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Chapter 27

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Navy's Air War

by
the Aviation History Unit OP‑519B, DCNO (Air)

Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London
1946

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 29
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p307  Chapter 28

Training Naval Aviation's Manpower

Green Light on Training, 1942

The forces that had been holding back training, and as a matter of fact, all war preparations, were swept away by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The first year of the war saw tremendous strides made in training manpower for naval aviation. In the field of pilot training, perhaps the outstanding development making the huge output possible was the standardization of the program. The main framework of pilot training was to be modified to fit changing conditions as the war developed, but in essence it was welded during the first months of conflict.

The supply of pilot material was not limitless, even in a nation the size of the United States. The consensus of opinion was that the aviator had to be young. As science improved the ability of airplanes to withstand the strain of pulling out of a dive, executing sharp maneuvers, operating at ever higher altitudes, it became imperative that those flying the planes be able to stand up under the punishment that such operations entailed. It came to be believed that youths between the ages of eighteen and twenty‑six could best stand the life, and the emphasis was on the lower age groups within this bracket. Only a relatively small percentage of those within these age limits could meet both the physical and mental qualifications that indicated ability to pass the training period successfully. Young men who thought that they were the acme of physical perfection found that they possessed some hitherto unsuspected defect that disqualified them. Perhaps the greatest obstacle was  p308 the eye test. It was essential that a pilot be able to distinguish colors, because of their frequent use in landing and other operations. Many a would‑be pilot was stalled on the dot type of color chart that enabled only those with correct color perception to see the numbers on the page. Ironically enough, this test, which helped the United States pick the cream of future aviators, was devised by a Japanese.

Because there was a possibility of flying in high altitudes in which oxygen apparatus had to be gripped firmly between the teeth, there was a rule that the prospective pilot had to have the proper number of teeth in the right places. Some other defects were remediable, and many young men voluntarily submitted to operations to correct a defect and make them eligible. Football and other athletic injuries, especially to knee cartilages, ranked high in this category.

The supply of potential pilots was limited. On the other hand, it was larger than could be handled at one time by either the Navy or the Army. As a result, both forces developed systems to "earmark" young men for future training. The Navy's deferred enlistment programs served a number of very useful purposes. In the first place, it made readily available the right type of manpower to be trained at the Navy's convenience, and removed the possibility of these men being drafted not only out of civilian life but away from the possibility of naval aviation training. In the second place, it was a definite morale booster for the individual concerned. It removed him from the category of "draft dodger" or "slacker," for the responsibility had been shifted to the Navy. He had volunteered, and he was ready to go whenever his country needed him. Furthermore, as the programs developed he was given a fairly definite idea as to when he would be called, and could make his plans accordingly. In the spring of 1942, the Navy offered two programs to young men, both of which could lead to pilot training. The V‑5 program, as it was called, led definitely to this training, with the assurance that if the young man could meet the standards set up by the training program, he could become a commissioned officer in the Naval Reserve. As the program was expanded he could be called to active duty in fairly short order; or, if he were a college student, he would not be called until the conclusion of the school year. This system permitted young men to complete a year of college with ease of mind.

The other program, launched a little later, was called the V‑1 program. This program was available to college freshmen or sophomores and enabled them finish the first two years of college before being called to active duty. Not all the V‑1 students were tabbed for aviation.  p309 At the conclusion of their sophomore year, the students could, if they had met certain liberal scholastic requirements, decide were they wished to transfer to the V‑7 program, permitting two more years of college with ultimate training as a deck officer, or, shifting to the V‑5 program and as soon as they were needed, enter aviation training. Toward the end of the year, these programs were consolidated into the so‑called V‑12 program which continued through the end of the war.

In the V‑1 and V‑5 programs the policy was to permit the college student to remain a civilian to all intents and purposes until he was called for training. He was sworn into the Naval Reserve when he signed up for the program, but he remained without pay, on inactive duty, and in civilian attire until he went into training. The V‑12, on the other hand, took the individual, put him in uniform and then sent him to college. He was no longer a typical college student in sweater and slacks, free and easy as the air; he was an apprentice seaman and sported the bell-bottomed trousers and coat of navy blue — and had his way paid. The V‑12 program, comparable to the Army's Specialized Training Program, was designed to prepare men not only for flight training but as officer material for other billets in the Navy, from chaplains to engineers. As time went on, more and more V‑12 candidates were selected from the enlisted ranks themselves. Radiomen in the Caribbean, ordnancemen in the Pacific, when given the opportunity, willingly gave up their petty officer's stripes for a crack at a college education and a chance to better both themselves and the Navy.

During the first year of war, the Navy profited by the Civilian Pilot Training Program. This government activity, which had been so helpful in the year prior to our entrance into the war in preparing men for flight training, continued its work. Changing its name to War Training Service, it accelerated its program to the preliminary training of 20,000 pilots a year in 92 schools and colleges beginning in July, 1942. Since Reservists in both the V‑1 and V‑5 programs were trained by WTS, considerable time was saved for the Navy, and at the same time, obviously unfit men were eliminated from future training.

