Sunday, September 11, 2005

Very tiny contributions to society

Amid all the aggravation that the "101" screenplay is causing me, small achievements make the hobby worthwhile.

Last week, I received a notification from A poster had replied to my two-year-old post, which sought relatives of Bill Schroeder.

Bill Schroeder flew with 101 Squadron. He was an American volunteer, who some sources had identified as an aviator in the US Navy. No more was known, and even the US Navy connection was dubious.

Schroeder made it to Israel in September/October 1948. He may have spent a week or two in training in Czechoslovakia before that. He may have ferried a Spitfire from Yugoslavia to Israel in December 1948 as part of Operation Velveta 2.

Schroeder was involved in the dogfight on the last day of the war between 101 Squadron Spitfires and RAF Tempests and Spitfires.  He shot down a Tempest whose pilot, David Tattersfield, died.  The action earned him a nickname, maybe two: "Sure Shot" or "Sudden Death".

Schroeder was deeply affected by the fact that he had killed a British pilot.  David Tattersfield's father received an anonymous letter of regret that it is believed Schroeder wrote. Schroeder went home soon after, and essentially hid from the past.  He never attended reunions or contacted any fellow volunteers.  All anybody knows these days is his name.

My personal research turned up few leads, mostly because there are so many Bill Schroeders out there. There's a football player, the victim of the Kent State shooting, the baseball player, and the second recipient of a Jarvik-7 artificial heart. There have been a few men named Bill Schroeder even within the restricted field of aviation - the Lockheed mathematician, for example.

I had turned up nothing on this man, so I posted in a Schroeder genealogy message board. And that drew a response from a man named Casey, who suspected that his late grandfather was the pilot I was looking for.

Casey wrote that his grandfather "did have one mission he refused to discuss and our grandmother respected his wishes until her death." That was heartening, but the biographical sketch casey offered me has his Bill Schroeder in staff college between August 1948 and February 1949.

Fortunately, Casey was able to provide three photos of Schroeder in US Navy service. I sent them on to Chalmers "Slick" Goodlin and Syd Cohen, two 101 Squadron vets who flew with Bill Schroeder. I also sent them to Jeff Weiss, author of "I Am My Brother's Keeper" for him to forward to Israeli historical sources.

I got this note from Goodlin earlier today:

I have reviewed the photos, and they certainly appear to represent the Bill Schroeder I knew in IAF 101 Squadron during my combat service there over Sinai in 1948-49.

I knew Bill as a fine fellow.  I am sure that many of us who had close relationships with RCAF and RAF fellows during WW II were extremely disappointed that we were forced to defend ourselves when flying under foreign colors and being attacked by our British allies and friends. It was a most unsatisfactory experience.

With best regards,
Chalmers H. Goodlin

I won't debate on this blog exactly who was attacking whom, but I will let this rest with one observation: it sure feels good to solve a 50-year-old mystery. Look for a bio of Schroeder to go up on in the next week or two. That's him cutting the cake in the photo above.

In a separate tidbit of vindication, Jeff Weiss sent me a photo of a service log that confirms my strong suspicion that Bob Vickman perished in S-199 number D-110 on July 9, 1948. Most previous researchers assumed that D-110's last pilot was Eddie Cohen, who had died May 29.


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