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The text  contained in the light blue boxes is the history from Vern Moldrem's book "Tiger Tales" Also we want to thank Dick and Lydia Rossi for their contribution of Photo's and history information from the early day's and information on the AVG members who were early founders.. If anyone can contribute additional information to our history it would be greatly appreciated and you can email it to webmaster@flyingtigerline.org

The First Tiger Aircraft, The Budd Conestoga

Prescott knew that after the war there would likely be many new airlines starting up and competition would be fierce. His best chance for success was to get organized while the war was still in progress. The big problem was that no airplanes were available anywhere in the world. It was this inside knowledge that the entire production run of the Budd Conestoga had been canceled and the airplanes rejected by the Navy that made the airline possible. They felt that if anyone could make the Budds into reliable airplane, they could. If not, the Budds could be replaced when DC-3s became available.

The Budds new home in Long Beach California

The new company bought the entire fleet of twelve Budd Conestoga's and immediately sold four of them for a price, which paid for them all. The remaining eight Budds departed Augusta, Georgia, for Long Beach California. Seven Arrived. The other one  crashed in Fort Worth, Texas, and was sold on the spot for $500. It remained in service for many years...as a hamburger stand

Vern's comments about his information in his book is as follows: The founders of the company are getting on in years at this writing, and so they tend to remember details own their own perspectives, not always the same way. Here are several views of how the company started. Above is a picture of Catfish in his AVG Day's

 

CATFISH RAINE: A group of investors including Signal Oil Company were trying to start an airline in Mexico to be called Aero-Azteca. Bob Prescott gave up his plans to return to China and hired on as their chief pilot. He was negotiating for three Budd Conestoga Airplanes from the War Assets Administration.
      The Budd Railroad Car Company manufactured these planes, and some of the pilots have commented that they flew somewhat like a railroad car. Due to the aluminum shortage during the war, they were made of stainless steel. These twin engine planes with tricycle gear and a rear loading ramp were new, having being rejected by the Navy for MINOR mechanical flaws.
     Prescott was back east to pick up a Budd for the Mexican airline when his brother, George, In Washington, D.C, Said "You guys are veterans. Why don't you buy those Budds yourselves?" (Veterans had preference in purchasing surplus items. The AVG was a civilian outfit, with no connection to the military, so technically none of the AVG pilots were military veterans. Due to their combat records, this detail was overlooked.
     I, too was back in Washington at the time and Bob and I ran into each other. When he left for California with the Budd, he took me along as co-pilot, giving me a free ride home. When we arrived inn California, we began our own airline, National Skyways Freight. Bob was President, Duke Hedman vice-president and I was Chief pilot. The Aero-Azteca guys were mad as hell at us, and we didn't dare go down there for a while.

 

 

Picture sent by Lydia Rossi of Joe Rosbert, photo credit AVG Group

JOE ROSBERT: Early in 1945 I was in Hollywood working on a picture at Paramount Studios about flying the Hump. That project lasted about three months, and at the end of it I got a call from Prescott in Washington. He wanted to start a cargo airline and needed $10,000 from each of ten former AVG pilots. When I hung up the phone I checked my bank balance and found I only had $4000. 
     I called Catfish and said, "Did you get a call from Prescott?"
     "Yes I did."
     "Are you in?"
     "Yes I'm in."
     "Well I'd like to get in, but I've only got $4000 in the bank."
     "Don't worry about that. We'll go to the bank tomorrow and fix it up."
     He loaned me the $6000 and I gave him an IOU. Later I paid him back in full
     We all met in Pasadena at the home of Allen Chase and put the deal together. We each put up $10,000 but agreed that Bob Prescott should be given his share for having promoted the project. Sam Mosher and his group matched the $90,000 and National Skyways Freight Corporation was formed with $180,000.

When we posted this picture of Joe Rosbert on the discussion page one of relatives of a Former Tiger pilot saw this picture and sent the following  message

Harry Taulbee

Comments

Mike Thank you for your response. I was lucky to meet Jim Gohm. The interest and kindness he has shown toward me is something it seems I have been seeking my entire life.

In all the years, I've only been able to locate and talk with one pilot that knew my dad and flew with him. My Father, Harry N. Taulbee was killed riding in the back of a Lockheed Lodestar on approach to Van Nuys in the fog in September of 1950. I was 9 months old, so I never got to fly with him or talk airplanes. Non pilots don't seem to understand a lifetime of talking and searching but always empty.

