Jeff Traenkle grew up as a young boy during World War II with a fascination with flying. After graduating from high school, he received an NROTC scholarship at Princeton, which came with a three-year service obligation. After completing his flight training in 1955, he flew for two years on an anti-submarine aircraft.

Jeff was introduced to the Vineyard when he married Carol. Over time he came to know eight East Choppers who had flown during WW II and who shared similar experiences to his own: Page Stephens, Howard Henrickson, Graham Dripps, Paul Roedel, Frank Neil, Chuck Sanders, Marty Mard, and Russell Clark. Jeff saw these men as heroes, and decided to honor them by writing profiles of their experiences in the military.

The problem was that he waited too long to begin the project, and they had all died, making interviews impossible. That didn’t stop him, however. He turned to the Internet, and with great skill he has created eight remarkably complete profiles.

While I do not have space to summarize each profile, I would like to share some interesting stories. The Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, R.I. played a prominent role in the lives of three of these men. Page Stephens’s first tour of duty was in the North Atlantic on the aircraft carrier Ranger. In 1943 his squadron was sent to Quonset Point for redeployment to the Pacific. It was while he was there that he met his future wife Nancy, who was living in Providence at that time.

Howard Henrickson and Paul Roedel also spent time at Quonset Point. The two were sent frequently to the naval air station on the Vineyard for additional training. Both men, though at different times, met their future wives, Betty Henrickson and Carolyn Roedel, at East Chop Tennis Club dances.

While reading these profiles, the significance of chance jumps out at you. Graham Dripps left Amherst College during his junior year with the goal of flying for the Navy. When his acceptance at flight school was delayed, he was assigned to a converted yacht named Cythera. Two days before the Cythera left for war he received his orders to attend flight school. Thirty days after leaving port for war the Cythera was sunk with only two survivors, two guys picked up by a German submarine who spent the rest of the war in Germany.

On July 24, 1945 Howard Henrickson’s squadron sunk sixteen Japanese ships in the Sea of Japan. For his part in that battle, Howard was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest honor the Navy bestows. Page Stephens won the Distinguished Flying Award for sinking two destroyers off the coast of the Philippines. Graham Dripps won praise from his crew members for calling off an attack on a whale. Frank Neil and Chuck Sanders flew transport planes in the Pacific theatre. Russell Clark and Marty Mard, the youngest members of Jeff’s elite gang of eight, were in transit to join a Navy squadron when the war came to an end.

Now that Jeff has finished the profiles he’s not sure what to do with them. If you see him, please encourage him to publish them in a book. Each profile contains fascinating information about the person profiled and the history of World War II.

Finally, the MV Partnership for Health is a free program of Island Health Care Community Health Center that offers practical knowledge and skills to put participants in control of improving their health. The organization is recruiting a new class of leaders to conduct seminars on tools for caregivers. The training will take place on Sept. 12 and 13. Training materials, lunch and snacks will be provided. For more information, email or call 508-627-5797 ext. 114.

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