Lieutenant Colonel (Reserves) Israel Amir (Zblodovsky), the first commander of the IAF, was born in Russia in 1903 and immigrated to Israel in 1923. In the same year, he joined the “Haganah”. As part of his belief that Israel should be built by working its land, in 1924 Amir began to work in agriculture as a laborer in “Mikveh Israel”.
In 1926 after graduating from the commanders course of the “Haganah” in Tel- Aviv, Amir was assigned command of the defense of “Mikveh Israel”. In addition, he served as commander and instructor in the department of Basic Training, in Tel- Aviv. Later, he commanded the north Tel- Aviv front and was responsible for hiding places for weapons. In 1928, the “Haganah” appointed Amir responsible for security of the Sharon region, which included Herzelia, Ramat Hasharon and Kiryat Shaul to the south, and Rishpon and Shefayim to the north.
In 1937 Amir was appointed Director of the underground military industry. Among his main achievements in this position was the planning and manufacturing of 3-inch mortars and shells; perfecting and manufacturing of hand grenades, rifle bombs, and fragmentation explosives. During his time in office he also began the manufacture of submachine guns, and planned the manufacture of bullets.
Amir also served as commander of Nefat Yarkon, and in 1942 he was appointed to head of the Information Department of the “Haganah”. In 1943 he completed the senior commanders’ course in Juara.
On May 1, 1946 Amir was appointed commander of the Jerusalem District. Throughout the time he commanded the district, not one Jewish community was abandoned, and the forces of the “Haganah” quadrupled.
In 1948, Amir was sent to Europe to recruit and train thousands of young Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, in refugee camps in Europe, for combat upon their arrival in Israel.
On May 16, 1948, two days after the State of Israel declared its independence, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion appointed Amir to head the country’s Air Force. Amir held the post for two and a half months, until July, 1948. At the time, the Air Force was comprised of eight light aircraft, and it did not have one useable airstrip. Amir launched an extensive overseas purchasing drive, adding more than 50 aircraft to the Air Force inventory, among them German Messerschmidt fighters, the U.S. made B-17, Commando fighters, Dakota fighters and light aircraft. Amir took part in the founding of training schools for pilots and technicians. During the course of his command, numerous airstrips were constructed, including those in Herzelia, in Ramat David, and in Tel Nof. During the brief course of Amir’s command, the intelligence services in the Air Force were developed and improved. Basic workshops, maintenance units, and air photographs units, also were established. During this period, a number of volunteers from abroad joined the Air Force. By the time Amir left, the Air Force numbered more than 3,000 personnel.
On July 29, 1948 Amir transferred command over the Air Force to Aharon Remez. Amir moved to the defense ministry, which he helped found. A short time later, he was appointed head of the armaments branch. On January 1, 1952, Amir was appointed Director of the Personnel Department. As part of this role he handled the divisions of recruitment and enlistment, rehabilitation, commemoration, and discharged soldiers.
In 1969, at 66, Amir retired. After his retirement, he remained active for many years in various public activities. He assisted in the development and expansion of the “Gapim” company; served as the vice president of the Magen David Adom in Israel; and served as a judge on the Supreme Court of soccer in Israel.