On September 11th, 2003, family and friends gathered at Kibutz Yagur cemetery in Israel. It had been one year since Uzi Gal had been laid to rest there and they came to pay their respects. Uzi's grave site sits under the pine trees, just at the foot of Mt Carmel. Beside him is his wife Ahuva's grave and around him are three generations of the Gal family. The grave stones are simple, as is the custom at the Kibutz. Those that came remembered the long and fruitful life of a man that left his mark on the world. Following is an abridged version of Uzi Gal's biography that was read at his funeral:
Uziel (Uzi) Gal was born on 15 December 1923, as Gothard Glas, to Erich and Miele Glas in Weimar, Germany. His parents divorced when he was young and he grew up mostly with his mother, in a farmhouse filled with antiques, including some old weapons. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, his Jewish school moved to England with all its students. In 1936 he joined his father who emigrated from Germany to Palestine and settled in Kibbutz Yagur.
After graduation, he joined the Palmach (underground infantry forces of the Hagana) and specialized in weapons maintenance. In 1943 he was arrested by British forces (who ruled Israel until 1948) after being caught with a gun, and was sentenced to six years in prison. After over two years in prison he was pardoned and returned to Yagur in 1946.
During the 1948 war of Independence, Uzi participated in several battles in northern Israel. After the state of Israel was established in May 1948, he was sent to an officer-training course, and while there, demonstrated the submachine gun prototype he had developed on his own in Yagur. Uzi was sent to work at the Israel Military Industries to continue developing the gun. After over two years of development and modifications, The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) adopted the new weapon as its official submachine gun and named it UZI, after its developer, despite Uzi's protest.
The UZI was first released to Special Forces in 1954 and was later used in the 1956 Sinai Campaign. Its widespread use in actual combat and the success of the IDF in that campaign helped create worldwide recognition for the UZI. Several countries, such as Holland and Germany, bought production rights.
The Israel Military Industries has sold over 1.5 million units since 1956, and its engineers later developed other weapons (e.g., the Mini UZI and UZI pistol) based on the original design. Uzi, however, never received royalties for his work on the original UZI. (As a career officer, he felt that he should not receive such royalties because his creative work was part of his normal duties and his contribution to the country's security).
Uzi served in the IDF until 1975 and retired at the rank of Lt. Colonel. During his 27-year service he worked on various projects. He won some of the highest national awards for his work on developing the UZI, including being the first recipient of the Israel Security Award, which was presented to him in 1958 by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
In 1956 he married his second wife, Ahuva Frankel. Tamar, their daughter, was born in 1961. Ahuva devoted most of her time to helping Tamar, who suffered from brain damage and needed special treatment and attention in order to benefit from regular schooling. In 1976, soon after Uzi retired from the IDF, the family moved to Philadelphia to enable Tamar to participate in a specialized treatment program. Tamar, who was a caring, cheerful and humorous person, died in 1984 from a brain tumor, and was buried in Kibbutz Yagur, Israel.
In the USA, Uzi continued to work as an independent developer on various designs and projects until his last days. Uzi passed away on September 7, 2002, after a year of fighting cancer, and was buried in Kibbutz Yagur near Tamar and Ahuva.
Despite the UZI's fame, Uzi Gal was a modest person who made many friends in his
non-assuming way. His life required him to cope with many varied and challenging
events. Uzi will be remembered for his distinguished service and contribution to
Israeli national security and pride, for his extraordinary creativity, and for
his dignified and humanistic approach to life.
May his soul rest in peace.
Special thanks to Iddo Gal, Uzi Gal's son, for providing this information and some of his personal photos exclusively to UZI Talk.
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