Finding Veterans Air crews

Finding Veterans Air crews is like a rubrics cube.  Lots of movable parts and possibilities.

Two days ago (20 May), I discovered & told you about a news article authored by Don Turnbull.  He reported on a flight to Warsaw in May 1946 to deliver hatching eggs on behalf of UNRRA (United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration).  In it, he identified three Veterans Air crew members by name.  In their order of appearance:

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

Just about everywhere you navigate on this website, Can You Identify… follows you around in the sidebar.  Most names listed come from 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.  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 of the Warsaw flight.

The other big reward?  Finding Walker & Fagan who were totally unknown to me before two days ago!  I’ve already added them to Can You Identify… in hopes 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.

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.”


Click to see MY SOURCES


2 Comments
  1. 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.

    • 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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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!