Feb. 6, 1943
Your Christmas present to me was one of the very best and perhaps most appropriate of all, even if it has taken me over a month to thank you for it. For this Im very sorry and ashamed. Somehow I got way behind in writing letters, what with moving out of Miami and getting settled here, but Im gradually catching up. The pictures you picked out are a choice lot, and Ive just had another look at them, something I can do any time.
Right now Id be night flying if they hadnt cancelled it because of expected poor weather. Flying at night is apt to be exciting, sometimes too much so. It might be fun if one didnt have to worry about watching for other planes or landing in semi-darkness, this last being no fun at all. Flying by day is seldom grim and frequently enjoyable, but when one does a lot of the same sort of flying, as flying out over the sea out of sight of everything except the sea and the sky, things sometimes get monotonous. Flying over land is much more interesting because of the variety of things to see from above. Perhaps before long youll get a chance to see how very different things look from the air and from different altitudes. One can see better of course the lower one goes (except for distance), down to the point where everything becomes a blur, like those things one passes close to in a car. None of the planes we use are very fast, and to make them last longer we rarely fly them at full speed anyway. In level flight we cruise the OS2U (Kingfisher) land plane at about 120, the SNJ (Harvard trainer) at 140150 and the SBC (Helldivernot the new one, but an older biplane) at about 170 M.P.H. The SBC, however, will sometimes hit around 300 in a dive with diving flaps closed. In a steep dive they are always opened to slow the plane down to 250 or less, usually. Too much speed makes for inaccuracy in bombing. You may wonder how steep our dives are. The answer is steep enough so that they seem nearly vertical, though they arent quite. Even if we dont fly the newest and speediest planes or fly at tremendous altitudes, we do get some excitement and occasionally see some of the newer planes like F4Us (Corsair). It seems probable that Ill fly scout-bombers (usually called dive bombers) when I eventually go to the fleet and am through with seaplanes at least for the duration, but I dont yet know whether Im glad or sorry. A seaplane would be best for Squam, wouldnt it? Though I dont know that Id like to keep one there for fear of spoiling the atmosphere.
Ive bought a bicycle instead of a car and already rode it 50 miles in a few hoursfrom the beach to hereeven if it made me very tired. The next time I think Ill ride to St. Augustine, which is only about 25 miles away and the oldest town in the U.S. It has a wonderful old Spanish fort there, and theres a swell beach running all the way without a break to the mouth of the St. Johns river, about 32 miles to the north. At low tide the beach is fine for riding a bicycle or driving a car, which reminds me that it isnt very far south of here, at Daytona Beach, that Major Seagrave first drove a car over 200 M.P.H. We all saw this car in Paris in 1927. A bit later after Campbell had beaten his record by a bit, he drove his Golden Arrow (successor to his Sunbeam) 231 M.P.H., but the later records, over 300, have all been made out on what used to be the bottom of Great Salt Lake, when it was the larger Lake Bonneville. Well, I may ride along the beach myself. The sand is very compact, and one doesnt sink in at all.
This afternoon I took out a rowboat for a little exercise (no flying because of poor weather), and that was the first time I had been on the river proper in anything but a seaplane. Last spring I did paddle a canoe up a long creek that flows into the river. Here the St. Johns is about two miles wide, much wider than Squam is where our campo is, but theres hardly any current.
Thanks for your letter, by the way, and write another sometime.