This is another in a series recounting stateside flight training during WWII.
Our days at Bergstrom Airforce Base in Texas were coming to an end. We had been there several months for transitional training from the B-25 which, we had flown in Advanced Training, to the C-47, which we would fly in the ETO, or European Theater of Operations.
Our orders had come through and we were to report to Baier Field in Fort Wayne Indiana, where we would pick up a spanking new C-47 and fly it overseas, via Bangor Maine, Goosebay Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and finally ending up in Edinburgh Scotland. We would carry along sealed orders that would tell us where to go from there.
Our time at Bergstrom was one of intense training, but it was also a pleasurable time. We were just outside of Austin, the capitol city, and had been treated very well. The base facilities were exceptionally good and coming there as Second Lieutenants instead of Privates, as we had been in Advanced Training, made a heck of a difference. We went from living in barracks to a shared room with one roommate. Also, we had use of the officers club and mess, all of which were better than what we had in Advanced.
Even though there was a lot of hard work at Bergstrom it was a more laid back atmosphere. There were no formations, no marching drills and that kind of stuff. No bracing by an officer: “suck in that stomach”, “tuck in that chin”, “wipe that smile off your face”! We were done with that, thank you.
We had spent most of our time in the air, which included a lot of cross-country flying. Occasionally we had “bad luck”. Like having to land at New Orleans and spend the night. We got to go into town and eat in a fancy restaurant and enjoy the nightlife. It turned out to be one of our more enjoyable failed missions.
Now, in a week, we were heading for Indiana where we would stage for our flight overseas. I had a ten day delay en route, which meant that I had time to go home for a few days before reporting to Baer.
I could catch an Eastern Air flight to Charlotte and visit the folks in Lincolnton. I looked forward to the visit since I had no way knowing when, or even if, I would be coming back from overseas. I didn’t like to think about it in those terms, but that’s just the way it is when you are heading into a war zone.
The days shot by swiftly. Soon my time at home was over and I took a flight to Fort Wayne where I met my crew, which included another pilot, George Anthony; a crew chief and a radio operator. We were issued a new C-47 complete with belly tanks for the extra fuel we would need for extended flights over the ocean. Our first stop would be Bangor Maine where we would pick up an Air Transport Command navigator who would plot our course to Scotland.
So, we were ready to mount up and hit the road, or airways as it were. Off to the war overseas.
Not a fun trip for sure. But one a lot of us were making back then.
That’s just the way it was…………in the good old days.
Charles Eurey is a Lincoln Times-News guest columnist.