DC-4 converted at Sebring FL ops base

Sebring ops first conversion.  C-54 to DC-4.

On June 4, 1946 – still under the city’s “revocable” right-of-entry restrictions – a fifteen-member Veterans tech team arrived in Sebring, FL – two days before the company’s second U. S. military four-engine C-54 was positioned at Hendrix Field.1

In the next two weeks, the crew completed a sizable interior overhaul and a paint job that converted the “war bird” into their “sleek Silver and red cargo” DC-4, complete with Veterans livery and tail number, NC57777. 2

Oranges for juicy christening and Mayoral gift. 
It is Florida after all!

On Monday morning, 17 June, the DC-4 was christened “City of Sebring.” With orange juice! Mrs. Opal Harris, a member of the Sebring airport committee, was assisted by Mayor M.F. McGee and Veterans Air Manager at Hendrix Field, R. B. Collins – both standing back to avoid a citrus shower. The aircraft was “test hopped” the same afternoon, and on Tuesday flown to Miami for weighing in.3

[Dear Reader, I would have brought champagne for Mimosas if someone had invited me!!! But, no, not likely…I was barely 7 months old at the time!  🙂 Gaye Lyn]

A week later,  in his role as founder and President, Saunie presented Vincent Murphy, Mayor of Newark, NJ, with a crate from the DC-4’s first shipment – a “gift box” of oranges from Florida groves belonging to Guignard Maxcy. 4

But then, only one week after that Newark delivery, Veterans would send an unexpected letter to the Sebring airport committee.

Army’s timing influences the outcome of Veterans’ plans

In his first telegram to Allen Altvater on March 28, 1946, Saunie described the projected plans and dreams of Veterans’ fledgling endeavor. They needed facilities for “major repairs and maintenance of 25 plus C-54’s and four plsu (sic) C-47’s…”  By June that year, the fleet in-service numbered five – with plans to “soon purchase 15 additional C-54’s,” according to Gravely. 5 Corroborating research showed three DC-3’s and two DC-4’s in June – NC57777 being the latest.

(Dear Reader. Tracking these aircraft is confusing, but doable. Much had been traced already, but put aside temporarily to concentrate on finding more of our Veterans and/or their families. I’m fond of saying that “our Fleet” willingly yielded their research time to “their Crews.'” Gaye Lyn, 2015)

Those “25 plus” aircraft plans for Sebring laid out in March 1946 did not materialize. And, at this point (in 2015), I am shy on explanations — other than reference in the “termination” letter dated July 3,1946. It is signed by Nellie Brenner, Vice President Finance. The letter to Altvater, Sr. gives “the insurmountable problem of logistics” as reason for Veterans departure from Sebring.6

“Unfolding story” remains a curiosity 

Somehow along the line, the rest of the Sebring story needs explanation. I’m guessing (and that definitely is not my job), it was a combination of the Army (not moving forward fast enough in transferring Hendrix Field to the city of Sebring) and the yet-to-be-discovered (by this researcher) changes within Veterans.  We do know that less than one week prior to the July 3 letter, the Sebring DC-4 conversion was completed. And the press reported a second aircraft expected “this week for major overhaul from Newark.”7

But that second aircraft did not materialize either.

1 ”Airport Companies Start Active Work. Two Planes Arrive This Week For Conversion at Hendricks Field.” The Highlands County News], June 7, 1946.
2 “First Plane Christened on Monday: Veterans Air Lines completes Conversion of First Plane At Hendricks Field.” The Highlands County News, 21 June 1946. [NOTE: In the news article and accompanying photo caption, the aircraft was mistakenly identified as a C-56. The correct designation is C-54.]
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 The Sebring Historical Society's Archives, Center Avenue, Sebring, FL, August 2015. In-person visit with Allen Altvater, III, and Carole Goad, Librarian/Archivist. We examined press clippings about and historical data on Sebring Air Terminal. I am so grateful for their hospitality and especially for their long-term dedication to the records they gather, sort and tend.
6 Ibid.
7 "Hendricks Activity Is Increasing: City Acquires Use of Third Hangar." The Highlands County News, 28 June 1946.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top