The History of the Swiss Internees Association

Hans Stapher placed an inquiry in the Air Force Associationís newsletter in 1984 asking to correspond with former US airmen interned in Switzerland during World War II. Forrest Clark and Joe Krajewski were brought together as a result. Through Hansís correspondence Bob Long and Jack Falk were added to the group in 1985. The four men met for dinner at Bob Longís home in June 1985 and wondered if there was an organization for Swiss internees. They decided to start the Swiss Internees Association and to adopt a logo based on a pin available in Adelboden, Switzerland in 1945. Also, a press release program and a series of notices in magazines were devised to locate other former Swiss internees.

Joe Krajewski drew the associationís logo. The four assumed the roles of the associationís trustee officers on a pro-tem basis. Bob Long was familiar with the process of incorporating an organization in New Jersey so he acted as president. Joe Krajewski worked closely with Bob and acted as vice-president. Jack Falk and Bob prepared a letter that Joe and Bob mailed to a mailing list of the internees they knew. By the August 1985 meeting, about 90 responses and a number of donations were received. They decided to open a bank account and Jack Falk was designated as treasurer and Forrest Clark as secretary.

In October an organizational meeting of the Swiss Internees Association was held at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Former internees from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts attended. At this meeting the group decided to incorporate for liability purposes. Since Bob, Joe, Jack, and Forrest had been acting in the roles of the associationís officers, they were voted by acclamation to become the new officers. A brief constitution was adopted along with the modified logo, membership card, decal, and pin. A newsletter was authorized and committees were designated.

Pete Merisotis chaired the Assistance Committee to help any internee who had a problem with government agencies, especially regarding assistance and POW status for internees. Other committees were Newsletter, Travel, Swiss Memorials, U.S. Air Force Museum Memorial, and Reunion.

In November 1985 the paperwork for incorporation of the Swiss Internees Association was submitted. A meeting was held at Dillingerís Restaurant in New Jersey in January 1986. Jim Mahonís suggested slogan, Everlasting Friends, was adopted. Efforts to located former internees were actively pursued. The Swiss Internees Association was officially incorporated in New Jersey in February 1986.

The association became a 501(c) 3 tax-deductible organization in June 1986. The newsletter was renamed The Swiss Internee in August. Frank Hoch suggested a reunion in Washington, D.C. at the LeEnfant Plaza Hotel. Jack and Edith Falk were traveling to Washington, D.C. so they made the arrangements for first reunion of the Swiss Internees Association, Inc. there in November 1986. Forrest Clark resigned as secretary early in 1986 and Jim Goings was voted in this position by the end of the year.