Armored corpsNavy

  • Issue: April 1969
  • Designer: Y. Yoresh
  • Plate no.: 247 - 248
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

The Armored Corps

The armored corps of Zahal, Israel's Defense Army, has gone a long way until reaching its present strength and level. The Israel armored force has attained widespread fame and respect, but it had to overcome many an obstacle until getting this far.

Like many other forces of Zahal, the roots of the armored force may be traced back to Haganah times, when watchmen and mobile patrols were using armored cars during the 1936-1939 riots. The first cornerstone for the armored forces of Zahal was laid during the War of Independence and the events preceding it. These forces grew out of nothing. They originated from the so-called "sandwich armored cars", - trucks and buses protected by steel plates with wooden plates in between. These primitive armored cars escorted supply convoys to Jerusalem and isolated settlements. They bore the main burden in the fight for the vital routes of communication.

The first tanks of Zahal appeared in the War of Independence. These were tanks taken mostly from junk heaps of World War II: Shermans, some Hotchkiss Tanks, and two Cromwells. The first tank was operated from a truck. These tanks were joined by troop carriers, and thus the 8th Brigade came into being, the first armored brigade of Zahal. These armored columns liberated such places as Nazareth, and helped to put the final touch on "Horeb" - the concluding phase of the war, when forces of the Israel Defense Army penetrated into the Sinai Peninsula, as far as Abu Agheila. Up till the Sinai Campaign in 1956, Zahal toiled to determine the course the armored corps should take. In 1954 the armored forces were given the status of a corps. New units were established and new tanks acquired, such as AMX 13 tanks and Sherman, whose guns were exchanged. New courses were inaugurated and men were sent to friendly countries for training. The Sinai Campaign turned the Israeli armor into an accomplished fact. It was the armored force which decided the battle, and its men were the first to reach the Suez Canal, within seven days from the outbreak of hostilities. No one has ever doubted since then, that the armor is Zahal's iron fist. The armored corps has become the decisive shock troop among the land forces, and therefore it has since then received first priority. From the Sinai Campaign up to the Six-Day War, Zahal has turned into an armored force, mainly based on armored divisions. Tanks constitute but part of these divisions.

Along with them, the armored infantry, the self-propelled artillery, the pioneers, the ordnance and quartermaster units started operating. New armored units were organized, mostly comprising reserve troops. Centurions and Pattons were acquired, the Sherman was equipped with the newest 105-millimeter gun and a diesel engine. The quality was improved on, with regard to the material as well as to the professional standard. Large-scale maneuvers were held together with other corps and formations. Border incidents in connection with attempts to divert the Jordan River found the armored fighting forces ready for action.

The Six-Day War showed the armored corps at the peak of its development and amply proved that it had adopted the right way. Thanks to the three armored divisions operating in Sinai it was possible to smash the large Egyptian Army - within four days. The largest battles in "armored history" were fought in Sinai. On the Golan Heights the armored force broke through the Syrian fortifications, and in Jordan it rapidly opened the way to the heart of Judea and Samaria. A new figure of speech was created by Zahal: "in the rhythm of armor." It was a short war, much to the credit of Zahal's armor; a short war preceded by prolonged preparations. Steel won, but behind it was the man handling it, the man operating steel, without whom iron and gun are worthless. The enemy, too, has a lot of armor, but the "armored men" of Zahal, in the regular army as well as among the reserves, are better and more efficient.

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The Israel Navy

The navy is not one of the major forces, but its roots may be traced as far back as the years before the establishment of the State of Israel, to the times of the "shadow navy" of the "ma'apilim" ships (the "blockade-runners" which brought Jewish Immigrants before 1948) and the merchant fleet of the Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael.

Together with the efforts to establish agricultural settlements, endeavors have been made to capture the sea. Both individuals and companies tried to acquire ships whose captains and sailors should be recruited from the Yishuv. In 1921 the first ship - the "Halutz" - sailed between the ports of the Eastern Mediterranean. This was but a motorized sailing ship. In the course of the years it had been joined by many more ships and boats. Quite a number of these vessels were sunk during the Second World War, many Jewish sailors going down with them.

In 1940 the Haganah decided to organize the first courses for sailors. Among them were those 23 mariners who met their death in the depths of the sea while in action on behalf of the Allies against targets of Vichy-ruled Syria. Three years later, in 1943, the first naval units of the Palmach - the striking force of the Haganah - were raised. The first commanders of the Israel Navy came from these forces. They were joined by young men who had served in the British Navy during the World War, and by others who had been trained in seafaring youth organizations. The old ships were selected out of the "shadow fleet", becoming the first warships of the Navy, The first ship used for fighting purposes was a fishing vessel - the "South Africa" - which was equipped with machine guns and sand bag positions. Several months later the "Haganah" and the "Wedgwood" were added to them, each equipped with an old 65-millimeter field-gun. This old-fashioned equipment did not prevent the Navy from going into action during the War of Independence. It took part in various operations, such as shelling targets from the sea, and giving support to the infantry: it even succeeded in sinking the flag ship of the Egyptian Navy.

The faster and better armed frigates were introduced after the war. Later on, two destroyers were added - the "Elat" and the "Yaffo." These two were joined by the "Haifa" (ex-Ibrahim el Awal), a destroyer captured from the Egyptians during the Sinai Campaign, when trying to shell Haifa. The Navy continued to grow: in 1958 an Israel crew brought the "Tanin," Israel's first submarine, from England. A flotilla each of submarines and torpedo boats was set up. Two ships of Israel's Navy made a long voyage along the African continent on their way to the Red Sea to Eilat. Israel naval units paid regular visits to foreign ports on the Mediterranean coast and in the United States. The Navy's docks were growing as well year by year.

In the Six-Day War the Navy demonstrated its resourcefulness and daring. Its preventive operations frightened the enemy fleets. The Egyptian Navy confined itself to its ports, in spite of its superiority in the number of vessels and the arms at its disposal. This was the outstanding achievement of the Israel Navy. But it was not yet satisfied with this. It initiated operations and did not hesitate to enter enemy territorial waters and ports. Naval Commandos penetrated into the harbors of Alexandria and Port Said, and damaged Egyptian Naval vessels. Units of the Israel Navy hit rocket-carrying boats and put enemy submarines to flight. Members of the Israel Navy were the first to land in Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Shorter borders were the outcome of the Six-Day War, but Israel's coastline became five times longer, The Navy was entrusted with new tasks, now being obliged to keep watch along a coast of almost 1,000 kilometers. The war was over, but the dangers facing the Navy have not diminished.

The destroyer "Eilat" was sunk during one of its patrols, and many of its men gave their lives on duty. But natural forces, too, laid hands on Israel's Navy; the "Dakar", Israel's newest submarine being devoured by the sea together with all its crew, while on the way to its home port. But volunteers in ever increasing numbers continue to join the Navy. Each and everyone is ready for the realignment of the Navy, an alignment based on modern equipment and improved arms.

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21st Independence Day