Ted Conlin Stories Part Three: Joining Up & Training

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.  ~William Shakespeare

The War Started And Ted Joined As An Aviation Cadet

Part 1 - Introduction | Part 2 - The War Timeline | Part 3 - Training
Part 4 - To Europe | Part 5 - Post D-Day Support

The start of the war is generally held to be September 1, 1939, with the German invasion of Poland and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by most of the countries in the British Empire and Commonwealth, and by France. On June 22, 1941, Germany, along with other European Axis members and Finland, invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. On December 7 (December 8 in Asian time zones), 1941, Japan attacked British and American holdings with near simultaneous offensives against Southeast Asia and the Central Pacific. These included an attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor and landings in Thailand and Malaya. It was truly a World War now!

Ted Began Flying In Orange County California

In April, 1942, as soon as my age would allow, I took and passed the entrance exam and was sworn into service, July, 1942 as an aviation cadet. Some 1,200 were called up in Chicago, January, 1943, and sent to Nashville Tenn for classification as pilot, navigator, bombardier or other ground or air duty.

Did you know? - The April 1942 air attack on Japan, launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet and led by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, was the most daring operation yet undertaken by the United States in the young Pacific War. Though conceived as a diversion that would also boost American and allied morale, the raid generated strategic benefits that far outweighed its limited goals.

The raid had its roots in a chance observation that it was possible to launch Army twin-engined bombers from an aircraft carrier, making feasible an early air attack on Japan. Appraised of the idea in January 1942, U.S. Fleet commander Admiral Ernest J. King and Air Forces leader General Henry H. Arnold greeted it with enthusiasm. Arnold assigned the technically-astute Doolittle to organize and lead a suitable air group. The modern, but relatively well-tested B-25B "Mitchell" medium bomber was selected as the delivery vehicle and tests showed that it could fly off a carrier with a useful bomb load and enough fuel to hit Japan and continue on to airfields in China

Did you know? - During World War II, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) established numerous airfields in Tennessee for training pilots and aircrews of USAAF fighters and bombers. Most of these airfields were under the command of Third Air Force or the Army Air Forces Training Command (AAFTC) (A predecessor of the current-day United States Air Force Air Education and Training Command). However the other USAAF support commands (Air Technical Service Command (ATSC); Air Transport Command (ATC) or Troop Carrier Command) commanded a significant number of airfields in a support roles.

 I, among some 1200 others, were trained to West Coast Training Command for ground school and then sent out to the various flying schools to begin our pilot careers.

Did you know? - The West Coast Air Corps Training Center was activated on July 8, 1940. The Center was located at Moffett Field. However, the Navy wanted to expand its facilities to support its lighter than air base so the Army had to look elsewhere for its operations. A new site was obtained at 1104 West Eighth Street in Santa Ana on seven acres leased from the City of Santa Ana for $1 a year. The center was to have a new building costing $250,000 west of the municipal bowl. The WCACTC, which eventually became the Army Air Force West Coast Training Command (WCTC), was the headquarters for all the eleven western states air cadet-training facilities, including the Santa Ana Army Air Base also in Santa Ana. Its function was to direct all of the activity in connection with supplying pilots, navigators and bombardiers for the nation's Air Force. Major General Ralph P. Cousins was the Commander. With the outbreak of World War II, the command added many new facilities.

West Coast Training Center
Cadets on the march - Approximately 149,400 entered the training, about 128,000 graduated. February 15, 1942 To October 31,1944

On December 7, 1941 the WCTC had six Army flying schools and nine civilian contract schools in operation. By the end of 1942 there were 22 Army schools and 21 civilian contract schools. A fast pace of pilot training for the next two years resulted in meeting and exceeding all goals so that by the summer of 1944, many of the training schools were closed. By the end of 1945 the WCTC had little left to administer.

West Coast Training center
West Coast Training Command was huge!

