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Society for Aviation History

PO. Box 7081 San Carlos, CA 94070

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SAH General Meetings and Educational Programs

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Our Last Meeting was Saturday, June 1, 2019

Pan Am at War

Author Mark Cotta Vaz discussed his new book Pan Am at War. Co-authored with John Hill, Pan Am at War chronicles the airline's historic role in advancing aviation and serving America's national interest before and during World War II. From its inception, Pan American Airways operated as the "wings of democracy," spanning six continents and placing the country at the leading edge of international aviation. At the same time, it was clandestinely helping to fight America's wars.

Utilizing government documents, declassified Freedom of Information Act material, and company documents, the authors have uncovered stories of Pan Am's stunning role as an instrument of American might:

The airline's role in building air bases in Latin America and countering Axis interests that threatened the Panama Canal

Creating transatlantic and trans-Africa supply lines for sending Lend-Lease equipment to Britain

Cooperation with Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese nationalist government to pioneer the dangerous "Hump" route over the Himalayas

The dangerous seventeen-thousand-mile journey that took President Roosevelt to the high-stakes Casablanca Conference with Winston Churchill

The daring flight that delivered uranium for the atomic bomb.

Filled with larger-than-life characters, and revelations of the vision and technology it took to dominate the skies, Pan Am at War provides a gripping unknown history of the American Century.

This meeting was held at the Old Spaghetti Factory, Redwood City, CA

Our Saturday, April 6, 2019 Meeting

Seven at Santa Cruz: Fighter Ace "Swede" Vejtasa

Ted Edwards and new SAH President Ron Close

Historian and author Ted Edwards spent many years interviewing the participants of World War II, and his crowning achievement is the biography Seven at Santa Cruz: The Life of Fighter Ace Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa.

During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Vejtasa was flying an SBD Dauntless dive bomber from Yorktown and helped sink the Shoho, the first Japanese carrier sunk by the US Navy in World War II. The next day he was again flying a Dauntless when he outflew and out-gunned three Japanese Zero fighters. This made "Swede" the only dive bomber pilot to be awarded Navy Crosses for both dive bombing and aerial combat.

Months later, the day before the Battle of Santa Cruz, "Swede" was flying an F4F Wildcat fighter from the Enterprise and was ordered to fly predictably empty search legs which he knew to be insane. He followed his orders. On his return to Point Option the carrier was not there. He and his fellow pilots were low on fuel. He remembered seeing an oil leak from the Enterprise and he located this oil slick, following it to the new location of the carrier.

Having saved himself and his fellow pilots, "Swede" was able to fly again the next day, single-handedly downing two Japanese dive bombers and five torpedo bombers. Skipper Jimmy Flatley considered that this had saved the Enterprise from destruction and recommended "Swede" for the Medal of Honor. For reasons unclear, Admiral Kinkaid, who had been responsible for the mistakes in sending "Swede" and his comrades on the mission that nearly cost the whole group, downgraded the Medal of Honor recommendation to a Distinguished Flying Cross.

Ted Edwards is an historian, who has enjoyed international careers in education and gymnastics. He coached Virgin Islands gymnasts in three Pan American Games and served as Team Official in two Olympic Games, and has happily adventured in the Sierras, Rockies, Alps and the Nepal Himalaya. Edwards lives in Felton, with his wife Barbara Rose Johnston.

This meeting was held at the Back Forty Texas BBQ, Pleasant Hill, CA

About our meeting, February 2, 2019

Two Air Tragedies Linked to Moffett Field Remembered

 

Two aviation accidents linked to Moffett Field were examined by crash detective Dave Trojan. The first is a P-3A Orion crash mystery in Michigan that was unexplained until now. The second is a Navy Transport R6D Liftmaster that crashed on Oahu, Hawaii. The stories behind these accidents were described and what remains at both crash sites was revealed. The lasting effects from these tragedies were also explored. Artifacts recovered from both crash sites were recently put on display at the Moffett Field Museum and were displayed during the meeting.

The first aircraft was Lockheed P-3A Orion, Buno. 152172, assigned to VP-19 which departed NAS Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y., on July 4, 1966. Its intended destination was NAS Moffett Field, but the Orion crashed in Michigan during the cross-country flight. It was the first unexplained P-3 Orion accident to occur over land and it was immediately recognized that every effort must be made to insure that the cause of this accident be determined, but it never was until now. This accident became was one of the most comprehensive, in-depth, and longest running aircraft accident investigations in the history of aviation archaeology. Trojan was able to uncover new information which may have discovered the cause of this undetermined accident.

The second accident was a Navy R6D Liftmaster, Buno. 131612, that crashed on Oahu, Hawaii, on March 22, 1955, during a flight to Moffett Field. The R6D accident resulted in the loss of 66 lives, making it the worst air disaster in the history of Hawaii and the deadliest accident involving aircraft in the history of United States Naval Aviation. This tragic event was re-investigated and new information was discovered.

Crash detective Trojan has visited both of these crash sites and thoroughly investigated both of these tragic accidents. He revealed information and photographs that have never before been made public.

Our Meeting was held at the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum

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