Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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January, 1942

Since Atlanta had been chilly as well as rather unpleasant in other respects, all of us were very much in the mood for Florida Florida. Nor were we disappointed with it after our arrival, at least not immediately. Florida’s flatness was more than made up for, as far as its scenery appealed to me, by the mighty St. John’s river river and the rather interesting stands of live oak, trees red gums, magnolias, etc., along its banks; and, of course, its ocean beaches seemed incomparable.

The size of our new station first impressions
n.a.s. jacksonville
made our eyes bulge, but when we saw planes take off by the dozen and retract their landing gear climbing at what seemed like an impossible rate, they nearly popped out. These were mostly intermediate trainers, SNJs and a few SNCs, but to us they looked like fighters.

After the usual physical exam we were sworn in as Aviation Cadets, and we certainly thought we were something then. ! Though they still treated us much like reform school kids, we theoretically ranked warrant officers, had our pay raised from fifty-odd dollars a month to seventy-five, were assigned two to a room and got better food and service at meals than previously. We were only too glad too to replace our “civvies” with the snappy cadet uniforms, regular Navy officers’ blue except for no sleeve stripes and a thinner chin strap and different emblem on the caps, though we continued to wear khakis on the base, replacing ties of the same color with black ones.

We had a very easy time for the first two weeks with just one hour of code and one hour of drill daily. While, as third class cadets (those who hadn’t started to fly), we got only part of the week-end off, our leisure time was much appreciated. In the first place we hadn’t had much before, and in the second place there was more to do with it. amenitiesThere was a swimming pool, a good library, free movies every night, but, best of all from my point of view, nice places to walk. There were, for instance, groves of mixed hardwoods and pines here and there and in back of our group of barracks a little pond bordered by a strip of woods that stretched almost continuously to the other end of the base, a couple of miles or so away. These were my haunts during many an extra hour for many months. fauna Counting a few species seen on or over the river I eventually identified an even hundred kinds of birds on the base. Mammals were less in evidence, the only really common one being a gray squirrel considerably smaller than ours up north. Cottontails were seen on occasions, and once I had a fine, close view of a gray fox, my first. Lizards, especially skinks and chameleons, were frequently encountered. The lizards skinks were black above with orange longitudinal stripes and iridescent bluish-green bellies—handsome little creatures indeed. The chameleons were usually either a plain brown or bright green and could inflate a disc-shaped sack in their throats, the stretch of the skin making the sacs appear bright pink. More about the birds later.