The Fellowship | February 1, 2019
Lived: September 13, 1924 – September 8, 2010
Why you should know him: Also known as Talik or “Mr. Armor,” General Tal served Israel’s military from her War of Independence until he retired at age 65, gaining renown as a hero of the Six-Day War and an expert in tank warfare.
Born to Zionist Jewish parents in what was then British-mandate Palestine, Israel Tal began his military career at the age of 17, serving in the Jewish Brigade during World War II. Stationed in Italy, he became known as an expert machine-gunner. His military service would continue back home in the Holy Land, as he served during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. He would go on to see action in most of the Jewish state’s wars, including as a brigade commander during the Sinai War of 1956, an armored-division commander in the Sinai during 1967’s Six-Day War, and commanding the southern front of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
General Tal earned his nickname “Mr. Armor” because of his successes with the IDF’s armored division. In 1964, he took over the IDF Armored Corps and revolutionized its doctrine, one of highly mobile vehicles that were relentless in their assaults and were trained to hit targets nearly a mile away. This training would prove priceless during the Six-Day War three years later, as Israel’s armored forces could hit their enemies at much farther distances than before (Egypt and Syria fired their Soviet tanks from only 200-500 meters away). General Tal’s efforts not only carried Israel to victory, but have influenced armored practices in militaries around the world ever since.
Tal also led a team that, in 1970, developed Israel’s Merkava tank. This was needed due to Israel’s desire for independent tank-building of its own, and took into consideration lessons learned from the general’s vast experience on the battlefield.
General Tal, who passed away in 2010, was decorated with many awards during his lifetime, including twice winning the Eliyahu Golomb Israel Security Award (in 1961 and 1973), the Israel Prize in 1997, and inclusion on the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor’s “Wall of Greatest Armor Commanders.”