"At March Field, we got an R.O.N. That is, the Crew got to take the plane a reasonable distance from March Field and remain over night. I'm not sure where we went, maybe to Arizona. Anyway, one crew I think went to San Francisco and they took a hitch hiker with them from March Field. He was a Paratrooper going to San Francisco on leave. As they were making their approach to land, one engine caught fire. The Paratrooper was the only one on intercom, and he heard the Pilot tell the Crew that one engine was on fire. The Paratrooper snapped his chute on, opened the camera hatch, and bailed out. Two Gunners in the Waist saw what was happening, got their chutes on, and also went out the camera hatch. Unfortunately, they wee at such a low altitude, the neither chute opened. Their names were Hoffman and Baldwin. I'll never forget "Baldy" Baldwin. We used to go to the NCO Club to have a beer, and he always played "What a Difference a Day Makes" on the juke box. He already knew what he was going to do after the war. His dad had a flying school back East. "Baldy" already had his pilot's license, and he was going to join his dad in the flying school."
"On one of our last Gun Camera Missions to the desert, we were told that there would be fighters making passes at the Formation. All the Gunners were in the turrets, cameras were working, and Booker informed us to be alert, as fighters were in the area. I picked up a speck at 12:00 and closing fast. Before I knew what happened, it was long gone. Booker came on intercom and said, "Fellows, you just saw your first jet fighter." After we landed, the consensus was that we wanted no part of that new fangled airplane."
After an afternoon's flight, Book called the crew together and told us that we were going to have a crew meeting at their B.O.Q. at 7:30 that night. We couldn't figure out what this was all about. We were there promptly at 7:30 and Book said we were going to have a discussion as to where we would be going overseas. (I never thought you had a choice). We talked about the pros and cons of ETO [European Theater of Operation], and the same about the South Pacific. We discussed the long over water flights, and about the German Air Force and the heavily defended targets. Then, we voted on the two Theaters. South Pacific won.
Booker told us that we would be leaving for Hamilton Field, California, any day. On November 24th, with our bags packed, we boarded a plane for Hamilton Field. We got all of our shots, got our records up to date, and went to an operetta in San Francisco. Book thought we needed a little "culture", so we took a couple of cabs, went out for dinner, and then we saw "The Mikado". Really! Just sitting next to Andy Walker through this was much more entertaining than the operetta. All Andy wanted was, out, a beer, and a cigarette. Intermission finally came, and we went to the foyer for a cigarette. Booker told all of us to keep an eye on Andy, and that he had better not come up missing."
"One night Andy and Sheldon decided to go into San Francisco for one last Stateside blast. Now, you know you are going to see a lot of sailors in the bars in San Francisco. That's exactly what they saw, except Andy had to take exception to all the sailors and said so in so many "Expletives" to a table full of sailors. Needless to say, a couple of Navy Shore Patrol were called and night stick brushed across Andy's ankle, causing a slight break. Corporal Walker ended up in the hospital and 1st Lt. Booker had to go to the hospital and practically kidnap Private Walker, our Engineer, to take him overseas. You see, Walker got busted in Two places; Sheldon, only one."
"As we boarded a C-54 at Hamilton Field for Hawaii, it's a wonder that the Post Band and the Commanding General of the 4th Air Force didn't come out to wish us Bon Voyage. What a motley Crew going up the steps; 2 Privates, one of them on crutches barely able to make the steps; 1 T/Sgt. (Pressey); 3 Corporals that tried to look nonchalant; and the 4 Wheels."
Next time - Dad opens his orders to see where he will be stationed.