Flying Tiger Line
Pilots Association

Bob Conrath

conrath_bobFlying Tiger Line Pilots Association

In Memoriam...

Bob Conrath

December 29, 1913- August 8, 1992

It was 1939 when Bob and Martha, his wife to be, first met. They were both in the Merchant Marine, working on the Grace Line Company ships, sailing out of New York and sailing the entire west coast of South America.

ConrathBob's desire to be come a pilot was a dream since he was a boy. He didn't get any encouragement from his family nor any help to achieve this goal. He left home and was struggling to keep going since he was 16. The Depression was at its peak and jobs were hard to find, but his passion for flying never left.

During the following years, whenever he had money he would put it into flying lessons. He eventually acquired his private and commercial licenses.

During the 5 or 6 years he spent in the Merchant Marine he met Dick Rossi. Dick was working to put himself through college. Their friendship prevailed all these years. Bob's flying enthusiasm convinced Dick for his enlistment with the Navy as a cadet in their program.

conrath4aBob's desire was to go into the Ferry Command, and for this he had to have 300 hours under his belt. The European war was now reaching the shores of South America and making sailing more precarious.

In early 1940 Bob convinced Martha to go to California where flying would be more achievable. So they bought a 1937 convertible Packard and crossed the country. Martha was not a driver but anxious to learn. Being very short on funds, they drove nearly day and night. They had a few harrowing experiences with Martha behind the wheel while Bob tried to get some shut-eye.

After arriving in California they both had to find work. They got married in Yuma, Arizona, and while Martha was able to find work, Bob was not. Aircraft factories were crying for help but if you didn't have experience for production line work, you had to go to their school for a fee.

conrath1aWhen Pearl Harbor was bombed, Bob was finally working at Lockheed on the night shift, assembling cannons for the P-38s. It was at this time he met another man at work and got him to help in buying a small plane from the Bank of America. It was a repossessed Taylor Craft. In order to fly it, it had to be trucked to Quartzite, Arizona, due to the blackout in California at this time.

When our country needed pilots, Bob was approached by men in charge of these flying schools to come and teach their students. They said he could sign up for a one year contract and at least get some pay for his flying. When his time was up, new men in charge now would not release him. Instead they transferred him to Lancaster where they assigned him to instruct in their program. After fulfilling this program, the war in Europe ended. Now they stopped training more recruits and asked all the civilian instructors to go into the Army Air Corps as flight officers. Fulfilling their assigned training for a period they were given a choice for duty to ferry pursuits or go into the Transport Command.

conrath2aThis is what Bob chose and wound up in the CBI theater in the latter part of 1944. He was stationed in India and flew the C-46 and C-47. He had 75 trips over the Hump when the war came to an end.

Bob returned home in January of 1946, became very restless when he couldn't find a new flying job. On Christmas Day of 1946 he sailed on a freighter to China where he connected again with his friend Dick Rossi. He flew a number of trips for the Lutheran missionaries, who had their own planes (2), St. Peter and St. Paul, evacuating many people who had to be rescued when the Red Chinese army were waging war on the Nationals.

Martha went to join Bob in China in February 1948, and returned in late November when the Reds were about to take Shanghai. Bob returned shortly after. Again trying to get connected with a flying job.

conrath3a In August of 1950 he decided to stay with his flying career and joined the Flying Tiger Line. Over the years were many stories and incidents to relate. Martha thought one of them to be a close call, when she called the scheduling department to see when he was expected home and they informed her of a Wake Island emergency landing he had experienced. They assured her everyone was okay and that he'd be home soon.

Bob retired from Flying Tigers on December 29, 1973.



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