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Purity of Arms

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Abe Goldes of Toronto (About radar)  E-mail

After the Declaration of Independence, the Flying Club emerged into broad daylight, surprise-surprise, as the Israeli Air Force.  Of airplanes it had precious few, mainly Piper Cubs, Fairchilds and a Beechcraft Bonanza flown into the country by the two intrepid Cyrils, Steinberg and Katz, Arthur Cooper, Tuxie Blau, Leslie Chimes, flying three Fairchilds, Boris Senior in another Bonanza, the first to arrive, and Alf Lindsay (N/J) who flew up in the Rapide Air Ambulance. Of experts,  both genuine and self-declared, we had many.  A constant stream of discharged servicemen from South African, American, Canadian and British shores started arriving, not all Jewish.    Cyril Steinberg and Cyril Katz belonged to a newly constituted squadron flying large transport planes to Czechoslovakia to pick up supplies, not at bargain prices, including Czech-built Messerschmitts in crates.  On occasion, they flew across Egypt to hurl a few bombs overboard, just to show that there was some ill-feeling.  The erstwhile German Messerschmitts were unpacked from their crates and re-assembled in the dirt and dust at Sarona. How they performed and who flew them I do not know.  Perhaps an abler pen will take up the task and let us know what really happened in those exciting harum-scarum times.

Then the Radarmessiah appeared in the shape of Moshe (how very appropriate) Ettenberg. A real-life Doctor of Science, an American radar maven, previously with Sperry-Rand Corporation in the USA,  premier manufacturers there of radar equipment.  Fluent in Hebrew, well-versed in the arcane art of military bullshit, both American and Israeli, he gathered up all the loose threads, including diverse radar personnel from the afore-mentioned countries.  We were constituted into what was christened (for want of a more suitable word)  Tayeset 505, alias Squadron 505. the mysterious and wholly miraculous radar unit of the IAF, charged with the task of guarding the state against enemy marauders, threatening by land, sea and air. Why dafka 505 I do not know.  Where 503, 504, 506 and 507 were I do not know.  Maybe they existed in Moshe's imagination.

What a crowd we were! All these prima donnas Moshe moulded into a genuine squadron, complete with establishment table, headquartered in Sarafand, erstwhile British base south of Tel Aviv.  The effete hierarchy of the Royal Air Force would have been proud of us.

It was hard to float in such a rich sea of technical talent.  With my inferior radar talent, I knew I would not survive long.  There's a limit to bluffing.  I was fortunate in being put in charge of the Electrical and Mechanical Department (known to insiders as the E&M) at HQ.  Our assignment was to attend to all mechanical and electrical equipment, including transport, power supplies, wiring etc. but excluding the more sophisticated radar and communication equipment which was handled by the Radar Dept. We set up a comprehensive workshop, equipped with what we filched from ex-British army bases and what we commandeered (militarese for filched) from vacated Palestinian workshops, mainly in Jaffa.
Initially, usable radar equipment was next to non-existent, almost as easy to find as a pork shop in Meah Shearim.  Then a growing stream of decommissioned American equipment started arriving.  These had been gathered by a team of technical wizards in the USA and shipped out to us surreptitiously.  Maybe someone has already told the story of these people.  If not, it is high time the task of chronicling their exploits is taken up.

Our role in the E&M Dept. was, in conjunction with the Radar Dept (commanded mainly by Reuben Joffe, also a civil engineer from South Africa) to build up transportable radar stations for deployment along the coast, mainly to protect Tel Aviv and Haifa.  These were manned and womanned by wartime radar operators.  Among them was Morrie Smith, now an investment counselor in Toronto and married to one of the women operators (Miriam U.K., now a well-known potter) on the station he commanded.  Obviously he was not wasting his time purely on technical matters.  Please note I mention these matters to show what a versatile lot these radar pioneers were.

Who were all these diverse people from many lands, Jewish and non-Jewish, who combined to establish, operate, develop and expand the very first early-warning entity in the Holy Land since Caleb?  After the lapse of so long a time it is impossible to recall all the names.  Maybe closer examination of the archives of the IAF will resuscitate all the names so that grateful later generations can pay them justly-deserved honour.  If some names are cited herein, no discredit is implied to those many whose names and personae have vanished into inappreciative history.

Some are:
1.    Charley Braudo, originally South African, latterly Royal Air Force, Ettenberg's deputy.
2.    Ellie Isserow, (South African) ace machinist in the E&M dept, irrepressible funny man, in his latest years a poet of no mean distinction.
3.    Max Kangisser, (South African) internal combustion engines expert, who wet-nursed the prime movers we needed for generating power and moving our equipment.  Undisputed champion in the art of breaking women's hearts.
4.    Ecker, (Israeli). Quietly spoken electrical engineer.
5.    Yoram Boehm. Yeke commanding the stores
6.    Chupchik. Yoram's Man Friday.  Chief antidote to his boss's inflexibility
7.    Miss Rutti-Tutti-Putti-Frutti.  Exquisitely proportioned secretary in Ettenberg's office. Supremely cheeky and invulnerable.
8.    Feigela.  Secretarial factotum in Ettenberg's office. Later became an architect or engineer, I believe.
9.    Reuben Joffe.  Officer in charge of the Radar Dept. at Base HQ in Sarafand.  Alumnus of the SSS* in the South African Army.  Civil engineer who became a radar guru en passant.  Resumed his civil engineering career after the War of Independence.  Served far and wide in Africa, Israel and elsewhere working for Israeli and American construction firms. Wonderfully methodical and competent in all he undertook.  
10.   Jack Segal.  (South African) Doubly qualified engineer in both electrical and mechanical engineering.  Product of the SSS*.  Worked mainly in the radio and radar departments at 505.
11.   Asher Bar Natan. (Israeli)  Suave sabra (not too many of them around).  Adjutant to Ettenberg.  Seemed destined to be a diplomat.  Given the chance would have done a much better job than Netanyahu.
12.   Mike Miller.  (South African)  Top mechanic-cum-electrician in the E&M Dept.  Married one of the Machal girls in the unit.  Moved to California where he was unfortunately killed in a motorbike accident.
13.   Dorothy Jackson.  U.K.  Used to be a senior officer in the RAF radar operator network.  Her fiancé was killed in air combat in Israel.
14.   Max Barlin. (South African) Radar specialist from the SSS*.  Left Israel to become an architect in South Africa.
15.   Maurice Ostroff. (South African)  Motor-biking radar guru from the SSS*, where else.
16.   Syd Suttner.(South African)  Electrical engineer from S.A. SSS* Alumnus.  Had the brainwave of prime-moving some electrical motors we had acquired, so converting them into much-needed power generators for our radar stations.

With the aid of these and many other talents both Israeli and from abroad, the foe was thrust back and the Squadron firmly established, only it seems now to lapse into never-never land and be forgotten by a fleetingly grateful Israeli public.

SSS*  Special Signals Service