By C.A. "Jerry" Zerbone
When the Arab/Israel conflict turned into a shooting war in 1956, it was necessary to quickly evacuate hundreds of TWA personnel and their families from Cairo and the region. The job of coordinating this effort largely fell to C.A. "Jerry" Zerbone, who was then Supt. Flight Engineers in CAI. Reading more like a movie script than an inter-office memo, what follows are Jerrys personal notes for a wrap-up report to Chief Flight Engineer Lewis Proctor in MKC, Director of Overseas Operations Larry Trimble in PAR, and CAI Chief Pilot Gordon Granger.
November 20, 1956
Theres a lot of filling in required to cover the last two weeks at Cairo and the attempt to evacuate all of the TWA families that were there, but for your edification this is just some of what happened to me.
I reported to work at the Flight Engineer office at 0740 local time Monday, a little earlier than usual, as I had to break the seals of the outer door in order to make an entrance. These seals were installed as a precaution against trespassers, because Sunday 28 October was a day proclaimed by the Arab nations to protest the arrest of five rebel leaders in Algiers, and as a day for a general strike.
Ani(1) came in quite concerned over a bit of news that appeared in the local papers indicating that all American personnel were being advised by the government (ours) to leave the Middle East. I waved off such comments as being only for the Americans around Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, since Egypt seemed at least on the surface to be extremely quiet, and even though we were aware that the Israelis had invaded Egypt and penetrated approximately 75 miles into the Sinai Peninsula. It was later reported on Monday afternoon they were only 18 kilometers from Suez.
I went down to the terminal building for lunch, but hadnt finished when Angie Bianchi (2) and Fran Cook(3) interrupted to inform me I was wanted immediately at a meeting downtown at Mr. Thompsons(4) office. Their manner was as if they were joking and I questioned the reason for the instruction. They merely reiterated their statement, whereby I left my lunch and prepared to comply.
I had a few more affairs to finish on Monday. One was to confirm space obtained on Ethiopian Airlines for Vasilarios(5) whose mother had fallen and broken her hip. After leaving instructions with Ani, I proceeded to the CTO where Mr. Thompsons office is located. Incidentally, I was acting for Operations in the absence of both Mr. Golien(6) and Mr. Lytle(7) who were both away from Cairo on company business.
Upon departing the airport, I was stopped by members of the U.S. Naval Attachés aircraft crew. They were very excited, as they had just come from the Embassy and were on their way to convert the Attachés plane into a troop carrier. They hastily explained that everybody, i.e, all American personnel had just been ordered to leave Egypt. This confirmed the concern shown by Ani earlier over the news in the local paper.
I proceeded to the meeting and arrived downtown around 13:30. Mr. Letzkus(8) had just returned to the office from the U.S. Embassy where he had been called to receive instructions for the TWA people, and also to be advised to obtain as many seats as he could possibly round up, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,600-2,000. This, of course, would require a lot of airplanes, or a few planes making a lot of shuttles to Athens, which would have been the nearest safe haven.
Our concern was the immediate safety of the TWA people and the alert went out for the spare airplane on the International system to come to Cairo to commence the evacuation. The TWA evacuation plan was worked, and we started to call all the TWA families and notify them to prepare to evacuate, that we had called for the spare, and all that those family members whose passports were in order would leave on the first trip.
Ways and means were discussed as to how this would be handled. We were to have preference, we thought, on the TWA airplane used for the evacuation. But since there would be many Americans evacuating on regular scheduled flights, we were going to assign, through Swedes office as a clearing house, all the seats in the crew compartments of the As, and we were given permission to use the four lounge seats and the two-cushion blocked seats in the rear compartment on the "Gs", plus whatever other space was available. This procedure would have been identical to the method used when our people were evacuated in August. Many other items were reviewed and the meeting, as far as I was needed, was closed at about 2045.
I returned home and had dinner. I was instructed to call our people (my group) later Monday evening, which I did, to pass on further information regarding the evacuation. I also received a LongLine message from the dispatch office to be at the airport when 6999 (the evacuation flight) arrived -- it was then estimating Cairo at 0345 local time.
