In searching the pre-World War II literature
on pre-World War II Newark Airport, I found no mention of the fact
that Newark Airport had been closed down in 1940 by then Mayor Meyer
Reason for the shut-down order by Mayor Ellenstein, then in his
second term, in 1940 was because New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia
had succeeded in wresting the commercial contracts of the airlines
away from Newark Airport and placing them at LaGuardia Airport.
The reopening of Newark Airport on a foggy Thursday morning, April
1, 1941, at 6 A.M. took place with some fanfare and a reopening
reception at the airport after the City of Newark, then the airport's
operator, received a guarantee from the four operating commercial
airlines to operate a combined total of at least 60 flights per
month out of Newark.
I have special reason for recalling that airport reopening. I
was a working journalist at that time and wrote the airport reopening
story. It appeared in the Summit News-Guide, and in four other suburban
Essex weekly newspapers owned by the Moreau newspaper chain.
Airport Takeover by Government
Not long after I wrote the airport reopening to commercial traffic,
the Federal Government took control of Newark Airport in January
1942. It followed almost immediately the Japanese Attack at Pearl
Harbor and our entry into World War II.
The Airport was under the control of the Overseas Air Technical
Command's Newark division, which would subsequently ship 13 million
tons of cargo through Port Newark.
My First Wartime Overseas Assignment
A portion of that cargo wound up at the Army Air Force base at
Natal, Brazil, where on April 9, 1943, I was assigned to the Contract
Carrier's office, a brand new office where my job would be to assign
some of that cargo to specific planes, flights, and crews for transport
across the South Atlantic to two ports in Africa.
This was a new office and after I had set it up, I was given two
assistants. It was called the "Contract Carrier Division"
because all of the planes assigned to us for use were contracted
from civilian airlines--all DC3s and DC4s. All of the flight crews
were civilian airline crews, contracted to work the trans-ocean
flights from Natal to the two nearest airports on the African coast.
New Planes Enroute to War
Also coming through my Natal air base from Newark Airport were
many of the American-built 40,000 aircraft used to fight the war
overseas. We saw as many as 100 planes a day coming through, many
being flown by new young pilots just out of flight school.
As most of these planes could only carry enough fuel for halfway
across the ocean, they would touch down 1450 miles from Natal on
tiny Ascension Island to refuel and resume their flights on the
remaining 1400 mile leg to Africa.
My job in the Contract Carrier office was to create and issue
Operations Orders, each of which assigned a specific numbered cargo
lot to a specific crew and plane, and its African destination point
-- either Dakar or Accra. Once issued, the crew, plane, and crew
were matched up and took off for Africa.
I Lost My Job
I was transferred out of my job at the Contract Carrier office
after I had started a base newspaper with the help of a volunteer
staff. The 'brass' at the base felt the paper needed a fulltime
responsible person and I was named for the job.1
The paper was printed in a local newspaper plant in Natal and
a big success. But after a tussle with the censors over censorship
of its content, I was 'jumped' to Ascension Island in mid-ocean
for the next 13 months. There, in addition to my assigned duties,
I also published a personal paper, The Bodian Bugle, wrote for the
Island newspaper, TASK, and was YANK field correspondent.
I was still able to meet with planes and their crews that had
started from Newark.
Last War Assignment
My last war assignment was at the Army Air Base in Belem, Brazil.
There, I had been assigned to start a base newspaper to improve
base morale, and to participate in other morale activities.
Some of these activities have been written up in my other Old
Newark memories, such as continuing my Bodian Bugle with news from
Newark, and building a roller skating rink on which I was able to
skate with my New Dreamland Arena "Betty Lytle" roller