Uziel Gal, inventor of the Uzi submachine gun died Saturday, September 8, 2002 of cancer at the age of 79. He was living in Philadelphia where he had moved in 1976 so that his daughter, Tamar, could receive treatment for a rare brain disorder. His daughter died in 1984. His wife died there in 1984. He has one son surviving him, Iddo.
Mr. Gal's life was one of turmoil. He was born in Germany in 1923, the son of a painter. He went to Jewish schools and when Hitler came to power in 1933 his family decided not to wait for what was likely to happen to them and they fled to England. The family immigrated to British Mandatory Palestine in 1936, when he was 13, and settled in Kibbutz Yagur, a collective farm near Haifa. There he attended Jewish technical schools and at an early age showed a talent for making weapons. At age 15, he developed a bow that could fire arrows automatically. In 1943 he was arrested by British officials for carrying firearms illegally and sentenced to seven years in jail, but was pardoned three years later. During his imprisonment, however, he studied mechanical engineering, and continued his weapon making after his release at Yagur, producing arms for the Jewish underground.
Gal served in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, bringing his own homemade machine gun to the lines. He went to officer training schooland rose to the ranks of Lieutenant-Colonel and was assigned to design a submachine gun for the Israeli army. The Uzi was delivered to the army in 1956. IMI,Israeli Military Industries wanted to name the gun after Uziel, but he requested that they not as he didn't want any world attention drawn to his family and himself. IMI overruled Uziel's request and named the small gun with it's simple loading mechanism and 10 rounds-a-second speed the Uzi.
Gal spoke four languages; English, German, Hebrew and Arabic and became quite active in sales promotion of Israeli arms throughout the world. Uziel continued to develop weapons, even after he moved to the United States in 1976. His latest project was a new machine pistol, the UZI 201. Iddo Gal said his father continued working in the arms trade, but had long considered applying his talents elsewhere. "He had thought of working in orthopaedic medicine, given his skill with steel," he said. "But then again, he figured that if you are good in something, and you are protecting your country, you might as well stick with it."
"Obviously, he was proud to be identified with the product of his craftsmanship," Gal's son, Iddo, said in a telephone interview from the family home in Pennsylvania. "But he was also a modest man who made efforts to move on to other things." He said Gal's remains would be brought to Israel for burial in his former home of Kibbutz Yagur.