What with making phone calls and preparing for the arrival of the airplane, I got little sleep. I left for the airport a little earlier than necessary, just in case. I arrived just in time to see the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) that officially closed the airport being read by all the dispatchers and clerks on duty, and to hear Capt. Granger, who was commanding the inbound evacuation trip, being ordered by radio from approach control to reverse his heading immediately or take the consequences. He insisted on proceeding to Cairo, but could not.
The NOTAM indicated the field would be closed indefinitely, we thought surely they would permit at least some contact day operations, so we waited at the field until after six oclock in the morning, when it became evident through contacts with the airport officials that no type of operation would be permitted. I went home, changed my clothes, and tried to sleep a little, but the phone kept ringing.
Returned to the field Tuesday at 0930 or so, just in time to see a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane take off. On the taxiway there was a BEA and an Aden Airways plane preparing to do the same. As I entered my office, Mr. Bittar(9), the Industrial Relations man, was on the phone asking me to call all the people in my group and tell them that the airport was closed. I mentioned that right this moment there was an airplane taking off and two more were preparing to do the same. He seemed confused and told me he would call back in a while after he found out the whole story about how come someone was flying. A few minutes later, after my inquiry to the dispatch office, I was informed that these three planes had arrived CAI before the curfew went into effect, so they were permitted to leave by special permission only.
Bittar called back with the same information. We still had hopes for contact day operations to commence at any moment, so were all standing by to do all possible. Shortly before noon, word was received that possibly the airport would be closed after 1700 local time. This was not confirmed immediately, but rather than be caught short and not be able to secure all the equipment and offices, between Mr. Cook(10), Mr. Korf (11) and myself, we decided to move Regional Flight Operations to the dispatch office and dismiss the local employees after their lunch period.
Korf and I transferred our activities to the terminal where closer coordination with dispatch could be maintained. We began to feel more concerned at this time about our Atlantic crew people who were in town. We were trying to keep them informed about what was going on and still hoping for a plane and daylight operation, but not much thought was given to trying to get their passports from the police at the airport.
However, events soon occurred that caused action to be taken the first thing Wednesday morning, 31st October, to obtain these documents for our Atlantic and our French cabin teams. These plans were made on Tuesday 30th October. Mr. Kimball(12) instructed Mr. Sami Gayed, his assistant, to obtain the passports the first thing in the morning so the crews could get out on the convoys that were to form on Wednesday.
After returning home Tuesday evening early, 1630, Geri(13) was there. She had stayed in town with a girlfriend after seeing a water ballet corps from SFO that was in town. I found out from her, however, that she had worked all night until 0500 at the Embassy on some very secret and confidential work. We compared notes, and with what I said were facts about how far the Israelis were into Egypt and about the evacuation that was to take place, she was able to confirm most of it but I received no other advance information. I had an errand to do in Heliopolis, and I also stopped at the hotel to pass on any further information I had to the crews there.
Upon returning home, I received a call from Mr. Kimball to inform all of our people that a convoy was to form, and to have their families in it on Wednesday to proceed to Alexandria to board a Navy transport that was waiting there. I passed this information to all the people in my group. Also on that evening, Tuesday, Geri was called back to the Embassy for more work on the subject of evacuating all Americans. She arrived home around 0200 Wednesday.
I also received information from downtown Tuesday evening that all the passports for those people who live in Heliopolis were now validated with exit visas, and were to be picked up by Bob Gwin(14). I volunteered to deliver all he had left to the people of Heliopolis that were unaware of this, and to those who could not be contacted and be informed that Gwin would have their passports. As a result of everybodys effort to cooperate, I only had one to deliver -- that was to my boy Bill Frey(15) -- who was advised to depart and was at home preparing.
Before delivering Freys passport, I was still contacting those of my group whom I could not reach earlier -- one of whom was Gwin. When I informed him that a convoy was to form on Wednesday and the ship was in Alexandria, as I was instructed, he for some reason called the Embassy. I dont know to whom he spoke, but when he asked if the information we were passing along was correct, he was told that "those plans were not crystallized and that nothing was definite."
