Photo Journal of Training
and Trip Overseas

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Introduction -- Draft-dodger of Another Sort

Many veterans of World War II can honestly tell you that they joined one of the branches of service very early in the war in response to a surge of patriotism within them when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In my case, there was a genuine surge of patriotism; but the main reason I joined when I did, in February, 1942, was actually in response to a threat from my draft board.

When the first announcement of that attack on the "day that shall live in infamy" came over the radio, I was reading the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune in the lobby of Haven House at Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where I was a graduate student working on a tutorial fellowship in mathematics. There was a moment of silence in the room after the announcement; then a young student playing bridge nearby sighed, "I can feel the draft board coming after me already." Indeed, to that moment in time, as far as my draft status was concerned, I was only an owner of an order number (2491 out of a total of about 2700 in my draft district) that was high enough for me to be confident that I would not be drafted for many months -- perhaps not for another year. The order number was a sequence number of draft-available men in a draft district as drawn from a hat, and represented the order in which they would be drafted.

My first reaction to the declaration of war was to realize that most likely, like the card-playing student at Haven House, I would have to deal with the draft board before long, in spite of what previously had been a fairly comfortable draft order number. Also, I knew that I should be thinking about the matter of which branch of service I would prefer to serve in. My initial conception, with little knowledge of any of the branches of service, was that the Army Air Corps would be the most appealing to me.

I left the university to go home for the Christmas holiday sometime around December 18, 1941, carrying books and notes for most of my courses, since final examinations were scheduled for about the third week of January. Soon after arriving at home, I visited my draft board at nearby West Frankfort to find out how long my freedom would be likely to last before it came to a screeching halt due to my being drafted. I informed them that I wanted to volunteer for my choice of service rather than having to accept their choice.

The response of the draft board was that I would have to be accepted by a branch of the service before the middle of February or I would be their boy and be drafted into the Army Infantry. Meanwhile, they told me that I would have to take and pass the draft physical before returning to school, in case my options to avoid the draft failed to materialize. I did take and pass the examination, along with about 25 other draft candidates. I have always wondered, in view of the dire need of manpower at the time, whether any draft candidate ever failed that examination. Also, while at home, I gathered documents that would be required for volunteering for a branch of the service, such as my birth certificate, college records, letters of recommendation, etc.

My response to the draft threat was to return to Chicago on January 4, 1942, and immediately visit the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard recruiting offices to confirm that the Army Air Corps really was the best choice for me. I presented my application to the Aviation Cadet Flight Selection Board, which shared office space with the recruiting office. The application consisted of a stack of forms about a quarter of an inch thick. The Selection Board sergeant told me that he would schedule my Army physical exam for sometime in June. I advised him that he should tear up the application forms, and explained to him about the draft board's February 15 deadline for acceptance of my application by a service. The sergeant responded immediately. He reviewed and approved my application, and scheduled my physical examination for the next day. Then he took me to his captain in the back room, who formally accepted my application and sent the necessary information to my draft board, in order to release me from its clutches. At this point I was not yet sworn in to the Army Air Corps, but I had successfully dodged the draft. My orders were to return to the selection board on February 3, to be sworn in and be sent to Kelly Field, Texas, to begin training. I was elated, because I had heard that Kelly Field was one of the premier training fields in the country.

I completed my final examinations at Northwestern on January 29 and then went home for a very short stay, before returnng to the university on February 1 to clear out my remaining property there. My mother accompanied me to Chicago on the train, stayed one day with my aunt there and returned home. But when I reported to the Selection Board on February 3 as ordered, along with about 50 other recruits, we were informed that the reception center at Kelly Field was crowded, and that we should go back home and wait for a call advising us of a reporting date. The next day I hitch-hiked back home again, for my first of three trips home while awaiting induction into the Air Corps.

On February 23, I received notice by telegram to return to Chicago the following day, February 24. But history repeated itself. We were informed again that the reception center in Texas was crowded, and that we should return home again for a second time. But this time there was a difference. We were sworn in to the Air Corps and placed on furlough for one month, until March 24. During that month, we would draw pay at the level of a buck private - $21 for the month. After spending a few days with my aunt in Chicago, I hitch-hiked home on February 28.

