I never imagined myself to be a writer of stories. I don’t know where to begin or stop. So this time I’ll try to start where I went into the ARMY AIR CORPS, That’s what it was called then. I must admit tho, at the time there was a lot of CAMMARRADIE.
Boot camp and shots came at San Rafeal CA. Arrived at Hamilton Field CA. 4/14/41. There weren’t too many men in the outfit at that time; it was forming up a contingent from several groups well established. So came in to existence the 37th—38th—and 54th Squadron's of the 55th PURSUIT GROUP, Army Air Corp.
WE had TWO, yes TWO ships to look after and train on. One was a P-36 and the other was a P-35. One you had to stand on the right landing gear tire and crank the INERTIA starter, to wind up fast enough for when the pilot pulled the energizer cable, the inertia would turn the engine over fast enough to fire it up. If not you wore your BUTT off cranking that monster or until the pilot said forget it.
The other one started with a shot gun shell insert, (only black powder, and no
lead.)Every once in a while the smoke and fumes from the gun powder would end up in the cockpit and if there was a spark from a switch or something--- FLAMES--- boy did that pilot come tumbling out . That’s where I met up with BISBEE. What a guy, S/SGT at the time if I remember right. He told me one time “I” was going to wash the ship with a TOOTH BRUSH, if I did’nt stay out of the way. There were only 35 men in the Sqdn. at that time. 1st. Sgt Robert F. Shields and Forrest Elvig were always arguing about trivial things. They would throw their wallet on the floor and say “cover that”
Elvig had a PIERCE ARROW automobile; every one said it had a ONE INCH line from the tank to the carburetor. It took that much fuel to keep those TWELVE cylinders pumping.
There was an incident at the front gate one day. Some Shave tail decided he did’nt have to stop at the gate coming in. Well the gate guard said halt to no avail, he raised his rifle, FIRED, ( oh yeah I forgot , the vehicle was a convertible.) The bullet killed the rear view mirror. When the O.D. came around he asked the guard what happened, guard told him. Guess what????The O.D. flipped him a quarter for the bullet and said “NEXT TIME DON’T MISS”. That was the old army.
Well from that point we moved from Hamilton to Portland air base, Portland OR. The base was built on a slew area filled in, when the trucks rolled in it was still soft enough for the tires to roll a wave of dirt ahead of the wheel. Couldn’t stop the trucks would have sunk in the fresh dirt and mud?
From there I went to airframe and engine school at Chanute Field Ill. One thing I want to put into print right here. There was a contingent of men there from the 99th pursuit sqdn. I don’t know if it was the whole sqdn or not, but they were there. TUSQEEGE AIRMEN, (I hope I spelled that right) A sqdn of P-40s, HDQ’s, line men, mess hall and all. The reason I remember was because there was quite a time TRAINING those WHITE boys to salute those pilots and officers when they met them on the street. I got to say this. That BLACK outfit was SHARP-SHARP-SHARP.
I was pulling KP when the Jap’s attacked Pearl Harbor. Within TWO hours that base went from a sleepy little SCHOOL base to a wide awake full fledged, on fire, letsgettum, training school.
Shortly there after the 99th shipped out, lock, stock, and barrel.
Well gang see ya another day.
54th Interceptor sqdn
343rd fighter group
Alaskan Defense Command.