You can guess that by now we were as confused as you perhaps are reading this. When Gwin called me back and told me what he was told, I called the same man at the Embassy and got the same story. I immediately got Mr. Kimball on the phone, told him what Id found out, and he said he would call the Embassy again to be sure, for it was the Embassy who had called him before and had given him the information that the group leaders were passing along.
Well, he called back a few minutes later and verified, but he could not understand why he was told one thing earlier and a complete contradiction only a few minutes later. After delivering Freys passport (a black-out was in progress), I proceeded to the hotel to inform anyone I might see regarding the current status of things. I saw no one, however, but just before I left for home at 0030 or so, Frey showed up. As I was just leaving, I said a brief "Goodnight" and headed for home.
I was to be at the airport at 0700 Wednesday for a meeting with Kimball. Geri returned at 0215 from her duties at the Embassy and I waited for her. Was awakened at 0600 by a phone call for Geri. As I had to be at the field early, I also got up. At 0635 Mr. Kimball called my house, told me that I should call everyone in my group and tell them that they should stay away from the downtown area unless their business was urgent. This I did, catching everyone home at this early hour, but was unable to be at the field at 0700 Wednesday as we had arranged. I arrived there at 0740. For other reasons Mr. Kimball was not there either, but he did arrive around 0800. Sami Gayed was instructed to get on the Atlantic passport problem.
We had a semblance of a meeting in the Traffic Office at the terminal as things started happening very fast. The airport was taken over by the military a meeting was planned with the new CO to find out how much of our installation we would have access to more information was received contradicting what we had been told by the man at the Embassy there was a convoy forming and everyone was to prepare seriously now.
At about 1130 I became concerned about Geri, for up until now the Embassy had issued no orders to their personnel to evacuate. I was not about to wait any longer for them to act. I was going to tell Geri shed better quit and come along with the TWA people. I was calling the Embassy to talk with Geri when I was called to the phone in another office -- Geri was at home. She had been ordered out and was to be in a convoy leaving the Embassy grounds at 1245, and she wanted me to take her back for she had come by taxicab to Heliopolis to pack. I left the airport immediately to take her back to the Embassy.
Upon my arrival home, Gurney(16) wanted to talk to me and so did Howard Mann(17). I called these two, told them Geri was on her way out and I was taking her to the Embassy convoy in a few minutes, that if they were ready, they should be in the convoy also. I drove Geri to town then realizing Gurney had no car. I returned to Heliopolis to fetch him and his family to the Embassy so they could get away.
Upon arriving at Gurneys home, I learned that the Embassy warden for his neighborhood had just contacted him and informed him of a convoy that was forming at 0600 Thursday at the Airlines Club. He said he would rather work on the one in the morning instead of causing Mrs. Gurney to have to get the children ready, and they would surely be in that convoy. I proceeded to the hotel to tell the Atlantic crews of the plan to use our private cars to convoy them to Alexandria, and was greeted very coldly. They were of the impression we fouled up badly in the handling of the evacuation.
I had, meanwhile, spoken to Mr. Kimball, and was told we finally had retrieved the passports from the customs police at the airport at 1200, and that the only way they could be released was with a letter from the police at the Cairo airport to the police at the Alexandria dockyard with all the names and passport numbers as a group, and only then in the custody of a TWA official, Sami Gayed. This again was with the stipulation that they be placed aboard a ship leaving Alexandria harbor at 1200 on Wednesday, and even went so far as to designate the ship.
I informed the Atlantic crews of this and they finally, but not completely, went for the idea of being taken to Alexandria. Since it would have to be an early start and completely apart from the convoys set up by the Embassy, they were told of our plan to take them in our own private cars.
I was again called to a meeting at Mr. Thompsons office at 1500. I left the group at the hotel and went back to Cairo to attend the meeting. Mr. Letzkus was to arrive very shortly. Mr. Kimball and Mr. Gayed, with the crew passports in his custody, were also to attend meeting. Mr. Letzkus and Thompson arrived shortly after with the very bad news that the airport was to be bombed that evening (Wednesday). He had called the airport to have all TWA personnel leave the airport and call him from the Heliopolis Palace Hotel so he could tell them what was wrong without arousing the entire airport.