These were the preliminary steps — the recruiting and testing of young men by aviation cadet selection boards throughout the country, or by traveling committees sent out from these boards, and a certain amount of training by the War Training Service. In 1942, naval aviation undertook a standardization of its own training program. Out of this emerged five main stages of training.

The first stage was the establishment of nationally known "pre‑flight  p310 schools." These were the outcome of a definite train of thought. In the first place, as has been pointed out, it was felt that the pilot should be not only a good physical specimen but should be in top physical condition. Secondly, in view of the terrain over which much of the fighting was to be carried on and with the prospect of possible hand-to‑hand struggle with the enemy in case of forced landings, the pilot should know the rudiments of the art of self-defense against a foe that paid no respect to the rules of the Marquis of Queensberry. We were fighting a vicious foe; pre‑flight was to prepare pilots for this fact, in mind as well as body. In the third place, air combat was no romantic and aerial counterpart of the medieval tilting contest in which two opponents made passes at each other and then waved silken handkerchiefs at the conclusion of the fray. Air combat was a matter that required teamwork. Your wingman was just as important to you as you were to him. Success would lie in a unified attack. Consequently, one of the aims of pre‑flight schools was to teach co‑operation. It was felt by those in control, whether rightly or wrongly, that football was the best sport to bring out this aspect of teamwork, and this sport was given wide emphasis in the training program.

Four pre‑flight schools were announced in February, 1942, for opening in May or June of that year. They were located at Athens, Georgia, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Iowa City, Iowa, and St. Mary's, California. Toward the end of the year a fifth school was established at Del Monte, California, raising the capacity from 7,500 to 9,350. Leading coaches from colleges and schools all over the country were commissioned to take charge of the course. These men were sent to Annapolis for a one month's indoctrination training at a pace so rapid that, as one coach put it, he didn't have time to smoke his pipe for the whole period, and couldn't have stood it if he had. Three other courses of similar length followed, until on 18 July the "school" closed, having graduated a total of eight hundred officers. In response to requests from all over the country, a two weeks' exposure course or clinic was offered college and high school coaches in an attempt to co‑ordinate physical training in private and public schools of the country with the Navy's physical training program. These coaches were welcomed at the pre‑flight school, put through the course for two weeks, and sent home with a new enthusiasm for the rugged techniques of Commander Tom Hamilton, who was the guiding light in the program. Almost a thousand coaches received this training.

The football teams turned out by the pre‑flight schools created a great  p311 deal of publicity for the naval aviation training program and may have been an important factor in creating teamwork and putting men into top physical condition. Less spectacular, but possibly more important, was the swimming program. Nearly 30 per cent of the entering students could not swim. The leading swimming coaches in the country contributed their talents, and the result was that when the classes finished not only could everyone swim, but he could also support himself in the water "for hours." The emphasis was not on speed but on endurance. It did not matter how fast a man could swim a hundred yards; the important thing was to give him enough swimming ability to stay afloat until he could be rescued. The slow breast stroke was given precedence over the Australian crawl. Versatility was taught, and a man had to gain reasonable mastery over four different strokes, and to splash his way through burning oil, or learn to swim under it. The cadets were taught the basic elements of lifesaving, both of their own lives and those of others through such devices as filling their pants with air as a crude float.

Football and swimming were not the only types of athletics. The cadet was exposed to many sports, and specialized in one. The responses were varied. Some swore that pre‑flight killed their interest in any organized form of sport, others enjoyed the life. One fact, however, stands out. Less than a year after the inception of the program, its director reported a 22.7 per cent increase in the physical fitness of the average cadet from the time of entrance to his graduation from the school.

As the name implies, the cadet was not given flight training at pre‑flight school. The period was one of indoctrination and seasoning. In addition to the rigorous physical program, the student was introduced to the main features of naval aviation, took courses in seamanship, recognition, communications, and learned the rudiments of the manual of arms.

The next stage in the training program was called primary flight training. Formerly conducted at Pensacola and a few new fields, this training was transferred to the Reserve aviation bases. Officers and men of the Regular Navy reporting for aviation training were inducted into the program at this point, escaping the indoctrination and physical conditioning of the pre‑flight schools. Here a three months' course was given, divided approximately evenly between ground school and flight training. It was estimated that the program at this stage would require 3,000 training planes, 1,900 flight instructors, 300 ground instructors, barracks and ground facilities for 7,500 students, between 95 and 100  p312 outlying fields, and an increase of assigned enlisted personnel from 2,500 to 17,000.

Having successfully completed primary training, the cadet passed to intermediate training. This was a fourteen-week course, concentrated at Pensacola and the growing facilities at Corpus Christi. In order to handle this phase of the program additional fields and seaplane facilities were required and constructed. Two thousand intermediate trainer planes were needed, each station to have 400 scout and patrol bombers, 300 fighters, and 200 torpedo bombers. An attrition of approximately 30 per cent in the original candidates was expected by the end of intermediate training. At the end of this period, the successful students were designated naval aviators (officers) or naval aviation pilots (enlisted men).

