Jim Moran, Continued






Following are some interesting sidelights that may be of interest:




When I was sworn in as a buck Private, it was at $21 a month! Not much? Perhaps not, but we were just emerging from the Great Depression, and prices were correspondingly low. Also, this was exactly twice the pay I received for herding cattle during the summer at 35 cents a day including board and room. Hamburgers sold for a nickel, as did a bottle of pop, a quarter-pound candy bar; and an ice cream cone. Gasoline averaged 12 cents a gallon, and movies were 15 cents. A full meal, called the Blue Plate Special, went for 35 cents at any café. One could purchase the following at the local meat market: Pork roast or T-bone steak, 20 cents a pound. Rib roast 22 cents; Veal steak 20 cents; Heavy bacon 17cents. Everyone cooked with rendered lard, which sold for 50 cents a pail.




An interesting note: Enlisted pay grades were 180 degrees from those presently employed. A buck private was an E-7 and a Master Sergeant an E-l. This system remained unchanged until the late fifties, when the super grades (Senior and Chief Masters) were adopted. When my son proudly notified me that he had recently been promoted to Master Sergeant (E-7), I facetiously dashed his ego by asking what had delayed him. He did not understand the question, until I explained that I had been an E-7 at the age of 17. I still get some odd looks I mention that to some of these modern troops at the base. Of course with the addition of the E-8 and E-9 grades, the system had to change.




When I arrived at Hamilton, we had two Staff Sergeant Pilots, in addition to the commissioned officers. Both were outstanding fliers, and were often scheduled to fly with captains or majors as their co-pilots.




Those of us who were assigned duties on the flight line were obliged to wear badges in the area. These were rather expensive, stainless steel badges with our picture and ID pimped inside this badge and covered with celluloid. Although all lower grade EM had to stand interior guard duty, in addition to KP (Kitchen Police), guards on the flight line gates were civilians. We often wondered if the guards really looked at our badges when we poured through the gates. Several of my buddies said they didn't. To prove the point, two of them decided to accept our dare. One replaced his photo with that of a monkey, and the other with one of Adolph Hitler. They were never discovered for the next five months that we were at Hamilton. So much for security.




The prescribed uniform at Hamilton was woolen olive-drab trousers, shirts & blouses The billed campaign cap and leather belt with blouse were optional. Summer cotton khakis were not permitted as we were north of an imaginary line across the country. This ridiculous regulation was rescinded about the time we hit Westover, where we were issued khakis. The present-day "blue-suiters" have never faced this problem.




Our squadron mess hall at Hamilton marked the end of an era. All of our meals were served family style, off sparkling china and silverware. Over the entrance stood a plaque reading "Recommended by Duncan Heinz," a noted dietician of the day. Such a plaque was worth its weight in gold to the outstanding restaurants in the country.




From the time we arrived at Westover until the end of the war, the 17th never did anything by the book. We never had a fireguard when starting engines, nor did we worry about such things as weight and balance. Our maximum cargo load was supposed to be 6,000 pounds, which we simply ignored. If the load could be crammed into the fuselage, it went! Also, we smoked in and around the aircraft constantly, except on take-offs and landings. Worse than that, we often cooked over open fires near the tail, or in case of inclement weather, inside the cargo door area.




The aircraft were new, and we used the shiny aluminum toilet receptacle as a cooking pot, over an empty coffee can filled with sand and 100 octane gas. Several crews might get together to share the meals, which were usually several cans of C-rations (Meat and Beans; Corned Pork and Apple Flakes; Meat and Potato Stew and Meat and Potato Hash). Someone might even add a touch of fresh vegetables scrounged from the mess hall. It sure saved time walking to the mess halls. Scary, eh?




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