Compiled by Jim Moran

(Specific dates may not pertain to all personnel)





Major William S. Pocock. Commanding


Hamilton Field. California




 20 Jan 1942

After falsifying my birth date, I am sworn into the Army Air Corps as a buck private at a salary of $21.00 per month. Compared to my last civilian job, which was running dairy cattle from dawn to dusk for thirty-five cents a day, I am rich. Upon enlistment, I requested B-17 gunnery duty at March Field, but ATC has priority and I am assigned to Hamilton Field, California. This is the first of a long string of lucky breaks I had during my military career.



 25 Jan 1942

I report to Hamilton Field and am assigned to the 17th Transport Squadron. According to the Base Personnel Office, the 17th is the best outfit on the field. The squadron has eight older DC-2s and -3s acquired from the airlines and given military designations. And, there are three C-39s; one C-50B with Curtis electric props--which no one is fond of; the only C-51 in the entire AAC inventory; two C-52s, and one C-53, plus one Lockheed Hudson bomber/transport.


The squadron is self-sufficient, having its own administrative section, personnel, operations, maintenance, communications, motor pool, Flight Surgeon and medics, Mess Hall, and supply sections. It was much like a present-day Wing on a miniature scale. Expansion and training is on an emergency basis. Most sections are housed in wooden cubicles inside the squadron hangar



26 Jan 1942


1 Mar 1942

All of the new recruits were given a month of basic training under Sergeant Alexander and Corporal Phil Keck from West Virginia. In the group was a huge Russian recruit by the name of Badowinitz. Sgt. Alexander was Greek and had difficulty in pronouncing English words and "Badowinitz" was just too tough for him to pronounce. When Alexander called the roll and came to Badowinitz, he invariably said, "Next man!" To make things worse for us, Corporal Keck was just plain ornery.

Once, while we were on lunch break one bright spring day, a bunch us were shooting craps near the hanger, when up roars a glistening new red convertible, that came to a screeching stop outside the chain link fence. Out hops a young lieutenant in his spotless uniform. (Later we learned that his name was Lt. Robert Hetzel.) Obviously trying to impress his wife, a gorgeous blonde, he screams through the fence for us to stand fast until he can come through the gate to take our names for disciplinary action. Well, as soon as he turned his back, we scattered like a bunch of quail, and that was all of that. He couldn't tell one recruit from another, and all of the showing off went for naught.

One morning we were inspected by a short, red-headed captain from the fighter squadron. When he looked me over, it was clear that he didn't want to embarrass me in front of the platoon. He simply leaned close and whispered, "Soldier, you're old enough to "shave" now. When I looked into the latrine mirror that night, sure enough, there were a least two scrawny hairs on my chin, which I promptly removed. I had never shaved before, and was feeling quite proud, but only for a moment. One of the old-timers said, "Well, Chicken, I see that you have shaved this evening." I grinned and said, like any smart alec kid, "It's about time you noticed." The Sarge just grunted, and really deflated my ego on the spot by replying, "Yeah, you still have some shaving cream on your ear."

Another interesting incident occurred when I finally got into the shower, after waiting for an hour. I had just turned on the water when Staff Sergeant Tony Iammarino came in, yelling, "Get your ass out of that shower, before you use up all of the hot water." Needless to say, I was gone in a flash. After all, a recruit just doesn't argue with a "Staff."

At the end of our training period, we were invited to a Commander's Call in the hanger, where the Commanding Officer read us the Articles of War, as was his duty from time to time. When he came to "Fraudulent Enlistments," I was really "shook." I never knew until then that it was a felony to enlist before the age of eighteen, and I could see myself spending the rest of my hitch in Leavenworth. In fact, I was uneasy until I was discharged after the war.


Moments later, First Sergeant Cox called us to attention for several announcements. One of the new recruits was a guy named Moneymaker, whom none of us could stand. He was constantly bragging about his civilian life, his family's money, and other things. He was a real jerk! As we fell in, I elbowed my way ahead of him so I could stand beside one of my good buddies. Sgt. Cox then had us count off, one through four, and then ordered all of those with number three to step forward. I grinned to myself when Moneymaker stepped forward, visualizing some lousy detail he was in for, which would have been mine had I not moved. Cox then announced, "All of those who have stepped forward are promoted to Private First Class, effective immediately! " I could have shot myself. And, from the way Moneymaker strutted around the barracks that night, we could have killed him, too. It took me two more months to get that "first" coveted stripe.


During this period, the new AF patch replaced the Air Corps whirligig, which I would still prefer wearing. Also, our blue fatigues were replaced by one-piece HBT overalls, with the Air Corps wings-and-prop stencilled on the back, of which I was very proud. The blue fatigues were reserved for prisoners from then on.  However, many of our older troops continued to wear the blue floppy hat until the end of the war. Aircraft serial numbers replaced old unit designators on the tail fin, which could have compromised security.



The Whirligig Insignia


Normal transport missions are flown throughout California. The C-39s have large cargo doors, while the remaining planes can carry only passengers or small pieces of cargo. The C-51 and C-52s still have airline passenger seats.


Airborne radio operator training is conducted aboard the C-39s, which have the radio compartment located in the rear, opposite the cargo doors. All Douglas transports were inherently rough-riding, and the radio position was the roughest, causing two radio operators to quit before they got started, due to air-sickness, and they are replaced by two others. Thankfully, I never got airsick in my life.


The pilots logged transition time while flying to such bases as Muroc Field (now Edwards AFB), where we caught a glimpse of the super-secret Northrop Flying Wing that was being tested; March Field; McClellan Field; Victorville Field (later, George AFB); Marysville Field (Beale AFB); Merced Field (Castle AFB) and Mather Field (AFB).  And, we flew day and night instrument flights, and a great number of air searches for downed P-38s, which the pursuit group was losing at the rate of one per week.


The 4th Pursuit Group had lost so many P-38's that Lockheed sent a Tech Rep to Hamilton to illustrate what the Lightning was capable of. With all of us watching, he took off, performed several aerobatics, and landed all on one engine! This was designed to instill confidence in the pursuit pilots, who were scared to death of the bird! He then turned the plane over to one of the local pilots, who promptly stalled out immediately after takeoff and ditched in San Francisco Bay! Some of our own pilots were equally lacking in flying skills.


During one night flight, I was standing on the flight deck, taking in the scenery as I had completed my portion of radio training. I had never been inside an aircraft until arriving at Hamilton and was bewildered by all of the mysterious colored dials and gauges on the instrument panel. It was nearing midnight when the pilot called Hamilton Tower for landing instructions. We began descending through the perpetual fog and mist that covered the local area, finally sighting the runway lights through the thin overcast. The pilots went through their before-landing checklist, lowered the gear and flaps, and began flaring out at an altitude of about two-hundred feet. I tensed myself for the touchdown. Suddenly, there was a flurry of activity in the cockpit, full power being applied to the engines, and a lot of cussing! I wasn't certain of what was going on, until we zoomed over the brightly lighted street of a nearby town, that the pilots had mistaken for the Hamilton runway, several miles away.


I think that it was at that moment that I realized that flying can kill a fellow! We also had one pilot that flew through the huge dirigible hangar at the Naval Air Station outside Sacramento, which was frowned on by higher authority!

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