With the completion of intermediate training, the cadet won his wings and his commission. The group, which had been kept more or less together (on paper at least) until this time was now broken up. The pilots moved to one of the various phases of the next step in training, called operational training. The marine aviators, who until this time had trained with navy cadets, went to their own operational training course at Cherry Point, North Carolina, or to stations on the west coast, where they learned tactics most likely to be useful to them, such as close ground support in amphibious operations, ground strafing, and close support bombing. Ferry pilots and NATS (naval air transport pilots) were separated from the program at this point, and still others were plowed back into primary and intermediate training as instructors. Foreign students also left the program at this stage.

For the rest, operational training concentrated on the first major service type planes. Observation-scouting pilots received a two months' course preparatory to being assigned to air units aboard battleships and cruisers, or those destined for inshore patrol received an abbreviated course. Carrier pilots and patrol plane pilots of various types also got roughly a two months' course, and an innovation was made in the training techniques at this stage. This was a further recognition of the principle that it takes teamwork to win a war, and consisted of a joint training of the pilots and the air crewmen. This type of training was improved upon as the program continued and proved to be of great value.

In order to take care of this expanded operational training, new fields were necessary. A nucleus was already available in fields at Jacksonville, Miami, Key West, and Banana River, and in due course additional  p313 fields sprang up all over east Florida. In the early period of this program, it was planned to have simulated carrier landings at Florida bases, with actual qualification landings on near‑by carriers. This plan was expanded by the introduction of carrier training in the Middle West. Two Great Lakes steamers, formerly coal-burning, side-wheeling excursion vessels, were converted to carriers, the USS Wolverine and the USS Sable, and aboard these vessels much of the later carrier qualification training was conducted. The Charger fulfilled a similar role as a practice ship off the east coast. By the first of December, 1942, carrier pilots alone were being trained at the rate of three hundred a month.

Gunnery training became an important part of operational training under this program. Depending upon the type of craft they flew, pilots received training in fixed gunnery, dive and torpedo bombing, and gunners became experienced in aerial free gunnery. Except for additional facilities for torpedo training, new facilities were not needed, and the main emphasis on training for enlisted men was increased specialization on specific types of gunnery. The whole program was speeded up by the introduction of synthetic training devices, which both made up for a temporary lack of sufficient ordnance equipment and made mass training more easily possible.

Formerly, each large American patrol bomber had carried three pilots, one of whom served as navigator. With the expansion of the patrol plane program, however, a temporary shortage of skilled and experienced pilots for this type of craft developed. The result was a resort to the expedient of training a certain number of non‑pilot navigators. These were in addition to the regular pilots, who continued to receive navigation training. Arguments pro and con non‑pilot navigators were to receive ardent supporters among high naval quarters as late as the fall of 1944. Fully as important as this aspect of navigation were the changes in  p314 technique of training. At first, the Navy wisely sought the assistance of men who were skilled in navigation. These were the pilots of commercial airlines, especially Pan‑American Airways. In 1942, the Navy began the use of a valuable synthetic training device known as the Link Trainer. This device, which underwent many improvements, was an instrument that enabled the pilot to practice navigation under conditions that closely resembled actual flight. The Trainer was a piece of equipment resembling the cockpit of a plane with the necessary controls that enabled the pilot to simulate flight. While he never actually left the ground, his course could be mapped out by the Link-Trainer operator. It was less expensive than actual navigational hops and had the add advantage that the pilot could fly upside down ten feet below the friend and land at the wrong airport with no greater injury than a red face. As the war progressed, Wavesa were introduced as Link-Trainer operators and performed excellent service in this connection.

Another important aspect of training, and one that was continued throughout the pilot's career even in the combat area, was recognition training. The best training in the world was of little use if the pilot used this skill to knock down our own planes, bomb our own submarines, or attack our own vessels. It was equally of little avail to train men to the peak of perfection in combat technique, if they sat back to watch casually the approach of a friendly plane, only to find out too late that they were welcoming a Jap Zero or Betty.

To combat these possibilities, recognition courses of limited scope had been given as early as the First World War. A smattering of such training had been given in American models prior to the Second World War. The first wartime innovation was the launching of the Aircraft Model Program, in which the Navy in January, 1942, asked the youth of the nation to build 500,000 models of standard combat aircraft. Plans and standard templates were furnished through the Office of Education, which co‑sponsored the project, to the school systems of the nation. Soon small-scale models, carefully drawn to such a scale that at 35 feet the model would appear as a plane would at half a mile, were flying from the ceilings of recognition classrooms, pilot ready rooms, and barracks reading rooms. So hearty was the initial response of high school boys and girls all over the nation, that an additional 300,000 models were requested before the year was out. Certificates were given students after they had completed a certain number of models. As they passed each production milestone, they were advanced in aircraftsman rating,  p315 the highest rating being admiral aircraftsman, a title awarded for the completion of fifty model planes of different types representing the four belligerents covered by the program, the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Japan. The Navy and the nation owe a debt of gratitude to this unselfish service of its youth.

