Henry W. Antheil Jr.

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Henry William Antheil Jr. (September 23, 1912 – June 14, 1940) was an American diplomat killed in the shootdown of the Kaleva airplane at the wake of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States.


Antheil was born in Trenton, New Jersey.

Antheil, younger brother of noted composer George Antheil, was a clerk at the U.S. legation in Helsinki. He was killed on June 14, 1940, while serving as a diplomatic courier when the Finnish passenger plane Kaleva was shot down over the Gulf of Finland near Tallinn, Estonia, at 14:05 on Friday, June 14, 1940, approximately ten minutes after taking off from Tallinn Airport.[1]

Two Soviet bombers downed the passenger airplane on the day the Soviet blockade of Estonia went into effect.[2] According to an Associated Press wire story that ran the following day, Antheil was serving as a diplomatic courier when his plane exploded en route to Helsinki.

Antheil was carrying several diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn and Riga. Soviet troops had already been based in Estonia since October 18, 1939, as a result of the secret protocol to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Some Estonian researchers believe that Antheil's diplomatic pouches included secret information detailing the Soviet Union's future plans for the Baltic region that the Estonian General Staff had turned over to an unidentified U.S. government official earlier that same day. Back in the United States, the news of the Soviet blockade and the loss of the Kaleva were overshadowed by a much bigger story that broke on the other side of Europe on June 14: the German occupation of Paris.[3]

Antheil was honored at the American Foreign Service Association's Memorial Plaque Ceremony at the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Lobby. The event, part of the annual Foreign Affairs Day celebration, honors those U.S. Embassy employees who have lost their lives while serving their country overseas in the line of duty. Members of Antheil's family were present.

Antheil's grandnephew G. Neal McTighe, past poet laureate of Carrboro, North Carolina, dedicated a poem titled "Kaleva" to Antheil and his fiancée, Greta Lindberg, in 2008.[4]

Henry Antheil is a prominent character in the historical novel The Whores (in three volumes, 2015–2017) by Mart Sander, and subsequently in the TV drama series of that name (2018) [5]. The book follows the theory proposing that Henry Antheil (played in the series by Matt Fien) was tasked with transporting the last remaining gold from the Estonian gold depository (11 bars) to Finland, only days before the Soviet occupation begun. There was 227 kilograms of diplomatic luggage on the plane [6]. This theory was first presented by Carl-Fredrik Geust, the son of Captain Bo von Willebrand, the pilot of Kaleva [7]. Another theory suggests that the orders came straight from Stalin, who was convinced that Estonian president Konstantin Päts is trying to flee on Kaleva [8].


  1. ^ Henry W. Antheil Jr.'s at usembassy.gov
  2. ^ The Last Flight from Tallinn at American Foreign Service Association
  3. ^ "TIME". TIME. 1940-06-24. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  4. ^ "Kaleva" (PDF). West End Poets Newsletter 15. 2006. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26.
  5. ^ [1] The Whores on IMDB
  6. ^ [2] Ekspress: 67 Years Old Aviation Crime Solved
  7. ^ [3] Kes-Kus: A Study on Kaleva
  8. ^ [4] Ekspress: Stalin ordered Päts killed