an active apparatus that would reflect the ray from the telescope. Uzi Sharon, from "Pan Engineering", had previously worked on such a system – the "Retro Reflector" or, as the Americans called it – Optical Augmentation.

Dr. Bar-Lev, who had developed the Shafrir air-to-air missile while he had been at Rafael, was now working at his own company in Jerusalem. He offered a complete RADAR system for detection and tracking, a small anti-tank missile to destroy the missile while it was still in the air. Many other ideas were put forward, some of them were developed and some were perhaps implemented. We received word from Golan Heights about the severe problems that our planes were encountering due to RADAR directed guns which the Americans called the "un Dish". This was a 4-barrel 23 mm gun on a tank chassis with RADAR and a firing computer system. We were interesting in laying our hands on this, in order to study it for developing counter measures.

I received a message that the Syrians had abandoned a number of such anti-aircraft guns in one of the minefields in the Golan Heights. I organized a rescue and transport squad, which included 2 tank carriers, a tow truck and an engineering squad to remove mines and proceeded on my way. Within 24 hours after receiving the message, I had placed two complete, operational guns at the Air Force Technical School in Haifa where the Air Force assembled the equipment it had recovered from the enemy.

I did not feel that I was making a great contribution to the war effort, but I definitely did not feel that I was doing my best. I did not have an operational position. The antiaircraft array was very active and did the best that it could. The Egyptian air attacks, the wounded and the damage that they left behind, cause the IDF and even the Air Force to change their attitude towards the antiaircraft corps. Meir Shariv, who was commanding the antiaircraft forces, did not need any reinforcements. He did not call me, nor Moshe Tamir, who had returned especially from Japan where he was serving as IDF Attaché and had not received any particular posting in the array.

When the fighting ceased, the IDF was spread out to the west of the Canal, in Africa, and the antiaircraft array had spread out next to the forces to defend them. I asked Meir Shariv if I could visit the units and to my delight he said I could.

Meir, with good will, transferred orders to assist me. I flew to Refidim (Bir Gafgafa) where Avraham Oren was in charge of the Sinai region. Oren gave me the use of a driver and a jeep and I toured the antiaircraft units and, at the same time, I saw the battle areas from both sides of the canal. I met with hundreds of soldiers and officers and spent many days in their company. We talked about the past, about the war, about the battles and, occasionally, they expressed their grief and criticism that I had left the antiaircraft array. I very much appreciated the assistance granted to me by Meir and Avraham Oren so that I could visit the soldiers and I also got the impression that, in spite of the criticism that I heard here and there, they were fulfilling their duties at a higher level than I had given them credit for when they were younger. I returned to Tel Aviv full of experiences but with great concern with regards to how we would manage to uphold such a large array of forces for such a long time, far from our little country, which had limited financial resources. We were lucky that the Egyptian's status was intolerable and, therefore, talks began on separating forces, exchange of prisoners and retreat to an area nearer the previous borders.

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