This information, I guess, was the first and only good piece of intelligence that was received. The meeting started, and the first thing was talked about was how to get permission to take the American and French crews to Alexandria. This at first went very badly. Mr. Letzkus was against our attempting to get permission that was separate from those organized and operated by the Embassy.
We called upon the Embassy people for advice, and to find out if they would provide an escort of Egyptian police. They could not and were uncertain that a small convoy would get through alright. However, they said since we had very little choice in the matter and had to get the passports and crews to Alexandria before noon to be aboard the ship, they would do all they could and permitted us to proceed as planned. These plans consumed approximately 2½ hours but were finally set.
About that time, just after dark, the first air raid struck -- Joe Letzkus was on the phone talking to Paris. He was asked how things were in Cairo, and replied that everything was real quiet. He had no more than made that statement when "lights-out" sounded. They cut the line off and all went black around Cairo. In a few minutes, lights were visible in the sky from the vicinity of the airport and firing could be heard. An aircraft had flown over the airport and dropped white flares. Then on the next pass, he dropped some red ones, which were apparently marking the area that was to be hit. Several minutes later, bombs of various sizes, and timed to go off later, started detonating. They continued for approximately 30 minutes, after which the "all clear" was sounded and all the lights came back on.
I was concerned about our people living in the airport area. I called Howard Mann right away. He answered the phone calmly and I was much relieved. When I asked him what was going on he replied, "it was noisy as heck but it seemed as if it was only a practice run." I asked if the airport looked afire or anything. He could see the International airport and Almaza from his rooftop very clearly. He said he would go up and have a look and to call him back in a few minutes. I called Gurney, Reithner(18) and John Heilman(19), all were OK but it was very scary for a few minutes. I then called Howard Mann back, and he said except for a couple of flares that were still burning there seemed to be a small fire on the International side of the airport. He assumed that maybe one of the planes that made the flare drop had crashed.
Reports then started coming in to us from the news services through Emmet Riordan, our Public Relations man in Cairo, that the British had bombed the airports and there was much speculation as to how much damage occurred. With the lights back on, we proceeded with our meeting. We called all of the members of our groups from downtown to positively, or rather strongly, advise all of them to leave on the very next convoy. This time, everyone was willing although there were a couple of slackers. Then, about 2130 Wednesday evening, they were back again -- this time the raid lasted for about 1½ hours -- at least the blackout lasted that long in Cairo. Many more bombs were dropped and there was much shooting of anti-aircraft guns.
Meanwhile, tickets were purchased from the agent of the boat company for the crews. At about 0045 we had figured everyone was notified and all that could be done was done. I serviced my car with fuel, went back to Heliopolis in time for another blackout at 0200. More bombs fell in the airport areas. I tried to sleep but what with having to pick up the Atlantic crews at 0500 Thursday, it was now 0220 and sleep was difficult in coming. The alarm went off at 0400. A blackout was in progress with large and noisy explosions going off very near my house in the vicinity of the airport. I dressed and packed a few clothes just in case I could not get back to Cairo, for I was driving my own car to Alexandria with the others. There were five cars altogether.
I was supposed to return to Cairo after I had seen the crews safely aboard the ship. This accounted for my being present with the boys in Cairo in some of the dispatches. However, since war was already in progress between the Egyptians and the French and British, French people were refused exit visas. The Americans boarded the ship without incident, although throughout the day in Alexandria there was an almost constant alert with heavy gunfire in progress almost continuously from early forenoon until dusk.
To back up a little, I arrived at the Heliopolis Palace at 0500 Thursday. The crews were ready, all the cars were assembled, and per Embassy orders manifests were made out for each car. I was named the Convoy Commander for "official" purposes. We boarded and proceeded to the Embassy for final clearance and instructions. We arrived shortly before 0600 Thursday, and were about to start for Alexandria when the air raid alarm went off again. Firing was heard from the Heliopolis area and heavy bombing was heard from the vicinity of Cairo West airport.
Departure from the Embassy was delayed until approximately 0700 when we got the "all clear" from the Embassy people and departed. We had no escort police as we had been informed previously. We proceeded out of Cairo to the desert road to Alexandria. We cleared the Egyptian Army check posts without incident, or least oblivious to any dangers that may have existed, and arrived in Alexandria 3 hours later.
