The Hunt for the Lost Clipper

Welcome to the Lost Clipper blog post

Over the past fourteen years, I have sought to answer the nearly forgotten question of "What happened to the Hawaii Clipper?" Together with you, the readers of this blog, I intend to complete work on a book and documentary on the who, what, where, when and specifically why the Pan Am flying boat and its passengers & crew vanished. Thanks for your visit and I hope you will join and return to this blog often.


Memorial Day: ‘Just a Common Soldier’

Memorial Day May 25, 2015

Profile picture for Freedom Alliance

Here in the United States, today is Memorial Day.  We wanted to share with you a brief video that has great impact, especially today, but no matter where you are in this world.  Guy produced, edited and put this together for The Freedom Alliance. Freedom Alliance supports our troops and their families through educational scholarships, recreational therapy, and activities that help injured heroes heal.

‘Just A Common Soldier’, also known as ‘A Soldier Died Today’, is one of the most popular poems on the Internet. Written and published in 1987 by Canadian veteran and columnist A. Lawrence Vaincourt, it now appears in numerous anthologies, on thousands of websites and on July 4, 2008 it was carved into a marble monument at West Point, US. Set to music by the author’s son, composer Randy Vancourt, it has been released several times as a record, most recently on November 1st, 2013 by American singer Connie Francis.

After syndicated U.S. advice columnist Ann Landers reprinted parts of Vaincourt’s poem in 1991, it went the pre-digital equivalent of viral throughout the English-speaking world. In 2005, the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y, incorporated words from the poem into a marble monument. In 2009, the Royal British Legion sought and gained permission to use Just a Common Soldier as part of its annual poppy campaign. This year marks the poem’s 25th anniversary.

“Larry” Vaincourt grew up in the Châteauguay Valley and was living in Deux-Montagnes when he wrote Just A Common Soldier. His wife, Doreen, still lives in the home where the couple raised five sons, including Randy, who lives in Toronto today and handles reprinting requests for the poem.

Vaincourt only started working as a columnist for the Watchman in 1983, which was the year he turned 60 and sold the last of the photo studios he had long operated in Pointe-Claire and Deux-Montagnes. In 2004, he won the Quebec Community Newspaper Association award for best column, for his humorous account of the long underwear he had worn during the Second World War, when he had served in England as an airplane mechanic with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Vaincourt also wrote a novel, which he finished a month before he died in 2009, and has yet to be published.

His son Randy says he wrote Just a Common Soldier at a time when some of his friends at the local Legion in Deux-Montagnes had started to die: “His circle of friends had started to get smaller and smaller, and these were just ordinary soldiers like him, and he thought about how little the public knew about all these ordinary men and women who had served.”

Shortly after he had written the poem, he sent an item on a whim to Ann Landers titled the Tissue Issue, about the proper way to place a roll of toilet paper — with the paper rolling out over the top of the roll, or out from under the bottom? Landers never published the item, but it sparked an ongoing personal correspondence and friendship. In 1991, Vaincourt was about to publish Rhymes and Reflections, the first of three books of his columns and poems, when he asked Landers for an endorsement for the book jacket — and she said yes. Vaincourt sent her a copy of the book, and it was while reading it that she came across Just a Common Soldier.

No matter where you today, remember those fallen heroes that gave the ultimate sacrifice so that you could live a better life. Please share this video with your friends and family, especially on a day like today.

VE Day, Then and Now

May 8, 2015

Today marks the 70th anniversary to the end of World War II.

What was VE Day?

London revellers dancing in the streets on VE Day

London revelers dancing in the streets on VE Day

  • VE Day held on 8 May, 1945, celebrated the end of war in Europe
  • The British government had been planning the celebration from late 1944. The code word ‘MOUSETRAP’ alerted ministers when VE Day was imminent
  • Bunting was taken off rations, pubs stayed open late and searchlights were used to light public monuments
  • Churchill broadcast to the nation at 3pm from Whitehall. Listeners later heard their first weather forecast since war had begun
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) waving to crowds gathered in Whitehall on VE Day, 8th May 1945.

