Henry 'Hank' Anholzer (1922-2007)

Part I: Remote control modeler and Pan American mechanic


Back on Long Island, as Trippe continued to expanded his PAA empire, a valuable future employee was caught cutting school.

“I was really a juvenile delinquent, one step from going to jail,” said Anholzer. “When I was playing hooky with my friend Artie, we would walk to Jamaica Sea Airport and watch and help the mechanics. The airport was a sandy field with a big rusted tin hangar. We were touching real airplanes and drumming fabric on Curtis Robins, Fledglings, Wacos, etc. This was for us.”

Fortunately for Anholzer, “Mrs. Sargent,” his teacher, noticed his passion for aviation and influenced his admittance at Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades (S.A.T).

Anholzer and his friends formed the Idlewild Gas Model Club. “Our home field was the swamps of Idlewild, where JFK is now,” recalled Anholzer, who failed to get his first powered model off the ground.

“I bought a two-cylinder Imp for $5. Its fuel was dry ice and carbide. There was a brass generator with dry ice, carbide in the lower chamber and water in the upper chamber,” he said. “We had to pull a plunger (ring) valve. This would cause the water to drip on the carbide and dry ice, forming a stinky gas that drove the engine. The engine was installed in a Megow Monocoupe, but it had no power.”

After graduation from S.A.T. in 1941, Anholzer worked a drill press and turret lathe in a machine shop, but he later wrote, “My head was on airplanes.” Certified at Long Island’s Brewster Aviation School, Anholzer became a rivet inspector. Bored, he quit after one day, but he soon had a job offer that changed his life. He was 18 years old.

PAA – The war years
In May of 1941, Anholzer began working in the sheet metal shop at PAA in New York. The “luxurious” S-42s converted from day flights to night aerial bedrooms with 14 berths. They were 68 feet long, 17 feet high, and had wing spans of 118 feet.

“[My] first job on aircraft was to drill a stop hole in a little crack in the forward bulkhead of the Sikorsky S-42,” he said. “The S-42 was the Bermuda Clipper we called Old Betsy, which made the survey flights over the Atlantic and Pacific.

“I worked on Boeing 314s … Dixie, Yankee, etc. There was always lots of metal work on the flying boats due to corrosion and hitting driftwood in waters all over the world. After a year and a half of doing all kinds of metal work, from rebuilding sea wings to replacing hull bottoms, I was getting to be a good metal pecker. Boy, did I fall in love with the PAA aircraft.”

The inauguration of the flying boat service to distant, exotic places captured the imagination of the entire world. The huge, graceful floating aircraft with luxurious comfort for passengers and safety features for crew were to dominate air travel for decades.

But the role of the PAA Clipper fleet was soon destined to change.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caught the United States by surprise and the alarm went out to protect the mainland from further assault.

Stoff recounts one of Anholzer’s first assignments on the job for PAA.

“The flying boats which were anchored off the coast in Flushing Bay (near La Guardia) were considered a valuable military asset,” says Stoff. “Hank told me they handed him a WWI Springfield rifle, and ferried him out to the aircraft, instructing him to sit on the wing of the plane and look for saboteurs.”

It is not clear what Anholzer was expected to do if he spotted an enemy submarine, but shortly thereafter he was transferred to PAA’s Treasure Island facility in San Francisco where he worked on the Clippers, Martin 130s, PBM3Rs, and the Consolidated PB2Y3. From California, PAA sent Anholzer, two other mechanics, and some “Navy Brass” aboard a Boeing 314 headed to work in Honolulu. En route they ate dinner with “real silverware” on tables covered in white linen.

“We shipped our tools in the bridal suite,” said Anholzer. “It was stripped of all interior paneling to save weight for war-time cargo. When it came time to sleep I had no bunk. A Navy man got out of his bunk, so I sneaked in and fell asleep. He came back, peeked in the curtains and left me to sleep for a couple of hours. We talked after I woke up and he was a pleasant man. We had breakfast together.”

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