From the University of Miami, I was transferred to Baer Field, in Ft Wayne, Indiana, for further assignment and duty. Just prior to the outbreak of World War II, the army had purchased a site south of Ft. Wayne -- presently Fort Wayne International Airport-- for development of an airfield. Insisting the airport be named for a military figure, the Army chose to name it's facility Baer Field after a Ft. Wayne native, Paul Baer.
Baer Field was located about seven miles southwest of Ft Wayne Indiana, between State Highways 1 & 3. Fort Wayne was often called "Fort Rain-Windiana" by the pilots that were stationed there because it was often either raining or windy. Probably more than half of all C-47s used in major airborne operations had their final flight test at Baer Field. In fact more C-47s were final flight tested at Baer Field than at any other airfield in the United States. This was the last stop prior to leaving for overseas. ("Preparing C-47s for War: Baer Field" by Lou Thole --http://www.museumofthesoldier.com/baer_field.htm)
Here's how a C-47 was typically checked out at Baer Field. After the plane's manufacture it was flown to a modification center. While there the plane was updated according to the latest modification orders and received the necessary equipment and changes to suit it for its final destination. From the center the C-47 was flown to Baer Field. Baer's responsibility was to inspect the aircraft and make any appropriate final changes such as installing long-range fuel tanks, removing unnecessary equipment, and giving it a final test. After the final flight test, the ship was turned over to its crew. ("Preparing C-47s for War: Baer Field" by Lou Thole -- http://www.museumofthesoldier.com/baer_field.htm)
At Fort Wayne, my mind is in a haze as to the particulars. There was the excitement of knowing that an overseas assignment would be the destination, but I wondered where, when, with whom, and in what direction. With whom was the first question to be answered, when I was assigned to my first flight crew.
Through the years I have forgotten the first names of three of them because I seldom saw them after reaching the 64th Troop Carrier Group in Tunisia. The first pilot was Pierce; Franklin, flight engineer; and Sherman, radio operator. Pierce and Sherman were killed in action during the Fall of 1943. I think that Franklin might have been transferred. The co-pilot was Amos S. Hutto, going by the nickname of Bud. (Bud passed away in 2001. He and I stayed in touch over the years, saw each other in Denver in 1978, and visited at several 64th Troop Carrier Group reunions.) We were now a crew and began training together, getting acquainted with one another, and working to become a team, at least from Ft. Wayne to Tunisia.
Then, the day came that we were ordered to report to the flight line. We wondered whether we would have two cabin tanks for gasoline, or four. If there were two fuel tanks installed in the cargo compartment it meant that a crew's destination would be England, via the Atlantic. If there were four tanks in the cabin it meant assignment to the Pacific theater, via Hawaii. For more than one reason, we hoped to head for England. We were granted our wish by some stroke of luck, or so we thought at the moment. When we boarded a brand new DC-3 parked on the flight line, it had two cabin tanks. Hooray! But wait, inside were three gals still riveting the ceiling. We certainly made it a point to ask them to do a quality job.
In latter part of July 1943, we were put on orders to fly to Presque Isle, Maine. That's all we knew at the time.