Air-To-Ground Battle For Italy

Air-To-Ground Battle For Italy

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FROM THE AUTHOR: Pearl Harbor galvanized America to convert peacetime production capacity to war levels, intensify recruiting, and expand every facet of its military training system. Those of us who wanted to fly found on Monday, 8 December 1941, that a difficult written test would satisfy the two years of college prerequisite to enter the Aviation Cadet aircrew-training program. We still faced a rigorous physical exam and batteries of psychological and intelligence evaluations plus specific aptitude tests. The process was intense, demanding, and time consuming. Only 41 survivors of several hundred original applicants in the Boston area became aviation cadets on 18 March 1942. Five days later, we reported to Santa Ana Army Air Base, California, for preflight trainingthe first of four phases en route to pilot, navigator, or bombardier wings. Santa Ana was a new base with no roads or buildings. Tents were used for every purpose. The wettest rainy season in years converted the base into a muddy quagmire. Amazingly, the program stayed on schedule despite almost impossible living and working conditions. I found a remarkable can-do attitude to be characteristic of Army personnel in every step of the training process. Our class opened a new primary flight school in Scottsdale and a new basic flight school in Marana, both in Arizona. Neither was ready for occupancy, but the Army made do and opened on time, producing graduates who met course completion standards despite obvious handicaps. On 4 January 1943, Class 43-A graduated from Luke Field on schedule with more than 400 new pilots. Other advanced flying bases produced similar numbers to provide a steady flow of young Americans to support theater requirements for combat aircrews. Operational P-40 training in Sarasota, Florida, started two weeks later. The schedule provided the necessary 40 hours for each of us in eight weeks. By the end of March, we reported to Dale Mabry Field, Tallahassee, Florida, for overseas processing. With our gear, we boarded a new four-engine C-54 for Africa via Miami, Trinidad, Belem, Ascension Island, and Accra. Many of us volunteered to ferry P-40s from Lagos (down the coast from Accra) through equatorial Africa to Cairoan unlikely saga, completed successfullywithout maps or navigational aids. That ferry trip was the first example of an indomitable can-do determination to complete the mission. That attitude became the defining characteristic of leadership philosophy in the 57th Fighter Group. Those selected for positions of greater responsibility had to demonstrate leadership capabilitythe ability to think under pressure and the determination to get the job done. The last two chapters focus on highlights of the more memorable missions that took place during two years of bitter fighting between implacable enemiesone who never gave ground willingly, and one who never quit trying to find a better way to get the job done. For the most part, the events are accurate accounts with due allowance for fallible memories of participants who have survived some 60 years since these events demanded and received complete concentration from all who were part of the 57th Fighter Group. At a recent gathering of old fighter pilots, everyone agreed with the sequence of the missions but each of us had a different memory of where we were flying in the formation. Air University.

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