No. 115 Squadron
Header: Great painting of a No.115 Squadron crew while entering their Lancaster for another bombing sortie over Germany. (Uknown Artist via Friends of the Royal Air Force 115 Squadron, @115squadron Facebook Page)
Top: Official portrait photo of John Snyder (Kokkinakos). John was one of the lucky pilots who managed to survive 31 combat missions over Germany, considering the low survivability rate of crews in Bomber Command. (Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt)
Bottom: John poses with his crew in front of his favorite Lancaster, specifically the Lancaster B I, NG236 KO-J. From L-R, Miles Kahoe (Bomb Aimer), John Snyder (Pilot), Bill Wales (Engineer), Ken Logue (Navigator), Uknown, Unknown, and Unknown. (Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt)
John Snyder was born to Nickolas Constantine Kokinakos and Dorothy Hood, Feb. 17, 1923, in Vancouver, B.C. Nick immigrated to Canada from Sparta, Greece, and Dorothy was of English heritage. Nicholas ran a few small cafes (like all good Greeks!)and Dorothy raised the kids. According to John, his mother canceled Greek traditions for their new family and he raised him as a Canadian English. To honor his mother's choice, he changed his surname to Snyder. Many years later his daughter, Tiffany, asked him why he chooses Snyder and he just said that it sounded good. John was politely asked to leave high school after the ninth grade as he was...a high spirited young man. They thought he’d be better off just getting a job. He went to work at a bakery and hated it. It was the most boring repetitive work. He told to his children that a door would open in the ceiling and a ball of dough would fall through onto a table and then he had to break it into prices put it in pans and by the time he was done another ball of dough would fall and over and over and over. He hated it. He also worked in a sugar refinery. His mother Dorothy died about that time, from nasal surgery. He lived in a two-story house and grew up during the Great Depression supervised mostly by his older brother Conn Kokinakos, who passed in 2008. Growing up in the Great Depression his shoes never fit and he only had one pair that his mom was always mending. He remembered that he’d collect bottles for money and when he’d get 10 cents he’d spend the day at the beach and buy a soda and a hot dog. Finally, when they asked for soldiers he jumped at the chance and somehow he managed to become an aviation cadet in Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Those days the need for pilots to serve in Commonwealth Air Forces was great. Unlike the USAAF and USN, there was no need for an aviation cadet to be a College graduate or at least a College Student.
John began his Elementary Training at No.6 EFTS, Prince Albert, Canada flying Tiger Moths on May 3, 1943. Ten days later he flew his first solo at the controls of Tiger Moth 4220 which lasted 20min. He completed his Elementary Training on June 25, 1943, having logged almost 76 flight hours with the 36,40 flying solo. During his time at No.6 EFTS, he was introduced to IFR flights with the usage of the Link trainer. On June 30, 1943, he flew his first sortie with the twin-engine Avro Anson at No.19 SFTS in Vulcan Alberta, Canada. He was part of Course 84, C’ Flight, and his solo on Avro’s airplane took place on July 13, 1943, while flying Anson Mk.II 11459 for almost an hour. He flew navigation and bombing training sorties for the next 3 months and finished the Service Flight Training School on October 13, 1943, graded as average with a total of 151 flight hours, both day and night, with an instructor or solo. According to his logbook, he took leave before overseas duties and he began his flights again while stationed in Snitterfield Warwick’s, England. There he continued the Advanced Training in No.18 AFU, flying Oxfords. His first solo on the new type commenced on April 14, 1944, at the controls of ED201. On May 3 he was attached to No.1514 Beam Approach Training Unit and till the end of the month began flying precision timed navigation flights to understand the critical factor of timing in bombing sorties. The next step for him was Operational Training. Now John will have his chance to fly a real bomber, the Wellington which offered so much in Bomber Command in the early war years before it was replaced by the famous Lancaster.