The early stages of recognition training were based on the so‑called WEFT (Wings, Engine, Fuselage, Tail) system. It was found, however, that in actual combat there was barely time to count to four, much less attempt to analyze four different characteristics of a rapidly approaching plane. Since recognition so often had to be practically instantaneous, a new type of visual recognition was perfected by Dr. Samuel Renshaw, of the Ohio State Research Foundation. The basic principle of this system was to learn the appearance of the plane or ship as a whole from any angle. A crude analogy of this theory was often given by recognition instructors. They pointed out that one could recognize a friend walking down the street, without knowing, or at least without having to call to mind, before recognition, the color of his eyes, the shape of his head, or his waist measure.

The Ohio State system was adopted by the Navy in May, 1942, and a special school was opened at Ohio State University, 20 July 1942, to train twenty-five recognition instructors every two weeks, a course which was quickly extended to two months. The system featured the use of slides, flashed on a screen at rates varying from an initial 1/10 of a second working up for a while to 1/75 of a second. This put a premium on the flash or instantaneous recognition of friendly and enemy types so essential under combat conditions. The Ohio State system became universally adopted and was taught in the fleet, in shore stations, and in practically all training schools other than the technical training maintenance schools.

An important aspect of flight training from the diplomatic standpoint was the training of foreign pilots. Under lend-lease agreements, training of Latin-American pilots and a few Free French pilots was begun in 1942. Occasional representatives of Latin-American countries had been trained in the past, but the program had not been on a firm basis. In April, 1942, however, invitations were issued to most of the Latin-American countries through the State Department, and favorable responses were received immediately from seven countries and later from others. The first men arrived from Peru in May, 1942, and a small but steady stream followed from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and other countries to the south. The largest number trained were from Brazil. In all more than three hundred  p316 received this training. The training program for these individuals was modified and in general, for purposes of security, excluded operational training. Toward the close of the year training was inaugurated for the Free French, and since these men were at war, they received more thorough training. In 1944, when Catalinas were transferred to the Soviet government, Russian flight crews were sent to this country and given training to acquaint them with this type of plane and its equipment.

Stripes on a Business Man

The training of ground officers, newly commissioned from civilian life, tentatively begun in the field of aeronautical engineer officers in February, 1941, swelled immediately after Pearl Harbor. Following British precedent, a school for training officers in photographic interpretation was convened at Anacostia, District of Columbia, 5 January 1942.

An outstanding school for developing ground officers was that conducted at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. The original plans to have all Reserve officers for the aeronautical organization trained at Anacostia, under discussion in December, 1941, were quickly dropped, and in February, 1942, the Naval Training School (Indoctrination) was established at the huge and relatively new air station at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. The underlying theory of this school was that men who were successful lawyers, businessmen, teachers, and newspapermen could with a modicum of indoctrination become very useful in different administrative capacities to naval aviation, and could relieve pilots for combat or instructional purposes. As a result, men from all walks of life, from their late twenties to late forties were commissioned and poured into Quonset. Here they were subjected to a two months' period of military drill, courses in the fundamentals of naval service, recognition, naval aviation, naval regulations, naval courts and boards, and seamanship. Those who lived through this period will always have certain ineradicable memories: the Iowa merchant, who a few weeks before had been bossing clerks around in a dry-goods store, painfully trying to unravel the intricacies of an official naval letter; the North Carolina realtor having trouble differentiating between an F4U and a navy blimp flashed on the screen at 1/25 of a second; the Maine hotel man vainly trying to recall which was his right shoulder on the drill grounds; the California professor shining the shoes of an Ohio newspaperman preparatory to inspection; the New York stockbroker fussing over a wrinkle in his bunk sheet with all the meticulousness of an elderly spinster.

 p317  Upon the completion of the course, which handled as many as 750 officers at one time, the graduates were parceled out among the various establishments of naval aviation. They went to sea frontiers, air stations, further training for specialized tasks, to become photographic officers, fighter directors, and engineering officers — to mention only a few of the many tasks performed by this group.

An important outlet for the younger Quonset men especially was the Air Combat Information School, which was also established at Quonset. This was a two months' course that trained ground officers for necessary duties in combat areas or at coastal operational fields. These were the men who briefed the pilots before and after flight, kept them abreast of operational data, and collected intelligence information both for the pilots and for higher echelons. Hardly a history of a naval squadron has been written without tribute being paid the willing and effective contribution of these men. Much of their entrenchment cannot be measured by any tangible gauges, but by the intangible factor of personal relationship. The ACI officer, though often some years older than the pilots, ate with them, and when occasions permitted, drank with them, worked with them, counseled them, and all in all acted as a leveling influence on young men living under the terrible uncertainty of modern war.

