Al Schwimmer – the man and the vision
1958 passport used by the founder of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Not many can be seen today, when looking back at their lives and past achievements, with admiration and with high respect. Those people, whose actions have placed them among the list of leaders or heroes that helped to change a country or contribute to its development and its safety, are a rare breed that once in a lifetime have been placed among us. Such individuals existed throughout history, for example: Roosevelt, Truman, Churchill, De Gaulle and more. These individuals today inspire us all and remind us of what mankind can strive to and what one can achieve and do, not for oneself, but for ones country. And such an individual exists also for the State of Israel. Actually Israel has several past leaders and heroes, but this article will deal with only one, that in my opinion, and surely in the eyes of others, can be placed into this list of brave and courageous individuals.
Al Schwimmer was born in 1917 in the US. His attraction to planes began at a young age and also a career with Lockheed Corporation contributed immensely to his work later on. During World War Two he was a flight engineer assisting the US air transport command while working with TWA. After the war he returned back home.
During Israel’s struggle in the war of independence, Al Schwimmer got involved in assisting by smuggling parts & airplanes into the young country and thus contributing in the development of the IAF (Israeli Air Force), not only as a pilot but also in the engineering aspect, logistics and maintenance. A year later, in 1949, he returned back home, even after knowing that he would be arrested upon his arrival. The charges placed against him in 1950 were breaking the US Neutrality Act, by the smuggling of planes into Israel. Such an act was seen by him as the right and moral thing to do, mainly after learning about the Holocaust. Events that took place after the trial in the early 1950’s put him on the track that would have a profound change not only for him but also for the State of Israel.
Around the year of 1952 Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben Gurion approached Al Schwimmer. At this time he was working at an aircraft maintenance company in California. He was presented with the idea of leaving the US and come to Israel to establish a center that would offer services to both civilian & military planes. He accepted the proposition and arrived in Israel to establish such a company in 1953, later to be known as the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), or as it was called then “The Institute for the Testing of Planes” or “The Bedek Aviation Company”.
From then onwards he served as its first CEO, resigning in 1978. During those many years his work took him around the world to many countries: West and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and even Iran, that until 1979 had close relations with Israel and close corporation in both civilian and military projects.
Al Schwimmer passed away at the age of 94 in 2011 at Ramat Gan, central Israel.
It’s the acts of individuals at times of great need, putting themselves at harm’s way that makes them remembered years later for their heroic and selfless acts of courage. Al Schwimmer can surely be seen as a man that devoted all his life and mission in the protecting and developing the country that he loved so much and would become his home for the rest of his life.
Hope you enjoy the sampled images from his passport, added here. Among the photos is a 1958 resident permit, applied into his passport, issued by the Ministry of Interior because, as stated inside, he works at the Bedek Aviation Company.
I thank a fellow collector in Canada for sending me the images.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.