|Jan. 22, 1943
Well, I have finally started working on airplanes after arguing with sargeants and a lieutenant for a week. It took me that long to convince them that I would be better working on "the line" than on that mail orderly job. Our squadron is working seven days per week at from 10 to 12 hours each day. We don't mind, as there is practically nothing to do even if we did get off duty early. Our job is to keep the Atlantic patrol bombers in flying condition.
Six planes flew over Monday just above the treetops and sprayed the entire base with tear gas. This was our first gas raid, but we all managed to get our masks on in time. This gas lingered for about 2˝ hours before finally being blown away by a slight breeze. Our crew of six spent this entire time in the woods surrounding our assigned plane, and a few of us even fell asleep (with our masks on).
I had last Sunday off, so I went in to Myrtle Beach. Here, I waded barefooted in the Atlantic Ocean along the sandy shore. I didn't do this for any length of time as the water was rather cold and the wind started whipping up waves too large for me to cope with.
Last week one time, I and another boy rode to Myrtle Beach in a jeep to get a box of aspirins for a lieutenant. I wasn't doing the driving. The speedometer is only marked up to 60 miles per hour, but the needle went all the way around past this mark and came to rest against the stop pin. We were really "flying low." After we had slowed down to 50 miles per hour, I got some dirt in my eye. So, the next morning, I went to the base hospital and had a doctor pick out the cinders. This fast driving is against base regulations, 25 miles per hour being the designated maximum speed limit.
Tuesday, it rained practically all day. This being the case, there wasn't much being done in the way of work. So, to pass the time away, I answered Fred Roussey's letter, which was forwarded to me from Lockbourne. While writing that letter, I sat in the upper gun turret of a Martin B-26 bomber with my head resting against a pair of .50 caliber machine guns and with my gas mask serving as a desk.
Wednesday morning, there wasn't much to do, so I climbed inside the airplane. Here, I used the radio operator's table and wrote a letter to that Ohio State college boy in Columbus.
In some of the reading matter which you sent me, you had a clipping about an airplane crash here in which four men were killed, one being from Maryland. I already knew about this, and in fact talked to mechanics who were from the same squadron and who knew these men. This crash was nothing unusual. Just yesterday, there was another crash. In this case, it seems that when the airplane was taking off, the pilot retracted the landing gear before the plane was completely off the ground. Naturally, the plane skidded on its belly along the ground at about 200 miles per hour before finally coming to rest in one big heap of twisted metal. No one in this crash was killed, but all were injured. One man, the most seriously injured, had a leg cut off by a flying propeller blade. This makes twelve or thirteen airplanes from this base alone which have either crashed on land or become lost in the Atlantic Ocean within the last three months. A total of 24 men killed. Well, so much for that kind of stuff.
So, far, I have taken 12 pictures, and after they are developed, I will send them to you. You can send those other two rolls of films and that other "something" which you spoke of in your last letter - if you want to.
Last week one day, I went to Georgetown by Greyhound bus. This is about 33 miles away and cost $1.43 a round trip [about $21.99 in 2020 dollars - Ed.]. This town is only about twice as large as Myrtle Beach and is a Coast Guard station.
I received Phus's letter the other day - thanks. She spoke about the "sunny south." Well, Wednesday it was 25 degrees above zero and it was almost as cold Thursday. But, too, it's January. We had a bonfire going near our airplane (about 50 yards away). As you know, I am working outside all of the time now, except when I go to eat in the mess hall. In bad weather, we just climb inside of our airplane (a Martin B-26).
Don't sell my car. I don't need any money and can see no other reason for wanting to sell it. I received The Martin Star [a magazine published by his former civilian employer, the Glenn L. Martin Company - Ed.] and other reading matter. It takes about three days for your mail to reach me, according to the date on the postmark.
Thursday, I and two master sargeants rode our B-26 around the runways for about 15 or 20 minutes. The engines were only half throttled, but because of the noise and vibration, you couldn't hear yourself yell. When at first we were warming up the engines, the propeller wind was so strong that it picked up a block of wood which measured 8"x8"x30" and blew it into a stream about 15 yards behind the airplane. It also blew my gas mask away which I had left lying in the field behind the airplane. I got it again though. Remember that bonfire which I told you about previously? Well, later on when the airplane turned around, the propeller wind blew it away completely - ashes, sticks, and burning logs - everything.
Well, today, Friday, our airplane almost crashed. It was on a test flight after having new engines installed. One motor stopped in the air, but the pilot managed to get it started after he had just about given up hope. He was going to attempt a single engine landing. This has never as yet been done successfully on a B-26. So, the pilot and three other members of the crew were sort of relieved when the bad engine finally did start. We went to work on it as soon as the plane landed. Up until 5:15 tonight (when I went to eat supper), they hadn't as yet found the cause of the engine quitting.
Well, this is about all that I can think of now.
So, until sometime later,