Posts Tagged DC-4

Thomas Cowart dies December 20, 2016. Veterans Air Express Flight Engineer

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Thomas Cowart, our Veterans Air DC-4 Flight Engineer, died on December 20, 2016. He crewed during the 1946 United Nations post-war relief flights to Prague, Warsaw and Athens. Thomas and I shared many hours, many stories and much laughter in person and over the phone. Today I share the immediacy of my emotions at his passing.

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Prague Veterans Air crew arrives 1946

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A pride hard to verbalize shudders through me every time I see this film footage of my Dad’s crew members disembarking from the Veterans Air Line DC-4 in Prague. Saunie Gravely was 22 when he got the idea of an all-Veterans air service. And this amazing footage is proof of his dream-become-reality. Come watch. Sorry, no popcorn today.

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Veterans Air Express Prague 1946

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My Dad’s 1945 airline won a war-relief contract with the UNRRA. His crews flew five DC-4 trips, each loaded with 5 tons of hatching eggs to Prague and Warsaw. Seventy years later, to commemorate the Veterans Air Express Prague flight in May 1946, I am going to Prague.

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Veterans Air Express Navigator Edward Martz

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Veterans Air Express Navigator Edward Martz regaled me with stories I have not heard before. In our face-to-face meeting last month in New Jersey, Ed Martz shared vivid memories from his 1946 flights behind the Iron Curtain. You don’t want to miss the full story!

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Meet Veterans Air Express Flight Engineer Thomas Cowart. I did!

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In 1942 & ’43 the Army Air Corps turned Thomas E. Cowart from a farm boy into an aircraft mechanic and later a flight engineer. He flew the world as part of an Air Transport group led by Captain Cooper Walker. And after the war, Walker encouraged Cowart to join him at Veterans Air Express and fly the world again. Thomas tells me his vivid-memory story. Come meet him.

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Broughton, Martz, Cowart: Veterans Air Express Breaking News

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Look who I found!! Two sons, Craig & Robert, of 1945 1st Officer Richard Broughton. And two original crew members, Edward Martz, navigator, living in NJ and Thomas Cowart, flight engineer, living in SC. They ALL flew multiple trips for the Veterans Air Express United Nations war relief contract to Prague, Warsaw and Athens. It’s intriguing! And I am psyched!

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1946 Veterans Air Express operations base #2 sets up at Sebring Air Terminal

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Timing is everything. Veterans Air Express needed a major maintenance and repair facility. And Florida seemed a location ideally suited to their growing cargo and passenger business. Hendricks Field, an AAF Pilot School during WWII in Sebring, FL was being deactivated and transitioned into Sebring Air Terminal. Photos & news clips from archives unfold the story.

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Veterans Air Express contract with UNRRA flown by Stettner, Jakeman, Noll, et al.

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An “experimental” DC-4. A high-energy group of hardworking ex-servicemen. A Veterans Air Express UNRRA contract for cargo flights behind the iron curtain. And Newark/Miami winter passenger flights. By mid-1946, the all-veterans organization was becoming recognized and starting to thrive.

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Carole Landis christened Veterans DC-4 in 1946

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Hollywood star Carole Landis christened Veterans Air Line DC-4 on July 24, 1946. The aircraft and attending celebrity Mrs. Gloria Vanderbilt both got champagne-splashed. Still searching for press photo coverage of event.

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Veterans Air Express information

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There’s a lot of Veterans Air Express information “out there.” Lots of it needs cross-checking. Much needs verification. And challenge. And discussion. Some of that input will best come from World War II vets…especially ex-Army Air Corps and their families…aviation buffs….and research librarians. Are you one of those folks? Or know them? VeteransAir.org is my website where I share what I know & what I need to know. I invite you to follow me here.

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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!