"Displaced Persons" to various locations
The Flying Tiger Line was started by Robert W. Prescott and a group of fellow Volunteer Pilots from the AVG, or the American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers. The original name of the company was National Skyway Freight Company, which was incorporated on June 25, 1945 - a couple of months before the Pacific war had ended. The name was changed due to the stories that were being told in the papers around Southern California of the Flying Tiger pilots who had started an airfreight airline. As time and a few short years passed the Flying Tiger Line moved from Long Beach Municipal Airport in Southern California to Los Angeles Airport, and then on to Burbank Lockheed Air Terminal just north of Los Angeles. On New Years day 1947 the Air Transport Command (ATC) awarded the veteran wartime outfit the largest contract for passengers and cargo in the Pacific. Fast forward to 1950 and "creative entrepreneurship" proved to be a successful survival strategy for FTL. With a fleet of thirty-five aircraft, FTL developed eight separate charter operations at the same time in addition to the regular transcontinental air freight service and the Korean airlift. These included transporting summer students to Europe, displaced Europeans to Australia and America and farm laborers from Puerto Rico to the US. In 1989 FTL purchased by FedEx and a legend was forever lost. The Flying Tiger Line and its employees will always remember the wonderful times and the wonderful people they helped, served and worked with.
Captain "Goldy" J.P. Goldsmith, who transported many DPs from Munich and Bremen writes the following of his experience with The Flying Tiger Line:
I came to work February 1946, fresh out of the Air Corps and was hired on as Captain and held various management jobs as well as flying for 25000 hours (career time), until retirement in 1979. I was Eastern Operations Manager in charge of all our charter operations world-wide during the time of your parents trip so will provide some information per my recollection. The aircraft was the first war surplus C-54 bought by Flying Tiger Line in the latter part of 1946, later converted to DC-4 in 1947. For several years Tigers flew displaced people from Munich and Bremen to New York's Idylwild (now JFK) Airport. N548 was among the planes used on that run during that time, I flew the second flight from New York to Europe on N548 in the fall of 1948. From then on, depending on how business was, I flew part of the time, was Chief Pilot, or was running the operation. In the fall of 1949 I was involved in setting up and running a DP movement from Munich to Tel Aviv, then stayed on in Tel Aviv to set-up the Yemenite Lift out of Aden. Tigers flew about 75% of the estimated 65,000 Yemenites moved from Aden. In l950 we flew over to Bremen five airplanes to fly to Australia and had 90 Tigers to operate them; then we had other planes flying from Europe to other destinations during this same time; which was to the U.S. and Canada and Tel Aviv. The passengers that we carried looked like they were dressed in second-hand clothing. Most were either old or with families with very young children, in other words, they were not up to crossing on ships, which actually brought over the majority of the DPs. Generally a maximum of 68 passengers, and whatever babies that were held, would fill up the plane. Space was at a premium and we had to limit the weight allowed on board as the head-winds we encountered were quite high in the winter months. Passengers were allowed about 30 pounds per person and what they could carry on. During that time of the year we generally would fly from Munich to Keflavich in Iceland for re-fueling and then to Ganger Newfoundland, and finally into New York. Since we were required to arrive in New York between 0800 and 1200 New York time, we tried to depart from Munich and Bremen as early as possible - 0800 local time, making the trip a total of 30 to 34 hours. The early morning arrival allowed time for the processing thru INS and Customs. Afterwards the voluntary agencies would take over and either escort or place the people on transportation to their final destinations and make sure they got in contact with designated sponsors.
Communication was a problem, and since my foreign language was limited to "eine grosse bier" (One large beer), and only a few people spoke english, I really didn't have much conversations with them. On board they displayed mixed feelings about their flight; some appeared grim, others eager to be on their way and a few were downright afraid.
Once we had some problems with food as the facilities were limited and not ethnic-oriented. On one trip Gander was closed and we had to go to Sydney N.S. for fuel and feed the passengers. It was late at night and the restaurant could provide only ham and eggs. I had a little conference with the Rabbi on board who spoke english and I took him into the kitchen and after some prayers and blessings - they all had a nice breakfast! They were a hardy people and were mostly good passengers! Bless them all......
Pictures by George Gewehr, Historian for Flying Tiger Line, USA