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Grasping the prize, training to fly

Guest columnist
This is another in a series recounting occurrences during World War II flight training

Our time was almost out. Class 44-C was due to graduate in early March but the weather had not been cooperating so we could get our required number of flight hours.
Hanging out on the flight line 12 hours a day would get us an hour or two of flying time, but we really needed to have a big break in the weather to get three or four hours at a crack. It was wearing us down and we were starting to think  that we wouldn’t be able to wrap it up in time.
I am sure that it was a worrisome situation for our commanding officer, Col. Roy Butler. He was charged with certifying that we had flown a certain number of hours making us qualified pilots. Not only that, but there was a new underclass right behind us needing to move up, and somewhere up the line was transitional training for us to continue and finally be assigned overseas. So there was a domino effect. Each piece had to fall in place to keep the wheels turning in the larger war effort.  Like a big game of chess with the men being moved all over the board.
I suspect the Colonel spent a lot of time sweating even though the weather was freezing outside.
But, we kept plugging along and praying that the weather would let up. As you can well appreciate January and February at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is not the ideal time or place for flight operations. That was the hand we had been dealt. Short winter days and bad weather were the cards we had to play.  The days ticked away and we cadets flew when we could and let the higher ups do the worrying.
Finally after all the nail biting, sweating and maybe a little cussing we found ourselves all lined up on the parade grounds.  Class 44-C had finally finished the program and we were all promoted from private to 2nd Lieutenant. Best of all each cadet was  awarded those coveted silver wings that made us pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corp. I don’t recall that we threw our hats in the air, but I am certain that we would have liked to.
After the ceremonies were over there was a lot of hand-shaking and goodbyes and then we were off to pack our duffel bags and head to La Junta and catch the train for home.
We had come with great anticipation  to fly the B-25 and now we were finished. Our next move would be Bergstrom Field in Austin, Texas  where we would transition to the C-47 transport. The C-47 was the military version of the DC-3 that commercial airlines were flying.
Theirs were shiny and  silver outside  with plush interiors. Ours would be olive drab with metal bucket seats and a bare metal interior. Nonetheless, I looked forward  to flying the new plane.
For now, I was rocking along on a train headed home for leave. It was a steamer (steam engine) chugging its way to Chicago and from there to Washington, D.C., where I would catch the “Southerner” for Charlotte and Lincolnton and home. Home sweet home.    I could hardly wait to get there.
That’s just the way it was …in the good old days.
Charles Eurey is a Lincoln Times-News guest columnist.

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