This latest change gave me plenty of time to tell all of my friends, family, and relatives good-bye, which I was unable to do on my previous trip when I received the one-day notice. I assured them that the next time they saw me I would be wearing the wings of a pilot. To meet the March 24 date, I left home two days early and stayed overnight in Champaign with a friend I had worked with the previous summer at Southern Illinois University. He had invited me to attend the final state high school championship basketball tournament with him. It was a very exciting game, with the winning basket being scored by a shot that was in mid-air when the final end-of-game whistle blew. I reported to the Flight Selection Board on State Street in Chicago for a third time, as ordered, at 8:00 AM on March 24, all ready to leave for Texas. We were ordered to report to Union Station for departure at 8:30 PM, not for Kelly Field, but for the Army Air Corps Reception Center at Santa Ana, California. The change was apparently made either for security reasons or because Kelly Field was still crowded. A group of us spent our time before departure at a movie and also visiting the Service Men's Center on Washington Street. It was the first of many visits that I made to USO facilities while in the service. When I reported to Union Station that evening, it seemed like the culmination of one of the most complex enlistments that could have been experienced by any rookie.

Finally, at about 10:00 PM, approximately 200 rookie Aviation Cadets boarded an Alton Railroad train headed for Los Angeles. The train consisted of Pullman cars in which the daytime seats were converted to two-level bunks for sleeping at night. I found my upper birth to be very comfortable, particularly with the train rocking back and forth. In my car there were a colonel and a major, who was a medical officer, as well as about thirty cadets, making it much quieter and less crowded than most of the cars.

The first morning on the trip, we had our first dining car meal, just after our train transferred to the Santa Fe Railroad. Most of us agreed that that meal was extremely good. The first lunch at a train stop was at a Harvey House in Kansas City. Harvey Houses were the main restaurants on most railroads in those days, but their food was only mediocre.

This was the first time that I had ever been west of St. Louis, so I was constantly impressed by the ever-changing scenery, from the prairies of the middle west to the mountains of Colorado to the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and eastern California, to the lush, cultivated coastal plain. It was a captivating experience to watch the beautiful scenery of America pass by for hours at a time. I also did much reading and played pinochle with some of the fellows. At Union Station in Los Angeles, we boarded a local train to finish the trip. After passing through south central Los Angeles and Watts, where children waited for passengers to throw coins out of the train windows, we finally arrived at our destination in Santa Ana.

NOTE: You can click on each of the photos on these pages to see a larger version.

With my mother

With my niece, Judy
My last civilian photos before entering
active duty -- taken in February, 1942


First Army Experience -- Santa Ana, California

A high percentage of the cadets at Santa Ana were having their very first military experience. In my case, I had had a limited amount of such experience at the Citizens' Military Training Camp (CMTC) at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, which I attended because of the dollar a day it paid. The CMTC was basically the equivalent of the ROTC, except that it was not associated with a university. If a candidate successfully completed one month of infantry training in each of four successive summers, he could be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Infantry. I attended CMTC beginning at age 18, during the summers of 1937 and 1938. After drilling for several hours a day in a rifle company in the stifling Midwest heat in the first summer session, I managed to get myself into a machine-gun company during the second summer. This allowed me to spend my time sitting in the shade learning how to tear down and assemble a .30-caliber machine gun, clean it, and fire it at a firing range. I decided at that point that the infantry was not for me. If I had gone back for a third summer, I would have been committed to go for a fourth also, and I would have ended up as a second lieutenant in the infantry reserve just as the war broke out.

Me at Citizens' Military Training Camp (CMTC),
Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, 1937

I came close to another neo-military experience when I applied, in the summer of 1939, to fill a vacancy at West Point. The appointment was to be made by a Democrat congressman, Kent Keller, while my whole family was Republican. Our city postmistress was a loyal Democrat, but also a good friend of mine, and she convinced the congressman that I would be an ideal candidate, apparently by implying that my parents were good Democrats. I was put third in line for the appointment but did not receive it, because the first man in line won it. This actually turned out to be fortunate for me, since had I been accepted, I would again have been in a position to be commissioned just in time to be sent to the war as an infantryman.