Then prime minister Winston Churchill addressed thousands of people from the Treasury balcony 70 years ago

On 8 May 1945 people across the country lit hundreds of bonfires and beacons to celebrate the end of the war.  70 years later, the Queen was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh in lighting the first of hundreds of beacons in memorandum.

The Queen lighting beacon

Then and now, the country lit hundreds of bonfires and beacons to celebrate the end of the war.

Events held across Europe marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War on the continent.

Vintage World War II planes flew down the National Mall on Friday afternoon as part of the 70th anniversary Victory in Europe celebration in Washington.

More than 50 military planes in 15 formations made their way down the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial and down Independence Avenue to the House office buildings before returning to airports in Culpeper and Manassas, Va.

They flew in sequenced formations recounting the biggest battles of World War II, from Pearl Harbor to the final assault on Japan.

BIG news coming soon!

Patricia Kennedy christens the Pan Am Hawaii Clipper flying boat with coconut water in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - May, 1936

Patricia Kennedy christens the Pan Am Hawaii Clipper flying boat with coconut water in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – May, 1936

Greetings everyone!  As we enter the month of May, it made me think back to another May in 1936 when the Hawaii Clipper was christened in the still waters of Pearl Harbor between Ford Island and Pearl City.  My fellow traveler and filmmker colleague Jeff Riegel and I visited that very spot last year and it still holds a “spookiness” about it.  That however is not the BIG news..   What is it you ask?   Stay tuned!

As for the photo, nine year old Pat is photographed saying ““I christen thee Hawaii Clipper for the American Territory of Hawaii.”



Super Typhoon Maysak strikes Truk Lagoon

On March 31 at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EDT), Super typhoon Maysak’s maximum sustained winds were near 140 knots (161.1 mph/ 259.3 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 40 nautical miles (46 mile/74 km) from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extended 100 nautical miles (115 miles/185 km) from the center.   Power has been intermittent in the lagoon and a lot of people have reported great damage to their fragile homes.  We at The Lost Clipper Foundation are expressing our concern and prayers for the quick response of local authorities in the restoration of services and assistance to everyone effected.

As of this morning, MaysakMaysak is moving west-northwest through Yap State in Micronesia, and is continuing to strengthen. The JTWC forecast calls for Maysak to peak at 155 knots (178.4 mph/ 287.1 kph) in one or two days’ time, before a weakening trend commences. Maysak is currently forecast to make landfall in Luzon sometime on April 5 as a typhoon.

Read more at:

Life in an Archive: A Visit to the Pan Am Collection

Reprinted article by Steve Hersh and Jason Sylvestre with permission from the University of Miami:

Life in an Archive_ A Visit to the Pan Am Collection _ University of Miami Libra

Life in an Archive: A Visit to the Pan Am Collection | University of Miami Libraries

Life in an Archive: A Visit to the Pan Am Collection | University of Miami Libraries

Re-Researching the Richter Library

Recently, I visited the Richter Library to assess their effort of re-cataloging the massive Pan Am Airways.  Wow, what a difference!  On my last visit, I went through nearly twenty boxes of photos… this time, only five.  Why?  There is so much more to see and now items are in their proper order.  Great job U of M!!  Below is one of the images I asked to be scanned that was only a negative: It is the Pan Am Airways Philippine Clipper NC-14715.

Philippine Clipper NC 14715 birthed at the Pan Am Hawaii Dock

Philippine Clipper NC 14715 birthed at the Pan Am Hawaii Dock

Cleared to Land







I just left the University of Miami’s Pan Am grand debut of the “Cleared to Land” exhibit and recognition program marking the achievement of reinvigorating the archive search system. It was truly a wonderful event and showcased speakers who helped put together a far more precise catalog system after over 700 man hours of effort. Well done! The evening ended up with a fashion “runway” show featuring ex employees wearing their uniforms to show reflect the evolution of clothing during the history of Pan Am Airways. I was very lucky to win a signed piece of artwork depicting the three official Pan Am flying boats.. Very cool. Well done UM!!!!


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