Tom Brokaw referred to my parent's generation as the "Greatest Generation". They probably earned it, some survived the Spanish Flu epidemic, they endured the Great Depression, Prohibition, they were the machine that won WWII. They built the US of the '50's and endured us Baby Boomers. They're in their 80's and 90's now, some say they're dying off at the rate of a 1,000 a day.
My parent's were also part of the quietest generation. I've heard very little about their experiences. They didn't tell and I didn't ask.
Mom is well into the clutches of Alzheimer's. I know a few details; as a secretary at either American President Lines or United States Lines, she witnessed the fire on the SS Normandie in 1941. She would never buy margarine, as she had spent part of the Depression making it. Her father worked for a time as a fireman on the railroad. He was also the person to see if one was thirsty during Prohibition.
Dad answered some of the "what did you do in the war" questions. I knew he'd been in the Army Air Corps, was a Sargent, and had spent some time at Maxwell Army Airfield in Alabama. Beyond that I knew that he'd been a First Class Boy Scout. He turned 91 back in September, one of the first times I remembered his birthday on time.
Imagine my surprise when I received the E-mail below in response to one of my few questions about his WWII service.
For Veteran's day, jump over the orange swirl, and read One Airman's Story in his own words.
Are you doubting the wisdom of the Army brass? After a few days in the Army you learn that there are 3 ways to do anything-the right way, the wrong way and the Army way. You can have a boot camp, a ground school and a P-51 training group at one base, but not a Primary Training School and a Basic Training School at one base.
Camp Upton was a recruit base where we got our shoes socks, underware, uniforms, flight jackets, overcoats, rain coats, gas masks, VD (STD) films, half a dozen shots, etc. The we were moved to another part of the base that housed just Aviation Cadets and we waited to be assigned to a Classification Center. Of course we did KP, guard duty, close order drill, etc. A recruit received $50 a month
Nashville was the Classification Center with tests to determine if you could be a pilot, a navigator or a bombardiar or any combation there of. KP, guard duty, PT, etc. were included at no extra cost to us. A Cadet received $75 a month
Preflight School at Maxwell was ground school (math, physics, etc) and PT, guard duty, medical and dental exams (I had all my fillings drilled oit and high altitude fillings put in all at one sitting) etc. No KP thank goodness. We also learned about Cadet Honor. A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal and allow another cadet to do so. We also couldn't swear or have alcohol on base or allow another cadet to do so. Breaking the above rules was cause for drumming out of the Cadet Corp. We had a few drumming mainly swearing and alcohol. The drumming occured after Taps and in front of the Group. The cadet was busted to Pvt,, put on a train and shipped to boot camp. His name never to be mentioned again.
Carlstrom Field was a Primary Training School with civilian pilot instructors. The instructor had 4 or 5 Cadets to train. We had pilot training half a day and ground school the other half plus PT.
St Petersburg was a boot camp and you did KP, PT, Guard duty etc and waited to be assigned to a school. Luck was with me as I was assigned to AP Mechanic School. If had been assigned to Radio School, I'd still be there now trying to learn Morse code. The other school was Armorer which would have been OK.
Keesler Field was the AP Mechanic School. It was also a boot camp and a P-51 training school, There were 3 shifts, I was on the 3 to 11 shift. It was about a 6 months course. T was mainly about B-24's, but we did learn about B-17's. We also had B-10's and B-12's to work on.
Laredo was one of the Aerial Gunnery Schools. We learned about .50 Cal. machine guns, how to blindfold field strip and reassemble them, trouble shoot etc. Also loads of skeet shooting. High altitude chambers to get use to high altitude flying. Night flying sight tests. At the end of the training we went to Eagle Pass TX to fire at tow targets. We flew in AT-6's with .30 cal machine gun in the rear seat. Also got to fly in a twin engine Cessna with a top machine gun turret to practice firing in a turret. The damn plane shock like mad every time a burst was fired. When we got back to Laredo we expected to go to a crew classification center and get assigned to a B-24. Instead we were told we would be aerial gunnery instructors.
Fort Myers was a school to instruct us how to teach gunnery crews. Same old stuff we had learned in Laredo with a slight twist.
Charleston was a training school for B-24 crews soon to go to Europe or the Pacific. Not much we could teach them. Three of us were sent to Brooklyn to the Emerson gun sight school to learn to trouble shoot the new sight. No problem as none of the bombers had the new sight. I think the sights were installed in bombers overseas. After VE day, all of us were assigned to bases near our homes.
Westover Field was another crew training school. By the time we got there no crews were sent to the base. Nothing to do. We all expected to be sent to B-29 schools, but then came VJ day and we waited to be discharged. I worked for the base movie theaters delivering cans of film to the two theaters on the base at night and worked in the Base Library during the day until I was disharged, All total about 39 months of service. Tried to stay in the Air Force if I could keep my Sgt rating and take your mother overseas to either Japan or Germany, but no openings were available. All was not wasted as I got 4 years of college and a BSME degree for my 39 months of service.