1946 Veterans Air Express crew

UPDATE NOTE 9/19/2016:
Photo-caption update (at very bottom of this Dec 2015 Post) identifies Constantine J. Keloss.

First-hand details & photos from 1946 Veterans Air Express crew members.

Two weeks and four days ago today, I launched on my second-ever trip to meet Veterans Air crew members face-to-face. I flew 3,945 air miles and drove 650 land miles — to, from and within New Mexico, South Carolina and New Jersey for some first-hand, unbelievable meet-and greets.

70 years ago, Broughton and Martz and Cowart were there! Together! On the same crew to Prague.

On my most recent trip, I met two of these terrific men. 1946 Veterans Air Express crew Flight Engineer Thomas Cowart and Navigator Ed Martz. And, during the same time period, I acquired some way-cool Veterans Air photographs via email from Pilot and 1st Officer Dick Broughton’s two sons, Craig and Bob. Broughton, Cowart and Martz are all in this photo captioned Clearing Customs, along with their flight Captain Cooper Walker. (Thomas Cowart will tell us about him later in another Post.)

The photo-feature ran in The Newark Evening News. Fortunately, it was clipped out by Dick Broughton’s grandmother. She cut off the masthead, but we still know what day the photo was taken, even if we don’t know the exact publication date of the story. While rummaging through Ancestry.com in search of a totally different type of document, I found a Crew Manifest. It reveals the men responsible for the first of three known Veterans Air Express UNRRA flights to Prague. And it gives us the date of their return to Newark Airport — 23 April 1946.

22 April 1946 Veterans Air Express crew back from first Prague flight

Dick Broughton, Copilot, kneeling far left. Thomas Cowart, Flight Engineer, standing behind Broughton. Ed Martz, Navigation Officer, to Cowart’s left. And Morgan Cooper Walker, Captain, kneeling on right. Eugene Katz, UNRRA Observer in suit/tie. Remainder of crew – as yet, Unidentified.

Richard N. Broughton flew DC-4's for Veterans Air Express in 1946.

Richard Broughton, Pilot for Veterans Air Express, flew as 1st Officer on UNRRA European flights. PHOTO courtesy of Broughton family.

These men lived this history with my Dad.

Thomas Cowart, 1946 Flight-Engineer, Veterans Air Express, during 11 November 2015 visit to South Carolina by air line fouinder's daughter.

Thomas Cowart, 1946 Flight Engineer for Veterans Air Express. Photo Credit: Gaye Lyn

Edward Martz during visit in November 2015 to his New Jersey home.

Edward Martz, 1946 Navigation Officer on Veterans Air Express’ DC-4’s. Photo credit: Sue Martz.

They were there, making it happen. Sometimes together as part of the same crew. And, now, 70 years later, I was there…in South Carolina listening to Thomas Cowart and in New Jersey listening to Ed Martz tell me about their roles in this great adventure. Thomas’ two daughters, Angie & Joy, are hearing these stories for the first time. So are Ed’s wife Marie and two of their four daughters, Sue and Marie. The information and stories are amazing!

Oh! so much better than my usual solo research…

Look how wondrously different this is from internet searches I normally conduct by myself!

Thomas Cowart with Gaye Lyn, daughter of Veterans Air Express founder, Saunie Gravely, doing some research together.

Thomas Cowart and Gaye Lyn reviewing VeteransAir.org,, the website she created to chronicle this research. PHOTO by Angie Cowart.

Edward Martz and Gaye Lyn during her New Jersey visit to meet this man who crewed for her Dad in 1946.

Edward Martz takes a photo-op break with Gaye Lyn from discussing his vivid memories of flights for Veterans Air in 1946. PHOTO by Sue Martz.

Not
a natural investigative reporter…

Thomas Cowart and daughter Angie Cowart Cheek on 11 Nov 2015 in South Carolina.

Thomas Cowart with his daughter, Angie, during visit to South Carolina, November 2015. Photo by Gaye Lyn.

Marie Martz, Ed's wife, with Gaye Lyn during November 2015 visit to New Jersey.

Marie Martz during Gaye Lyn’s visit to meet her husband, Ed Martz, at their home in New Jersey. Photo Credit: Sue Martz.