The commencement of training began on June 30, 1944, at No.84 OTU in Desborough Northhands, England. He completed this stage on August 28, 1944, and was certified as a Wellington pilot. After a well-earned leave for almost a month, John returned to flying status on October 6 learning to fly the Stirling bomber at No.1651 Conversion Unit based in Wratting Common Cambridge, England. During October he flew many sorties simulating the missions he would flying soon over Germany. At the end of October, he was ready for the fight. However, he would go to war not with the Stirling but with Bomber Command pride, the Lancaster. That’s why he had to be trained at No.3 LFS (Lancaster Finishing School) in Feltwell Norfolk, England. The conversion began on November 18, 1944, and ended 4 days later. On November 26, he was posted for service at No.115 Squadron. There was no time to be spared for the Bomber Command thrown them in combat immediately. John Snyder and his crew flew their first bombing mission against Cologne. The Germans fight back and many Lancasters shot down. The young man noted on his logbook: saw Lanc’s down in flames. It must be noted that for his first and second missions he flew as Co-pilot to a more experienced No.115 pilot to get used to the procedures in the combat environment. That man was F/L Fillmore.
Avro Lancaster B Mk I NG236, KO-J was the bomber in which John Snyder Kokkinakos flew most of his missions (15 out of 31). Mark.Is built by Armstrong-Whitworth Aircraft, part of batch NF906-NG503 built between July 1944 and February 1945. It probably had typical features of late Mk I/III Lancaster: large bombardier bubble, no fuselage windows, late-style pitot tube, Rebecca-H aerial. No.115 Squadron generally underscored the nose repeat letter. In the Second World War, the squadron took part in scores of raids and also played an active part in Gardening (minelaying) for victory. In April 1940, while flying Wellingtons (and while on temporary loan to RAF Coastal Command) it gained the distinction of making the RAF's first bombing raid of the war on a mainland target-the enemy-held Norwegian airfield of Stavanger Airport, Sola. Sixteen months later, in August 1941, it undertook the initial Service trials of Gee, the first of the great radar navigational and bombing aids. As a result of its subsequent report on these trials, Gee was put into large-scale production for RAF Bomber Command. The memoirs of Sydney Percival Smith, a Royal Canadian Air Force Wellington pilot, contain detailed personal descriptions of 115 Squadron missions in late 1942 from its base in RAF East Wretham. These were directed at targets in Germany (including Bremen, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Munich) and Italy (Turin), as well as mine laying in French ports (LeHavre, Brest, St. Nazaire, and Lorient) and the Bay of Biscay. Hercules-engined Avro Lancaster B.IIs replaced the Wellingtons in March 1943 and these were replaced by Merlin-engined Lancaster B. Is and B.IIIs in March 1944. The squadron relocated from RAF Little Snoring to RAF Witchford in November 1943. (Copyright Bertrand Brown further info from Wikipedia)
Firsthand accounts from John’s and his crew missions were written after several years by his bomb aimer Myles Kehoe in his memoirs. His daughter Karen kindly provided some paragraphs for the Greek Canadian pilot tribute. On December 15 and 16 the target was Siegen. John and his crew flew both sorties:
"Another day and another mission, this briefing was much the same, the only difference we would fly in groups of three. Target was Siegen, location 30-40 miles east of the Ruhr. This city had an oil refinery and Air Marshal "Bomber" Harris wanted it destroyed. The weather once again was a problem, as we reached our appointed height there was a snowstorm that made visibility impossible. All aircraft had trouble maintaining control. Shortly before reaching the target, we flew out of it into a clear sky. However, the German fighters were ready and immediately attacked causing some loss of aircraft. Our fighters arrived and took charge in a fierce dog fight. The mission was complete and we were grateful once again for Captain John and the fighter cover."
His eleventh mission was a bombing in Nuremberg was a difficult one. Lots of flak and fighters (both propeller and jet-engined) attacked the bomber stream resulting in very heavy losses of almost 100 RAF bombers. Kehoe wrote:
"On the Nuremberg raid, we lost 96 Lancasters. This was carried out under the worst possible weather conditions. The moon was so bright it was almost daylight which gave the fighters a great advantage. They came in underneath our bombers and we were sitting ducks. The winds also against us, we had trouble navigating trying to stay on the course was a problem. Getting to the target which only had sky markers made bombing difficult. On our return, we encountered more fighters. This was the highest percentage of loss sustained on one mission."