More Men to "Keep 'Em Flying"

In the first year of war, the technical training program more than quadrupled. On 1 December 1941 there were 7,905 men in training; one year later there were 31,529 men in the primary schools alone. This phenomenal progress was not accomplished without effort and occasional difficulties.

The increase was almost immediate. Shortly after the outbreak of war, Jacksonville's service schools went on a double shift, coincident with the request of the Marine Corps for the training of a large number of technicians, and construction was started immediately on still further facilities. A decision to shift much of the training away from the increasing congestion in the seaboard stations to the Middle West was approved by the Secretary of the Navy, 24 April 1942. Two large centers were to be created which were to have an initial capacity of 10,000 men each. By 15 September 1942 this total had been increased to 15,000, and in the fall shifting of training schools to the Middle West was begun.

This great expansion brought into being a problem that required solution.  p318 This was the necessity of securing enough instructors to handle the influx of students. Teachers were obtained for the technical training program in a variety of ways, which generally speaking can be boiled down to two. In the first place, the Navy attempted to make use of civilian instructors and then tended to rely more and more on uniformed personnel. A recommendation of the Training Division of the Bureau of Aeronautics as early as August, 1941, had suggested civilian instructors. Consequently, early in 1942 a teacher training school was established in Chicago. The students who were to become teachers were instructed by men brought from the Navy's schools at Jacksonville. The graduates retained their civilian status and gained further training in practice schools, which were started in May under the supervision of more experienced navy instructors, for aviation machinists' mates, aviation metalsmiths, and aviation ordnancemen.

In addition, civil service positions for instructors had been set up as early as the fall of 1941, and a special Army-Navy board at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois, processed all civil service applications of possible instructors for the naval aviation schools and the Army Air Force. Civilians selected by the Navy were sent to the Teachers' Training School at Chicago. Other civilian instructors were obtained until the end of 1942 through the Office of Education. Some of the civilian teachers were not as effective as was desired, and this, coupled with the dissatisfaction among enlisted instructors with the fact that civilians received more pay for the same duties, made for friction on teaching staffs. These factors, plus continued inroads on civilian instructors by the draft, led to a decision to return to the use of military instructors only. A classification of Specialist (T) was created for those civilian instructors who were willing to accept an enlisted status. With these and with the retention of the best qualified graduates of the course a new faculty was quickly built up.

Another training obstacle was the problem of obtaining modern equipment. As in the First World War, priority on all new operational equipment was, at first, given to the fleet. The training program was forced, therefore, to continue to use obsolete material, despite the fact that this meant training men in the use and maintenance of aircraft no longer found in the fleet, when they were supposed to be fully qualified to handle the latest equipment. This situation became especially critical in the aircraft used for technical training. The older the aircraft, the more maintenance they needed and the more spares they consumed. Training, therefore, was at times held up by the lack of spares or equipment.  p319 As early as January, 1942, an attempt was made to counteract this difficulty by the assignment of a certain percentage of all new aircraft to training, but this quota underwent constant revision as the needs of the fleet increased, and technical training's needs were subordinated in some degree to the needs of other training.

Another type of technical training met with mixed success. This was the effort to train men in the factories that produced the equipment. Difficulties of administration, overspecialization, lack of living facilities, all hampered this type of training. The result was that some ventures were abandoned, while others, weathering these hardships, became fairly well organized. The following year, however, was to see a shift to navy training schools.

The training of radiomen, which was critical in the year before the war, continued to present difficulties. These were ironed out to a considerable degree by the establishment of new schools. With the increased use of radar, additional training was provided in this field.

One of the most important developments in training during the first year of war was the change in administration that was effected in the fall of 1942. The great expansion taxed the facilities of the small staff at the disposal of the Training Division of the Bureau of Aeronautics and those of the commandants of the naval districts under whom the schools normally functioned. To ease this burden so‑called functional commands were set up. The first of these was the Air Operational Training Command which foreshadowed the trend by coming into existence in April, 1942. This was followed by the inauguration of the Air Primary Training Command, the Air Intermediate Training Command, and the Air Technical Training Command. With this organization naval aviation was ready to proceed to even greater expansion.

Training in Full Swing

The second year of war saw aviation training swing into its full stride. The main groundwork of the program had been laid, though the remaining years of the war were to see modifications and elaborations to meet changing needs. The building of the program went on apace, each step marking a fuller realization of the problems involved and a further move toward the ultimate goal.

There were several important organizational changes during 1943. One of these was the establishment of a separate command for the training of lighter-than‑air pilots. This was a logical step, and the new direction  p320 of this training from Lakehurst ended the stepchild position of LTA work under the previously established commands.

The second important change was the transfer of the Training Division from the Bureau of Aeronautics to the newly created Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air (DCNO [Air]) in August, 1943. Since the main reason for the establishment of this office had been to create an aviation chief who would have authority to co‑ordinate the work of the various bureaus on aeronautical matters, it was logical to put the Training Division under it so that it would have added authority to carry out its programs, particularly through the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Since steps had already been taken in this direction, this shift was perhaps more important in what it portended for the future than for any change in the actual situation in 1943.

