A soldier's transition

When World War II began, American boys by the millions enlisted or were drafted into the military, and the transition from civilian to soldier was set in motion. I was age 21 at the time I enlisted in the Air Corps in August 1942 with the hope that I could become a fighter pilot. Because there was a shortage of training facilities, I was not called to active duty until February 1943. The photographs and brief captions below will allow you to trace one man's trail from being a young civilian to gradually becoming a war weary combat fighter pilot in Europe.

Snapshots of me from civilian life through phases of military and flight training, then into combat, and finally nearing the end of my wartime journey:

1. February 21, 1943, leaving Long Beach, California, to report to Santa Ana Air Force base for pre-flight training.

2. June 1943. Primary Flight School at Thunderbird Field near Phoenix, Arizona.

3. September 1943. Basic Flight School at Gardner Field near Bakersfield, California.

4. November 1943 until January 7, 1944. Advanced Flight Training at Luke Field, Phoenix, Arizona. Received my "Wings" and my commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

5. January 22, 1944 until May 3, 1944. Harding Field, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when we left to go overseas. Received combat training in P-47 Thunderbolts in preparation for going into battle.

6. Early October 1944, Laon, France, after being in combat four months.

7. This is how I looked after being in combat seven months. Photograph taken at our airfield near Maastricht, Holland. The numbing fatigue and the endless trauma of war are beginning to show.

8. Early May 1945. Home on 'Rest and Recuperation' leave. But I could close my eyes, and see us going into battle. I could listen, and hear the sound of the guns.

We went into combat as young men, but the relentless impact of killing enemy soldiers and seeing our friends die gradually took away our youth. When it was finally over and we were able to go home, we did our best to deal with the agony that was within us. It took time to get rid of the demons and go forward with our lives. But in spite of the terrible memories and the haunting nightmares, we were proud that we had been able to handle the job we had called upon to do.

Additional stories and photos of my personal war experience.

Previously-featured war stories
The pilot and his sweetheart
War photos
The Making of A Fighter Pilot's Story

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