2 Replies Latest reply on Sep 10, 2020 1:36 AM by Steven Harlan

    What status did Pan Am Employees have who were killed during WWII?

    Steven Harlan Newbie

      The China Clipper was invited into the Navy in WWII, a Martin 130 "Flying Boat".  She was one of 3, and there were several others Clipper, Boeing -314s used in the War as transportation for supplies, evacuation, and mail carrying.  Much seems to be available on the other planes, and on the China Clipper during her historic flight across the Pacific before the war.  The men and women of Pan Am, stayed with the planes into service. I'd like to know what US Citizens working as crews aboard the planes were.  -- Military or Civilian?   Oil, weapons, rubber, uranium are all among the China Clipper's extra cargo, but also throughout the war delivered mail, etc.


      On January 8, 1945, the China Clipper was en route to the Belgian Congo, stopping at several places along the way.  At Trinidad, and while on a second attempt at a landing, the plane crashed, with 23 of the 30 passengers killed.  All bodies were recovered but 2.  My mother was four months old when this crash occurred, and her father was one of the 2 Pan Am employees never recovered.  The next year the Civil Aeronautics Board declared the accident due to human error.


      What was the status of  these Pan Am employees?  The airline has told my family that it was forced to destroy the personnel records after the bankruptcies, and those that were employees then have sadly few records of their own.  Many were  clearly enlisted/drafted and killed in combat, and given civilian medals, and some survived.  Pan Am has my Grandfather's name in their memorial to those that gave their lives during the war. .


      The China Clipper was transferred back to Pan Am's ownership about a year before the crash, but the Clipper is also referred to at the time of the crash as still part of the NATS program, Naval Aviation Transport Service, I believe.  She had her civilian number NC 14716 back on her, instead of her military digits USN 48231.  A later law, I believe 29 of the merchant marines, allows for Pan Am employees who died or worked the Clippers while they were in service to the nation, to have a small insignia worn or buried with them.  I have his passport, and he was a draftee, Pan Am has him as dying in service, but technically, I don't think the Clipper was a Naval flying boat when she crashed.  His status is unknown, and it would mean so much to put a marker where he lived, that allows for his story to have a closing chapter.  Thank you very much in advance.

        • Re: What status did Pan Am Employees have who were killed during WWII?
          Sylvia Naylor Scout

          Dear Mr. Harlan,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          We searched the National Archives Catalog and located a series titled World World II Action and Operational Reports, 12/7/1941-1946 in the Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (Record Group 38) that may include records relating to the crash of the China Clipper filed under a “VR” designation for transportation squadrons. We also located the series titled World War II War Diaries, 12/7/1941 - 12/31/1945942 - ca. 6/1/1946 in Record Group 38 that may contain notes on the search in the Eastern Sea Frontier war diaries.


          In addition, we located a series titled General Correspondence, 1943-1947 in the Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics (Record Group 72). In order to search this series of records, please make sure to provide the alpha-numerical designation of the aircraft. If any records relevant to your inquiry exist, they would be filed under "V" (Aircraft Type)/L11-1. “ V” is the aircraft and “L11-1” is material loss.


          For access to these three series, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov.


          Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT2. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


          We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!


          [Information provided by Nate Patch, Subject Matter Expert]

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