Kehoe also wrote about a difficult situation they faced after they took off for another bombing mission:
"We were told one day that our mission was to Berlin which was known as “the big city”. As we were on takeoff and close to the end of the runway our port engine blew up. The captain called “full power through the gate”. The plane struggled to become airborne and with luck, we made it into the air. Knowing we would not make it to the target and back we were forced to jettison the bombs in a drop area. We carried 16, 500-pounders and one 4000-pound blockbuster. To drop the blockbuster, the aircraft needed 5000 feet of altitude. The climb was very slow, and we were only able to breathe easily after we reached the desired height and dropped this bomb. Once back at base a very grateful crew gave Captain John Snyder full praise for getting us back on the ground."
According to the Squadron Operational Record books, the above incident took place during the February 9, 1945 mission, however, there are some differences compared to Kahoe diary:
"Bomb Load, 1x4000, and 12x500. Returned Early. Jettisoned bomb load safe. At 5010N, 0230E, starboard inner-starting surging and cutting with intense vibration. Unable to rectify trouble so turned at the furthest point and went to jettisoning area."
Above: Various images of John Snyder during his wartime career. (Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt)
Middle: inflight photo of a Lancaster belonging to Bomber Command No.115 Squadron. During the war, Lancasters flew over 156,000 raids, dropping around 50 million incendiary bombs and 608,000 tons of explosive devices (https://www.abct.org.uk/)
Below: Flak & cannon shell sustained KO-K NG205 of 115 Sqdn. Captain Gordon Gibson D.F.C. R.A.A.F during the final approach of Daylight attack on Duisburg, 8th.dec. 1944 Mid-Upper turret out of action & gunner wounded. Fighter beaten off by fire from manually operated rear turret. (Friends of the Royal Air Force 115 Squadron, @115squadron Facebook Page)
Above: Various aeronautical maps used by the Greek Canadian pilot during his missions with Bomber Command. Except for the plotting of the flight route, there are also notes regarding the navigation and target information, written by John Snyder.
If Johns and the crew’s eleventh mission was difficult then their 22nd was terrifying. On February 22, 1945, twenty Lancasters joined a larger armada heading for Osterfeld. Although their route to target was good, the heavy and accurate flak broke the bomber formation and damaged 14 from the 19 bombers from No.115 Squadron (one aborted early). Snyder wrote on his logbook: 43 holes! Kehoe writing gives us an insight from the crew.
"On a mission to Osterfeld, located at the northern end of the Ruhr where an oil refinery was located. The total number of Lancasters for this raid was about 400 aircraft. Three hours into the flight and on approach to Osterfeld the anti-aircraft fire was so intense planes were hit from all angles. Just as we were about ready to make our drop we were hit very badly. I was on the bombsight when a shell exploded beneath us and I ended up stuck to the ceiling. As the plane leveled off I fell to the floor on my hands and knees. I then realized my intercom was disconnected and my oxygen was off so I had no contact with the crew. Talk about scary moments, we all thought that we were goners. Besides being hit we had lost an engine and when we landed we counted 47 holes in the body of our Lancaster. At the briefing, we were asked “how much damage do you have?” We were not the only crew to return with damage to our aircraft but at least we got back to base."
John and his crew were some of the luckiest men in Bomber Command having completed their tour of 31 combat missions, on April 14, 1945, on a mission over Potsdam (Berlin). He flew 183,30 combat flight hours, 81,55 during the night, and a total of 199,20 while serving with the No.115 Squadron. (Check the missions table below) According to Kehoe:
"On what turned out to be the last mission we were sent to Kiel Harbour (actually this was their 30th mission) there was a German pocket battleship in for repair. On the briefing day, we were told we must fly 100 feet over the ocean so radar could not pick us up. If there was any warning the ship always ready would then head out to sea. This raid had to be done at night and as a surprise attack. In order to drop the bombs we must reach 20,000 feet on approach there was plenty of anti-aircraft fire and very accurate. Lighters were dropped from 30,000 feet lighting up the sky making us an easy target. However, our thoughts were on hitting our target (the battleship) and getting out of there. When we landed we were met by Wing Commander Shaw. He congratulated us and told us our tour of operation was finished and that we were on our way home. He then asked if we would consider volunteering for 10 additional trips with the pathfinders. Needless to say, he got no volunteers."