We joined with a convoy that had left Cairo on Wednesday, and were escorted to the Alexandria docks where our Americans were cleared through customs and immigrations, and our French people were denied exit. I then had the problem of doing whatever was possible to obtain permission from the authorities to permit them to exit. I explained about not being able to get their passports out of the Cairo airport police, how they were without visas or other identifying documents or stamps to indicate to less informed Egyptians that their arrival into Egypt was all perfectly legal.
The Immigration Colonel was a very understanding man and believed me. He said he would call upon his superiors in Cairo for further instructions for he was unable himself to permit French and British to exit Egypt. I went into his office again and again, but each time he said he had no word from Cairo, but when it arrived he would call me in and let me know.
All this time the ship, which was supposed to leave at noon, was being held up for some reason or another and it was now around 1530. I went into his office again still no word. By this time the French were becoming alarmed and were beginning to think I was not doing all I could. I calmed them down they were otherwise not frightened.
The Colonel called me into his office around 1630 or so to tell me he had heard from Cairo by phone and that positively nothing could be done. This I told the French people but they had already sensed that the answers would be negative. We departed the Customs bonded area and secured hotel space for the evening. I called the French Consulate, told them I had a problem, that it was their duty to handle it, and that I was coming right over.
Check Purser Louis Carre, Hostess Verrier, and Samir Nadda, Heilmans assistant, who had volunteered his car for our special little convoy, went along with us for his language ability and knowledge of Alexandria. We arrived at the French Consulate office and were met by the Consul and ushered into his office where the details were divulged to him. He, of course, was probably in the same predicament as his clients and offered only a shrug of the shoulder as help. We mentioned that the French passports were still in the custody of Sami Gayed, and his only solution was to imply keeping Sami a hostage. We got no help here.
Then I took the French crews over to the American Consulate to see what they might be able to do for employees of an American company. The consul was busy -- very busy -- as he had to deal with not only one or two Americans, but each of the 1,600 or 1,700 who had passed through Alexandria in the last 7 days. However, he graciously gave me his time but as I posed my question as to what I could for our French crew, he removed his glasses and proceeded to read me off in no uncertain terms, to this effect: If I thought he would intercede for a Frenchman or interfere in problems that were French, I was crazy and I should not try to tell him how to do his job. I calmly answered that I was only seeking whatever advice he could offer. As acting Assistant Manager of Flying with the responsibility for these employees on my hands at present, he was the only person I could turn to.
He calmed down and explained how he could do nothing officially, but could only act as an interested party in the case. He and a Mr. Adams(20) and a Mr. Lakos(21), who overhead all of my conversation and requests, suggested that something could be done if we could call Cairo and talk to the right people. I dont know what he meant, but he knew Joe Letzkus and his contacts in Cairo and probably thought perhaps they were the "right" people.
He then attempted to call Cairo for me from a phone on his desk. The operator came back and said that the line was busy and there would be 5-hour wait. He wrote a little note on his saying something like "contact Letzkus in CTO, explain my plight and request advice." Etc. I cant remember all it said. And then told me to wait while he left the office for about 5 minutes. He returned to say my message had been delivered to the Embassy in Cairo, and someone there would get it to Mr. Letzkus. He asked for confirmation when this happened.
He sat with me and spoke nicely for about five minutes. He again left for a moment, and when he returned he said my message had been delivered to Letzkus and all we could do now was wait. I returned to my French group and told them exactly what had taken place. There was hope, but not very bright. It was still Thursday evening and we returned to the hotel to go out to dinner. While we were eating, who should enter but Mr. Washburn, the Vice Consul -- the man with whom I have done all the talking earlier at the Consulate. My French companions asked if I would go to him and see if an answer had arrived. This I did, only to find the answer to be, "no further suggestions!"
I now had serious concerns about the plight of these poor people. Needless to say, the sad news halted all appetites abruptly. Upon our return to the hotel, a new group of evacuees were arriving from Cairo. Among them were some French people, one of which was the wife of a Consular official. She had some word that maybe all the women and children could be released. All French were stating together at the Cecil Hotel, and at 08:00 Friday were to proceed bag and baggage to the French Consulate for instructions.
