My dad couldn’t wait to follow his two older brothers into World War II. He was part of “the greatest generation” that rallied together to fight both Hitler’s tyranny and Japan’s threat. It was a complicated war waged on two primary fronts – Europe and the Pacific. My dad and his brothers were Navy pilots. My dad flew a torpedo bomber off of aircraft carriers. Thankfully, all three brothers made it home alive.
My dad is 90 years old now. Each Friday, he writes an email to his children and grandchildren reporting his golf scores for the week, the progress of the local high school’s football team, and occasionally some commentary about the weather.
But, here’s the best part. He ends each letter with a paragraph or two about his war experience. He’s reporting things chronologically. Each week he picks up where he left off. It’s as though he is reliving this period of his life and sharing it with us in small glimpses each week. He’s been at it for months now and we’re still state-side, reading about the incredible amount of flying and training they received before being shipped off.
He is sharing vivid details of each place they trained, the people he got to know, and some of the good times he enjoyed, mixed with some sobering moments.
Here are just a few excerpts:
Last time I wrote about my past life I had just been accepted in the Navy’s flight program. Once the country was at war which was on Dec. 7, 1941 everything changed we as a country and everyone was pulling together. The war in Europe was going bad as well as the war in the Pacific. We were taking a drubbing everywhere. But beginning in 1942 our country started mobilizing everywhere. It affected me personally because the Navy needed more pilots so they sent us new recruits to start learning to fly in the already established CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program while we waited to be sent to the Navy’s preflight schools which they had established at a number of Universities across the country.
One day Ens. Rutherford had us takeoff and fly to about 4000 feet over the field and he would stay on the ground with binoculars and we would take turns and fly over the field and do a series of acrobatics as he watched after we were through doing our series we would come down and land by circling the field. After I finished my acrobatics I proceeded to come in for the landing but I failed to put down my landing gear. When I was down to about 100 feet I pulled back on the throttle and a horn began to blow and I knew immediately what the problem was and jammed on the throttle all the way forward and I barely escaped from landing wheels up. When I landed Ens. Rutherford was waiting for me and he gave me a colorful dressing down and I had to march with a rifle on my shoulder for a total of 10 hours.
On the lighter side there was four of us Ensigns who bought a 1938 Buick Roadmaster convertible sedan. Ray Crandall’s mom had a friend who sold it to us for $800 dollars. We chipped in $200 each and I don’t remember how we got it to North Bend but it provided us with wheels until we left San Diego in July 1944. As I tell you my story this wonderful means of transportation was our way of having a lot of fun.
I appreciate reading my dad’s memories and even more so – I appreciate his service to our country.