Although John didn’t apply for a second tour he continued his training in Canada, specifically at No.1 IFS (Instrument Flying School) in Deseronto Ontario, and Trenton. The commencement of the trading began in August 1945 and completed in October, mostly flying Ansons as well as numerous LINK sorties. He was released from service on November 18, 1945, and wrote on his logbook: HOME, END, FINISH...FOREVER.
After returning from WWII he went on to earn his B.S. from the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, followed by his Masters, and then went on to achieve his Ph.D. from McGill University. He was very intelligent because of diligent studying. It did not come easy. He failed chemistry twice. Unfortunately, he lost his father shortly after returning home.He married the late Trudy Stock (of Hamburg, Germany) and they lived together in Canada before relocating to Long Beach, California to work for Shell Oil and Development Company in the1950s. Unfortunately, Trudy was killed in an auto accident and he re-married Irene Michaelis (Typaldos), a young half Greek lady who was 20 years younger than him. it was here that he embraced his Greek Heritage. He always wore what he called a Greek fisherman’s hat roasted lamb on a spit for Easter and attended the Houston Greek Festivals. They both spoke and wrote fluent Greek. John was later transferred to Houston as a Senior Research Chemist where he remained until he retired in 1985. During his tenure at Shell, his research team was responsible for the development of advancements in the field of synthetic rubbers developed from the petrochemical industry. The work of his team resulted in the development of thirteen separate patents, most of them with applications in the automobile industry.
After retiring, John traveled the world and, deciding it was the best place on earth, settled in Port Townsend, WA in the early 1990s. There, he was a resident of Cape George Colony, Master Gardener involved in several community gardens, dedicated volunteer, fish counter, tree planter, and never missed a PT family portrait. He loved walking the Larry Scott Trail, spending time in the library, and volunteering at the Wooden Boat Festival. In 2007 he reached his goal of 100 volunteered hours. In 2008 he relocated to Austin to be closer to family. John was an avid traveler and a life-long member of Hostelling International. He loved to spend time with his two daughters and grandchildren, garden, cook, hike, and climb mountains. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa just before his 70th birthday and he climbed all of Colorado’s mountains. He was very proud of his time in the RCAF and was fond of regaling the family with stories of his thirty-one successful missions in his Lancaster bomber. Dr. John Leonard Snyder, 87, of Austin, passed away May 11, 2010. John is survived by his two daughters: Angela Snyder of Seattle, and Tiffany Hofeldt of Buda; He also is survived by two grandchildren Harlan and Van Hofeldt.
Top Left: Nice photo of John during his early days. Who could think that this young man would command the legendary Lancaster bomber, soaring the skies over Germany? (Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt)
Top Right: Myles Kahoe (R-195365) portrait photo. Myles was John's bomb aimer and from his memoirs, we learned interesting stories regarding their common missions, and John Snyder himself. (Karen Kahoe via Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt)
Middle Up: Lancaster B Mark II, DS652 'KO-B', of No. 115 Squadron RAF, undergoing a test of its Bristol Hercules VI sleeve-valved radial engines in a dispersal at East Wretham, Norfolk. DS652 failed to return from a raid on Bochum, Germany on 12/13 June 1943. (IWM CH19792)
Middle: US Naturalization record for the Greek Canadian former Bomber Command, during May 1962. According to his daughter, Tiffany he always considers himself a Canadian and not an American, and his service in RCAF was something he was proud of.
