Henry Anholzer: The Silent Hero

In the world of aviation, glory and hero welcomes are reserved for brave pilots who return from battle or save lives through their skills. But many lives are carried safely across the skies of the world every day, partly because of the pilots and partly due to the efforts of the mechanics and maintenance workers that keep the aircraft in working condition. No-one ever really thinks twice about the maintenance crew while planes fly safely from one destination to another. But one mechanic was recognized for his contributions in aviation, namely Henry Anholzer.

Aviation became a part of Henry Anholzer life at the very young age of five, when he witnessed the achievements of Charles Lindbergh. Model airplane building became his escape through a variety of difficult times in his life, and remained a vital part of his adult life. Finding himself in the wrong crowd of friends almost cost Anholzer his education, but a dedicated teacher noticed his passion for model airplanes and his general love for aviation, encouraging him to enroll at the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades. His aviation career began in 1941, at Pan American Airways, and he remained there until he retired in 1982.

As in any job, Henry Anholzer had to work his way up at Pan American Airways, and started in the sheet metal shop which was located in New York. Working on survey aircraft, such as the Bermuda Clipper, he gained experience in the repairing of flying boats. No-one can forget the date 7 December 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, and the aviation industry changed dramatically. Flying boats became vital to the war effort and soon Anholzer found himself in San Francisco working on Martin 130’s and others at the Treasure Island facility, after which came Honolulu, where luxury aircraft were stripped for their careers as military cargo planes. Henry Anholzer and his fellow mechanics were to keep the war effort going by keeping the aircraft in the sky.

After spending exciting and adventurous years with Pan American Airlines, Henry Anholzer retired and spent his remaining years at the Cradle of Aviation Museum volunteering his time to repair and restore the historical aircraft on display. In his biography, which he wrote some years later, Anholzer recounts his years for PAA, and reflects on his experiences. He was also was also given the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Henry Anholzer’s story reminds us that there is more to aviation than just the airplane and pilots, that the mechanics and machinists also play a vital role in our safety and that of the aircraft crew.