John Noll, Veterans Air, among core founders

Found a Founder!  John Noll, Veterans Air.

Today!  I spoke with Nancy “Buffy” Wimmer – daughter of John J. Noll.  He was one of the seven core founders of Veterans Air Express John was also a pilot for Veterans first flight to Warsaw, Poland.

John Noll, in retirement, at Ocala, Fl, standing next to a Grandfather clock he built.

John Noll, Veterans Air, core founding member

Until one month ago, John Noll was unknown to me – just a name listed in the June 1946 Air Transport* 3-page article about Veterans Air. Then my research uncovered a 1999 Florida newspaper feature about John himself in The Ocala Star Banner. *  Early in the story of his multi-faceted, fascinating life were paragraphs about founding Veterans Air Expresswith six other guys.”  Once I read that, I began my search for someone in the Noll family. And, this very morning, I found  Nancy’s name (sadly in her father’s obituary).  After some “inspired” digging, I found Nancy’s phone number.

Wish I could have seen the expression on my face when Nancy answered the phone and confirmed that she was, indeed, who I was hoping she was. (Understandably, she was reluctant at first to confirm her identity.  I would have been, too, if some crazy lady called me out of the blue on a Sunday morning, saying she thought our fathers knew each other in 1945!!!)  But, once convinced, she was delighted to talk to me.  We were on the phone for over an hour.

John Noll deemed the airline “a big deal”

Veterans Air Express DC-4 christening at Newark Airport, 1946.

Veterans Air DC-4 about to be christened before post-war Warsaw relief-flight. Photo created from John Noll’s 1945 video.

Buffy (what family & friends call her – and, now, I do, too!) regaled me with stories from back then.  She wondered if John may have recruited some of his buddies from the service to join Veterans Air.  She clearly remembered her Dad flew the first trip of hatching eggs to Warsaw – another historic Veterans Air post-WWII relief flight.  (Our Prague relief flight was the first time a civilian air cargo service was given permission to fly behind the “Iron Curtain.”) Veterans flew a number of times under that contract with the UNRRA, United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration.  (Another post contains further details about UNRRA.)

Jarmila Novotna, Met Opera Diva, May 1945 next to Veterans Air Express DC-4 before christening.

Jarmila Novotna, Metropolitan Opera Diva.

Jarmila Novotna, Metropolitan Opera Diva in 1945 ready to christen Veterans Air Express DC-4.

“Close up” of our Metropolitan Opera singer, Jarmila Novotna.

Can you Name our Diva???  We finally did!

And John took movie footage of a famous opera singer christening the DC-4 before the Warsaw flight.  [Correction 12/11/2015: …before the first PRAGUE flight.]  In his voice-over to the footage recorded many years later, John was unsure of her name.  [Update 9/8/2015: Jarmila Novotna. More of the story here.] If any of you opera buffs out there recognize this lovely woman from these fuzzy “stills” I captured off John’s moving pictures, please let me know.  I’m also searching for newspaper accounts of the christening, too.  So far, nothing.

But of greatest import to me?  Buffy talked about how her Dad considered the airline to be “a big deal.”  And how happy both Dads would be that I’m doing this research.

What a story!

Buffy will review her Dad’s many mementos for photos and material about Veterans Air.  But, whatever she finds and shares, she cannot top (1) my excitement of finding her and hearing her personal memories and (2) the aforementioned film footage that absolutely knocked my socks off!!!  I will share it as soon as/if the file size can be reduced.


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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!