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Purity of Arms

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Wartime Humor - As Remembered by David Macarov  E-mail
In establishing the Codes-and Cipher Section of the Israel Air Force in Tel Aviv, I needed tens of workers, not only to make up the random-letter codebooks, but also to work in each of the outlying signal stations as well as in headquarters. Since the Air Force operated in English (due to the many foreign volunteers), I went to the head of the Air Force, Aharon Remez, and explained my need. He thought a moment and replied that there were hundreds of airplane watchers on the roofs of Tel Aviv and other cities, and that many of them undoubtedly knew English. He also said he was convinced that the air-watch service was over-manned. So he called in the head of the air-watch section, an old kibbutznik named Zvi, and told him to transfer fifty air-watchers to the Codes-and-Ciphers Section. I am told the conversation went somewhat like this:

 

“Fifty, I can’t spare fifty. Maybe if it is an emergency, I can give them five”.

“Zvi, this isn’t the kibbutz and you aren’t the work manager. This is the army and you are ordered to transfer fifty people”.

“Okay, okay, I understand. I’ll stretch myself and give them ten”.

“Don’t you understand, Zvi? This is an order. Transfer fifty”.

“No, I can’t do that. It would denude my service. Fifteen is my last offer”.

By this time, Remez was laughing out loud.

“Zvi, you are not negotiating a land sale with an Arab. The code section needs fifty people and you are to give them over”.

“Aaron, with my hand on my heart I tell you I can’t do it”.

 

In the end, we got twenty-five new clerks, and Remez told me that was the best he could do.

 

We made up codebooks of random strings of letters by painting alphabets on poker chips, stirring them around, and drawing them out in groups of five. This was tedious work, and in order to keep morale up I usually asked for volunteers among the cipher clerks. We did this work at night, and usually served light refreshments to keep things on a pleasant keel.

 

Source: Excerpt of an article in the American Veterans of Israel newsletter, Winter 2005.