Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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Dive bombing dive
was the most exciting exercise we practiced. We dropped miniature bombs of a few lbs. each on 200 ft round targets, one of which was in an out-of-the-way cove a little way up-stream and another in a similar place downstream. Starting from about 3500 ft. we pushed over into dives of around 70 degrees releasing the bomb and starting to pull out at 2000 ft. and seldom getting lower than 1000 ft. If one got beyond the vertical, as happened when one dove down wind without realizing it, the necessarily long pull-out sometimes made us black-out a little, but that was an exception. Hits were not infrequent, though we didn’t have enough practice to get really sharp.

One of the last exercises in the syllabus was catapult shotscatapult
 off a wharf. An instructor with a cadet in the rear cockpit was the first to go, but after they had swapped places, the then “experienced” cadet checked out a fresh one, etc. On my first one as pilot I forgot to put my head back on the head rest and received a bump, not realizing it until afterwards, however, when someone pointed it out, and sure enough I felt a bruise on the back of my head. The excitement had been too much for me to notice it before. The catapult was the type with a charge resembling a large shell sending us off. I’ll never forget seeing Stix’s plane (somehow I wasn’t with him that time, thank God) head for the water and bounce back into the air again.

Night flying night
we had in both N3Ns and OS2Us, both coming after the regular syllabus was well under way and that in the Kingfishers lasting nearly to the end of the course. All we did after soloing was to fly formation up and down the river and practice landings and take-offs. The landings in OS2U’s were no fun, the only lights to guide us being a little boat which we were supposed to land somewhere to the right or left of. It was indeed a very uncomfortable feeling descending into inky blackness flying almost entirely on instruments and not knowing when one was going to hit. The calmer the air the faster the landing speed and the harder we hit, and sometimes it seemed that the bottom of the float had been broken in.

Though regular cadet ground school had long since been finished, we had a certain amount of ground school in the squadron such as navigation problems, radio code and blinker, ship and plane recognition, etc. Drill in how to make contact reports was about the only new subject, but an important and rather difficult one, all messages not only having to be in Morse code but in encoded English.

In the meantime having had regular nights off ever since becoming a first class cadet, I had been enjoying more leisure hours and even on occasions been mildly sociablesocial
. A fellow cadet, and also a fellow alumnus of the Yale Forestry School, by the name of Bob Marshall, launched me socially, first by taking me out to dinner to the house of a very pleasant Dr. and Mrs. Omdorff, friends of his, and then getting me to go on a double date with him. On the latter occasion “my” girl was Margaret Baker, whom I eventually got to know pretty well. Harriet Gibbs, a Vassar grad, the only other Jacksonville girl I then knew, I had also met on a double date, and though one eventually got to know quite a number of the nice people of the neighborhood, she remained the most congenial of the young ladies.

Just before entering Squadron 14 I had finally got to the beaches again, joining a crowd at the Innlet,Harvard
(both lost
consisting of Sam Reed and Charlie Breed, cadet friends who had been a couple of years behind me at college, and also more or less in the party, Dave Gardner and a pal of his, Joe Kennedy, classmates I had never particularly known, and a friend of the latter, the last two being ensigns. We all went to the weekly dance at the Inn and the next day lay around on the beach.