Warsaw May 1946. UNRRA relief story lists Crew names Walker and Fagan

Beginning her civilian life with Veterans Air in 1946, DC-4 NX58003 gets christened as Globe Trotter. Captain Cooper Walker in the cockpit.

Finding Crew is like a rubrics cube.  Lots of movable parts and possibilities.

Two days ago (20 May 2015), I discovered & told you about a news article authored by Don Turnbull. As Secretary of the International Baby Chick Association, Turnbull accompanied the second Warsaw flight to chaperone the delicate hatching eggs by monitoring critical cargo-hold temperatures. But he also wrote an article about the trip that was published in The Weekly Kansas City Star. As well as chronicling war-ravaged Warsaw, in the article, Turnbull identified three Veterans Air crew members by name.  In their order of appearance:

  • Dick Broughton, copilot
  • “first officer” (no name.  Maybe refers to Broughton?)
  • “navigator” (no name)
  • Cooper Walker, Captain
  • Bill Fagan, chief radio man (and possibly the “navigator” Turnbull referred to?)

Prior to this, just about every Veterans Air name known surfaced in Air Transport* magazine, June 1946. My top research priority centers on learning about those people.  They put trust, great effort and, for some, sums of money into joining my Dad, Saunie Gravely, in creating Veterans Air.

So I’m very excited about the Warsaw article in The Weekly Kansas City Star.  Of our three named DC-4 crew members, only Richard Broughton had been listed in the Air Transport story.  And now, thanks to Don Turnbull, Dick is known to us not only as a pilot, but, in this case, as the copilot (or perhaps First Officer) of the Warsaw flight.

The other big reward?  Finding Walker and Fagan who were totally unknown to me before two days ago!  Here’s hoping their family or friends will get wind of this research and tell us more about them…where are they from? what did they look like? did aviation become their career?

Substantive characters, these Veterans!

Once again, I am impressed by the substantive characters who joined Veterans Air. Read some of what Turnbull tells us about them:

  • Then 31-year-old Captain Walker, on this trip, was making his sixty-first Trans-Atlantic crossing.  Read that correctly. “61.”
  • Fagan had flown the hump in China for two years.
  • At the suggestion of landing in Berlin for a briefing before continuing to Warsaw, Broughton queried: “‘Land at Berlin’s Tempelhof?  I personally bombed that field out of existence four times in 1944!'”
  • And, citing Broughton again, Turnbull says that overflying Frankfort had to be “memorable” for  Broughton.  “…just two years previously, he had lost three of the four motors on his Flying Fortress and had made his way safely back to England on one motor.”
The Hotel Bristol in Warsaw, Poland, looking very different than when visited in 1946 by Veterans Air crew & Don Turnbull.
The Hotel Bristol, Warsaw, today. Photo Source Hotel Website.

Don Turnbull and the Veterans crew stayed at The Hotel Bristol.  I just looked it up on the web.  Its grandeur today makes Turnbull’s account of its 1946 condition and roofless lobby even more amazing.  He describes stepping “into the hallway to try to get warm water with which to shave.  There was a team of horses pulling a sled with mortar up the marble staircase.  They were not even using a ramp!”

In SOURCE (below & in Wednesday’s post), I provide you reference details on Turnbull’s article.  If you can get hold of it, you’ll find he makes a riveting first-hand account of the unnerving process of flying in and out of Poland, the sad remains of Warsaw’s rubble, the human ruin, and the challenges of rebuilding the city “…by shovel and hoe…and by hand.”


All direct quotes are from the following:
Author: Turnbull, Don M., Secretary of the International Baby Chick Association
Title: “Drops Into Poland To Find Eerie World of Armed Men.”
Publication: The Weekly Kansas City Star [Missouri Edition]
Date/Page: 5 June 1946: 1-2.
Research Tool: GenealogyBank, subscription. Historical newspaper archive.

Most Veterans Air men’s names were obtained from:
Author: Herrick, George
Title: “Veterans Air Line. Flies…Anything. Any Place. Any Time.”
Publication: AIR TRANSPORT
Date/Page: July 1946: 36-38.
Research Tool: Library of Congress. Provided by Loan Division, Complimentary Copy.

Image of Hotel: The Hotel Bristol, Warsaw, website. Photographer Unknown.

2 thoughts on “Warsaw May 1946. UNRRA relief story lists Crew names Walker and Fagan”

  1. John Greenleaf, Jr

    Just became aware of this web site yesterday and I am excited to learn more about the history of V.A.E. I grew up with stories from my Dad about the startup of the company, and I believe he was there from 1945 until 1946 or 1947. In addition to working for Veterans Air Express, he also flew P-51’s for the NJ Air National Guard, which was also located at Newark Airport until it moved to McGuire AFB in the late 1950’s.

    1. Gaye Lyn Gravely

      John!!!! I am so excited you found my site!!! I have researched your Dad but couldn’t verify that I had the correct military record. Thank you! Thank you! You are the first family member to come to me. this is exactly what I hoped for when I designed the site!!! How did you find the site? Cannot wait to speak with you. What a joy!

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