My notes from my trip are only semi-copious and sometimes illegible. And, only a few of any photographs taken were snapped by me! Try as I might, I’m not a natural investigative reporter. I am truly there to meet and share stories. I get involved in listening and absorbing the person – and I forget to write or click. You’ll just have to forgive me for missing some of the facts. But, ah! these faces and the accompanying laughter! I hope I captured even an n-th degree of this to share with you.

I’ve found ten 1945 and 1946 Veterans Air Express crew families since April.

Actually, so far, I’ve been in contact with ten families of Veterans who joined Veterans Air Express and I’ve met three of our crew members. You may recall my first “road trip” was in August to Florida to meet Pilot and Operations man Jack Stettner and all of Jack’s “kids,” Ellen, Al and Scott. On the same trip, I reveled in anecdotes from the spirited Marilyn Gries, sadly now the widow of Robert Gries, VAE General Manager. All the families have wonderfully (if not suspiciously, at first) greeted and welcomed me.

Here’s my List, in the order of my finding them: Bernard Shmanske, John Noll, Charles Eason, Robert Gries, Jack Stettner, John Greenleaf, Frederick Foster, Richard Broughton, Thomas Cowart, and Edward Martz.

Duration of the company pales compared to the size of its accomplishments!

I’m so honored. So delighted. So touched. I promise I appreciate to my core the reality of being in their company and/or talking to their families. I kept and keep saying to myself these men knew my Dad, crewed for him, helped him found the air line. All of them, not just the three I’ve met, all of them brought invaluable aviation experience to this endeavor, yes. And now I’m witnessing as well, repeatedly, first hand, the character and spirit they all brought. The “real stuff” that materialized Saunie’s dream. The duration of the company’s existence is of little consequence compared to the accomplishment that it existed at all!

I never expected such an emotional, rewarding experience when I started my research in late April this year (2015).

Gaye Lyn


PHOTO UPDATE 9/19/2016:

In search of Constantine J. Keloss (or Kaless or Keloas) or Gus Kaoss

VAE Captain Morgan Cooper Walker and unidentified crewman shown with three baby cows donated by the Borden Co. for Greece war-relief effort in 1946.

ATHENS, August 1946. Captain Morgan Cooper Walker and unknown VAE Officer. Broughton & Cowart also crewed this UNRRA baby calves flight. Photographer: Dick Broughton

 

Each of these names and possible spellings surfaced in researching the then-17 year old Greek-American lad assigned by UNRRA as the livestock “handler” on Veterans flight to Athens.  Thomas Cowart, our flight engineer, clearly remembers Constantine (aka Gus?).

Keloss is undoubtedly the young man standing between our two crew members in this August 1946 photo with his three “charges,” the cargo passengers on this flight.

Constantine would still be the VAE crew’s youngster at 87 today! 

Athens to Newark Crew Manifest for return flight in 1946 by Veterans Air

Veterans Air Crew Manifest lists Constantine Keloss on 1946 UNRRA flight to Athens.

 

This flight manifest revealed his name for the first time in association with the Veterans Air Athens flight.  It is spelled Keloss.  (Click it for a legible reading size.)  Military enlistment records (which I am 98.5% certain are his) show Kaless. And so it goes.  Tidbit which I’ve yet to confirm is that Constantine joined the U.S. Army the month after his Veterans Air flight to Athens. If “manifest” Keloss “and “enlistment” Kaless are the same, the story is true!

More recently, Richard Broughton’s family provided the photo.

Efforts continue to locate Constantine.  One article said he was from Somerville, NJ.  Another mentioned 4-H.  But, he remains elusive.  Could sure use your help, Dear Reader!

 


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Then & There…

A RECOMMENDED READ and irreplaceable for me: "Memories of the Jing Bao & Beyond," Authors Choice Press, 2001. Written by our own JACK Z. STETTNER - Veterans Air Express Co-Founder, Investor, Pilot and Operations Manager. As well as his considerable WWII experiences, Jack's book revealed new details about Veterans Air Express...plus the spirit and character of this organization that Jack obviously loved!