The third important organizational change was the co‑ordination of all primary, intermediate, and operational training under a new officer, the Chief of Naval Air Training. This move, while it took over to a certain degree the co‑ordinating functions of the Training Division, proved to be an effective device for further integrating the entire program.

From the beginning there was an informal type of co‑operation between the Navy Department and our allies of the British Commonwealth, especially Canada. In 1943 this interchange of information was placed on a more formal basis through the establishment of the Combined Committee on Air Training in North America. In a variety of ways, particularly in the fields of recognition, navigation, and aerial gunnery, this committee assisted materially the training of both ourselves and our allies.

Increased Output Affects Training

The size of the training program was again increased by the fixing of a new upper limit of planes for the Navy at 31,447 on 15 June 1943. Jacksonville and Miami were diverted from intermediate to operational training, and another phase was added to the training program early in 1943. This was the introduction of the so‑called Flight Preparatory Program, which was designed to give college training to future cadets, and to improve morale in the large backlog of men who had volunteered for aviation training but who had not yet been absorbed in the program. Together with the V‑5 and V‑12 programs, it had the additional merit of helping to keep alive some of our institutions of higher learning in the lean years when the bulk of the regular student body was in the armed forces.

 p321  Twenty colleges throughout the country were selected as flight preparatory schools. Their wide geographical separation is indicated by the listing of a few: Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia; Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois; University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. In these schools a twelve weeks' course was given in subjects including mathematics, physics, principles of flying, navigation, military drill, and physical education. The academic courses were taught by civilian professors of the institutions participating, while discipline, physical education, drill, and administration were under naval officers. By March, 1943, over 12,000 men were enrolled in this program. This training had a number of advantages, since it lessened the amount of work to be covered in ground school in later phases of the program, strengthened the future AvCads (aviation cadets) in subjects that would be used later in their training, and allowed the Navy to do at least some weeding out of men who were obviously incapable of absorbing their future ground school work.

There was also a backlog of enlisted men who were destined for aviation duties. In order to handle this group more effectively and equitably, the so‑called Tarmac program was instituted. This term, unlike many other war‑coined names, was not an abbreviation of a lengthy title, but came from an English nickname for men who worked about the early airstrips of tar or macadam. The Tarmacs were given preliminary, if manual, work around air stations and seaplane facilities as a type of indoctrination for their later duties in connection with aviation.

Another evidence that training was in full swing was the fact that carrier training was improved. More and more carriers were coming off the ways, with the result that it was no longer necessary to rush them immediately to the scene of battle. Instead, the carriers, with their new squadrons and other complements could take "shakedown" cruises that enabled all hands of the accustom themselves to carrier routine.

Waves to the Rescue

The schools for ground officers and enlisted personnel continued through 1943, but there was an increased demand for persons to fill nonflying billets. An important phase of the solution of this problem was the introduction of women into the Naval Reserve. The Waves, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, proved to be a valuable asset in many fields of naval activity. Their contribution to naval aviation was outstanding. They were first used in clerical and professional  p322 capacities in various divisions of the Bureau of Aeronautics, such as Training, Planning, and Personnel. More important than this, perhaps, they came to be employed in different specialized ratings in the field. Many were trained to work in ground crews as mechanics; others did stellar service in control towers; still others were trained in aerology, photography, radio, and radar work. Some served as gunnery instructors, others as recognition instructors; some, as already noted, became Link Trainer operators, and others parachute riggers. By 1 March 1943, 1,050 were under technical instruction.

Technical Training Reorganized

We have already noted that during the early period of the war, maintenance schools had been established in various factories, and we have seen that there were certain weaknesses in this type of training. In order to counteract these difficulties, in 1943 the Navy inaugurated line maintenance schools of its own. Located in the Midwest, with the center at Chicago, these schools gave brief courses in such maintenance subjects as magnetos, superchargers, turrets, and carburetors. The next development was the creation of courses to familiarize mechanics with certain types of planes with which they would deal most frequently. By the end of the year, four weeks' courses were being given on the FM's and the F4U's, and the corresponding courses at the factories manufacturing these planes were closed.

An important development in maintenance training grew out of the need to keep men in the field informed of the many changes that were being made in engineering. It was obviously impracticable to send a machinist's mate back from the South Pacific for a few days' course on carburetor changes, much as he would have appreciated the assignment. Instead, the schools were taken to the field. By the end of the year, the Mobile Training Unit was in operation. Huge trailers, equipped with cut‑away models, charts, and other materials necessary to give a short course on recent changes, were sent to continental and outlying bases. This program proved to be one of the most successful innovations made in the field of training.

