Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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Chasing navigation flights was another job and much more routine. Such flights crossed the river and headed east and a little south for St. Augustine, where the problems began. We used OS2U land planes for shorter flights, SNJs for medium flights, and SBCs for longer flights. About the only incident I seem to remember in this connection is returning to land one day and finding an almost 100% overcast right down to the ground, but to my great relief I found a convenient hole hole in overcast almost directly above the field at St. Augustine and proudly led the boys down to “safety.” The wind was taken out of my sails a bit, when I called up Lee Field and found that there was no such overcast there and no one was the least bit worried about us.

About the only other things practiced were “tactics,” tactics fun which consisted of flying around in formation and going into occasional tail chases or “Lufbery circles,” the latter being a maneuver whereby the leading plane, the instructor’s, started a steep turn, with everyone else in column, and eventually caught up to the last plane, everyone thus chasing the guy in front of him and supposedly “protecting his tail.” Since we usually used the SBC for tactics, and it was capable of amazingly steep and sharp flipper turns, this was considerable fun.

We were at Lee Field from late December of ’42 to early March of ’43, and altogether it was a grand experience, especially compared with what some of us had gone through there less than a year before. The students no longer commuted from Jacksonville, but lived in barracks right on the enlarged base, while we instructors lived in a very comfortable B.O.Q. right by the river, quarters by the
st. john’s river
a pleasant spot shaded by live oaks, sweet gums, and magnolias. The St. John’s is over two miles wide here, really too big for ideal scenery, especially with such low, flat shorelines, but mostly just for the stunt I borrowed a rowboat and rowed across and back one afternoon. More often I walked, or occasionally ran with a friend by the name of John Woods, south along the St. Augustine road and part way across the bridge, which is a little way upstream from the base. Not many kinds of water birds seemed to frequent the river, though once I encountered a flock of coots I estimated at at least 1000 birds. birds There were usually a few scaups and pied-billed grebes about, and one time I spied the only pintails (a pair) I saw the whole time I was in Florida.