In 1990 while cleaning out my grandmothers garage after her death, I came upon a box. Inside were my dads log books, many pictures (mostly FTL), newspaper articles of his achievements, and several newspaper articles on the crash that took his life. This was entirely overwhelming for me. I understand the saying - "time stood still that day." These papers are real treasures to me. I have read them countless times over the last 10 years.

Then along comes Jim Gohm. The first person to ever show an interest. Then Vern Moldrem's book Tiger Tales. Then, your website, thanks to Jim.

You can imagine my excitement while reading Tiger Tales. I see Bob Prescott, Duke Hedman, Tom Haywood and then look in dads log book and wow, Dec 19th 1945 he flew with Prescott and Hedman from Long Beach to New York and return. And the list goes on and on.

Just last week, Lydia Rossi posted that great picture of Joe Rosbert, so of course I have to look. Yep, Oct 15th 1946 C-54 64354 Taulbee- Rosbert Kansas City to Los Angeles, 8:35 hours. Then Oct 21st 1946, C-47 59277 Taulbee-Rosbert Los Angeles to Kansas City, 8:55 hours. Then I find where Dads log book time was "certified correct - C.J. Rosbert Supt. Operations Flying Tiger Line.

I have what appears to be a summary of aeronautical experience of Harry N. Taulbee and it shows that from 6/1/46 to 1/15/47 he was Asst. Supt. Flight Ops, FTL. So it looks as though he was Rosbertís Assistant.

The young man standing on the wing of the AVG fighter, wow, I feel like I almost know him. Thanks to Lydia. This is a most exciting time for me in my search for my dad, I know I'll never find him but this is as close as I've ever been.

I would like to share with you and any other interested Tigers, the pictures that I have and would very much like to have a memoriam page for my dad on your website.

I have N numbers for 3 Budds that Tigers owned. Is there anyone that can recall seeing a Flying Tiger Line C-47 with the Tiger teeth painted on the nose? I have a picture. I read where the FTL was always a little different, a little special. From my very limited exposure it is easy to see. A special organization, special people from the beginning right up through today.

Thank you Mike, hope to hear from you.

Jay

 

 

Regarding the IDs of the folks in the photo: Lady on far left is Helen Ruth Prescott (Bob's first wife), next lady is Maryann Hedman, Duke's wife (although at that time she was probably still married to Joe Rosbert). Between Haywood and Bartling, Dick is guessing that it may be Len Kimball, but not sure. Maybe Len wasn't with the company that early.

 Lydia Rossi

I have looked up Harry's dad's name in the seniority list. His father was senior to Goldsmith by one number. His dad was # 4 below Hedman, Haywood, Laughlin, Taulbee, then they inserted Groh, then Goldsmith. The list changed around back in those days, due to differant flying contracts.

George Gewehr

 


                      
DUKE HEDMAN: Concerning the ten of us that formed the airline, it is hard to think of thing to say that haven't already been said We all respected each other very deeply. I loved Bob Prescott. We all did. He was a brilliant guy who knew how to get things done.
     When we first started the company, I was vice president for about two months, but then I told Bob I wanted to go back to flying, so I resigned that position.
     Our first charter was a load of flowers for Detroit flown by a new guy-Gordon, I think. Then a load of grapes to Atlanta flown by Paul Kelly, a pilot who had flown for Chenault after the AVG disbanded. Next was a furniture charter that I flew from New Your to California. It was hand to mouth for a while and things  didn't look so good.
     

National Skyways Freight Corporation's first full shipment consisted of grapes flown from Bakersfield, California to Atlanta Georgia

