Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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Phil Field to N.A.S. Atlanta
with Phil Field
and I drove down to Atlanta in his sporty Ford convertible sedan, a relic of his recent days at Harvard, some five years after mine. After a night along the road (in a cabin) somewhere in Delaware, we made a longer stop at “His Lordship’s Kindness,” his mother’s and stepfather’s house outside Washington and a lovely old place, the buildings supposedly by Wren, the grounds by L’Enfant. It was there I saw the first of many new birds seen while in the service, a first new bird red-bellied woodpecker, though the old house and the magnificent hollies, tulips, cedars and other trees surrounding it stole the show.

We had to leave for Atlanta Atlanta after only one night there, however, arriving at Georgia’s pleasant capital on Dec. 10. That made a new “furthest south” for me by a very small margin (over San Bernardino, Cal., passed through in ’37). Both South Carolina and Georgia were new states for me, my 35th and 36th respectively.

The Atlanta sojourn of some three and a half weeks wasn’t an overwhelming success. We and other groups like us from the various “Elimination” bases from Squantum south were there only to make up a feeder pool for the cadet program at Jacksonville. They kept us busy all the time, however, with ground school, drilling, and watch standing, and the whole program was supervised in a very strict manner by Lt. Comdr. Shefflin Lt. Comdr. Shefflin, a classmate of Uncle Ham’s at Groton, our “boss,” and by his associates. The ground school courses wouldn’t have been so bad had they been planned so that we could finish them, but, as is so often the case in the Navy, no one knew just how long we would be there. There was one very genuine and justifiable “gripe” and that concerned the radio code radio code. For each of the first two weeks we were there a single code test determined whether one got any liberty at all that week, and not only that, a single mistake or one measley letter wrong, was an automatic flunk. I remember one sender whose dits and dahs were so nearly the same that his sending was hopelessly unintelligible.

Hamilton Coolidge, an ace fighter pilot killed in France two weeks before the end of World War I.
[Actually, J. Jay Schieffelin.]

The drill drill certainly did us no harm, in fact was good experience since we used rifles. Somehow some of us got stuck with more four hour watches along the fence in the wee hours than others got, but that sort of thing seemed to be inevitable. Considering the recentness of events at Pearl Harbor it was hardly surprising that possible sabotage was considered not only a threat but a probability. Mr. Shefflin gave us, shortly after our arrival, perhaps the toughest fight talk I’ve ever heard. Under the circumstances it was not inappropriate, and though we thought at the time that he took his job altogether too seriously, he did impress one as a very fine officer. Had we been able to enjoy the pleasures of the nearby city, he might even have been popular. Recreational facilities at the base were, incidentally, nil, or nearly so.