Chapter 2 - Cuba, Charleston-Homestead AB. Florida
We had several training trips with our students to Batista Field in Havana, Cuba when the weather got bad at Charleston. We always would set up most of the flights while at Havana as solo training without an instructor. This left time for the instructors to check out Havana. We would take about 30 or so B-24s to Cuba and on return we would have a long over water flight back to Charleston. On several of these flights we lost a B-24 student crew. We never found any signs of wreckage, etc. It's noted that these flights were over the "Bermuda Triangle" area. In May 1945, with the war over in Europe and with B-29's being used in the Pacific, our B-24 training school was brought to a close. We ferried most of our weary B-24s to Ontario, California and to Memphis, Tennessee.
The instructors were offered assignments in the Ferry Command or Pilot Training in C-54's at Homestead AB, Florida with subsequent assignments to MATS on the east or west coast. I took the C-54 training. 29 May 1945 last flight in B-24 at Charleston AB. On the 30 of May 1945 I logged 45 minutes in a BT-13A trainer plane like the one I flew in Basic cadet flying school at Lemoore.
12 June 1945 started 4 engine transport training in C-54's at Homestead AB Florida. Homestead is about 30 miles SW of Miami. No families allowed. So Jane and David stayed at our house in Charleston, SC. We knew that when I finish school we would be transferred to a MAT's transport base on the east or west coast. At Homestead we flew or went to ground school every day. Practiced lots of instrument flying and flew over most of Florida including landings at Marathon strip on one the Florida Keys. I didn't pass the 1st pilots level so I was sent out as a co-pilot to Fairfield-Susuin AB in California.
At the time I told my instructor that I didn't get as much fly time/training in the C-54 as the other student. Also the instructor and I did not get along very well. Well anyway on 4 August I had my last flight at Homestead. I will say that this was a "dark" day for me. Guess this proves I couldn't always do everything right. 14 August assigned to Mather Fld, Sacaramento CA. with duty at 1504th AAFBU Fairfield-Suisan AAB, Fairfield, California as a co-pilot. 8 Sept first flight at Fairfield-Suisan AAB. This turned out to be a very important flight for me and my future. I was scheduled for a co-pilot check-ride with another pilot who was to get his 1st pilot check-out. After he was finished in about a hour I was mistakenly given the same 1st pilot test for check-out. I should have had a simple co-pilot evaluation. Well it turned out I did better in all parts of the test than the other fellow and he passed with no problems so I was up-graded to 1st Pilot. I had "lucked out" and things seemed to be back on "track".
Nov 9 1945 - first flight as 1st pilot was a Brand NEW! C-54 delivery to Tezgon, India. I especially remember this plane. It had only 50 hours on it and it was like a new car. Everything was perfect and shinny new, no scratches and new decals for all the controls. We left from Fairfield-Susuin and landed at Hickam. Since this wasn't a regularly scheduled flight and we stayed with the plane, getting crew rest at each stop. Next day we flew to Johnson Island, a Navy installation on a little coral reef. Stopped long enough for refueling and a Navy baked bean breakfast then off to Kwajalin Atoll. Overnight crew rest at Kwajalin and off the next morning to Harmon AB, Guam. From Guam we flew to Nichols Field close to downtown Manila.
The next day we were assigned a instructor pilot to fly with us to route check us thru Kunming, China and on to Tezgon AB just north of Calcutta, India. We flew west from Manila and landed in Kunming after Midnight. It was quite cold and the Chinese air field workers had a small crew shack near the Operations building with a huge stove going. It must have been awful hot as all the doors were open to heat up the whole outside world. We took off before daylight and flew across the FAMOUS HUMP at about 12-14000 ft altitude. This time of year the air flow is from the high pressure over Siberia so we had absolutely clear weather plus it was a full moon. All we could see beneath us were trees, trees and more trees and mountains. We landed at Tezgon AB, India early morning and turned the plane over to the local MATS Group. The same day my crew was transported to Dum-Dum field, a British base in Calcutta. We got to see a little of the area around Calcutta, the city and the "teaming multitudes" of people. What I remember is people, Hindus everywhere. We ate at a British Hotel and I had curry meat for lunch. The MATS people said we were to be sent, as passengers, this is called "dead- heading" back to our home base in California.
