Saunie Gravely. Meet my Dad!

Saunie Gravely, President of Veterans Air Express and Veterans Air Line — and my Dad!

Saunie Gravely, in DC-3 cockpit, points cigar at aircraft named GAYE LYN, after his daughter.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

He was twenty-two years old – yes, 22 – when he founded an all-veterans commercial air service in 1945. They flew freight and passengers out of Newark Air Depot (NJ) under two names….Veterans Air Express and Veterans Air Line. For easy reference, I call them both Veterans Air. The adventurous troop of mostly men and a few women which my Dad assembled for this endeavor are the object of my research.

The DC-3 named GAYE LYN

And so is the fleet of military surplus aircraft they purchased. Meet my favorite – the DC-3 named GAYE LYN! Her turned-up nose taxied around hoisting my name within weeks of my birth in November 1945.  That proud Papa is sporting a cigar pointed at the nameplate from the cockpit.  You think this is a treasure for me???

As has happened to so many of us, I didn’t know to ask my Dad about his airline when I was a kid. So now, this site will chronicle my efforts and catalog my findings in hopes you know someone or something that I need to know.

Freshly discharged from the United States Army Air Corps, the proverbial ink still wet on his USAAF flying license, I do know Saunie lacked even two nickels to invest. But he met lots of other vets like himself…new pilots needing work and wanting desperately to keep flying. They motivated him and, from what I’ve read, his enthusiasm did likewise for them.

Cargo to Europe & passengers in the US  – 1945 / 1947

His initial “squadron” of veterans helped form, fund, fly and operate the air carrier through 1947. They flew cargo to Europe and passengers between cities up & down the East coast, across the southern States, and along the West coast to Seattle.

From 1945 through 1947. Doesn’t sound like much duration, does it? But I’m betting it felt monumental to this all-veteran organization and the two civilian executive and finance v.p.’s. They marshaled many moving parts (no pun intended) into a company that grew to 104+ employees by July 1946 when George Herrick, aviation journalist, wrote a feature article for Air Transport magazine.* Herrick’s story is an invaluable cornerstone of my research. It forms 80%+ of my sidebar, Can You Identify… He captioned his list: “They Founded An Air Service By Working Three Months For Nothing.”

Know something about someone on my list?

Engage with me here. I’m very new to this…only five weeks, with a long way to go. But I’ve already spoken personally with sons and a daughter of two Veterans Air pilots. An unfathomable thrill for me! Much of what I continue to dig up will require verifying. So if you know someone or something, please feel free to jump in.

Gaye Lyn

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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!