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Former Israeli Navy commander Shmuel Tankus dies at 97

Shmuel Tankus, fifth commander of Israel’s Navy, who trained generations of sailors, from the pre-State days and on, died at 97 on March 4.

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"He was an extraordinary person who trained entire generations of naval officers both for the IDF’s Navy and Israel’s Merchant Navy," former Navy commander Ami Ayalon said. "This man made a huge contribution to the State of Israel. On a national level, his contribution as a naval trainer maybe even exceeds his legacy as the Navy commander."

Tankus, who was born in Jaffa and studied at the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, helped Jewish immigrants who came to Palestine by ship, and sailed to Europe three times to help them leave their home countries. In a memoir on a website for Israeli sailors, Tankus told of bribing Yugoslav police, avoiding concentration camps in Czechoslovakia, and struggling to get religious immigrants to disembark in Palestine, even though Shabbat had begun.

After establishment of the State of Israel, Tankus and other veterans of the “Palyam” pre-State naval service helped found the Israeli Navy, a small but elite force to this day. He rose to become naval commander in 1954. The Israeli Navy has 3 corvettes, 10 missile boats, 3 submarines, 42 patrol boats, 6 support ships, and 19,500 personnel, according to online sources.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org.

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