View Full Version : Visit to Naval Air Museum in Pensacola with a hero

03-05-2007, 05:56 PM
I visited my father-in-law, retired Commander Kurt Schonthaler in Pensacola, Florida this past weekend. Kurt was born in Germany but his family moved to the United States when he was three years old. As a high school sudent, Kurt took flying lessons and had over 200 hours when he enrolled at Brown University. He joined the Navy in 1942 and was assigned to flight school as an Ensign.

His squadron of Avengers was assigned to the Lexington and dispatched to the Pacific Theatre. Kurt is 86 today, but his accounts of his many missions are spellbinding. His main objective was to torpedo Japanese battleships. He said he feared the defensive firepower of the Japanese battleships much more than encounters with Zeros...because he didn't fear the firepower of the Zero due to the armor of the Avenger. But he didn't think his turrent gunner was very effective against the Zero.

On many missions, 2,000 pound bombs were placed in the belly of the Avenger instead of torpedos. He said they sank a number of tankers and destroyers with the bombs. Over half his squadron were killed in action. He flew from many different carriers during the Pacific Campaign...and when returning to his carrier after one mission, he found it had been hit by Kamakaze planes and was badly burning. With little fuel left, he was fortunate to find another carrier in the fleet to land. He also flew Hellcats for combat with the Zeros. He is a real hero and after the war, was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola as a flight instructor.

Kurt took me to the U.S. Naval Air Museum in Pensacola this past Friday. They have every type aircraft the Navy and Marines flew in WW1, WW11, Korea and Vietnam. They have a Japanese Kate but no Zero. What a wonderful experience to see these magnificant war birds and hear first hand experiences by my hero father-in-law.

If any of you, who may have taken time to read this, ever go to Pensacola...you must go to the Naval Air Museum...you will not want to leave!

03-05-2007, 06:50 PM
You should try and sit him down infront of a camera or tape recorder and document his stories for the very least futer generations of your family, to cherish.

03-05-2007, 07:34 PM
Originally posted by T_O_A_D:
You should try and sit him down infront of a camera or tape recorder and document his stories for the very least futer generations of your family, to cherish.

I fully agree,and intend on doing the same with my father-in-law,a motor mech. on an LCI in the Pacific;and my high school German teacher,B-29 pilot in the Pacific w/ 26 missions.

DrSmith-if you have access to a vid. camera,how about re-visiting the museum and taping the tour as he tells his stories,would be very interesting. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

03-05-2007, 08:55 PM
Nice story...

I went there with my uncle and dad who lived nearby.. My uncle was a radio man on PBY's, and donated some Japanese artifacts to the museum (My dad was in marines, then army MP's in europe)

03-05-2007, 09:05 PM
They have a Japanese Kate but no Zero

They can't possibly have a Kate, none remain. They have a George, and a Zero.

Thank your Father in law for what he accomplished for us.

03-06-2007, 05:50 AM
I was there about 5 years ago while attending a seminar on the base. It was truly fascinating and I am only sorry I could not spend more time there.

03-06-2007, 09:56 AM
Wow, pretty amazing. You should document his story in a family book or video.

You mentioned you didn't see a Zero; you can find one at the Planes of Fame air museum in Chino, CA.

03-06-2007, 11:33 AM
Wow that's Awsome. Much better tour guide than i had when i went too. lol
310thMotrin was station on Pensacola NAS. i went down last year and met him & his family. the P-40 on the main dispaly floor is shweeet.
When i was there they had the Oriskany in port and anchored in the bay. went out and saw that. shame they made a reef out of her. but a large part of her conning tower and deck are now part of the museum it's self. if your eaver in NW florida, its well worth the time to stop. not hard to get to either. just be sure to get there by 2:00 pm or you won't have enough time to see everything. there's also i nice Airforce museum in Ft. Wlaton Beach just out side the gates to Egland AFB. but PNAS Museum is by far the best i;ve ever seen. Granted i haven't been to too many either.

03-06-2007, 11:42 AM
Great stuff.. my grandfather never wanted to talk about the war - it had affected him that much.
He was a tank commander in North Africa, Sicily, Italy.
He was a great man - RIP http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/sadeyes.gif

07-20-2012, 08:24 PM
I am the daughter of Kurt Schonthaler. He was certainly a WWII and Korean War hero, but the information contained in this 03-05-2007 post is not accurate. First, Kurt was a Lt. Commander and never a full Commander. He never retired from the Navy and received no benefits or pension. He simply resigned in 1954 to start his own business(es) in Pensacola, FL. He never attended Brown University, but he did attend Rhode Island School of Design for three years, where he majored in textile engineering. He was an incredibly intelligent man, especially in math and the sciences.

My father was a torpedo bomber pilot, flying an Avenger off the Intrepid -- not the Lexington. Thankfully, a book entitled Intrepid Aviators by Gregory Fletcher has just been published, and this gives detailed and accurate information about his squadron. Three photographs of my father are included in this book, which I highly recomend. Finally, my father never introduced his war experiences as a topic of conversation, but he would share a few things if someone asked and seemed genuinely interested. He was never a braggert and would not like the wrong information to be written. Thanks for listening, Joan Schonthaler -- a proud and loving daughter.

07-21-2012, 11:17 PM
Thanks for the update .Very interesting thread.