Frank Sloan is a healthy and active 93 year old veteran of World War II and a resident of Collingwood. What follows is his heartfelt story and testimonial of one of his thirty trips across the Atlantic Ocean.
During the last year and a half of World War II, Frank’s primary job was to fly propeller driven, four engine, empty Liberator (B 24) bombers, across the Atlantic.
He flew 15 eastward crossings delivering propeller driven planes to such places as Scotland, Algeria and India. 14 of the return trips were by U.S. Army, four engine, DC 4 cargo planes, nicely furnished with small steel seats which folded up against the walls. The plywood floors were their beds.
Because of the temporary shortage of U.S. westward bound cargo planes Frank’s last home crossing was on the Atlantic Ocean – not over it.
In wartime the only people allowed to travel by air or ship were considered very important (VIP’s). Furthermore, the only people that weren’t in uniform typically had to be high level scientists, international spies or high level politicians. “We were the only people on board travelling on the ship in civilian clothing. We were civilians and not soldiers. We were told not to wear our uniforms because it would cause too much confusion,” proclaims Frank. Incidentally, there were no women on board.
Frank had the honour of sitting at the Captain’s table and choosing all of his meals from a large menu just as if he was a paying traveller. ‘Would you like red or white wine with your scrambled eggs’? That sort of treatment.
Frank was shown by the steward the engine room and how the boiler pressures were a long way into the danger zone to give the mountain of a ship enough speed to be faster than the German submarines and almost faster than their torpedoes. This extra pressure was essential to obtain the high speed needed to cross the Atlantic without escort protection. There were no destroyer escorts because they would not have been able to keep up.
“Looking up, the fog was whiter so we knew it was almost daybreak. Suddenly, we were surprised to hear a crowd noise coming from the bow area. It kept getting louder and louder and closer to us. Just then, the fog cleared abruptly. We knew instantly we had been sneaking into the New York harbour because the only structure not covered in fog was the Statue of Liberty. The fog reached up to her knees and her head and shoulders were painted pink and orange by the rising sun.”
“As soon as I was able to disembark, I went to the nearest airline ticket counter to get on a flight to Montreal. When I had lined up behind two men, the airline clerk noticed my uniform and signaled me to come up to the counter. Then the clerk announced that the plane was full and the other two men would have to ‘catch the next plane’ leaving in an hour.”
“Well the man who was ahead of me, in dark glasses, a fedora and a trench coat went ballistic. He came at me waving hundred dollar bills shouting, ‘I will be an hour late for my concert’! ‘I want your seat’! So I explained that my ticket was already paid for by the RAF Transport Command,” Frank says proudly.
Frank Sloan, and Canada’s first ever “Culligan Man” has an extensive background in both water and air as it pertains to good health. His eclectic career includes being an engineer, an international commercial pilot and an inventor holding eleven patents.
By: Melanie Vollick, Write Way Communications