For the aviation cadets who were at Santa Ana in March and April of 1942, the most lasting memory had to be of the continuous rain. The base there had not yet been totally constructed, and the feature that was most lacking was paved streets. It was the only time in my entire term of military service in World War II that I had ever heard of GIs being permitted to enter a mess hall barefooted. In some places on the unpaved streets the mud reached half way from ankles to knees, and the commanding officers were not about to have hundreds of new pairs of shoes ruined simply to meet the niceties of regulations. The pay of a cadet at that time amounted to the pay of a buck private plus 50 per cent more for flight pay, or $31.50 per month.

In this new military atmosphere at Santa Ana, I was assigned to Company 20 of Class 42-J. For one month, we were treated to a wide variety of activities designed to teach us the basics of being in the Army. There was an endless chain of shots and vaccinations; lectures on chemical warfare and sex hygiene; physical training; long hours of drilling and parading to the recorded music of John Philip Sousa; and lectures on the Articles of War and General Orders. Probably the most interesting segment of the training there was an explanation by civilian pilots of the theory of aerodynamics, and the demonstration of a simulated control system of an airplane and the process of piloting a plane. We learned the elements of kitchen patrol (KP), such as washing dishes the Army way, serving meals and scrubbing floors. We had occasional guard duty, where we protected government property using unarmed rifles, challenging the approach of persons to the guard post, regardless of rank. Every Sunday afternoon there was a parade in full dress, including white gloves.

Almost 100% of our time at ACRTC was spent on the base. There was one bus trip to Newport Beach, where most of us got our first view of an ocean. As we viewed the Pacific Ocean, it was clear to most of us that there was a war going on across that ocean, and that within a very few months we could be on the other side of that ocean, or the Atlantic Ocean, in the middle of the war ourselves. We were also permitted one over-night "open post", allowing us to leave the base either alone or with friends. I chose to go to Los Angeles to meet the family of Carl Kuehnert, the chief tutor and my boss at Northwestern University. It was the first time that I met his sister; we were married three and a half years later.

Personnel records were established at Santa Ana that would follow us and be expanded as our careers expanded. The most important accomplishment at Santa Ana was the taking of qualification tests. The staff of the base determined, on the basis of educational background, physical examinations, simple intelligence tests, the preference of each cadet, etc., whether a man should enter training to be a pilot, navigator, or bombardier. When I joined the Air Corps, my initial ambition was to become a navigator, where I felt I could make the best use of my mathematics education. But viewing the enthusiastic preference of most of my fellow cadets for becoming pilots led me to reconsider my preference for navigation. After all, if a pilot was the thing to become, that was what I would try for. So I opted to become a pilot trainee, and that is what I was approved for.

This initial phase at Santa Ana, as packed as it was with activity, lasted only one month, and now we were ready to proceed into actual flight training.

Ed Weinbrod (right) and I --
first picture in uniform --
April, 1942

Mail call in the mud

In the sack

Stelzriede, Bloom, Savignac


Primary Flight Training -- Oxnard, California

On April 28, 1942, Class 42-J moved on to Primary Flight School at Mira Loma Flight Academy in Oxnard, California, for our first flight training. Mira Loma was located across Fifth Street from the Oxnard City Airport. Before the war, Mira Loma had been a training school for private pilots, and known as the Country Club of the Air. It was easy to understand why. Beyond question, our living quarters there were the very best I enjoyed during my four years in the service. They were comparable to the very best motels of that time. There were even venetian blinds and inner-spring mattresses. The living quarters were arranged in concentric circles around a central courtyard where formations were held for announcements and other such purposes.

