Flying the Navy Way
When I graduated from high school in 1941, I was still 17 years old as I listened on
the radio and read about a world war building all around us. When I received my
draft card, it had a big “1A” on it, which meant I could be selected for any branch
of the service. I really didn’t want to carry a rifle or live in a foxhole and thought
that I might like to give flying a chance. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor
on December 7, 1941, I visited the first naval recruiter I could find in the state of
Washington and enlisted, hoping I could earn my wings of gold.
The Navy sent me to a civilian pilot training program, where I cut my teeth on
aviating in a 65hp Piper J- 3 Cub. I quickly fell in love with flying, hoping this was my
path to fighters, as I earned my private license after 35 hours of flight time.
In early 1943, I learned how to fly the Navy way as I progressed through N2S
Stearmans and N3N “Yellow Perils,” and even had some stick time in the monoplane
N2T Timm trainers. From there, it was on to the more powerful Vultee SNBs before
being selected to proceed on to fighter training in Texas, flying the SNJ. After surviving
the rigors of Navy pilot training, I earned the coveted wings of gold in October 1943
and was itching to join my fellow naval aviators over the skies of the Pacific theater.
When I got word that I would be shipped to Miami for advanced fighter training,
I was ecstatic. That was until I arrived and learned that the Brewster Buffalos in
which we were supposed to learn fighter tactics had all been damaged or crashed by
previous students, so it was back in the SNJ to hone our skills. Two months later, my
dream finally came true when I got checked out in the F4F Wildcat.