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May 8, 1942

Dear Folks,

Though still flying, or rather supposed to be (Actually I’ve got grounded for a few days—since Wednesday, because of a heavy, throaty cold). I’m keeping my fingers crossed about everything, the reason—close to a washout even with Board time. On Monday I got a “down,” principally because of overshooting the small field—no, that was Sunday; and on Monday and Tuesday got two “ups,” but they were pretty awful rides, the last especially, the check pilot admitting he was a Santa Claus to give me an “up,” and he knew my predicament. You can imagine how nervous I was, and that did not help things a bit. If I hadn’t been quite so much up against it, I might have done better. The main thing is that the ordeal is over. On Wednesday came the first rides, dual then solo, in Ryan low wing monoplanes. They naturally are quite a bit different, gadgets working differently and the ships handling differently. They are a little smaller than Stearmans and the nearly identical N3Ns of Squantum and much less powerful, hence poorer climbers, but they are a trifle speedier on the level, 80–85 knots instead of 75–80 cruising speed. They are primarily for primary formation flying, having excellent visibility. The student flies from the front cockpit instead of the rear, as in “yellow perils,” either “dualling” or soloing. My instructor, same one, succeeded in making me wonder if I could fly the plane at all, but on soloing later in the afternoon I found it wasn’t difficult and was fun. The first real check and the formation stuff may be difficult. Next week should tell the story, and after that I should be through at Lee and flying much bigger and faster North American trainers (SNJ's). The ground school is both good and bad. The bad is that I’ve flunked reexams in the last two navigation courses, so like some of the other guys I’ll just have to keep on trying. The good news is that I’ve passed the last two radio and blinker code tests, hence haven’t had to go to night radio this week and won’t have to next. With so much pressure on in both flying and navigation, each worked aganst the other, the combination proving just too much for the likes of me, but now with less pressure I should be able to at least clear up the latter. This week we finished up ship and plane recognition, except for special work in advanced squadron, and had an interesting week of “practical” gunnery, shooting pistols, machine guns, trap and skeet—to get the idea of aiming at a moving object.

Perhaps, Pa, I shouldn’t have sent that rather haphazard list of possible service jobs in the event of failing here. It seems to have made it look as if I was running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, but actually it was made very much on the spur of the moment and just to put forward a few ideas. It is questionable that the Navy would just let me go, but if certain rumors are true, such would not have been an impossibility. A large number of washed out cadets, especialy those with college degrees, are offered A.V.S. commissions or rather more or less apprenticeships for the same, but these are not compulsory as far as I know. In the past some cadets have succeeded in getting into the Army Air Corps, and, speaking of bombardiers, there are no such special jobs in the Navy yet, bombing being done by pilot, co-pilot, navigator, or enlisted man—I don’t know which. No, I should not have to rejoin the Navy if entering another branch, but it would be possible to get demoted since there are a few former V–7 ensigns now cadets here. I admit that most typical intelligence work would call for a quicker mind than such as I possess, but there are certain information jobs on ships offered some non-fliers, mostly lawyers to be sure, that mightn’t be so bad. I did not seriously consider such or the regular army, and I don’t think I’d like the V–7. At any rate I don’t have to worry right now, but I may as well say what I think and that is I’ll be lucky if I do get all the way through. When is hard to say, but probably July or August, when one should get at least 15 days leave. I’m a little afraid I’m going to get cruiser or battleship catapult seaplanes, which don’t particularly appeal to me. It would mean a more typical navy life, more routine, seasickness, etc., but it’s the navigation that would frighten me most.

News about the “growing” Richards estate is most interesting. Wish I were there to lend a hand. I’m not sure farming isn’t more up my alley than flying.

Maybe I better write to Owie, but of course entirely out of the blue—no, not quite. I did promise her a letter last time I saw her. Her post sounds dreadful.

It’s been rather hot here, but for some reason magnolias aren’t in bloom yet. I mean to find out what kind they are. The outstanding water weed, water chestnut or water hyacinth, is, however, in its full purple bloom—acres of it covering calm spots along the river. Yesterday came the first real rain in weeks, and to-day is actually cool, not much over 60°F as yet, though by noon it should be pleasant.

No flying at all tomorrow so maybe by Monday I’ll be all OK.

Love to All


P.S. It is apt to be cool above 3000′ or so.

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