We now had only my car and the company Chevrolet. We stopped by the Cecil Hotel, but no other French were there. We than proceeded to the French Consulate only to find that a sign had been placed over the French sign indicating that all activities of the Consulate were now taken over by the Swiss. Glory!! Back to the hotel we went for safety as a precaution.
I was now in need of someone higher up for it seemed I could do no more. I went with Samir Nadda, the Communications Assistant , to the CTO where we learned the teletype circuit between Alexandria and Cairo was still open. I sent a message over this circuit to DPSM Kimball indicating that Mr. Gayed, who still had custody of all French passports, and Mr. Nadda would not be able to return to Cairo as they had been directed the day before, but at my request would remain in Alexandria to render whatever help they could to the French people.
Their language skill was indispensable. While at the CTO, we placed a phone call to Cairo for the purpose of securing further instructions. Since the calls usually took a minimum 3-4 hours to be made during this emergency, the meantime was used to locate a windshield for Mr. Naddas auto that had been shattered by a flying rock while enroute to Alexandria.
While we were out of the CTO, our call went through. Mr. Halim Zayadi, the Alexandria
Sales Rep, took the message. Mr. Thompson had requested I obtain 16 more seats aboard the Greek ship Aeolia and to get aboard myself. Upon learning this, I again placed a call to Mr. Thompson, which surprisingly enough went right through to Cairo. Mr. Thompson said his group could not get to Alexandria now, but were going to take the train for Aswan and a boat to Khartoum, adding that I was to leave Alexandria immediately. This conversation occurred at around 1100 Friday. I asked also "what am I going to do about our French people?" His reply was: "Do everything that is humanly possible." The phone connection was cut after this statement.
I left the CTO and proceeded to the American Consulate, which is just upstairs to see if any further aid or suggestion could obtained for our people. The above-mentioned Mr. Lakos met me, since it was so late, noting that at any moment the ship with the refugees would be cleared out of the harbor. I inquired about the road conditions to Cairo in case I missed the boats, i.e., could I drive back as I was originally instructed? He said no convoys were allowed over the Cairo road after the one that left at 0600 Friday (today) because it was too dangerous.
I then asked about the road to Tobruk, and he said that I could never make it as it also was blocked by the Egyptians. I hadnt yet had a chance to tell our French people of my instructions to leave. So I then asked this gentleman if it would be possible to get out of Alexandria any other way. He said we had to be on one of those boats leaving today because if I missed them well. He then said his people would be leaving soon. He didnt say just me how, but added that they would get out and if there was room I could go too. But if there was not, he said, "you stay!"
I went back to the hotel to tell the French I had to leave. It was now around 0100. Upon arrival there a call came through from Cairo for Sami Gayed from Kimball. We all attempted to get a few words in during this last conversation. But Mr. Kimball had so much to say that Gayed did not even get one word across before the line was out at the end of three minutes.
As we left the telephone booth, I met Mr. George Petty, one of our navigators, who was greatly concerned. He said he was going to a shipping office for some tickets aboard a Greek transport that was to leave very soon from Alexandria, and if I wanted him to get me a ticket he would. But I had to hurry and make up my mind.
My mind was made up several minutes before at the American Consulate, but until this time I had not been able to arrange any type of passage. I turned over my passport to George in order to obtain a ticket. He said to be here at 0130, for we had to check through the immigration, customs and the hodge-podge muddled system the Egyptians were using. I then concentrated the French people -- Sami Gayed and Mr. Samir Nadda -- around a table and told them I had to leave.
Many questions came up, mainly about finances and how these people were to get along. There was no way at that time of telling just for how far this war would go, or how long it would last, and whether or not TWA would be able to provide funds for their maintenance. I could not, nor could anyone answer these questions. The Good Lord had it figured out long beforehand though, for the previous Monday, 29 October, I had obtained a considerable sum of money for my own requirements, and since way back in my head somewhere I figured maybe I would not be able to return to Cairo. I even had packed a bag and brought along my uniform and flight kit.