Ted Moved To Santa Maria To Enter Primary Flying School

My assignment was to Santa Maria, CA., for Primary Flying.

Did you know? - In Santa Barbara County near Camp Cooke was located one of the largest World War II bases on the west coast. The Santa Maria Army Air Base covered approximately 3,600 acres of land located about four miles south of the City of Santa Maria. The main gate was located about one mile west of Highway 101. Land for the base was acquired some time before 1942.

The Santa Maria Army Air Field was commissioned by the Fourth Air Force for a bomber base on May 1, 1942. Colonel Robin A. Day was the first Commander.

As was the case with most U. S. bases during World War II, a historian was assigned to prepare a history of the facility. In this case First Lieutenant Edward E. Reed was the historian. The original record of the Base is at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Due to its strategic coastal location, the Santa Maria Air Base was considered ideal for training of bombardment groups prior to overseas duty. However, the base was transferred to the Fourth Air Service Command in December 1942. Instead the field was used for service and support training with little emphasis on flying. The field personnel grew monthly with the assignment of more recruits. New groups of trainees were rotated every month. As at Goleta, many amenities were provided, such as theater, bowling, laundry, restaurant, church, etc. Base activities were publicized in the field newspaper, The Bombsiqhter, first published on April 7, 1944.

The Santa Maria Army Air Field would probably have had a lackluster history if it had not been for the arrival of the P-38 Lightning's. Designed by Kelley Johnson at Lockheed, Burbank, California, the P-38 fighter was one of the premier aircraft of World War II. Used in both theaters of the War, the P-38 was referred to by the Germans as "the fork-tailed devil" and by the Japanese as "two planes with one pilot." Many a bomber pilot on his way to Frankfurt or Berlin saw his chances of returning increase to nearly 100% with an escort of these powerful aircraft, which were designed to fly as high as the bombers and with the same range.

Many a Zero or Messerschmitt pilot saw his luck run out after an encounter with a P-38. Thousands of kills were scored by the P-38 due to its greater firepower and accuracy with its four 50-caliber machine guns and one 20-mm cannon clustered at the center of the aircraft fuselage. Over the war years 10,000 P-38s were built, primarily by Lockheed. Consolidated-Vultee built about 200 of them. Today very few of these "wild ones" are in existence.

We Moved To Chino For Basic Flying

After completion of Primary, a group of us were assigned to Chico for Basic. At Primary, we flew the wonderful biplane Stearman and then at Basic, we went into the Vultee BT13, an increase in h/p of 400.

Stearman
StearmanBi-Plane

Did you know? - The Stearman (Boeing) Model 75 is a biplane, of which at least 9,783 were built in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s as a military trainer aircraft. Stearman became a subsidiary of Boeing in 1934. Widely known as the Stearman, Boeing Stearman or Kaydet, it served as a Primary trainer for the USAAF, as a basic trainer for the USN (as the NS & N2S), and with the RCAF as the Kaydet throughout World War II. After the conflict was over, thousands of surplus aircraft were sold on the civil market. In the immediate post-war years they became popular as crop dusters and as sports planes.

BT-13
Vaiant BT-13

Did you know? - The Vultee BT-13 was the basic trainer flown by most American pilots during World War II. It was the second phase of the three phase training program for pilots. After primary training, the student pilot moved to the more complex Vultee for basic flight training. The BT-13 had a more powerful engine and was faster and heavier than the primary trainer. It required the student pilot to use two way radio communications with the ground and to operate landing flaps and a two-position variable pitch propeller. It did not, however, have retractable landing gear or a hydraulic system. The large flaps are operated by a crank-and-cable system. Its pilots nicknamed it the "Vultee Vibrator."

Cal-Aero Academy was an independent flying school at Chino Airport when World War II started. The Army Air Forces contracted with the school to provide primary flight training for Army Air Cadets. During the war, Cal-Aero operated the training base with Stearmans and BT-13s. The name Cal-Aero is preserved at the airport and can be seen on several buildings.

