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U.S. Naval Air Station

Alameda, California


Dear Folks,

Our “outlying field”, officially an auxiliary air station (N.A.A.S. Vernalis), is southeast of Alameda something like 60 miles, which means in the great valley, but only just east of the coast ranges. The San Joaquin River parallels them on our other side about eight miles away. Right at the field here it is absolutely flat, and though there are cultivated fields around, they are mostly irrigated, and the non-cultivated areas including the nearest range of hills, are very barren. The weather has been continuously hot and cloudless — perfect for night flying, especially as the nights cool off pleasantly. We’ve had mostly two night hops, have slept mornings and sought sunshine in the afternoons, though some days we’ve had field carrier landings in the late afternoons. There has been nothing extraordinary about the flying except the experience of flying over San Francisco Bay at night. It would be nearly impossible to imagine it without doing it and likewise nearly impossible to describe having done it. Certainly it is one of the sights of a life-time, at least from the vicinity of 5000′!

One day two of us climbed the nearest of the approximately 2000′ peaks, walking from here, which gives you an idea of how near it is. As I remember, there were two small trees, but we did see two deer, a doe and a largish fawn. Another time, yesterday in fact, I walked up a sort of canyon, along what was a mostly dried up stream, but which appeared in enough places to make plenty of water holes for the many beef (Hereford) cattle grazing in the vicinity. There were many jack rabbits in the lower, drier reaches, and what amazing creatures they are with their extraordinarily long ears and long legs. They run in terrific leaps and bounds and are said to be able to outrun almost anything except a greyhound. Of the several kinds of birds seen lark sparrows, prettily marked birds especially for sparrows (see Forbush for practically identical eastern subspecies) and with pretty songs, were the most interesting (least familiar to me). Two trips to the river, one mostly on foot, got me a few new birds, which brings up an interesting point. Compared with Florida I’ve seen more new species for the time, or fairly nearly as many altogether (something like 27 compared with 35). Whether California will wind up in the lead may depend on whether or not we’re here for any of the southern migration, during which a good many unfamiliar species (as opposed to most of the migrants passing through Florida) would be passing through here, though I’m due to nab several more resident species here. As a whole the avifauna out here, then, is less familiar to a New Englander than that of Florida. There are more, distinct species (as well as a few distinct families) as opposed to sub-species, though there are many such of eastern forms here as well as in the south east. Except for the ocean birds, for which I’ve a good little book (Alexander), it’s going to be very difficult for me to identify strange birds further west, in some cases perhaps even as to family, there are so many strictly tropical families, that is assuming one might occasionally get ashore. Well enough of this fascinating subject.

Robert M. Ware is our new squadron commander, and Hugh W. Nicholson the executive officer, also a lieutenant commander, and while I’m about it Douglas Yerxa is the flight officer and third ranking man, having been a lieutenant for over a year and a half. The latter, incidentally, comes from New Haven and graduated from Yale in ’37 and so far as I know is the only other New Englander or “Ivy League” man in the squadron — unless Annapolis is considered belonging to said league. He is a likeable chap and already a good friend. The skipper, by the way, is the only Annapolis man, and, save one other risen from the ranks, the only one not in the reserve. We have several other lieutenants besides Yerxa, so you can see where I stand, actually eighth. There are a good many j.g.s and of course even more ensigns, and though the only j.g. senior to me has likewise not seen sea duty, which is also true of two of the lieutenants, there are several who were members of old VB–17, who perhaps rightfully have more responsible jobs than I have, and that includes extra-flying jobs. Altogether there are nearly fifty of us, though we haven’t that many planes and would probably never fly even all those in commission at the same time. The only reason I feel justified in disclosing this is that anyone can count. i shouldn’t pass it on. We should be a good outfit. At least half of the 48 states are represented. We’ll be back in Alameda tomorrow and will probably be there for some time. Sat. and Sun. both off may mean a trip to Santa Barbara, depending on travel possibilities.

Love      Toots

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