The first narrative of Walt’s pilot training I ran across was in Charles Garner’s letter to Ruth, recounting when and where he and Walt first met and were trained. Here are a few excerpts from that letter:
- Pitt & I first met in September, 1943 at Dale Mabry Field, Tallahassee, Fla.
- We went from Tallahassee to Thomasville, Ga. & from there back to Tallahassee. It was not until this second trip to Tallahassee that I became close to Pitt. There—Pitt, I , Rule, Conny Fagerland, DuBost, Franklin, & Marty—separated ourselves into one group & drew cards against other groups to see if we could go overseas. There were six groups of seven apiece & all wanted to go. But—we won or lost—as the case may be & were sent to Meridian, Miss.
- From Meridian we went to Savannah, Ga.
- From Savannah we seven went to Camp Stoneman, Calif.
- From Stoneman, we seven went to Hamilton Field at San Francisco & there Rule, Marty & Fagerland left ahead of us & went to a different Sqdn.
Except for that one date of September 1943, the rambling list of places doesn’t give the kinds of specifics that are in Walt’s pilot log, and if it is all from Garner’s memory eight years after the fact, maybe it misremembers a few facts. The log gives us a lot more information, even though you have to dig to find some of it.
The only complete address Walt lists is the one on the flyleaf for Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee FL, dated 14 October, but the log entries begin much earlier than that, and his first entries associated with Mabry Field aren’t until November 1943. So, maybe in October, he knew where he was going and noted the mailing address. But the log book itself was published in Oklahoma, and that’s where Walt’s training begins as noted at the end of that little diary from early 1943.
Each log book entry spans two pages, which will be scanned as two images, and gives the following information:
- Aircraft Flown with make and model, certificate number, and engine
- Cross Country locations from and to
- Remarks or inspector’s signature certification number and rating
- Aircraft Weight and Engine Class
- Time, listed as instrument radio or hood, dual as instructor or student, and solo day or night, ending with daily total time
- The bottom row has the pilot’s signature, the page time total and the total time to date
Oklahoma—Cimarron Army Airfield
23 March-23 May 1943. Walt’s first flight training in Oklahoma, he flies a Fairchild PT-19A and logs 65 hours.
Kansas—Strother Army Airfield
30 May-26 July 1943. Walt trains in a Vultee BT-13A and logs 85 hours. Most of the training flights are from Strother Field, but there are a few flights from such nearby fields as Stroud, Cassody, and Coldwell.
Texas—Eagle Pass Army Airfield and Matagorda Island General Bombing and Gunnery Range
3 August-30 September 1943. Walt trains mostly in a North American AT-6 and logs 102 hours. In early September, he also pilots the P-40N for a few days. Most of the flights are from Eagle Pass, with one week in late September from Matagorda. Walt takes more time to enter the types of training at this location, such as aerobatics, different types of formations and instrumentation, and gunnery.
Georgia—Thomasville Army Airfield
3 November 1943-29 January 1944. Walt flies a few times in the AT-6 and the BC-1–read about them in the development section of the article on the North American T-6 Texan. Mostly, in Thomasville, he trains in several models of the Bell P-39 Airacobra.
Walt doesn’t actually list Mabry Field as any of his flight locations in the log, but Thomasville is one of several sub-bases of Mabry Field. The last entry for Eagle Pass, TX is 30 September, and the Thomasville, GA entries begin in November, so it’s likely that Garner is correct about when he met Walt at Mabry Field, and then they were sent off to Thomasville.
The last two pages below show the last entry at Thomasville, then the beginning entries in Mississippi.
Meridian and Biloxi, MS—Key Field and Keesler Army Airfield
18 February 1944-13 April 1944. Walt continues training mostly in the Bell P-39 Airacobra, with a few days in the AT-6 and the BT-13. He notes that some of the training includes navigating at night and combat practice, as well as a lot of reconnaissance practice and aerial gunnery.
Kansas—Marshall Army Airfield
2 May 1944-23 May 1944. Walt spends less than a month in Kansas before heading overseas in June. At Marshall Airfield, he mostly flies the Bell P-39 Airacobra, with one day in the Douglas A-24 Banshee, the army’s version of the naval dive bomber.
The dates and locations on the following pages are in question. They follow his training at Key Field, Mississippi, including the trainer’s signature, yet Walt begins the May dates as still being at Key Field. Were the first few days of May spent in MS or were they in KS? I’m not sure, but the entries here look like they belong together.
20 June 1944-22 November 1944. Walt’s first few days “overseas” are as a passenger getting from one place to another. He finally joins the 82nd Reconnaissance group on 1 July, but doesn’t pilot until 7 July. Much in these pages is hard to read, as Walt crams in as much information as he can in the small space, such as this:
Came back with holes in plane from bomb fragments—Not bad on the first mission
On the inside back cover of this log, Walt jotted down some names, but I don’t know if these were people he met in stateside training or overseas:
Walt begins logging his hours for the rest of 1944 through early September 1945 in a small notebook that you can view here: Pilot Log 1944-45