Chapter 19

Standby,     Mark!
by Lynn Forshee

Soon we were introduced to the J3 Cubs for flight training.  The little yellow 2 seaters with a 65 horse engine and noisy with a lot of air conditioning built in due to the poor fit of the doors.  It was said that they would climb, cruise and dive at 65 which wasn’t too far off.

 

Our instructors were Downer and Leonard.  I had Downer and after the normal instruction he told me to taxi back to the takeoff end of the runway, he got out with his parachute and said I was to take off, circle the field and give him a good landing.  I did as directed up to a point.  I found that on my approach I was quite a bit too high as I had not allowed for his 200 plus pounds not being aboard.  Well, no problem, and I stuck a wing down, opposite rudder and slipped her in quite steeply, straightened out and flared to a good landing.

 

I taxied back to pick him up and he was mad as a wet hen.  He said he had never taught me to slip and where the devil did I learn that maneuver.  I told him in the rear seat of an SBD.  Nothing more was ever said.  Our training consisted of recovery from spins, precision recoveries.  You enter on a certain heading and were required to recover 180 or 270 or 360 degrees later or even a three turn spin if you had the altitude.  The falling leaf was another one and lots of stall recoveries.  We were told that if we ever tried to fly under the cane river bridge up town we would be on our way down the road.  We found that it had been done by someone in a prior class.

 

After becoming proficient in the J3s we would be allowed to fly the N3N which was a large biplane with a much larger engine and a tendency to ground loop.  We would find out more about this in the Stearmans later on.

 

This was a poor time of the year to solo as the river was quite cold and the custom was to throw you off the foot bridge into the water.  It was a long walk back to the dormitory for dry clothes.  But then I could look forward to being the thrower instead of the throwee.

 

With a new class coming in we were moved to the “BRICK SHACK” which was still a two story building but our next move was to a little wood frame building much like the cheap motels and it had unvented gas heaters.  Also it was much farther from the classrooms.  The inspections as always were white glove inspections.  No dust over the doorways tolerated or you received demerits.  Some could be paid for with pushups but mostly privileges canceled.

 

Of all the places to pick for surgery this is the last I would have chosen.  It was a little dispensary usually frequented by those with colds or flu.  It had gotten to the point where I could no longer sit during the class periods and I reported to the sick bay.  An aging doctor saw me and told me I was afflicted in a similar manner as the Philistines of the old testament, with emrods, or in present day terminology, hemorrhoids and would have to undergo surgery.  Well, the anesthetic did not take hold at all and he called in four of the largest APs in my class to hold me down, one on each limb while he sawed away with what must have been an old butter knife.  Anyway, I spent about 3 days in bed there and moved very cautiously for the next week.

 

Three of us were chosen to assist our instructor Leonard the night of his wedding.  We had to practically dress him and get him ready as he seemed to be in another world.  As they used to say, as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.

 

We got the job done and he took off on a three day honeymoon which gave us a reprieve from a flight check but also gave us some additional time to practice some aerial maneuvers.

 

The laundry there was operated by the girls from the college and they delighted in sending panties and bras back in our laundry bundles.  The theater building had a large sign attesting to the fact that Huey Long, Louisiana’s famed politician had been instrumental in providing the college with such a facility.

 

To make certain that we did not become individualists there was always the marching and close order drill which was conducted by one of the Marine sergeants in our class in an open area by the laundry.  I think we made it unnecessary for then to mow that spot of ground for the period of time we were there.

 

The time came for us to bid good-bye to preflight and WTS and proceed to the University of Georgia at Athens.  This would be my second trip through New Orleans and as I had a layover the night I got in it naturally followed that it would be necessary to crowd in as much as I could.

 

I went down Canal Street to Mac’s restaurant which took in a square block, one part western style, one sea food bar and one part French cuisine.  Having the meal ticket issued by the Navy I ordered the largest T-bone steak they had.  When it arrived I was already drooling and I proceeded to cut into it.  I must not have used the right technique as the entire platter slipped from the table upside down on my lap.  The waitress brought me another steak and I tried to get most of the spill off my dress whites.

