The Pan Am Podcast

Episode 37: Lester Kappel, World War II Aircraft Mechanic with Pan Am

May 14, 2023 Pan Am Museum Foundation Season 2 Episode 37
The Pan Am Podcast
Episode 37: Lester Kappel, World War II Aircraft Mechanic with Pan Am
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Show Notes

In this episode we are joined by 99-year-old Lester Kappel. He worked for Pan Am during World War II beginning in early 1942 until mid 1946. He was stationed for the majority of World War II in Casablanca with the African-Orient division of Pan Am under the Air Transport Command. 

Lester provides a unique perspective of what it was like to be working for the airline during wartime in support of Allied forces that utilized Pan Am’s vast global network and resources making it a vital lifeline of resupply. 

He began his time with Pan Am as one of the airline’s esteemed mechanics and worked exclusively in 1942 on the celebrated Boeing B-314 Flying Boats and then later expanded his skills during the war to the engines of land-based planes. 

Lester was at the airport and saw President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plane when he came to Casablanca in January of 1943 to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Watch the Pan Am 1945 post-war film called, Clippers at War, to learn more about the airline's contribution to the war effort:

After leaving Pan Am after the war, Lester Kappel worked in the family printing business for 30 years, while also serving as a volunteer firefighter on Long Island beginning in 1958.

In the 1980s, he sold the company and began working for the local library where he worked for over 30 years up until recently. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Lester literally did not stop helping his Long Island neighbors until he was dehydrated and had to be taken to the hospital.

Today, Lester is revered by family, friends, library patrons, and firefighters alike. He is a great supporter of the Pan Am Museum and has donated items that are proudly on display in our public exhibits.

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A very special thanks to Mr. Adam Aron, Chairman and CEO of AMC and president of the Pan Am Historical Foundation and Pan Am Brands for their continued and unwavering support!