Keeping Rates up to Date

With the great increase in output of enlisted men and with growing specialization, it was found that the existing ratings were too general  p323 and as a result a man who had been highly trained in one phase of maintenance might not have a chance to put into practice what he had learned. Consequently, more information concerning his navy education was placed in the enlisted man's record, and in many instances he was limited to specialized work. In addition, at the suggestion of the Bureau of Aeronautics, the Bureau of Naval Personnel expanded the ratings to give a clearer indication of the abilities of the man bearing the rate. For example, a man was no longer a mere AMM, or aviation machinist's mate to be thrown into any number of jobs. He was, instead, an AMMC (aviation carburetor mechanic), or an AMMH (aviation hydraulic mechanic), or, perhaps, an AMMP (aviation propeller mechanic).

The outstanding new development in flight training was that of night fighters. In the account of combat operations the significance of this type of fighting is pointed out, but it is obvious that careful training was an absolute essential to the success of the program. The training was carried on in Florida and in Texas. Made valuable as a weapon by the development of radar, night fighting necessitated extensive training in navigation, instruments, and radar.

Special Devices

Under the rather noncommittal title, Special Devices, there lies one of the most fascinating technical stories of the war. There were several factors that brought these devices into being and made them successful. As we have already seen, there was continued difficulty in securing sufficient operational material for training purposes, since these planes and other equipment were sorely needed in the combat areas. Consequently, synthetic equipment was produced. It could be built more rapidly and less expensively. The use of this equipment reduced the number of casualties that would have resulted from the use of actual flight equipment in the early stages of training. The devices could be used twenty-four hours a day, were not affected by adverse weather conditions, and thereby speeded up the training process. There were other features that gave special devices an added educational advantage. More persons could be trained at one time by a single instructor, and in many cases they could be trained more effectively, as in the case of free gunnery training. Many of the devices partook of the slot machine or penny arcade character, with the result that training became a game that held the student's interest.

What were these special devices? A mere catalogue of them fills an  p324 entire volume, and they range from specially contrived rulers to mechanisms filling a room and weighing thousands of pounds and costing sizable sums. They are not makeshift affairs, but represented the achievement of the finest technical skill and engineering knowledge. They taught the pilot not only to fly, but to navigate, handle various types of armament, recognize a submarine, operate radar, use the radio and other devices for communications. They taught men how to repair engines, patch surface structures, install electrical gear. They helped pilot and crew to fly as a unit. They trained men in co‑operation under simulated flight and combat conditions. They taught pilots how to get into their anti-blackout suits and how to get out of a submerged cockpit. They taught men how to drop equipment for air‑sea rescue and how to pick up a periscope on the radar screen.

The synthetic training program began before we entered the war. The early period was devoted primarily to experimentation and analysis. The question of procurement was a difficult one, as in other fields of aviation, but was gradually solved, and by 1943 special devices formed an important part of the training program. It was believed that about 25 per cent of the training program for aviation personnel could be covered effectively by synthetic devices, and that the cost of this training would be but 2 per cent of the entire training cost.

Training Films Pay Their Way

One of the most important training devices was the movie film. This, together with the other photographic materials, performed a significant role in the training program. Here again, a mere listing of the titles of films would fill a volume. Between March, 1941, and March, 1945, well over 2,000 different films were completed by the Training Division for use in aviation training. These have included everything from a film on the care of a machine gun to such a documentary epic as "The Fighting Lady." One film showed the use of the lathe, another gave a picture of the duties and functions of the plane captain in caring for an airplane. Slide films were developed for the use of an instructor, so that he could stop to explain the subject matter as the films were projected on the screen. Moving pictures of simulated operations were made that utilized the "stop and go" technique. These enabled members of a crew to work out actual combat problems including navigation, communication, and recognition during the showing of the picture.

 p325  In the production of movie film, the Navy showed true professional skill and produced results that were in the realm of "big business." Their photographers were able; some, for example, had been specially trained by Fox Movietone operators, and their equipment was of the best. Their contributions to the war effort lay not only in the fact that they speeded up training, but that they standardized training on a high level.

Sense Through Nonsense

The Bureau of Aeronautics realized that training did not stop with the conclusion of formal training. The pilot and other personnel of naval aviation found that they were exposed to various types of training for the remainder of their naval careers. The bureau also realized that constant repetition can lead to boredom which may defeat the purpose of continued training. In order to counteract this effect, a section of BuAer was devoted to the task of producing pamphlets and other publications that would have training value and at the same time be palatable. Perhaps the most effective writing of this sort was to be found in the so‑called sense manuals. By ridiculing the stupid in pungent language and with amusing cartoons, these manuals brought out important points that personnel could not afford to forget. There was, for example, "Gunnery Sense" which gave detailed instructions on "How To Be the Oldest Living Gunner," and had some well-chosen sentences on the "Care and Feeding of Machine Guns." Some of the pamphlets were morale builders. One on "Dunking Sense," for example, gave advice on survival at sea after being forced down and asked the reader, "Are you the sort of fellow who dives merrily into an empty swimming pool, or who bails out at ten thousand feet only to have to go back for his parachute? If you are, don't read this little pamphlet."

