Bernard Shmanske, one of the first Veterans Air pilots
This handsome young man is Bernard Francis Shmanske wearing his U.S. Army Air Forces uniform. Bernard entered service when he was 21 years old on 2 September 1942. He completed Flight School Pilot Training in December 1943, served on the pilot training staff, and then flew Martin B26 Maurader twin engine attack bombers.
Shortly after his discharge on 17 August 1945, Bernard began exploring how he might make the most of his recent flying experience. Then he came upon a group of 40 Veterans, most young airman and aircraft mechanics, fresh out of service like himself. Lead by a 22 year old AAF Vet, Saunie Gravely, they were founding Veterans Air Express/Veterans Air Line at Newark, NJ, Air Depot. And Bernard joined them. With not much free cash for investment, he still contributed $800 and his piloting skills to the fledgling enterprise.
Since he joined Veterans so early, it is likely he flew some of the first DC-3 domestic cargo trips…maybe even piloting the GAYE LYN. While Bernard did no overseas piloting himself, he did tell his family about an unusual contract Veterans won. They flew a cow (perhaps a breeding bull?) to England. If the flight he recalled was the UNRRA DC-4 delivery of three young dairy stock to Athens, then Bernard was still with the company in late August, 1946.
However, only about four months into his Veterans adventure, Bernard received an offer from the U. S. Post Office that a level-headed, aspiring family man could hardly refuse — a close-to-home, dinner-with-the-family most nights, feet-on-the-ground letter carrier position with benefits. It was the beginning of his life-long career.
The Shmanske family today & my research Chain of Events
Bernard Francis Shmanske, Sr. passed away in 2001. But his story comes to me directly — from his immediate family. It’s my first research success. It happened this week! And I feel JUICED!!!
Many years ago I obtained the only information I was to have on my Dad’s airline until two weeks ago. It was a story, featured in the July 1946 AIR TRANSPORT magazine written by George Herrick, entitled Veterans Air Express …FLIES…Anything, Any Place, Any Time. That article was ferreted out for me by the United States Library of Congress.
Recently (2015), over coffee here in Santa Fe, after a cliff-notes style course on biographical research, I decided to venture forth on my research project. My coach was none other than James McGrath Morris, skilled and recognized biographer, and my new friend and mentor.
I’d like to rough out the chain of events that brought me to Bernard, and him to you! It goes like this.
The New Mexico State Library subscribes to a service that, with some persistence, nets addresses and some phone numbers across the country.
To improve my odds of finding someone — anyone — related, I began searching the less common names listed in the AIR TRANSPORT article…names like TERWILLIGER, MONTANARELLA, MESINOFF — and SHMANSKE.
Well, there was a Bernard Shmanske on the East Coast. What were the chances? I left a shot-in-the-dark phone message. And two days later, Bernie Shmanske (Jr.) returned my call!
He put me in touch with Steve, his brother, on the West Coast (whose name was new to me!!).
Two days later, Steve talked to his mom, Elizabeth (Betty), on my behalf…for whom I had left a phone message days earlier — having NO IDEA she was Bernard Sr.’s wife!
And Steve then referred me to Matthew, the youngest brother, who may be keeper of their dad’s oral history.
Brother-in-law, Richard, via Steve, provided the Honoree document from whence comes the handsome photo.
See how this works???
A HUGE THANK YOU, Mrs. Shmanske, Bernie, Steve, Richard and Matthew. And most especially to you, Bernard, Sr.
All my entries won’t be this long. But today, it is. Because in delivering this tribute to a brave young man who served his country and who had the bravado to join up with my Dad’s dream, I’m excited about who else and what else I will encounter on this journey. Stand by!