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.
These men lived this history with my Dad.
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…
See how wondrously different this is from visualizing the internet searches I normally conduct by myself!
However…not a natural investigative reporter.
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.
Thomas Cowart with Gaye Lyn, daughter of Veterans Air Express founder, Saunie Gravely, doing some research together.
Edward Martz and Gaye Lyn during her New Jersey visit to meet this man who crewed for her Dad in 1946.
Thomas Cowart and daughter Angie Cowart-Cheek on 11 Nov 2015 in South Carolina.
Marie Martz, Ed’s wife, with Gaye Lyn during November 2015 visit to New Jersey.
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).
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.
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!
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!