The individual housing units of the base were grouped in pairs of pairs, with a bathroom between the two units in each pair. Altogether, there must have been 100 rooms, with two persons in each room. The downside to the quality of the quarters was that much work had to be invested to keep the rooms in immaculate condition, in case of surprise inspections. And without a chest of drawers, we had to live out of our barracks bags. At different times, I roomed with Norm Savignac, Jim Peterson, and a cadet named Bloom.

When our class arrived by train at the Oxnard railroad station, we were met by members of our upper class, 42-I, who were intent on making us "do-dos" toe the line by submitting us to whatever indignities, within the regulations, that they could dream up. "Wrinkle that chin. Sing the Air Corps song. What's the fifth General Order?" We would have to "pop to" when commissioned officers or cadet officers demanded it, or request permission to ask a question, etc. It should be pointed out, however, that there was no physical hazing of the type that is frequently found at university fraternities, and we had the consolation of knowing that in the last half of our stay at Oxnard we would be the upper classmen, and would have the chance to work over the cadets of class 42-K.

Daily schedules were rigorous, from reveille at 0530 until taps at 2130, and discipline was strict. Demerits, called "gigs", were handed out for minor infractions of regulations. Four gigs could keep a man from receiving a weekend pass unless they were walked off at the rate of one hour of marching, in a military manner around the central courtyard, for each gig.

There were elementary ground school classes on such subjects as meteorology, aerodynamics, mechanics and operation of internal combustion engines, navigation, aircraft identification, and chemical warfare. There were also the interminable hours of physical training and drilling, which took up about half of most days.

We (in dark uniforms) ran into
the famous Air Corps hazing --
May, 1942

Beds had to be in A-1 shape

Bad little boys walked off their gigs

A great big aviator

Entrance to Mira Loma airport --
road to the flight line

Ground school classrooms

The other half of most days became occupied in a much more interesting and significant manner, when we were marched off to the flight line at the airport across the street to begin actual flight training. I was assigned to E Flight of B company. Every time we marched to the flight line or back to our quarters, we sang the Air Corps song as we went. "Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun..... Nothing can stop the Army Air Corps." While we didn't particularly care to march, singing the official song made us feel like we were finally part of the action.

There was normally a group of about four student fliers, called an element, assigned to each instructor. My first instructor was J. B. Catron. Later, for some reason, Lt. P. A. Littlejohn became my instructor. At our first meeting with him, Catron gave an overview of how training would be conducted. At first, each of us would fly with him in the Stearman PT-13B, about an hour each time we went up. Little by little we would be taught to perform all of the flight maneuvers expected of a good pilot. As time went on, students would fly the plane a greater and greater portion of the time in the air, until eventually we would be flying the plane the total time on each flight. At the same time we would receive more and more training in making takeoffs and landings. After six hours of instruction and a check-ride by another instructor, we would be expected to solo.

When the day came to start the big adventure, I was the second student in the element of four to fly. I had never even been inside an airplane before this time. When the first cadet returned to home base after about an hour and a half, the euphoric look on his face set the stage for my turn.

My instructor first walked me around the Stearman and pointed out various features: wings, propeller, fuselage (believe it or not!), rudder, horizontal stabilizer, and tail skid. Then we made the big climb-in and buckle-up, with me in the student seat in front and the instructor in the rear seat. There was no electronic communication between us; instead, there was a rubber tube about a half inch in diameter with a funnel on each end of it, which we talked to each other through. His final instructions on the ground were to remind me how to use the parachute, which I had on for the first time, in the event of an emergency.

The engine was cranked up by a ground soldier spinning the propeller, and then came probably the greatest thrill of the first ride, when the instructor made the take-off. At about 700 feet of altitude, he flew around the area of the base to show me what things looked like from the air, and made a few steep turns. He climbed to about 1500 feet and put the plane into a stall, let it dive for about 200 feet, and recovered from the stall. Then he let me hold the "joy-stick" and move it around, and put my feet on the control pedals and work them alternately in and out to see what the effects were on the airplane. The main requirement of a proper turn, of course, was that operation of the control stick and the foot pedals be properly coordinated. For example, in a right turn, the stick is moved straight to the right to move he ailerons in such a way as to roll the plane to the right, while simultaneously depressing the right pedal to move the rudder to the right and start the plane turning. When the desired turn attitude is achieved, the stick and pedal should be neutralized, and a certain amount of "back stick" must be applied to avoid losing attitude. To return to straight flight, the controls must be moved in the opposite direction from that which produced the turn, taking the proper precautions to maintain a constant altitude. These instructions on turning a Stearman are written from the memory of a person who flunked out of advanced flight school almost sixty years ago, and who hasn't flown an airplane since then.