After the war, hundreds of former combat aircraft were flown into Chino for disposal. The agricultural area was employed as a vast parking lot for ex-military aircraft. Soon, the entire area was filled with a wide variety of planes - everything from T-6s to B-24s. Most planes would meet an undignified end in portable smelters which were brought in to convert the warplanes into aluminum ingots.

Ted Was Assigned To Luke Field In July 1943

After completion of the Basic program in July, those of us that asked for and were recommended by our Basic Instructors, received assignment to Luke Field, single engine fighter school here we flew the P40 Curtiss Warhawk to graduate as US Army Air Corps Fighter Pilots.

Did you know? - The base is named for the first U.S. aviator to receive the Medal of Honor, Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. Born in Phoenix in 1897, the “Arizona Balloon Buster” scored 18 aerial victories during World War I (14 of these German observation balloons) in the skies over France before being killed, at age 21, on September 29, 1918.

In 1940, the U.S. Army sent a representative to Arizona to choose a site for an Army Air Corps training field for advanced training in conventional fighter aircraft. The city of Phoenix bought 1,440 acres (5.8 km2) of land which they leased to the government at $1 a year effective March 24, 1941. On March 29, 1941, the Del. E. Webb Construction Co. began excavation for the first building at what was known then as Litchfield Park Air Base. Another base known as Luke Field, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, released its name so the Arizona base could be called Luke Field. Advanced flight training in the AT-6 began at Luke in June that same year. The first class of 45 students, Class 41 F, arrived June 6, 1941 to begin advanced flight training in the AT-6, although a few essential buildings had been completed. Flying out of Sky Harbor Airport until the Luke runways were ready, pilots received 10 weeks of instruction and the first class graduated August 15, 1941. Then-Captain Barry Goldwater served as director of ground training the following year.

During World War II, Luke was the largest fighter training base in the Army Air Forces, graduating more than 12,000 fighter pilots from advanced and operational courses in the AT-6, P-40, P-51 and P-38, earning the nickname, “Home of the Fighter Pilot.” By February 7, 1944, pilots at Luke had achieved a million hours of flying time. By 1946, however, the number of pilots trained dropped to 299 and the base was deactivated November 30 that year.

P40
Curtiss-Wright P40 - Warhawk

Did you know? - The Curtiss P-40 was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. It was used by the air forces of 28 nations, including those of most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in front line service until the end of the war. By November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facility at Buffalo, New York.

On The Move Again; To Tallahassee Florida For P51 Training

After 30 days leave, a group of us were ordered to Tallahassee, Fla. There we were fitted with equipment we would need in the future and some 60 of my guys and I, were assigned to Tampa, Fla, to become trained in the P51A, Mustang, outfitted with the Allison engine, h/p 1250. it was a real thrill for us as the performance was so far advanced in comparison to the P40 Warhawk.

P51
North AmericanP51 Mustang - Best Fighter Plane Ever Built!

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(Best Fighter Aircraft Of All Time - P51) ( .flv )

Did you know? - The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was a long-range single-seat World War II fighter aircraft. Designed, built and airborne in just 117 days, the Mustang first flew in RAF service as a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft before conversion to a bomber escort, employed in raids over Germany, helping ensure Allied air superiority from early 1944.The P-51 was in service with Allied air forces in Europe and also saw limited service against the Japanese in the Pacific War. The Mustang began the Korean War as the United Nations' main fighter, but was relegated to a ground attack role when superseded by jet fighters early in the conflict. Nevertheless, it remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980.

Upon completion of our learning to fly the P51, dive bombing, strafing, aerial gunnery acrobatics, navigation and instrument flying, we were ordered to Boston, MA to ship over to Europe. The time frame was late Feb, 1944.

Part 1 - Introduction | Part 2 - The War Timeline | Part 3 - Training
Part 4 - To Europe | Part 5 - Post D-Day Support