SHORT SNORTERS: A RECORD OF SHARED EXPERCIENCES DURING A TIME OF WAR

My love of History, primarily Naval History, has recently led me to explore World War II again. This time around, I decided to find ways to interpret unit camaraderie through the research of short snorters. The origins of the short snorter stem from the Alaskan Bush pilots as a way of getting their friends to buy them a ‘short snort’ of whiskey or a beer if that friend could not produce their short snorter or if their short snorter had the fewest signatures. The most common means to record these signatures was to use a common one dollar bill. During World War II, it was not unusual to use currency from the country where they were in combat. Other short snorters from World War II were bomber fighter crews or fighter squadron pilots. The problem is that these short snorters have been lost over time or discarded because people thought they had no value due to being ‘defaced’. However, there are still several available for purchase at a reasonable price. The difficult part is the research, many signatures are faded and only a select few come with any history. But once you start to unravel a thread it gets fairly easy to narrow down the unit and members to match with your short snorter. Another version of the short snorter was to tape bills together to show where you have been stationed. These short snorter belts generally do not provide as much information as do the single bills. Another problem with the belts is the fact that collectors like to break apart the belts in order to sell each bill individually to maximize their profit.

The first short snorter that I have researched was signed by US Army Air Corps crews that were shot d0wn and captured by the German Military, with one exception of a crew member shot near Leyte and was interred by the Japanese Military. The German POW’s were split between Luft Stalag 1 and Luft Stalag 3. Based on the mixture of Camp I and Camp III signatures along with the Japanese held POW, I am assuming that this dollar bill was signed at Camp Lucky Strike in Le Harve, France, where the allied prisoners of war were sent for debriefing and repatriating.

On this short snorter there are 17 identified signatures, of those eleven are readable. The names that are readable are: Pete R Kennedy, Mrs Pete Kennedy, R P Clements, William L Oakland, Hyman Beckerman, Emmett Hyland, B F Richardson, James E Kelley, Jack Oakman, Milan R Forkapa Jr., and Fred Dick. Of these signers of the short snorter, I have only hit an information roadblock on R P Clements.

On this particular dollar bill it was fairly easy to deduce that the short snorter belonged to Pete R Kennedy. This deduction was made easy due to the fact that his wife had also signed the note. Second Lieutenant Pete Kennedy was a fighter pilot whose P-51 Mustang was shot down while on bomber escort duty in or around Versmold Germany on 4-29-1944. He was then captured by the Criminal Police in Muenster Germany on 4-30-1944. He managed to evade capture for just under a day and was able to move around 30 miles East before being captured. He was then detained in Stalag Luft III.

Second Lieutenant James E Kelley Co-Pilot of his B-17G was shot down on October 7 1944 in the area of Merseburg Germany. His plane was hit by anti-aircraft weapons while on a bombing run on Merseburg and fell behind the bomber formation. All crew members successfully bailed out of their plane. However, the bombadier (F/O Arthur Skarsen) and the Ball Turret Gunner (Sgt George Bulgaretti) were shot and killed by German civilians responding to the crash. Arthur Skarsen was buried with full military honors at the Cemetery Weissenbern-Leusderde Germany. George Bulgaretti was buried as a war casualty in the Cemetery at Silerode Germany. The Military Police prevented further vigilante actions and delivered the remaining survivors to POW Camps. James E Kelley was also sent to Stalag Luft III. I have not yet  investigated the fate of the other survivors.

Second Lieutenant Jack H Oakman was the Bombadier on a B-17G when it was shot down on November 5 1944 near Wittlich Germany. He was one of two parachutists who were known to have survived. Jack H Oakman was also sent to Stalag Luft III. The other parachutist was not identified by Army Air Corps records and the other seven crew members were listed as MIA.

Second Lieutenant Hyman L Beckerman was the navigator on a B-17 that was shot down by German Fighters on October 9 1944 near Aslan Germany. There are no records as to the fate of the rest of the crew. Hyman was also sent to Stalag Luft III.

Sargent Emmett Highland was US Army Infantry and interred in Stalag Luft I on March 22 1944. No missing in action reports have been uncovered yet.

Second Lieutenant Milan R Forkapa Jr’s P-40 Warhawk was shot down on May 16 1944 near Sperlong Sicily while on a Dive Bombing mission. He was also interred in Stalag Luft III.

All of the POWs on this note who were in Stalag Luft III were moved to Stalag Luft VIIA as the Allied Forces drew closer. For a first hand recollection of this move follow the link below for Quentin Peterson.

 

 

Memories of Quentin Richard Peterson

History of Stalag 7A

 

2 Comments

  1. Just thought I’d provide one correction. Hyman Beckerman was my father. He was actually shot down October 9, 1943 not 1944. As far as the Great Escape…..He was asked if he’d like to participate, but when he learned the details, he decided not to. My father was also one of the characters in the semi-accurate novel called ‘Prisoners of Combine D’. His name was changed to Zimmerman in the book, as were all the names of the real people who were there and lived through this incredible ordeal.

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    1. Thank you for the correction! My wife & I did all the research using free public resources. I’m not surprised I got some details wrong. To be honest, I was using my imagination and knowledge of history when I wove in the whole Great Escape twist. I have always been interested in reuniting my finds with their rightful ancestors. My wife & I would be honored to gift this short snorter to your family. It is a part of your heritage and should be shared with your Father’s loved ones. If you are interested, send me a contact email and we’ll arrange from there.
      Thank you again for the correction, I greatly appreciate the feedback.

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