A bomber pilot from rural Minneota over Europe – B
Last week we met Minneota’s Frank Josephson and learned how he enlisted in the Army Air Corps’ Aviation Cadet program in Minneapolis and traveled by train to San Antonio in March 1943 to begin his training at the nearby Aviation Cadet Center.
The initial Aviation Cadet training lasted 9 weeks. Frank described the strange place they occupied in the military.
“We were considered an Aviation Cadet — no rank whatsoever. We weren’t Regular Army — we weren’t Privates or anything like that. We were just kind of nowhere, as far as rank was concerned.”
Initial cadet training included physical training.
“When we came to San Antone, we did a lot of athletics. Sit-ups — lots of stuff like that and we had about a 2-mile course there, too, that we had to run. This physical training really got us in shape.”
Frank recalled one member of the training cadre in particular.
“There was an older fella — he looked like he was about 60 years old — but he was maybe one of these hard-living Army guys, about 40. He was tough — very tough on discipline. He kept us on our toes.”
After the Aviation Cadet Center, the Air Corps sent Frank to flight training. He described that next assignment.
“I went to Primary Flight School (at Curtis Field) in Brady, Texas. We had civilian instructors (and) a Captain in charge of the cadets. Brady was just like our farm towns around here — it’s an agricultural area out in the hills of (central) Texas.”
Curtis Field was where the cadets learned how to fly.
“It was the PT-19, the Fairchild airplane. It was a single-wing airplane. The instructor I had was very good and very thorough. The primary (trainer) had you in the back seat first and then in the front seat before you soloed. The civilian instructors trained us in all the things we had to know and by about 7 – 7 ½ hours I was ready for solo.”
Soloing is a big deal, so Frank clearly recalled that day.
“He took me to another field, which was just a pasture with a dirt runway. We flew there; he got out of the plane; and he said, ‘Okay, you go make 2-3 landings and see how it works.’ I had enough instruction where it worked better than I thought it would, but I was apprehensive. There was no warning that I was going to solo. So, there is really no time to think. No adjustment. Just go.”
Curtis Field was also where the cadets encountered the danger in their training.
“Shortly after I soloed, one of our cadets did not return from a flight. This was a Friday evening. They found him Saturday. He’d crashed. First thing Monday morning, we just got in the air – that’s the way they did it. They didn’t want you to think about it.”
The aviation cadets continued to fly, building their skills and confidence.
“We had test flights and the instructor . . . once in a while would ride with you after your solo and keep on showing you more things. The big thing was to get experience. Then they hauled us to Greenville, Texas which is about 30 or 40 miles east of Dallas.”
Greenville was home to the new Majors Army Airfield and Basic Flight Training for the Air Cadets. They learned to fly a larger trainer.
“That was the (BT-13), made by the Vultee Corporation, so we called it the “Vultee Vibrator.” It had a hood for the pilots. The primary trainer – it was open cockpit. But both of them had a front and back seat.”
Frank explained the differences between the two aircraft.
“It was a bigger airplane [with] a radial engine. When you do some of your stunts you had to be careful to get out of them. You had to be really alert on that. So, after about 6-8 hours you soloed in them.”
He laughed when describing their accommodations at Majors Field.
“Tar-paper shacks is what they called them. They didn’t have to be insulated well down there in the South. That’s what we lived in and we had to keep them clean. They were very primitive. All outside toilets. You shaved and showered in a separate building. It was a common building for everybody in the area, so they became quite crowded.”
Frank reported that they had more time off in Basic Flight Training.
“I think we had every weekend off. We would go to Brady — go to town and go to a movie and stuff. It was one of those Southern county seats that had the courthouse in the middle of the city and the middle center block there was movies. We didn’t get into bars very much. Some guys did, but the guys I ran around with, we weren’t much into that.”
One new element of their flight training involved instrument flying.
“We trained in the Link Trainer, which is strictly an instrument trainer . . . there was a hood on it. You could see the instruments. The controls had no feeling to them . . . you used them to make the instruments do what they were supposed to do. You’d sit in there and they’d give you problems. Then you had to use your radio beams to determine where you’re flying from. When you’re inside there you didn’t see anything except the instruments. That’s where you practiced and practiced. That made you pretty sharp.”
Once Frank and his classmates completed Basic Flight Training, the Air Corps moved them to their Advanced Flight Training bases.