I know you’re probably wondering what exactly the title of this blog means. Could it be a quick “snort” of some type of drug or a ‘drug deal gone bad’? My first thought hearing ‘short snorters‘ went straight to Scarface sniffing lines of cocaine but I promise it’s nothing of the sort. The term short snorter is an old WWII tradition that can be compared to modern-day Facebook tagging. I learned about short snorters when I was looking over a display my dad created to honor my grandfather, Edwin Bailly.
My grandfather was a notable US Navy, flight chief on Catalina aircrafts (Think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because it flew & floated) during WWII. He wasn’t the pilot, but the plane couldn’t fly without him. He knew every part of the aircraft and was the guy who gave the pilot the OK to fly.
I never really connected with my grandfather. He was mysterious, stoic, and frankly, hard to read. One of my fondest memories I have is sneaking past him sitting in his arm chair, to reach for his beloved Werther’s caramel candies. Now, that he has passed, I have enjoyed getting to know him through old photographs and stories.
I found a photo of him holding a barbell over his head proving that I come from a long line of OG Crossfitters. He took a selfie inside a gun turret with a roll of film he secretly held onto until after the war. He waited until the mid 1970s to develop the contraband. My grandfather didn’t think anything of it, but I think he started the selfie-craze we know today.
I found out that my grandfather flew over the infamous ‘hump’ of the Himalayan mountains. We are the only two people in the Bailly family to have flown over the majestic mountains and I often wonder if he flew over the same miles that I trekked.
Now, that I have dug deeper into his life, I realize what a great man I missed out on and how many stories he still has to tell. My father began to explain everything about my grandfather that he has on display: his blood chits (silk flags he carried in case enemies picked him up), signed banknotes, and his collection of honor medals.
I was most intrigued with the banknotes because they involved travel… and cash money. Before this moment, I walked by the display a million times without giving the framed bills a second thought. The bills were from the 1940s and had different names and locations written on them: Saipan Japan, Midway Illinois, Kwajlien Hawaii, Mexico, and Philippines. These banknotes were more than just a collectible from a foreign place. They held a story and a tradition that my grandfather carried with him through the war.
In the 1920s, an Alaskan group of pilots started the tradition that spread quickly through the aviation world. The tradition became known as ‘short snorters.’ The crewman would sign a banknote on location and one of the group members was assigned the job of holding onto the signed bills. If the appointed crew member was caught in a bar without their bills, then they owed the other members a round of ‘short snorts’ AKA stiff drinks! The short snorters were a sign of comradery between the crew members, a status symbol between them, and a fun drinking game in the time of war.
My grandpa carried his taped roll of short snorters in his pants pocket throughout the war and we are lucky enough to have them today. Aside from the short snorters, I learned my grandfather received a Distinguished Flying Cross during his service in WWII. The medal is an award that recognizes his heroism in combat aviation.
On another occasion, he landed in the middle of an oceanic battlefield after a forced aircraft evacuation. He could hear the ticking of the Japanese boats coming to imprison him or worse, take his life. Simultaneously, a rescue flight was on its way. Unbeknownst to him, Eddie Sullivan, a man he knew from his hometown was on the rescue flight and helped him to safety.
By learning more about my grandfather I felt a deeper connection to him. I feel like I just reevaluated my freedom. I am the byproduct of American war heroes.
I believe there is a reason that they named WWII veterans ‘The Greatest Generation’ to have ever lived. The level of bravery, responsibility, and dedication to our nation should not forgotten. I can only hope we rebuild our nation with gratitude, love, and loyalty so that we can be the next greatest generation to have ever lived.