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June 27, 1942

Dear Folks,

My “weekly” letters seem to get off only about every ten days now, but after all unless one has unusual talents the letters one writes when one doesn’t feel like writing might be especially dull. Spells of writing and reading seem to alternate with me, and the most recent has been the latter. For your interest and possible comment there follows a list of books read this year, most of them having been finished in odd moments of recent weeks:

* B Goodrich: The Sound of Wings
A Sayers: Strong Poison
A Austen: Pride and Prejudice
B Van W. Mason: a S.A. thriller
A Brontee [sic]: Wuthering Heights
C Cronin: The Stars Looked Down
A Mason: The SIngapore Exile Murders
C Maugham: South Moon Under [1]
C Buchan: his last—can’t recall title
C Forester: The African Queen
C Forester: To The Indies
A Hilton: We Are Not Alone
A Hilton: Without Armor
B Cronin: The Keys of the Kingdom
B Knight: This Above All

*A = Pocket Books, borrowed or owned; B = other, borrowed or owned; C = library

Of this I think I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice the most. I hadn’t read it for years. What a delight it is. I must say I rather go for Forester and Hilton, though the two by the former weren’t quite up to the famous captain. Cronin’s last is a pip too, but how grim the other is, to say nothing of This Above All—both rather raw compared with the equally grim classics of Miss E. Brontee [sic]. I don’t particularly go for M. Gauguin (alias Strictland [sic]) life or pictures. Good old J.B. wound up with a good tale, but maybe just a wee bit too impossible? The thrillers were fun too, and I should have mentioned “Assignment in Brittany”[1] in the Sat. Eve. Post, which both of you undoubtedly also read. What next? Either Storm or Delilah.

Well, it looks as if I should miss Nance, which is very sad, and not see my folks unitil Aug. (Sept. if very poor weather prevails), which is only less sad. I hope Henry is able to stay where he is, but I rather wish Ham would do something like taking the course Larry did—at least after Nov.

There is no secret about where my advanced training is taking place. How else would I get mail? I thought I explained that one either specialized in seaplane or patrol flying boat training here, or in carrier training at Miami. Already I have checked into my final squadron and may get my first seaplane hop tomorrow. My instrument flying was all right to get by. It was very interesting, and the principle, which I’ll explain, is no secret—same as regular airline stuff. All over the country are spread radio stations near important airports, and these send out four radio beams in different, but never changing directions, the beams sounding like a solid buzz over the radio and loudest near the field except for a silent area nearly over it called the cone of silence. Between the various beams are four sectors, two sounding the A signal (dit dah) and two the N signal (dah dit). It can easily be seen that the beams are formed by an overlapping of the two signals. After getting a “build” or a “fade” of an A or an N one can easily determine what sector one is in by first pointing the plane in the same direction as the nearest of the two bisector headings, and then one can head for a beam and follow it in to the cone and then the field. Follow? Each station has a special signal it sends from time to time, interrupting the A,N or beam signal. The following diagram will illiustrate a typical problem. To avoid collisions one of the beams is always designated and used for the “let down leg.” One carries a map or diagram like the following:

radio navigation diagram

Note: a “fade” at 2. on a heading of 059° would indicate one were in the NE quadrant and would necessitate a 180° turn to get a build and thence to a beam.

Well, at least you get the general idea. Theoretically one could never get lost if there were no areas beyond the reach of radio signals, which often overlap though from different stations at different frequencies. One would of course always have to see the field for the final landing. All signals get very loud near the cone and then at it suddenly die. Like the beams only upwards instead of horizontally, the cone gets wider at greater distances (altitudes) from the station.

The seaplane squadron promises to be much the busiest yet what with more flying than before and special ground school in radio, navigation, etc., along with it.

I’m a full platoon commander now, and though promotion has been rather rapid, because of graduations above, it still isn't a very lofty position. Perhaps I once explained that all the cadets make up what is called the Cadet Regiment, which under Mr. Cutler runs everything except ground school and flying. Each of the nine barracks is a company of four platoons, and there are three battalions, each, incidentally, with a real officer in charge; an office handling the room situation, minor discipline, etc.; and a mess hall. Don Watson is at least a battalion commander, but I don”t believe even he has very much to do. Every morning now we either have feeble exercises or run slowly around the block before breakfast, and when completely dressed we march to breakfast, and these are the only times cadet officers officiate except when standing a watch in regimantal headquarters and when lining up the boys at inspections. Of course we are supposed to have authority enough to keep order in our respective halls.

The only other “local” news concerns last Monday, when I had a day off and spent it at the beach, staying with a pleasant Mrs. Reid, who takes in people more or less as paying guests and who has an attractive daughter! Since I had met several nice or sweet young things the previous week-end, this brought the total for about six months to about that number of local girls I wouldn’t mind taking out. Such, however, is exceedingly difficult if one hasn’t a car, and if it weren’t for the cost of my coming uniforms and the gas and tire situation, I should undoubtedly buy one. Some of the boys by conservatively using their cars can sometimes get out to the beach. Last time I found the bus satisfactory once enough people got out along the way so that I was able to get a seat.

So I didn’t go the few miles south to Ponte Vedra, but stayed at Atlantic Beach. I hired a bicycle and rode way up to the jetty at the mouth of the St. John’s, only to have the front tire go flat. It was, however, a slow leak I hadn’t noticed, and fortunately a pump was borrowable. That was in the morning, and though I was vaguely looking for shore birds, all I found was a few turnstones, least terns and ring-billed gulls, not to forget many pelicans and a pair of eagles. The afternoon jaunt to the Mayport marshes was far more successful. Here were very tame clapper rails, almost as close as my telescope would focus, a few black-necked stilts and willets, quite a few snowy and American egrets, white ibises, little blue herons and many more least terns.

Perhaps that’s enough for now, though this paper makes it seem as if it were more than it really is.

Love to All,


1. The author of South Moon Under was Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The Somerset Maugham novel to which T.R. refers is Moon and Sixpence, based on the life of the French painter Paul Gauguin, whose central character was an English stockbroker named Charles Strickland.

2. Assignment in Brittany , a novel by Helen MacInnes published in 1942, became a movie in 1943.

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