My name is Derek Godsey and I live in Northwest Alabama. As you will soon read and see, I am not much of a blogger or writer. Please overlook my grammar and errors. Hopefully, you will be able to learn about one of the most amazing men I’ve ever read about and that’s Mr. James Edward Klansnic. Even if he would have never became the famous HiJacker Dan D.B. Cooper, Mr. Klansnic would have still been a legend and folk hero, and that’s what really sets him apart from everybody else in my opinion.
Mr. Klansnic was born in February of 1920 near Seattle. You can see photos of his parents on my twitter account, but they look like Royalty. Mr. Klansnic joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a B-17 Pilot. During World War II, over Styer, Austria, in April of 1944, Klansnic’s B-17 was shot down by German forces. The plane was in flames and Mr. Klansnic and his crew were forced to jump from the plane. Mr. Klansnic jumped from the bomb bay of the B-17 at 26,000 ft and parachuted safely to the ground. James Klansnic and a few members of his crew were able to evade the Nazi’s for a day and a half before finally being captured by the Germans. James Klansnic’s parents both spoke German so he knew when the German soldier yelled “AUSSTEIGEN” he knew that meant for Klansnic and his crew to “Get Out”! For the next thirteen months, this brave young pilot was held as a prisoner of war in the Nazi labor camp Stalag Luft one.
In May of 1945, James Klansnic was liberated and returned back to American Forces control. He went to college and became an engineer. In January of 1949 Mr. Klansnic was hired on at the Boeing Company in Renton. In an article in Hydraulics and Pneumatics magazine James Klansnic, who was now the Hydraulic Engineer at Boeing for the 727’s, goes into great detail about how the Boeing 727 was the first of it’s kind to use hydraulics in its flight controls. He also went in depth about how hydraulics controlled the Aft Stairs and the flaps and rotors of the airplane. As you read the article you begin to realize Mr. James Klansnic knew this airplane inside and out. Along with the article is a picture of Mr. Klansnic kneeling underneath the plane. His olive skin really stands out, and he is wearing the customary black slacks, and a white button up shirt like all of the Boeing Management and Engineers wore at the time. Oh, and he is wearing a “black clip on tie”.
Mr. Klansnic was also heavily involved with the historic Boeing Super Sonic plane. It was suppose to become the future of travel and flight. Klansnic was designing the braking system for the ground breaking plane. On March 24, 1971, due to high cost and emissions to the atmosphere, Congress voted to stop funding for the SST program. The next day, March 25, 1971 (Remember I found him March 25, 2017) The Boeing company released a memo that it would have to lay off many of it’s SST employees along with many others throughout the company.
I don’t pretend to know why James Klansnic hijacked Northwest Orient flight 305 on November 24, 1971, but if I had my guess this had a lot to do with it. Remember on the plane during the hijacking when Stewardess Tina Mucklow asked Cooper “if he had a grudge against their Airline”? Klansnic replied “I don’t have a grudge against your airline, I just have a grudge”. It also could have been about his time he spent as a Prisoner of War, and him feeling all of the work he had did on the Boeing SST was flushed down the drain, and maybe he felt like his country had let him down.
The Dan Cooper comics were about a brave and heroic Pilot who flew and jumped from planes into danger during many conflicts over Europe. On many of the covers it shows The flashy pilot Dan Cooper having to parachute from fiery planes after being shot down. This is why James Klansnic used the name Dan Cooper when he bought his ticket to board Flight 305 that fateful night, in my opinion. There are so many details of the comics and Klansnic’s experiences that align, its overwhelming. Albert Weinberg, who was the author of most of the comics, was from and resided very close to where Klansnic was shot down in Austria. That really stood out to me, and I’m sure as a youth, Weinberg could remember those days of seeing planes firing at each other and being shot down.
The weekend before the hijacking, in Cottage Grove, Oregon, there were calls into a local airport tower about flares being dropped from a low flying plane to the ground. This just happened to be the very town that James’s brother Richard “Dick” Klansnic lived in. When some of the $200,000.00 was found in 1980 on Tena Bar, I truly believe it was left there because it was also the name of the stewardess who spent the most time with him, Tina Mucklow, and I believe it was just to poke fun at the FBI agent who was retiring in less than a month, Mr. Ralph Himmelsbach. That same year and around the same time the money was found, James Klansnic finally returned to the very spot where he was shot down, and joked with his family that he “wondered if he could find his wallet he hid in that old abandoned cabin”. Mr. Klansnic went on to have a very happy life, and you could tell from photos he was crazy about his wife and kids. I find it so fascinating that all six of his kids went on to become very successful people. James Klansnic passed away in the summer of 2014 at the age of 94 years old.
Obviously, I don’t have all the answers of why and how Mr. James Klansnic successfully hijacked an aircraft for $200,000.00 ransom, and parachuted from it never to be seen or heard from again. I felt actually for once knowing who the Hijacker DB Cooper was, will help us someday fill in the blanks of this great mystery. He was no hoodlum and criminal like many want you to believe. Cooper was a hero to many because he stuck it to the man. Now, hopefully both Law Enforcement and ordinary citizens like myself, will know he was a hero whether they pulled for him or not, by his service to his country. This leads me to one of my theories and I will keep it short. James Klansnic showed during his war experience that he could handle any situation and stay cool under dire circumstances. He showed he could keep his mouth shut for thirteen months during his time as a prisoner of war. These rare characteristics, along with his “grudge”, and physical ability, would have been just what the CIA was looking for in 1971. Many believed the hijacking was so flawless that it had to be a “CIA” mission. I certainly don’t dismiss it. James Klansnic gave so much to charity and did a lot of really good things like building orphanages, and flying to other countries after they were devastated by natural disasters, to help them rebuild. This guy did more in his lifetime, than I could in ten lifetimes. Again, I apologize for my lack of writing ability and there will be more I will write about later on, but Klansnic’s story is so unique and important to American History, I felt obligated to tell it. Everyday I thank God that he let me be the one to figure out who he was. Thanks for your time, and hope you enjoy.