Fresh Produce become an early product that was shipped airfreight

Furniture was also one of the early shipment experiments

At play at the Prescott's house; Tom Haywood, Mrs. Prescott, Mrs. Cornelius, Bob King, Jack Cornelius, Mr. & Mrs. Leon Colquette, Duke Hedman, Joe Bacon, Bob Prescott (at the Table)
CATFISH: The first few years were really tough. One time we couldn't pay the fuel bill so I put up $4000 for which my partners gave me stock. At the time Duke and I where largest stockholders.
     We had a lot of trouble with the Budds. The worst thing was that the exhaust stacks kept falling off and causing engine fires. The first Budd we lost was bellied into a graveyard in Detroit. No one was hurt but the co-pilot picked up his suitcase and walked off into the night. He was never heard from again.
     Joe Rosbert's accident happened on New Year's Eve. We were having a party in Los Angeles at Prescott's house. About one o'clock in the morning the phone rang. Bob's wife answered it the called Mary Ann, Joe's wife. to the phone.
     She said, They crashed on a golf course back there in Virginia, and Joe wants to talk to you.
     Mary Ann went to the phone real upset, and of course everyone was listening to hear what happened at the wreck.
     About half way through the conversation Mary Ann's attitude changed, and she said, "You son-of-a-bitch! Where are you?"
     Mary Ann could hear all the partying and goings on in the background, which of course gave rise to her suspicions.
     We gave the airplane to the golf course and they made a bar out of it. We thought that might keep them from suing us.

        

During the New Year celebration also at the Prescott's came word of this Budd which had belly landed in a golf course in Bluefield Virginia during a blizzard

JOE ROSBERT: My co-pilot that night, John Pinny, had served with the R.A.F. during the war, even though he was an American. We took a load of flowers to New York, and on the way back we stopped at Washington D.C. for fuel and to check the weather. While there we picked up six sailors who wanted to get to Los Angeles. We were always looking for a way to pay our gas to get home.
     We left Washington heading west, and when we were over Knoxville, Tennessee, we began picking up ice. The Radio reception was terrible and after we tried a letdown at Knoxville and couldn't see anything, we headed back to Washington D.C.
     Our gas supply was getting low, and all I could see was the glow of light sown below as we passed small towns hoping to see a rotating beacon or a landing strip but had no luck.
     On the third try I spiraled down over this little glow of lights and broke out of the clouds. It was like landing in a teacup with hills all around. It was snowing like hell, which made it hard to see with the landing lights on. I picked a spot that looked pretty flat., and when I turned on base leg we ran out of gas on one side. I managed to get the plane around on one engine and made a wheels up landing.
      There seemed to be a murky shadow a short way ahead of the airplane, and out of the shadow came a dark figure. As he approached, we could see he was wearing a tuxedo and carrying a fifth of whiskey.
     He handed it to me and said :Here, you need this more than I do."
      The first chance I got I called the C.A.A. I told them where we were and that everyone was okay. They congratulated us on a good job of getting it on the ground. Then I called Prescott's house...but you've heard that. 

There was one more serious accident with the ill-fated Budd Conestoga's and the first to result in the loss of life.

CATFISH: We had a contract hauling Newsweek Magazine out of Dayton, Ohio, to Los Angeles. This crew had flown all the way to the East Coast with a load of freight, then back to Dayton to pick up the load of magazines and head for Los Angeles. They apparently fell asleep. It appears that something woke them up, because they pulled the airplane out of a dive and bellied it in just below the airway beacon  light at Acameda, New Mexico.
     The crash threw the captain and co-pilot through the windshield. Then the plane slid forward and crushed them. The flight engineer, Doc Lewis was not wearing his seat belt, and was thrown quite a bit further, but he survived.
     

Art" Seymour, General Claire Chenault, Robert "Catfish" Raines, William "Bill" Bartling, Robert "Bob" Prescott & Clif Goh. It was about this period of time that some of the original founders would split up would go with Chenault to China to Start CAT

JOE ROSBERT: Something came up which changed the whole picture. Chenault came by in the summer of '46 and talked to us about an airline he was starting in China, CAT. Prescott and the rest of us were interested; because he said we could do this together...form a big operation with what our airline was doing in the states and what he was doing in China.
     We all agreed that is was worth looking into, so Prescott said "I'll send my brother to Shanghai to check it out, and if it looks like you say we will go ahead with it.
     Catfish and I had already talked to the old man (Chenault) about going back with him.
     I told him "I'm the superintendent of flight operations here , and would like him to get into that part of the operation in China."
     He said" Within a year we should be able to do that."
     Prescott's brother, George who was an accountant, packed his bags and headed for China. He laid over in the Manila Hotel in the Philippines on the way. While George was in the lobby, some Filipino gangsters came by looking for someone they were supposed to rub out. They sprayed the lobby with machine gun fire and George Prescott, an innocent bystander, was killed. That completely squelched any incentive that Bob Prescott had for the project.
     Catfish and I went in and told Bob that we wanted to go to China anyway and help the old man, since we had already committed ourselves.

     

1940'S PAGE 2