Before each member of the group, I told them how much money I had and counted out 735 Egyptian pounds and handed it to Check Purser Louis Carre, whom I figured was the logical man to be custodian and cashier. Many a worry vanished from the drawn and tired faces of these people. I took down on a piece of paper a few cryptic notes to mothers, wives and sweethearts I was supposed to call. These messages were all handled by the Supt. Pursers office in Paris. It was 1330 when Petty returned with my passage. He and his family had arrived in a cab.
I ran out to my car after a fond goodbye or two and drove off for the docks, arriving there at 1400. After proceeding through the above-mentioned hodge-podge, I was finally cleared at 1515. I was on my way to the ship when a fierce air raid commenced, and firing from the dock area counterattacked noisily for approximately 30 minutes. Upon the "all clear," I continued to the ship and boarded just about the time they were pulling in the ropes to depart. We cleared the harbor without further incident on 2 Nov at 1650.
Arrived Athens approximately 1100 local, 4 Nov 1956. Checked with Mr. Golien and later received a LongLine requiring me at Regional Operations - Paris for a complete report. Left Athens 5 Nov., arrived Paris 6 Nov at a meeting called by Mr. Trimble where I, in substance, reviewed what is contained herein. On 7 Nov I proceeded to Rome and on to Naples to be of whatever help I could to the crews who had just arrived.
On Thursday, 8 Nov I returned to Rome at Mr. Grangers request to assist him if necessary on matters involving our operations East of Athens. Returned again 9 Nov to Naples for further talks with the evacuees regarding their status and conditions to be expected upon arrival in the States, what the companys plans were for looking after their homes and servant people in Cairo, etc. The big questions remained unanswered.
We all proceeded to Rome by Pullman bus on 10 Nov where a plane was to take all of them back to the States. Meantime, word was received that the remaining TWA people in Cairo had made their way to Tobruk and an airplane was being sent there to get them. I was to function as F/E with Capt. Granger and F/O Copenhaver on this trip. We started for Tobruk at 0300Z from Rome with plane 823.
We were 10-12 minutes out when #1 engine got rough. I didnt mess around with it very long and reduced power a little. Checked the switches, and she was rough on both so I suggested to Capt. Granger we feather in case it was a valve or something else in the cylinder. We punched the feathering button and returned. Got a new airplane, and with about a 2-hour delay we resumed our flight to Tobruk.
Arrived at approximately 0900, picked up the refugees and returned to Rome at approximately 1400Z. I stayed until the refugee plane was loaded and on its way to the U.S. On Wednesday, 14 Nov, I departed Rome for Athens.
This review is what happened to me. Everyone who stayed in Cairo or had anything to do with this extraordinary evacuation played an equally unselfish role in trying to assist -- not only the TWA people -- but all the Americans, British and French who were in need. They each can write their individual happenings that would fill in my bare spots.
"Jerry" Zerbone (1940 1973) served in Maintenance and Flight Operations at IDL, ATH, CAI and LAX. Secretary to the CAI Flight Engineer office CAI Maintenance Foreman CAI Mechanic Norm Thompson, CAI sales
1. Secretary to the CAI Flight Engineer office
2. CAI Maintenance Foreman
3. CAI Mechanic
4. Norm Thompson, CAI sales
5. Flight Engineer Nick Vasilarios
6. Waldon"Swede" Golien, Chief Pilot
7. Neal Lytle, Check Pilot
8. Joe Letzkus, CAI Sales
9. Andy Bittar
10. CAI mechanic
11. Earl Korf., Supt. Navigators, CAI
12. Richard Kimball, Industrial Relations & Deputy Passenger Service Manager (DPSM)
13. Jerrys daughter, employed by U.S. Embassy
14. Bob Gwin, CAI Flight Engineer
15. CAI Flight Engineer
16. Karol Gurney, CAI Flight Engineer
17. Howard Mann, CAI Flight Engineer
18. Bob Reithner, CAI Flight Engineer
19. Head of CAI Communications
20. Mr. Adams, U.S. Consulate
21. Mr. Lakos, U.S. Consulate