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Flying "Anything, Anywhere, Anytime"

Flight to Freedom

Impressed by Transocean's competence in moving the 7,000 British immigrants from London to Toronto, the International Refugee Organization in Geneva awarded a contract to Transocean in August 1948 for the first large-scale movement of displaced persons from Germany to South America.

The contract called for 25,000 D.Ps to be moved from Munich to Caracas, Venezuela, with flights leaving Munich daily. Feeling locked out of such a large and lucrative contract, steamship lines persuaded the IRO to reduce substantially the number of D.Ps to be carried by air. But despite this reduction, Transocean continued to fly D.P. s to Venezuela and other South American countries, and to the United States, well into 1949.

The D.P.s were not Germans but Poles, Latvians, and Hungarians who had fled to the West in search of freedom. They were a cross-section of the population and had lost all their possessions either to the Germans or the Russians when their homelands were invaded during World War II. Whenever a country is experiencing political unrest or oppression, there is always an exodus of its educated and its wealthy. On one of the flights to Caracas, Stewardess Meda Soares found five
passengers aboard who could speak English, of whom three were doctors.

Meda learned that the first doctor was a neurologist and had studied medicine in Vienna. He had practiced in Latvia for twenty-one years before the war. Next to him was his wife, a general practitioner. Their only treasures of a once prosperous life-other than the memories they held in their hearts-were a silver ring, a crystal glass with Latvian symbols, and a Latvian coin. Then the woman introduced Meda to her brother. He too was a doctor, a gynecologist. He had been married to a woman whose family spoke publicly against the policies of the Communist Party now ruling Latvia. Eight months after their marriage, his wife and her family were deported to Siberia, and he was never to hear from her again.

"They were such a pathetic looking group of people that you wanted to do as much as you could for them," said Meda. "The majority wore whatever clothes they could find, and they lacked toilet articles of any kind. Even the babies did not have nursing bottles. I saw many mothers pouring milk from a cup into a nipple for their babies. And one young father was overjoyed to find an empty soft drink bottle at the airport in Gander, Newfoundland. I saw him wash it and fill it with milk for his baby."

The summer of 1948 also witnessed the beginning of Transocean's movement of 600 students to Europe under contract with Youth Argosy, a nonprofit organization devoted to arranging summer travel abroad for college students and professors. Planeloads of students toting bicycles and knapsacks were flown from Connecticut to points in Europe and then returned to the United States several months later. This was the first transatlantic air-coach service.

*From Folded Wings, A History of Transocean Air Lines by Arue Szura

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