Since we were about half way around the world we decided to go back via Arabia to the U.S. east coast, thus making it completely around the world. We got as far as Karachi, India, which is on the west side of India and is now part of Pakistan. Enroute and about midway to Karachi we got a low level tourist flight over the famous Tahsmahal. In Karachi we expected to be booked for Dhajran. At this time there were three crews going back to the States. But while we were waiting to leave, MATS sent a request for one crew to be sent to Japan to to pick up a plane (that is "we were to be put back into the pipeline").
Since we were the junior crew we got the assignment and were on our way "dead-heading" to Atsugi, Japan. Atsugi is a Japanese Air Base 20 mile more or less west of Tokyo. We picked up a C-54 Air Evac plane loaded with prisoners of war and their attending nurses and were on our way that night to Guam and on to Hamilton AAB on 29 Nov 1945. 12 Jan 1946 off to Tokyo, cp Lt Micheli and Glen P. Finwick for engineer. Glenn was a classmate (under) of mine at Orange High School. He was a line mechanic at Fairfield-Susuin AFB where I was assigned as a C-54 pilot. He contacted me and we arranged it so he could make a trip with me as a flight crew chief. He had a good time especially as the black-market was still going on in Tokyo.
March 19 1945 - California flight to Guam and returning 30 March to Hamilton AAB.
Apr 14 to May 4 - Hamilton to Manila to Hamilton.
May 19 - Hamilton to Manila returning to Fairfield 3 June.
June 11 - Fairfield to Kwajalin (Instructor Navigator turned us back to US because of poor navigation by our new navigator) We were turned around at Hickan, H.I. and sent back to Fairfield 19 June.
Jul 2 - Depart Fairfield to Kwajalin returning to Fairfield 12 Jul.
Jul 18 - 2 hour local at Fairfield (probably Inst Check ride).
Jul 25 Off Fairfield to Hickam, but had to return to after circling the area for two hours to use up fuel and get our gross weight down to the maximum allowed landing weight to land back at Fairfield. Main gear would not stay locked up after retraction on take-off.
Jul 26 Fairfield to Kwajalin returning Fairfield 3 August.
By this time I had the crew that I would have till I went to weather school. Co-pilot was Sam Davis, Navigator was Joseph Harrington and engineer was Charles Cranfort(?). Our radio operator and flight clerk were newly assigned for each trip.
Aug 8 to Aug 10 - Fairfield to Hickam to Fairfield.
Sept -15 to Guam - Tokyo- Fairfield arriving home 9 Oct.
Oct 22 - local flight for flight check 27 Oct dept Fairfield to Guam and Manila returning to Fairfield 10 November.
Nov 26 - Depart Fairfield to Manila returning Fairfield 17 Dec.
Dec 22 - Depart Fairfield to Hickam Turn around back to Fairfield and was home for Christmas.
Dec 29 - Depart Fairfield to Guam return to Fairfield 7 Jan 1946.
Jan 18 & 21 1947 - local flight check or new engine break-in time flights.
Jan 27 - Fairfield to Manila returning to Fairfield 9 February.
February 21 - Fairfield to Guam to Fairfield on 5 March.
March 31 - Depart Fairfield to Guam returning to Fairfield on 11 April.
April 15 - Depart Fairfield to Pasco (Atomic Energy) Washington to pick up 4 lead containers of radioactive material from Hanford nuclear facility. For the first drop-off of a container was at St Paul, Minn. The second, probably for MIT University was at Squantom Naval Air Station, Mass, and the remainder was at Washington National airport, Washinton D.C. and then back to Fairfield non-stop on 19 April. All the while we had the radioactive cargo on board, we had a civilian security person onboard our plane at all times.
April 23 - local flight.
May 26 - local flight.
Jun 4 - Depart Fairfield to Clark Fld returning to Fairfield on 21 June.