Flying Tiger Line
Pilots Association

Tiger FAs in Vietnam

Tiger Crews Carry Memories of the Men
They Flew To, From War

flying tigers crews in vietnam

The invitation for the FTL Flight Attendants to take part in the Veterans Day festivities aboard the USS Hornet Air and Space Museum was answered by 10 former F/As who had “been there”. This invitation was proffered after the Museum folks had read the article in the San Francisco Chronicle authored by Jason Fagone.

Armed with “artifacts", photos, manuals, log books, union contracts, other great paraphernalia, and proudly wearing blue denim shirts covered with wings, and the Tiger Face scarves, we presented a picture of what it was like in 1968 - 1972.

Flying tiger flight attendant - we were there

Louise Danewitz Boyd made it real by wearing her original uniform, complete with hat, white gloves, and black pumps.  FedEx generously donated the posters to the Tiger FAs.

It was reported that the attendance exceeded 600 and  at least half of them stopped by to either recognize us or learn more about us. Now a few millennials know that “Flying Tigers” is not a circus.

We had a guest of Honor,  Master Chief Art Ritchie, Retired US Navy, who had responded to the Chronicle article and praised us for making his flight(s) so enjoyable despite their destination.  He had flown several times on Tigers.  We had some fun by presenting him with a Certificate of Honor and some Tiger merchandise provided by Linda Foster and Terri Lane.  He was thrilled (or his acting ability is quite good).

Another guest that surprised us by nearly running to our table and announcing his parents had ridden on FTL in 1955 as refugees from Greece to the USA.  His name is Markos Kounalakis, and he is the husband of the Lieutenant Governor of the state of California,  Eleni Kounalakis.  He was so delighted to tell us about his parents trip on Tigers as Greek refugees, he failed to mention his wife’s name.

A really fun and nice guy - he even remembered his parents came on a DC-3. He was not born until 1957, so his parents must have let him know all about their flight, and it must have been good memories for them, he was so happy to meet us.  I mentioned that our own Treso Koken might have been on that flight as a Greek interpreter.  That brought a huge smile to his face.  Must ask Treso if she remembers them.

Remembering the Freedom Birds, I am sure is bittersweet to the guys who flew them, as it is to us that worked those fights, but I can say this day was a good one, with some tears and some laughter for all of us.  One of the remarks that brought real tears is a comment from Milo Yoshino who had ridden Tigers into and out of Tan Son Nhut in 69-70 “I don’t remember much about the airplane, but I just remember all those smiles”.

2019 Veteran's Day at the USS Hornet in Alameda, CA. pictured from the left: Louise Danewitz Boyd, Judy Vosler, Karen Schram Steinbach, Ava Madden Prater, Martha Monahan Minter, Cherri Goodell Steffy, Debbie Repp Flaherty, Josie Sager Gibson, Marilyn Axelson Breen, Leslie Laird Pfeifer

The take-away from the day, as we all agreed at the “debrief” (of course we had a debrief, we are Tigers aren't we?) It is very humbling to hear such remarks as “Thank you for your service”.  None of us think of ourselves as heroes or even “serving”, but it so nice to know we may have a brought a smile to a few faces who were heroes.

Marilyn Breen

A reprint of the Chronicle article written by Jason Fagone is available at this link.