 

After polishing off a good meal, I proceeded toward the Roosevelt Hotel as I remembered hearing the radio program even before the war.  “This music is coming to you from the beautiful blue room of the Hotel Roosevelt in downtown New Orleans” and I had always wanted to see that place.  On the way I met Stan Amos and a friend of his, Joe DeNeu and together we headed for the Beautiful Blue Room.  On the way we made a couple of stops and on arriving at the hotel we entered and went past the blue room to make a quick stop at the bar first.  I took a place between a navy four striper, full captain and two army first lieutenants.  It wasn’t long before the two dog faces were giving me a bad time about the campaign ribbons I was wearing.  The captain on my right took notice and I said, I think you are the one who presented me with the DFC at Pearl Harbor sub base.  After a little more lip from the two second Louies he said, hit the SOBs.  Now I had never been a violent person but without thinking I swung around and dropped the nearest one flat on his back.  Two shore patrol grabbed me appearing from nowhere and as they turned with me the captain spoke briefly to them and I was escorted right past the beautiful blue room of the Hotel Roosevelt in downtown New Orleans, right down the long flight of steps onto the sidewalk and told to keep going.  I still wonder at times what the blue room was like.

 

The train trip was uneventful and we were met at the station by a person who asked for our papers and seemed oblivious to our questions about the place.  Maybe as with the blue room I would always wonder.

 

This was a much larger campus and a disappointment to us APs as we were at this time lumped in with the V5 cadets and were required to wear the uniforms of a cadet.  They resembled the Army uniform in most ways including the visor bill cap, shirt, tie and trousers.  We were issued brown high top shoes you would normally refer to as work shoes but we were required to put a spit shine on them in a short time.  This had been our habit with the navy issue shoes but these things were a challenge.  Another thing that bothered us was that we were treated as V5 cadets.  They could not ride in a vehicle but must walk and town was a ways off.

 

Normally we should have gone to Dallas which was at that time the training ground for APs and they had much more freedom than the cadets.  Still the close order marching drills, the inspections were something you did not look forward to.  Your issue was all that they expected to see when they came into your room.  The right number of socks rolled in the right way and placed in the proper position in the drawer.  Only issued books on the shelf and according to title, all lined up just so.  Hazelbaker and his three roommates were just across the hall from us and during one inspection they had learned that they could unlock a door in their room and it was a closet.  They invited everyone on the floor to put their nonconforming gear in their closet and they would lock it up until inspection was over.  Murphys law went into effect, they forgot to lock it up again.  With all four standing at attention, one of the officers ran his white gloves over the doorway and then turned the knob.  It was like Fibber McGees closet.  The officer asked who was in charge, Hazelbaker said he was and the officer said, “Hazelbaker, this room looks like a s— house, what do you have to say for yourself?”  Hazelbaker replied, “You should see the room next door sir”.  They promptly went to the room next door and upon opening the door discovered it was the head.

 

We had classes in relaxation after which we were required to sit in a chair when commanded and go to sleep within 15 minutes.  The class involved loosening the tie, lying on the bunk with eyes closed and thinking of something relaxing such as the American flag waving loosely in the breeze.  Believe it or not after a few weeks of these sessions, we were capable of falling asleep on short notice.  This all to enable you to take advantage of a few minutes break between missions in the air.

 

We also had classes in survival in a hostile country should one ever be downed behind enemy lines.  We would be given rudimentary maps, matches, knives and a compass and driven out into the wilderness area of Georgia and believe me they approximated those of the South Pacific jungles in several areas.  We would be blindfolded for the trip and dumped out and told to wait ten minutes to take off the blindfolds.

 

Well, we sneaked the blindfolds off early, found out which way the vehicle went and walked that direction until we found telephone wires, followed them to a house and called for a taxi.  It was the weekend and one of the girls dorms was empty so we crawled in through a basement window and later sent one man out for hamburgers from a nearby diner.  This survival wasn’t so hard after all and as the instructor said, if there’s a will there’s a way.

 

Copyright ©2004-2007 Lynn R. Forshee.  All rights reserved.
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