Pearl Harbor was attacked, I made the decision that I would enter the service
and become a pilot. Maybe I felt more comfortable with that decision knowing
that they weren't accepting 16-year olds at that time, but from that time
on I tried everything available to make that happen.
I was an only child and the only thing I had ever done, other than going
to school, was spend all of my time working in my parents' business. We
lived in a small Oklahoma town (pop. 1100) and I knew nothing outside that
little world. I was very disappointed when I found out that there was a
2 year college requirement for enlistment in the Air Corps Cadet program.I
didn't have any idea how I could make that stretch.
When I turned 17 and was a senior in high school, the Navy came to our school,
looking for Naval Aviator candidates. The only requirement was that you
pass their written test. A chance to fly, even If It was the Navy.
I took the test and passed. THe next step was to go to Dallas, almost 300
miles away, to take the physical exam. I was given a date to report and
when the appointment came around I boarded a bus about noon the day before.
I'm sure many of you remember that getting a seat on a bus in those times
was out of the question. We stopped at every little town, and some places
where there weren't towns, between Tulsa and Dallas. I stood in the aisle
almost all of the afternoon and night, arriving in Dallas just in time for
my appointment for my physical. Standing in line some more with potential
aviators from all over the area, I was hoping I could just last through
the day. I passed everything but the eye test; I couldn't even see the examiner
through my bleary eyes. They said, no chance, and I got back on the bus.
After a time there was a change in the Army Air Corps requirements to waive
the 2 year college if you could pass an equivalency exam. I immediately
took that test and passed it. I was able to take the physical in Tulsa and
passed that also. I completed all of the enlistment procedure and was able
to complete high school before my 18th birthday. My reporting date was one
week after my 18th birthday. Hooray, I'm in.
The worst time of my life was when I had to deliver the Valedictory address
to an audience of more people than I had ever seen. That over, graduation
was behind me. I turned 18 three months after that.
I reported to the recruiting office and boarded a bus loaded with others
heading for the new adventure of basic training. Basic training was at Amarillo
Army Air Field in that part of Texas where all of the extremes take place
at once. It was the hottest, coldest, driest, wettest, windiest environment
imaginable. I had plenty of second thoughts concerning what I had gotten
myself into. The promise of CTD coming up was the force that aided survival.
One thing I found in Amarillo, standing in a partial pay line, was a new
acquaintance that turned into a lifelong friendship.
It was a happy day when we boarded the train for College Station, Texas.
I had visions of college girls, dating and lots of fun. The visions evaporated
when Texas A & M turned out to be an all-male military college. The heavy
material of 2 years of college was crammed into 6 months. We were Aviation
Cadets in a program patterned after West Point rigors and regimen. We did
everything on the run and in formation. We didn't realize at the time what
the lifetime benefits of all that regimen would be worth to us. I had already
aged about 5 years in that program.
A & M being miles from nowhere, made travel necessary when we did finally
start getting weekend passes. We, as most schools, had the obligatory Burma
Road that we had to run every morning before breakfast, before anything.
We fell out at 0500 hrs, five minutes after reveille, to run the 1.6 miles
of cross country. Had to finish in under 12 minutes or demerits were added
to whatever you had accumulated already. I have forgotten the total needed
to cause the loss of the weekend pass. College Station was a train station,
but trying to make the infrequent schedules to Houston required the loss
of valuable pass time.
My friend that I had become acquainted with in the pay line solved that
problem by buying a Harley-Davidson, a 1941 model 61 cubic inch machine
that was capable of hauling both of us up the ninety miles to Houston before
the train could make it.
The only problem was
that it rained a great deal in that part of Texas in the Spring and when
it came time to go back to A & M, we would flip a coin to see who got wet
riding the motorcycle back and who would ride the train.
I found that I wasn't lucky at all and 90 miles is a long ride in the rain
at night. Talk about fun though. Sure broke the routine.
One other routine
breaker was flight training. We received 10 hours of dual flight instruction
in Interstate light planes that made us feel like it was all worthwhile.
I had never flown before, never been in an airplane. I was elated, more
than I had hoped it would be to be actually flying. I was so proud when
my instructor entered in my log after that last flight "capable of solo".
One month before completion of CTD, fifteen of us were advanced to go
with the next group to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. They needed
more graduates from Pre-Flight School. We went through the dreaded Psycho-Motor
testing early in that program along with all of the expedited training
in code, blinker, aircraft identification and more regimen than we had
become accustomed to in CTD. Things moved along through classes, physical
training and more tests. I was selected for pilot training, just as I
wanted so desperately. Even got to go to town a time or two. Start flying
Then the axe fell. Sorry, but we have too many in the program, the expediters
had done their job too well. No openings in Pilot, Navigator or Bombardier
classes at this time. Big disappointment. What next? I was to become a
Radar Specialist, whatever that was.
Next thing I knew I was on the train headed for Madison, Wisconsin and
Truax Field. I thought, make the best of it. Radio School, I kinda liked
it. I spent a few months in training there, thinking I'll be in the real
Air Corps soon. Not yet. When I finished there, I was told I would be
going to Advanced Electronics at Chanute Field, Illinois. I was certain
that with training over with I would be ready for something. Learned much
about theory and the equipment at that facility.
Upon graduation, I was back on the train headed for Boca Raton, Florida
and Boca Raton Field. Well, at least the weather was better and Florida
was even prettier than Texas. I thought, there has to be more to war than
this. I found Radar School to be fascinating, very hush-hush and interesting.
Best kept secret of the war - couldn't tell anyone what I was doing. Hummm!
I went through a few months there, enjoying Miami and the entire coast.
We used to line up along the highway on weekends and wait for the next
person coming down the road to stop and give us a ride. Getting a ride
was no problem back then, you didn't even have to indicate that you were
hitch-hiking, everyone passing by was happy to pick you up. I thought,
now when this is over I'll go to do what I was trained for. Wrong again!
When I completed school, I was told that I would be kept as permanent
party at Boca as an Instructor.
I moved to Permanent Party quarters and started instructing students in
the final phase of training, which included B-17 flights with trainees
to demonstrate what radar really looked like in the air. At least I was
getting to fly.
To put this story out of it's misery, after a time I was assigned to the
498th Bomb Group and was on my way to Saipan by way of Kearns Army Airfield
and Vancouver Barracks Washington. A miserable boat ride later, I had
finally found myself at war. More B-29s than I had ever imagined and lots
of activity. The thought that I would be assigned to a crew was rapidly
dispelled when I was told that I would be flying with any crew that needed
my specialty. I was very fortunate in that I survived without any personal
This ended my WWII experiences, which I assumed would be the end of my
military - period. Wrong again! Four years later, my inactive reserve
time came to an end with a recall during the Korean conflict, but that's
Jacked passed away January of 2012