All Those Wonderful Stories...
Transocean Air Lines 1946 - 1960
The recent release of the movie Schindler's List and
the attendant publicity reminded me of some flights that
Transocean Air Lines had out of Munich hauling
Holocaust survivors from Germany to the USA in 1949.
One of these flights, my crew and I were flying a load
of these refugees on the leg Gander- Newfoundland -
Idlewild, New York. (Since that time Idlewild has been
renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport). While
we were at cruising altitude I thought these people
might have interesting stories to tell so I decided to go
into the passenger cabin and talk to them. These
people were all Polish Jews who had been rescued by
the Allied armies from a death camp in Eastern Europe.
Since I am of Polish decent and able to speak Polish, I
approached the first passenger and said to him in
Polish, "I am an American of Polish decent." He leaped
to his feet and shouted to the other passengers,
"KAPITAN YEST AMERICKANSKI POLAK!" All the
passengers cheered and applauded as I went down
the aisle and talked to each of them. They all had
heart-rendering stories to tell about brutal treatment,
starvation and loss of loved ones.
Cheers And Tears
by Joseph Stachon, Captain
As we approached New York, I decided I would make their first view of America very dramatic.
In those days air traffic control was not as particular about your flight path nor altitude as they
are now - you could just cancel IFR and go VFR almost anywhere until you entered the traffic
pattern. I selected a heading that would bring us in at right angles over the coast line. In this way
the passengers were not able to see much out of the side windows until we were almost over
New York. By then we were down to 1500 feet and, at just the right moment, I had the
stewardess open the cockpit door so all the passengers could lean over toward the center aisle
and have a view straight ahead through the cockpit windshield.
As the stewardess opened the door, a tidal wave of cheers and tears exploded in the cabin
because directly ahead there was a Lady with her torch aglow in the setting sun – yes, it was
the Statue of Liberty.