Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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At Miami (actually N.A.S. Opalocka) we weren’t exactly welcome, all the instructors already being busy instructing their cadet students, and so we were left pretty much to our own devices. To make the transition back into land planes, which most of us hadn’t flown in for five months, as easy as possible, various
we flew first in OS2U land planes and then SNJs. Then after supervised “cockpit checkouts” we successively checked ourselves out up in the air with the SBC–3, an obsolete biplane scout-bomber no longer used for dive bombing, the BT–1, the ancestor of the SBD series and though no longer first line still an excellent dive bomber, and the TBD, which had then only recently been replaced by the TBF as the Fleet’s regular torpedo bomber. We did have several supervised dive bombing flights, but not enough to get used to diving from 8000 feet instead of 3000, though the split flaps of the BT, the first monoplane to have this type of diving brake, should have made it not too difficult. What probably was at least my trouble then was pushing over too steeply to start with and getting blown away from the target without realizing where the wind was coming from soon enough. Besides dive bombing we got one official navigation “hop” out to the nearest of the Bahamas bahamas (no stop) and back, in SBCs, two to a plane, I happening to draw a rear cockpit; and a little night flying in SNJs. Otherwise we just took planes needing tests or just a little time on the engine at low speeds (“run ins”) whenever we could get them. Just for fun I went up to 15,000 ft. on my first TBD flight, that being by far the highest I had ever been up to that time. Other times I “explored” the interesting country south of Miami, and once went north to Lake Okeechobee with some of the other boys, doing a little illegal “hedge hopping” both ways, foolishly foolhardy as it seems now.

Those of us without cars found Miami, as a recreation center, rather more inaccessible than Jacksonville had been, but I got in enough times to find some of the better eating places and see a little of the town otherwise. j.r.c. Hearing that Joe was expecting to leave on an African mission (undoubtedly I didn’t then realize it was to be African) from Miami about that time I called up a likely airport and left a message, and darned if he didn’t get it. So we got together for a couple of drinks, etc., and even posed together for some tintype photos. he had got his commission a scant week before I had, but that was the first time I had seen him in many months and the last time before the War ended, shortly after which he returned wounded from Indo-China. Another Harvard classmate I just happened to run into on the streets was Win Pettingill, who had been on the track team with me and who curiously enough was released to inactive duty the same time from Alameda.

Carl Tobey (Moby Dick and fellow Beethoven lover) was one of the Miami crows I got to know pretty well. We had a couple of squash games together. With Bob Stix one day off I went up to Boca Raton, boca raton spending a few hours on the beach and winding up at the super swanky club, then in the hands of the army, Bob as usual knowing someone there. Christmas Day Christmas
saw us all through our course with a few days to spare before we were due back in Jacksonville. I dined with Bud Ritchie and his wife, Gracie (Powell), plus some of Bud’s South American naval officer friends, and a good time was had by all.

Having seen Royal Palm State Park from the air several times royal palm
state park
part of
nat’l park)
and understanding it was one of the few spots in Florida where the magnificent royal palm grows wild, I very much wanted to see it from the ground. The opportunity to do so came two days after Christmas, the previous day having been spent in the lengthy red tape of checking out of N.A.S. Hiring a car I drove down to the park and after wandering around a bit got talking with an elderly gentleman who turned out to be Frank M. Chapman, the famous ornithologist. frank chapman 12/27/42 He had seen in the register that I came from Groton, and having once lectured at the school introduced himself just to start a conversation. Obviously not in good health he was nevertheless very interesting, and I’ve kicked myself ever since for not staying around there longer. I wanted to see the Keys, but didn’t have time to get beyond the first once I got down there and consequently saw little of interest, just mangrove swamps and the remains of what once must have been fine tropical forest, long since burned over or logged.