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War Story with Happy Ending (Posted On: Wednesday, October 24, 2012)

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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.
On one of Frank’s return trips he was dumped off in London England (Heathrow) and told because of a temporary shortage of west bound cargo planes, their 30th Atlantic crossing would be by ship!

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.
This was not good news. At the time, a large percentage of all the ships crossing the Atlantic were being sunk by torpedoes from German submarines.
“Nonetheless, we were thrilled when we found, as we boarded the ship, we were about to travel on the Queen Elizabeth, which for 40 years, was the world’s largest passenger ship. The steward who showed the four of us: Captain, Co-Captain, which was me, the Navigator, and the Engineer to our cabin, she told us this – ‘This is a troop ship; there will be 6,300 walking wounded U.S. soldiers on board. The four of you must wear “civis” (civilian clothes) and we must not speak to any of the U.S. soldiers,” Frank explains excitedly.

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.
“After almost five days of living with the constant vibration and the sounds of this monster ship as it zig zagged across the Atlantic at well above ‘top’ speed, everything suddenly became silent. So, the four of us went up to the open deck which was rapidly filling with 6,300 U.S. walking, wounded soldiers,” says Frank.
“At that time, there was no wind and the fog was thick. Visibility on deck was about four metres and that they had been told not to talk or make any noise because sound travels for at least two miles over calm water,” describes Frank.

“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.”
“I heard both shouting and sobbing near me – it took a few seconds before I realized that some of these sounds were coming from me! Some men started singing The Star Spangled Banner. They soon learned that you cannot talk or sing when you are crying. It was the most emotionally penetrating moment in time during my whole long life,” says Frank.

“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.
Turns out, Frank Sinatra was an hour late for his concert.

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.
Franks most current venture is to proceed with a recent invention with a global press release in mid-October. It will be nominated for the invention of the year award. Anyone interested in becoming financially involved can reach Frank at 705.888.0804 or by e-mail: solaquair@gmail.com.

By: Melanie Vollick, Write Way Communications 

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