Middle Down: John Snyder memorabilia including his uniform along with his wings and ribbons, his medals, and his RCAF retirement paper. (Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt)
Bottom: Johns Logbook pages. Note also below for the pages referring to his combat missions (Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt)
JOHN SNYDER (KOKKINAKOS) COMBAT MISSIONS
SERIAL & NOSEART
|1||115||27 - 11 - 1944||4:50||Lancaster I, # PB686 (D)||Cologne Germany|
|2||115||29 - 11 - 1944||4:30||Lancaster I, # PB686 (D)||Neuss Germany|
|3||115||30 - 11 - 1944||4:35||Lancaster I, #ME803 (L)||Osterfeldt Germany|
|4||115||02 - 12 - 1944||4:00||Lancaster I, #ME803 (L)||Dortmund Germany|
|5||115||04 - 12 - 1944||4:35||Lancaster I, #ME803 (L)||Oberhausen Germany|
|6||115||15 - 12 - 1944||2:55||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Siegen Germany|
|7||115||16 - 12 - 1944||6:00||Lancaster I, # PB686 (D)||Siegen Germany|
|8||115||28 - 12 - 1944||4:50||Lancaster I, #PA181 (A)||Cologne Germany|
|9||115||29 - 12 - 1944||5:15||Lancaster I, #PA181 (A)||Koblenz Germany|
|10||115||31 - 12 - 1944||5:00||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Wohwinkle Germany|
|11||115||02 - 01 - 1945||7:25||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Nurnberg Germany|
|12||115||06 - 01 - 1945||4:50||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Neuss Germany|
|??||115||15 - 01 - 1945||5:20||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Bohum (Lagendreer) Germany|
|13||115||17 - 01 - 1945||5:00||Lancaster I, #LM734 (J) IL code not KO||Wanee-Eickle Germany|
|??||115||22 - 01 - 1945||4:45||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Duisburg Germany|
|14||115||02 - 02 - 1945||5:45||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Wiesbaden Germany|
|15||115||03 - 02 - 1945||5:30||Lancaster I, # PB686 (D)||Dortmund Germany|
|16||115||09 - 02 - 1945||4:30||Lancaster I, # PB524 (C)||Hohenbudburg Germany|
|17||115||14 - 02 - 1945||8:45||Lancaster I, # PB768 (B)||Dresden Germany|
|18||115||15 - 02 - 1945||8:15||Lancaster I, #PA181 (A)||Chemnitz Germany|
|19||115||16 - 02 - 1945||5:05||Lancaster I, #PA181 (A)||Wesel Germany|
|20||115||18 - 02 - 1945||1:00||Lancaster I, #PA181 (A)||Wesel Germany|
|21||115||19 - 02 - 1945||5:20||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Wesel Germany|
|22||115||22 - 02 - 1945||5:35||Lancaster I, # PB768 (B)||Osterfeldt Germany|
|23||115||25 - 02 - 1945||5:25||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Kamen Germany|
|24||115||26 - 02 - 1945||5:35||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Dortmund Germany|
|??||115||28 -02 - 1945||5:00||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Nordstern (Gelsenkirchen) Germany|
|25||115||01 - 03 - 1945||5:25||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Kamen Germany|
|26||115||07 - 03 - 1945||8:40||Lancaster I, # PD370 (C)||Dessau Germany|
|27||115||17 - 03 - 1945||5:20||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||August-Viktoria Germany|
|28||115||21 - 03 - 1945||5:15||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Munster Germany|
|29||115||27 - 03 - 1945||5:15||Lancaster I, # NX559 (D)||Hamm Germany|
|30||115||13 - 04 - 1945||5:35||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Kiel Germany|
|31||115||14 - 04 - 194||8:25||Lancaster I, #NG236 (J)||Potsdam (Berlin) Germany|
John Snyder logbook and archives
Myles Kahoe Memoirs
115 Squadron Operational Record Books
A Story that Should be Told - Norwich Rose of New England Chapter 110, Order of AHEPA
Friends of the Royal Air Force 115 Squadron, @115squadron Facebook Page
Special Thanks to John Snyder's daughter Tiffany Snyder Hofeldt, and Myles Kahoe's daughter Karen Kahoe.