We are losing our WWII vets at an ever increasing rate. My father-in-law and my father, both veterans of the war in the Pacific, have passed away in the last 5 years or so. I am reading about the history of the Battle of Okinawa, which my father-in-law participated in, and today I received an e-mail about the incredible losses suffered in the air wars over Europe and the Pacific, and the heartbreaking losses in…the United States. The U.S. lost 14 or 15,000 aircraft alone in training in the United States, and at least 22,000 operationally in the war overseas.
There were literally kids with barely 100 hours or so flying combat missions. Transitions to new fighters were quick and not like we know training today. No ground school, no transitional training, no practice solos. You start it, you fly it.
My Dad had a story about his training after leaving the U. S. that amazed me and I’d like to share it with you.
Dad’s story was about when he showed up in India to fly the Hump.
The Hump. India to China, with the highest mountains in the world in between. No radar, no nav systems, no accurate weather predictions, and unpressurized aircraft. Direct reckoning navigation, and a mistake was a one time thing. Cumulogranite clouds are unforgiving.
Dad had never flown the C-46 and the first thing he does upon arrival at his base in India is to go flying as the left seater (aircraft commander) in a C-46 with an instructor. No ground school, no exams, just get in the airplane and let’s go.
That’s what his first flight was all about.
After numerous touch and goes, engine out drills, flap malfunction practice and all that, Dad made the final landing. The instructor tells him he passed his training.
A few minutes later, Dad is standing outside the airplane with the instructor and says, “That was something. How much time do you have in this airplane?”
The guy replies, “How long was the flight?”
“About two hours,” says Dad.
The instructor says, “That makes it about…seven hours total.”
Dad gets excited. “SEVEN HOURS! And you’re an instructor?!!”
The guy looks at Dad and says, “So are you.”
And walks away.