Chapter 3 - Chanute AFB, Illinois, Hamilton AFB, California, Germany
At this time, The Air Force had changed the requirements for officers to attend weather forecasting school I had talked my co-pilot, Sam Davis who also had the qualifications to go to forecasting school.
Officers were being told that if you want to make a career in the Air Force you better know something besides flying. I had, from when I first enlisted wanted to go to weather school. Soon Sam Davis and I have orders and are to go TDY to weather Forecaster school at Chanute AFB , Classes will be starting 7 Jul 1947 10 July Chanute AFB, Ill, first flight in B-25 (since 1942 flight to Cherry Point).B-25's and C-45's were use for proficiency flying at Chanute. Jane, David and I are living in a motel as there are NO! houses for rent. To live near the base our only choice was to buy a 19 ft trailer and put it in a trailer park about 5 miles east of Rantoul. The trailer park was on a farm complete with pigs etc. Hattie and Jim Briscoe, who were our neighbors at Charleston S.C. had the trailer next to us. After a couple weeks we found that 19 ft is too small for the three of us so we traded-up to a 28 ft. We found a new trailer park in Rantoul and moved in. The Sam Davis' moved a trailer next door. We did a lot of studying together. We had to install our own plumbing and electricity. Our drains went to a buried 50 gallon drum with holes punched for drainage and was placed under our trailer. We could only use it for dish water and face washing. Our showers and toilets were in the basement of the owners house.
Pretty low class living but it was this or nothing. We had a electric hot water heater in the trailer but couldn't use it as the 110 voltage dropped to about 90 in the evening at our trailer. Our refrigerator had a hard time staring with thislow voltage and used to pop the circuit breaker 2 or 3 times on each start. We had a little red fold-away bed for David. During the winter we had a problem With the incoming water pipe freezing so I put a 100 watt bulb next to the water pipe and wrapped the whole set-up with insulation and a piece of tar-paper to hold it in place. It worked. I liked the weather courses and got good grades. I think I was 2nd or 3rd out of about 150 in our class. Our grade average gave us priority for choosing our new assignment after graduation. Some of the other officers in my class were Major Pelander from my old 400 Sq, 90th Bomb group in Port Moresby, Captain George Holt, Sam Davis.
We got our flying time in B-25s which was a nice airplane to fly. When we finished we got to choose our new assignment by our standing in class. Everyone wanted California so my good grades helped and we were on our way to Hamilton AB at San Rafael, California. At Hamilton AB I was assign duties as a base weather forecaster. This involved shift work both at the base weather station and at the Flight Service Center. This military flight center covered all of the western states from Idaho, Utah and Arizona and west to the coast. We monitored all military flights in this region and also gave clearances if the pilots called the center from any airfield without Air Force operations and weather service.
As a weather forecaster I gave them en-route and destination weather and forecasts. In a way we could tell the pilots whether or not it was A go or no-go flight with our forecasts. If the weather deteriorated, etc, we could send an advisory to them in flight thru the airways radios when they made en route checks along their flight route. This involved a lot of checking and responsibility on the forecasters part. Often I stayed on after my shift to make sure the flight landed safely. Never lost a plane, but did have to turn down some for marginal and unsafe flight plans. I was the only rated pilot in our weather station. The weather detachment commander, a Major liked to fly, so when supplies or trip for the weather station was needed , I would generally take him. I was checked out in B-25's and B-26's. He use to like to get into the nose section which was all plexiglass and had quite a view whenever we went anywhere.
The base had a policy that a pilot could take his wife twice a year as a passenger on one of our flights. I got permission to take Jane on a B-25 flight for four hours. The weather was clear over all Of California and Oregon. I made a flight plan to Lake Tahoe, north To Crater Lake and Mount Shasta and then down the coast of Northern California and back to Hamiliton. This would take about 4 hours cruising at 225 knots. She had a seat right behind me and could see everything. We got off the ground, circled the base and headed toward Tahoe. We Got as far as Vallejo (5 minutes) and she wanted (HAD TO) go back and land. That was the end of her flying. (Years later after we were divorced, I heard she was going to take flying lessons. I think she had one or two before she quit.
While I was assigned to Hamilton AB, we lived in the same government housing track (Chabot Terrace = Chabby Acres) that we lived when I flew MATS flights out of Fairfield-Susiun AFB). In Europe the western allies were having trouble with the Russians and the Berlin blockade was initiated by the USA. It was decided to supply the people of West Berlin with an Airlift. On December 3 1948, I received orders to report to Westover AFB, Mass for transportation to the 18th Weather Squadron at Wiesbaden, Germany for a TDY period of 90 days for purpose of participating in Operations Vittles reporting to Westover by the 16 of December 1948. So Jane and I had less than 2 weeks to pack our furniture and move her and David to a rental house on East Chapman street, Orange, Calif.
Transfer to Germany / Berlin Airlift
I arrived at Wiesbaden mid-December and was assigned to Wea Sq Det 18-56 at Celle, Germany. This was a WWII German Air Base and the US was using it as one of the a C-54 bases for the Berlin Air Lift. I was assigned as a duty weather forecaster mainly briefing groups of pilots for their round trip flight to Berlin and return. I also flew on the C-54's about once a week to get my flying time. We usually landed at Gatow, a base in the British Zone of Berlin or Tegal in the French zone. If we had weather minimums for take off at Celle we would fly regardless of the weather at Berlin. From Celle we would fly north to Luueberg beacon then turn east along one of the three Russian approved flight lanes to Berlin. A GCA approach would be made to Gatow or to Tegal and if it was below landing minimums the crew would make a missed approach and bring the cargo back via Hannover and north to Celle.
The approaches into Berlin on instruments, using GCA (guided instrument approach) in that in the states such an approach was made with only the GCA operator and a single aircraft talking to each other. On the Berlin approach there might be 3 or 4 being control on their glide paths. You really had to listen to make sure which instructions were for your own C-54 and doing something requested of another aircraft. The Celle flights were assigned blocks of time for 20 or so C-54's at 2-5 minute intervals. We usually had 3 block periods each day. Other bases including the British used the other block times.
When we landed at Berlin we were unloaded by Germans in about 10 minutes and were on our way back to Celle. We lived in the old German barracks in large rooms with cots next to each other. The town of Celle was quite small, I'd guess about 2000 people. The USO had a snack bar in town for meals etc. With the Americans based here the population had more than doubled due to increased young German fraulins.At one time our weather observer section has about 25% casualty rate with venereal problems and received daily penicillin shots. I think most of the girls were more interested in getting a meal at the canteen than sex.