Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

prev next

Jacksonville and its bright lights some twelve miles to the north, provided a good source of entertainment, there being a choice of movie shows and, for those interested, bars and one or two good steak houses. For a day off, however, the beach was the main attraction. We soon found Ponte Vedra Ponte Vedra to be the most attractive section especially as there was a pleasant place to stay in the Innlet, a miniature hotel complete with courtyard, bar, and dining room, the last justly famous for its food. Nearby was the Inn, scene of Saturday night dances, and its fine eighteen-hole golf course. All these places were easily accessible only before gas rationing went into effect, sometime in the Spring, and when one knew someone with a car. Phil Field Phil Field was my room-mate right along, so I was lucky in that he had a car as well as in other respects, i.e., his pleasant company, etc.

The first two weeks passed very quickly, and we soon found ourselves well along in ground school. It was too bad that the situation was such that we couldn’t start flying at the same time, but there were just too many cadets to be taken care of right away. We had a good variety of subjects ground school such as engineering, aerodynamics, navigation and communications, once the indoctrination courses were over, and for the most part these were reasonably well taught. Drill continued right along too, and we had assigned leaders, chosen mostly at random, to bark out the usual commands of: “By the right flank, march!” etc. By this time our original group had been joined by other groups from Floyd Bennett, Philadelphia, Anacostia, etc., to become Class 1B ’42 J (Jacksonville) and numbered upwards of a hundred cadets. The class was divided into two groups alphabetically, however, which alternated with ground school and drill, so those in one group ordinarily saw little of those in the other group.

Finally, in March, we began flying again flying again, but after a three months lay-off it seemed almost like starting all over again. The first or primary stage was done in N2S (Stearman), yellow biplanes, very similar in design to the N3N. The ground school divisions of our flight were continued, the first half flying from Cecil Field, about fifteen miles west of the main stations, and the second half from Lee Field, about twenty miles south or upstream of N.A.S. We went out and back by buses, still living and having ground school half a day at Jacksonville. Each group was subdivided into morning and afternoon wings, which changed [several?] times weekly.

After getting through the solo stage again, we began spot landings practicing spot landings in 100 foot circles, starting at 600 ft. going downwind, then making a 180 degree gliding turn to a landing. Judging the direction and strength of the wind and one’s position was of course the key to the whole procedure. A somewhat similar exercise, called small field procedure, consisted of making simulated emergency landings from any one of several positions in a 1000 ft. traffic circle around a field. The instructor would decide when to chop off the throttle and after he did so, one had to glide into the field as best one could, landing, of course, up wind if possible. As at Squantum we continued to solo right along between flights with our instructors, getting roughly the same amount of time in each. A man by the name of Baugher was my instructor at this time, and though he was a young chap, probably several years my junior, I don’t remember whether he was an ensign or a Marine 2nd lieutenant. He managed to get me through the so-called “Twenty hour check,” but only with the help of “Squadron time,” two “ups” eventually offsetting the two “downs” I received before getting the extra time.