Archive for November, 2018

Really Mass Transit – Henry J. Kaiser’s Super Bus

posted on November 29, 2018

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

 

Publicity shot of Henry J. Kaiser at wheel of his superbus

Publicity shot of Henry J. Kaiser at wheel of his superbus

Henry J. Kaiser loved vehicles: He raced speedboats, built ships for World War II, proposed a fleet of civilian aircraft, built affordable postwar automobiles, and even experimented with helicopters.

What was left?

Big buses. Really big buses.

“The bus of the future” was announced in the Oakland Tribune on August 1, 1946. Unveiled to the public for the first time in Oakland and San Francisco, this marvel of mass transportation was custom built of lightweight magnesium and aluminum. It carried 63 passengers (or 40 passengers, depending on the account) in two articulated sections totaling 60 feet in length. It was operated by a driver and a “co-operator,” in charge of collecting tickets, passenger comfort, announcements, and dispensing refreshments. Each section had a toilet, and the seats could swivel, allowing passengers to “play cards or converse.”

The ride was promoted by would-be Don Drapers as being “like a cloud,” suspended on “torsilastic springs” manufactured by B.F. Goodrich. It was powered by a 275-horsepower supercharged Cummins diesel engine, a precursor to the powerplant Kaiser used in the 1952 Indianapolis 500.

The bus was prepared for Santa Fe Trailways (later Continental Trailways, part of National Trailways Bus System) at the Kaiser Permanente Metals Corporation plant near Los Altos as a prototype. Eventual production options included fabrication at the recently closed Kaiser Richmond shipyard number 3. These were intended for longer routes between train stations, not urban transportation.

In 1947 the bus was featured leaving Oakland for Los Angeles with members of the cast of the Southern California Sportsmen’s Show. News accounts noted that the bus, “approximately twice the length of the standard bus and equipped with many luxury features, will be open for public inspection.”

Ad from the Bakersfield Californian touting bus at Sportsmen’s Show, April 21, 1947

Ad from the Bakersfield Californian touting bus at Sportsmen’s Show, April 21, 1947

Alas, the fleet of super buses never materialized, although this prototype entered regular service between Los Angeles and San Francisco through 1951. At the time, Henry J. Kaiser was busy with his Kaiser-Frazer automobile company, and the “bus of the future” was one project that never gained traction.

In early 1966, the Alameda County (California) Transit Authority announced plans to roll out a new, 77-passenger articulated bus dubbed the “Freeway Train,” described as the first in the nation to be used for public transportation.

Well, the first after Henry Kaiser’s.

 

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Dan Golenternek, MD – POW Physician

posted on November 8, 2018

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

 

Dr. Golenternek at liberation, 9/14/1945.

When we think of Army veterans, we usually think of infantry soldiers who fought on the front lines. But the armed forces also include health care professionals whose medical service exemplifies the highest levels of sacrifice and bravery. Dan Golenternek, MD endured World War II in just such a manner that serves as a shining example.

The first reveal of his sacrifice emerged when we learned he was a prisoner of war in a short report from the Oakland (Kaiser) Permanente Foundation Hospital in the December 1945 issue of the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association Bulletin:

Coffee consumption in the staff dining room rose sharply in October with a daily contingent of colleagues back from the wars to tell their stories and catch up on gossip from the home front. Major Dan Golenternek has gained back 90 pounds of the somewhat more which he lost during three and a half years in Japanese prison camps …

Such weight loss is alarming. What happened?

Liberated prisoners waving at the gate to Hanawa Prisoner of War Camp #6, September 14, 1945.

Dr. Golenternek, who’d been training at L.A. County Hospital before enlisting in the Army, was captured by the Japanese Army in April 1942 and imprisoned in the Philippines soon after he’d gone to the South Pacific. Later he was one of two U.S. Medical Corps physicians at the Sendai #6-B prisoner-of-war slave labor camp working at the Mitsubishi Mining Company copper mine in Hanawa, Japan. At liberation, it held 546 POWs: 495 Americans, 50 British, and 1 Australian. The other physician was John Lamy, with a rank of First Lieutenant.

The Sendai camp was established on September 8, 1944 and liberated a year later. It was filled with prisoners (including survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March) shipped from the Philippines to Japan on the “hell ship” Noto Maru. The Noto Maru sailed from Manila on August 27, 1944, transporting 1,035 American POWs to Port Moji, Japan. Dr. Golenternek was one of them.

Army Air Corps Technical Sergeant James T. Murphy, who survived the Sendai camp, recounted the horrific conditions and Dr. Golenternek’s role:

Dr. Golenternek was not given any medicines or medical facilities in his required job of keeping the slave-laborers — the American POWs — fit enough to walk the two miles to and from the mine daily, in their inadequate clothing and shoes, and to perform their 12-hour shifts … By hook and by crook, by sheer innovation … he managed to keep the sickest POWs from going to the mine. He created medical facilities and methods to treat wounds where there were none. He even convinced the Japanese to increase our food rations. All his methods had curative effects, and during that year of 1944-1945, only eight POWs were lost.

Allied officers who were appointed officers at the Hanawa Prisoner of War Camp #6 in Honshu, Japan. 14 September 1945. They are, front row, left to right: Capt. Dan Golenternek, Los Angeles, Calif.; Lt. Col. Arthur J. Walker, Adj. General, Washington, D.C.; Capt. E.P. Fleming, Jr., Ashville, N.C.; Capt. R.G.H. Eagle, R.E., Lloyds Bank, London, England; Back row, left to right: Flight Lt. Robert H. Thompson, RAAF, Melbourne, Australia; Capt. T.G. Spotte, Los Angeles, Calif.; Lt. W.F. Willoughby, R.E., Lloyds Bank, London, England; Lt. R.T. Pullen, Jr., Long Beach, Calif.; Lt. John E. Lamy, Sedalia, Missouri.

Another POW physician, Harry Levitt, MD, recounted earlier experiences with Dr. Golenternek at Bilibid and Rokuroshi Camps in the Philippines:

In Bilibid, Dr. Golenternek was called to care for the Japanese commander, who had an indolent ulcer on his leg that didn’t heal despite three surgical attempts by Japanese doctors. The commander told Dr. Golenternek to operate and cure the ulcer or he would be executed. At first, Golenternek was reluctant to aid the enemy, but reconsidered after realizing his own death was imminent. The ulcer did heal. A reward of extra food, antibiotics and vitamins was secretly provided for the POWs, because the appearance of unyielding brutality had to be maintained by commander.

After the war and brief service at the Permanente Hospital in Oakland, Dr. Golenternek returned to Los Angeles to complete his training in obstetrics and gynecology. He never spoke about his wartime experiences and died in 2004.

 

Photos courtesy National Archives and Records Administration

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