1945 Veterans Air Express crew list grows from 22 to 62

Veterans Air Express crew list grows from 22 to 62…

in less than a year.

I started this research project on my Dad’s airline in April 2015.  My only information about Veterans Air Express crew and personnel consisted of a list with 22 names – 23 counting my Dad’s.  Air Transport (July 1947) published their story saying, “They founded an air service by working three months for nothing.”

Those men were my entry point.  From there, I searched numerous databases as I unearthed them.  Plus I benefited greatly from fabulous research librarians across the country.  And my Veterans Air Express crew list of 22 now stands at 62!  (I’ve read there were as many as 104!)

Robert C. Chambers, Veterans Air Express DC-3 Chief Pilot, sits discussing paperwork with Harvey G. Stevenson, company Vice President and attorney.
On right, Robert C. Chambers, VAE DC-3 Chief Pilot, speaks with Harvey G. Stevenson, VP and company attorney. Photo Credit: Newark Star Ledger, 2/25/1946. Photo thanks to Chambers family.

Of the 62, I have found 12.  I’ve personally met three of the men: Jack Stettner, Thomas Cowart and Edward Martz.  Two families found me through my website: son and grandson of John Greenleaf‘ and son of William Jakeman.  Further, I discovered the families of:  Bernard Shmanske, John Noll, Charles Eason, Robert Gries, Frederick Foster, Richard Broughton, and, most recently, Robert C. Chambers I’ve also met Marilyn Gries (Bob’s widow) and Paul Eason (Charles’ son).

To my extreme pleasure, I’ve gather treasured stories, cherished photos and exceptional clippings from these families.  Best example are all the images in this Post.  They come from files of Robert Chambers.  Our deep appreciation to his son, Bruce, for providing them.

The clock is tick, tick, ticking.

This coming May, I’m making a much anticipated trip to Prague.  There, I will celebrate the 70th anniversary of a Veterans Air Express Prague flight for the UNRRA.  After returning to the States, I will spend nine days (May 23 – 31) researching the air line from its place of origin – northern New Jersey.

I need a base of operations to spread out my materials and concentrate on serious investigation. So I’ve rented a lovely room in a private home close to Newark and Teterboro Airports and the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey.  [If you are within my tri-state range, I hope to be seeing you!]

“Jersey boys.” Brooklyn. The Bronx. Long Island.

My May focus will be “Jersey boys” who joined Veterans. And the men and women from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Long Island who likewise found their way to this great adventure.  Some flew domestically.  Many crewed the UNRRA trips.  Others turned wrenches.  Still others were both pilots and administrators.  They just did what needed doing.

[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]The staff includes 25 ex-pilots who between them hold 23 DFCs, 96 Air Medals, 72 battle stars, 3 Silver Stars, 7 Purple Hearts and a Croix de Guerre….a total of more than  60,000 flying hours and have flown every type of Army plane[/pullquote]

No matter their role, all are “above and beyond” kind of people.  There’s a statistic that demonstrates this fact. It is a quote from a feature article in New York World-Telegram (5/6/1946). The same article showcases fabulous photos…some of which you see here.[clear]

These fine men and women (all WWII Vets) were drawn to the dream of their own aviation company…

Veterans Air Express DC3 Copilot, Al Martin in May 1946.
DC-3 copilot, Al Martin. Still seeking Al’s story. Photo credit: New York World-Telegram, 5/6/1946.
VAE Hostess,Charlotte McFall, was a WWII Women's Air Corp veteran.
Charlotte McFall, former WAC, joined VAE as Hostess. Still seeking Charlotte’s story. Photo Credit: New York World-Telegram, 5/6/1946.
Robert Montanarella, first Veterans Air Express crew pilot, sits opposite to Co-pilot Harold C. Chaplain.
Captain Robert Montanarella, left seat, and Copilot Harold C. Chaplain. This photo identifies them, but only their home towns are known. Photo credit: The Sunday Call, date unknown.


Unidentified Veterans Air Express workers convert DC-3 from military to commercial interior.
Three unknown VAE staff apply tech skill and self-confidence to DC-3 interior conversion. If you recognize these men, CALL ME! Photo published: NY World-Telegram, 5/6/1946
Unidentified "conversion technician" getting the job done on the interior of a Veterans Air Express DC-3.
This young unknown VAE tech is intent on his responsible work. I’m intent on finding out who he is! Photo credit: Published in New York World-Telegram, 5/6/1946.
Three VAE buddies converting DC-3 interior. John Noll pilot and William Moroz aircraft mechanic. Center crew member is unidentified.
L-to R: VAE pilot John Noll of Bloomfield, unknown pilot, and William Moroz, VAE aircraft mechanic. Working on DC-3 conversion. Photo published: Newark Star Ledger, 2/25/1946.


It’s thrilling to have images to match names on my list of the men and women I’ve not found yet.  I still comb data bases to find any shred of information about their lives before, during and after Veterans.  I’m indescribably motivated to find my 90-somethings (aka Nonagenarians).  In near-future, I’ll post the entire List of 62 Veterans Who Dared to Dream.  Perhaps a familiar name will inspire you to join my search.  

My best,

Gaye Lyn

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.