After forty minutes, my instructor became playful and started diving on the fleecy white clouds that were up that day. Then he landed back at the base, for the second biggest thrill of the day. Just taxiing the Stearman was fun. Since the engine was higher than the persons sitting in the two seats, it blocked their straight-ahead view. For that reason the pilot had to taxi in a fish-tail manner, using the foot pedals, in order to see the taxiway straight ahead.

After that adventurous first day, we awaited eagerly each day for the instruction flight. The duration of the flights was generally about an hour to an hour and a half. On the first flights, we were permitted to take over control of the Stearman and respond to instructions from the pilot that produced various maneuvers. Then takeoffs and landings were added, and then recoveries from stalls and an array of other acrobatics, such as snap rolls, slow rolls, lazy eights, Immelmans, etc. As time went on, control of the airplane was placed more and more in the hands of the students, until finally the student handled it totally from take-off to landing. At that point he was ready to be checked out for soloing. In my case, I found out that the "be checked out in six hours or else" rule was not adhered to firmly; I soloed after ten hours of instruction.

That first solo was certainly the thrill of a lifetime for both me and the instructor. There was an auxiliary field about ten miles from Oxnard that was used for the purpose of first-solo flights. It was nothing more than a pasture not much bigger in a diagonal direction than was required by the Stearman to land and take off. But it looked exactly like a number of other small fields in the area. The plan for the solo flight was to take off in the diagonal direction, climb to 300 feet, level off, make a right turn and climb to 500 feet, level off, and make a 90-degree right turn to the down-wind leg. Then, with the landing field in the corner of your eye, fly just beyond the point where the take-off run began (the leading end of the takeoff strip), make a 90-degree right turn to the base leg and start the descent. Just before reaching the line of the landing strip, make another 90-degree right turn in the diagonal direction of the landing strip, and continue the descent to a landing. If there was a cross-wind, drift away from the landing strip had to be "killed" in one of two ways: either the wing on the up-wind side had to be dipped, or the plane had to be "crabbed" slightly into the wind with the foot pedals while keeping the wings level until straightening out just before touching down. To execute the landing, the slope of the final approach should be such as to reach the ground near the location of the landing runway, maintaining a speed above stall speed until close to the ground, essentially stalling at exactly ground level. In a Stearman, the tail skid touches the ground ahead of the landing gear.

On this solo flight the instructor had me take off and fly us to the auxiliary field, land, and taxi to the side to let him out of the plane. Then I made a beautiful take-off and climbed to 500 feet. But on the down-wind leg, I looked for the landing field and couldn't find it! All the fields looked alike, and I couldn't find one with an alarmed instructor standing in the corner of it biting his fingernails. But I continued my pattern around the field I thought was the right one, all the way to a descent toward a landing. When I was certain this was the wrong field, I "gunned it" and flew another approximate pattern. This time, on the down-wind leg, I found the field with the instructor in the corner, adjusted my pattern, and made a beautiful approach and landing.

When I taxied over to pick him up, he was the palest person I have ever seen. After all, since I was his student, he was responsible for my safety. Without saying a word, he climbed into the plane, took over the controls, and flew back to home base at Oxnard. Then he talked to me as we walked back to the ready room. "I was ready to recommend releasing you from pilot training. But you did a good job recovering from a serious mistake without losing your head. So I won't wash you out."

