little Wildcat Fighter

Survived New Orleans & F4F

In those days the trains were not the most reliable form of transportation. But it was all we had so we got sidetracked in New Orleans on Christmas Eve. This gave me time to fully explore Bourbon Street and all the sights thereon for the first time for this ole Missouri farm boy. What an experience! Come midnight, I heard church bells and decided to go in and see what was going on. I sat in the back row on the isle and watched the impressive Christmas ceremony. Then back to Bourbon Street till daylight. I almost missed the train.

When Bonnie arrived (by bus) in Jacksonville, we rented a one-room apartment not far from the base, and just to be safe, we got married again on 27 January 1944. The reason for this was that cadets were not supposed to be married before being commissioned. They kicked out my roommate just because of that, so we wanted to get married again for the Navy.

The little Wildcat Fighter was real tricky to handle on the ground due to a very narrow landing gear. On my first take off, the wind got

under one wing and tilted me so that I "Ground Looped," that is, drug a wing on the runway. l taxied back to the ramp where the Instructor hopped up on the wing and said to not get out. He was afraid I would lose my nerve, so he told me what the Admiral said: ..."if we buckled up we could fly one of those suckers into a stone wall and not get hurt." With that I lined her up again and got airborne for the first time in a Navy Fighter. Never mind that these very planes had been used by the Marines in combat and had patched bullet holes in them. Once when I was finishing up a flight at 10,000 feet I decided to make a quick letdown to the field, soo, I pointed ‘er straight down at full throttle and picked up so much speed that the landing gear sheared off. With just one strut holding on I lined up for the runway, the little WAVE in the control tower said, "Sir, your landing gear is dangling so please land in the grass." So I made a belly flop landing and walked away. Back then if a Fighter Pilot didn't have a few crashes, he was just too cautious.

Finally, we were supposed to live in the barracks and not off base, so at night my buddies would make "Bunk Check" for me while I was with my wife in our little one-room apartment.

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