Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chapter 35

After taking on the two problem students successfully, I was finally accepted as a full fledged B-24 instructor. About this time, I got solidly established in the B-24 program, [the program] began to phase out and a new, larger super-bomber, the B-32 began rolling off the production lines. Since the factory was on the other side of the runway, they didn’t have far to go. I was among the first 20 AirCorps officers to be checked out in the B-32 program. Whenever a new aircraft comes into the inventory, it always has many problems that are discovered and generally fixed before the aircraft becomes a reliable and useful system. The B-32 was no exception. The Wright engine vibrated in one mode and the Convair airframe vibrated in another mode and the fuel lines in between continued to break under the vibrational stress. A broken fuel line spewing fuel on a hot engine can be exciting. On the first flight I made, we took off and were instructed by the instructor pilot to circle the field once and shoot a landing. We reved up, poured the coal to it and took off beautifully. What a bunch of power and what a beautiful responsive aircraft to fly. You could fly it with two fingers. About the time the bird leaped into the air, the crew chief called, “#3 engine on fire.” Man, those were startling words. I shut off the fuel to #3, feathered the engine and climbed up to traffic altitude to start the approach for landing. By this time, the fuel in the line had all burned and the fire burned out. We continued our approach and landed quite safely and parked the aircraft without any trouble. The next three flights resulted in exactly the repeat of the first landing—four take-offs, four engines on fire emergency landings. It was getting routine but about this time the contractor had developed a new type of fuel line and stopped the problem.

After completing the B-32 training school, I was assigned to a B-32 training squadron as an instructor pilot and continued to fly as an instructor until the end of the war.

Soon after we arrived in Fort Worth while we were still in the holding squadron and didn’t have much to do, I started shooting skeet each morning and playing ball in the afternoon. One particular guy always seemed to be around the same time to shoot as I was and we became friends. Bob Weir was from Montana and was an avid hunter and fisherman. After a few months, we became good friends.

In the meantime, my wife started attending Officers’ Wives’ Club meetings. She started telling me about this girl she met and became friends with. The girl’s name was Peach and about every day I would hear what Syl and Peach had been doing. Finally, the girls decided that their husbands just had to get acquainted. A dinner party was arranged when I was to meet Peach’s husband. When the guests had arrived, I and the husband broke out laughing. Instead of spending a boring evening with some guy I didn’t know, here was my friend, Bob, married to Syl’s friend Peach. After that the two couples were inseparable friends, that is, until I was transferred.

In the spring of 1945, April brought a capitulation by Germany and some relief from the strain of a wartime basis. The B-32 program was designed mostly for the Far East Theater and our effort was directed toward getting B-32s into the bombing of Japan.

Sometime during the spring of 1945, I was flying with a student pilot from Fort Worth, northwest toward Abilene, Texas. The sky suddenly lit up like an aircraft had exploded just in front of us. I called the tower and reported the incident. They, in turn, started a search for a missing aircraft. We continued to fly toward the direction of the bright flash, but neither I, nor Operations, could find anything. The tower sent out a request for any aircraft missing and none were reported. I made quite a fuss that I was sure I had seen this peculiar flash of light, but it continued to be a mystery.

During the summer, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing World War II to an abrupt end, much to the relief of all the people in the military. When it became evident that the war end was near, I along with most of the other sober, non-drinking officers, were chosen to form a “Victory in Japan Patrol.” It was felt that the citizen soldiers would go bananas when the end of the war was announced. The services wanted to avoid any unnecessary trouble. I was teamed up with an old Major and we were assigned a staff car to patrol the base. When the announcement came, there were a few hip-hoorays, but not much else. We did hear a bit of celebrating in on of the BOQs and went to investigate. Three people rushed out of the barracks and across the lawn area from the quarters. We went back, got the car, and drove around the area to discover three WACs [Women’s Air Corps] trying to get back into their barracks, without proper clothing. In fact, one of them was only wearing a leather flight jacket. We put them in the back of the car and drove them to their barracks and released them. That was the extent of the wild celebrations at Fort Worth Air Field.

No comments:

Post a Comment