After the solo gate was passed, there was a mixture of increasing solo time along with some dual time with the instructor, whose goal was to determine if we were progressing in capability at a suitable rate. The most enjoyable part of flying was the acrobatics, which we spent more and more time doing. There were landings and takeoffs, spins and recovery, loops, Immelmans, lazy eights, chandelles, snap rolls and slow rolls. When our time at Oxnard was complete, I had accumulated about 52.5 hours of flying time, approximately half dual time and half solo. There was a check ride by an Army checker at 30 hours flight time, and by the base commander at 60 hours. Toward the end of our term of flying at Oxnard, we were permitted to do whatever we wanted for 20-minute periods and I found out that it was possible to enjoy the ground scenery of the flight area, which extended from the ocean to the mountains. The view was most spectacular when the sun was setting over the ocean.

Aviation Cadet Stelzriede, Marshall E. -- May, 1942

My first pilot training was in the Stearman PT-13B

The mascot at Oxnard was a dog named "Propwash". He had a scar across his nose and I found out later that a number of bases in those days had a dog named "Propwash" with a scar across its nose. Apparently they got the scar by being too friendly with a spinning propeller.

Toward the end of our time at Oxnard, we were finally given passes from the base for a few hours, seldom for overnight. Once I went swimming at a beach near Port Hueneme, named "Hollywood by the Sea". Another time my roommate, Ed Weinbrod, and I hitchhiked to Santa Barbara to see the mission church there. He was Catholic and enjoyed that trip very much. A popular hang-out for cadets on short leave was a restaurant at Ventura. At one point, about 40 West Point first classmen joined our underclassmen for flight training. They were treated just like all the other dodos were. We had to teach them how to make their beds, clean up their cabins, etc. because they had never been required to do so before.

On one date with my future wife, Elinor, we went to the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles for dinner. With the dinner, we each ordered a Cuba Libre (an alcoholic drink). Just remember that I was not yet commissioned, and that she was only 19 years old, not yet of legal drinking age. Yet she was not asked for identification. Before we left, a captain (at the third commissioned rank) sat down at a table next to us with a lady who must have been at least 24 years of age, and she was asked for an ID before she could be served a drink. I have never let my wife live that down.

Since this was the period near the beginning of the war, and since California was the nearest part of the United States to Japan, it was interesting to see the measures that were being taken to prepare for war and to protect the country. All along the Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara there were infantry and armored divisions on the move. There were Jeep-type vehicles, with anti-aircraft guns on the back, patrolling the highway. There were also soldiers with binoculars staring out to sea in search of enemy planes, ships and other strange and unusual weaponry, and there were listening posts all along the way. At night there were searchlights and frequent alerts. There were blackouts in Los Angeles, and residents were required to use window blinds that totally prevented light from showing outside. Headlights of automobiles had to be modified to minimize the amount of light shining upward. Some companies in the area, such as Douglas Aircraft Company, which manufactured almost 25 per cent of the B-17s used during the war, were totally camouflaged in an attempt to avoid air attack. The Japanese actually did carry out a number of attacks along the U.S. west coast during the war.

At graduation time there was a dance in the recreation hall, with girls from a local college being brought in to participate. The next day there was an impressive graduation ceremony in full dress uniform, with the West Point guests also participating. As graduation gifts, we were presented with wallets by base authorities.

Even West Pointers can
get out of step

Comparing uniforms

"Propwash" and I, showing
off our military form.
I'm in dress uniform -- pinks,
white shirt, black tie and all
June, 1942

The Pacific and I

Santa Monica Beach

View from my $15 room (half price)
at the Ambassador Hotel
in Los Angeles

Me, in front of the
Ambassador Hotel

Part of the UCLA (University of
California at Los Angeles) campus

With my future wife Elinor,
in front of her home in Los Angeles

Pfc. Wm. Feely, Weinbrod, Walgren the day
we had roast duckling at
the Brown Derby restaurant

Broadway in downtown Los Angeles

An air-raid siren is
tested in Los Angeles --
early 1942

We left class 42-K to hold down
the fort. When they (in dark
uniforms) arrived they got a
taste of the hazing that we
had received.

"I made it!" My primary
flight training graduation
picture -- June 22, 1942



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