In a more sober vein, the Bureau of Aeronautics published a semi-monthly magazine called Naval Aviation News. Well and profusely illustrated, this journal covered all phases of aviation from operations to maintenance. One of the most popular features consisted of the comments of a character called Grampaw Pettibone. In reality a naval aviator of long experience, Grampaw, illustrated as an irascible old codger, gave his pointed comments on a variety of accident reports. His main thesis was well expressed in one of his early remarks, "It is better to be a live pigeon than a statistic." He was devoted to the cause of saving pilots' lives by bringing before them accounts of accidents  p326 brought about by carelessness or recklessness. Pilots as a rule do not like to be preached to; Grampaw Pettibone's style of writing was such that he could express his opinions in the most forcible manner and at the same time avoid causing irritation.

One of the most popular official publications was the Recognition Journal. Conceived in the Bureau of Aeronautics, this magazine was a joint effort of Navy and the Army Air Force, and it attained an average monthly circulation of over 400,000. Published by the editors of Time, the Recognition Journal possessed some of the characteristics of Life magazine. In addition, it was timely, with pictures of planes, ships, and, during the push in Europe, of tanks. It had several types of quizzes that tested the recognition skill of the reader. Generally quite factual, the Journal did not hesitate to take a dig at those who failed in recognition, as, for example, the pilot who bombed a denizen of the deep, by writing "Sighted sub, sank whale."

The comic poster was also utilized to fight carelessness. The inimitable Dilbert was invented, a slap-happy, stupid oaf, who inevitably did the wrong thing, who entered the landing circle the wrong way, landed with the wind, taxied into other planes, left his monkey wrench in the motor of the plane he was repairing. Dilbert was immortalized on posters placarded on barracks and shop walls as a gentle reminder of things not to be done.

Over the Hump in Training

The training program achieved its maximum development and pretty much its final form in 1943. Thereafter the story was one of modifications. In 1944 certain cutbacks were made in the number of persons trained, and resulted in the elimination of some facilities and the improvement of the ones that remained.

In March the first cutback was announced; the Navy was to train 20,000 pilots instead of 25,000. Further cuts were made in the planned output, and such reductions lowered the need for training facilities. Six primary air stations, one intermediate training station, and one pre‑flight (Del Monte) were eliminated from the training program.

This sizable cutback naturally affected many cadets who had already begun their training. As will be seen, the Navy pursued a policy toward these persons that made it possible to take them back into training program when the need arose. The "De‑selectees" were given a number of choices: (1) returning to civilian life, where the draft would probably  p327 put most of them back in service in short order; (2) transferring to the air‑crewman program, where a shortage of substantial proportions had existed for some time; (3) transferring to other sections of the naval program, including for some a chance to try out for commissions as deck or line officers. The Navy made every effort to make a sensible and fair provision for the disappointed would‑be fliers, all of whom had volunteered for flight training, and the adjustment was made with a minimum of discontent and disturbance.

We have seen that, in 1943, to handle the greatly increased training program, flight preparatory schools had been established in twenty colleges and universities throughout the country. With the reduction in the volume of the program, these schools were dropped, and the work that they had handled was shifted to the remaining schools. The pre‑flight schools reduced some of their emphasis on physical education and absorbed much of the academic work of the flight preparatory school, the total course being extended from eleven to twenty‑six weeks to accomplish this task. The total training program was increased to approximately seventy weeks, giving more conditioning, more time for ground school, and more opportunity for flying.

One of the most unusual types of training was a project introduced in pre‑flight schools with the anomalous title, "An Intensive Course in Relaxation." This course was based on an appreciation of the fact that in the combat area, pilots often had to go without sleep for extended periods, and then had to snatch rest in odd moments and under trying circumstances. Under such circumstances, the pilot could not afford to toss about in his bunk or sprawl in a chair, plagued by disconnected and often disconcerting thoughts about the girl he had left behind, the flight just completed, or the mission that was scheduled for the next morning. His job was to relax and if possible sleep. The course attempted to solve this problem by showing the student how to relax, by teaching him where and how to relax the various points of tension throughout the body.

With the pressure on output lessened, it was possible also to extend the V‑12 program. Students now found that they were to have three semesters of college instead of two and by the close of the year, every cadet then in training had had at least some academic work in the V‑12 program. The significance of these changes is obvious: the Navy took advantage of a reduction in the quantity of training to improve quality.

The joint training of pilots and air crewmen received improvements  p328 and refinements during 1944. The teams were given more training before being sent to the fleet, and multi-engined bomber operations were thereby improved.

The new technical advancements in warfare issued a challenge to training that was met by proper expansion. Radar training underwent marked improvement. The introduction of rockets in aerial warfare necessitated a great deal of training, not only in firing but in maintenance. Special Devices made one of its many contributions by devising a cheap tow‑kite which proved to be the most successful and maneuverable towed target naval aviation was to have during the war. The rapid development of target drones, small-scale planes which were radio-controlled and carried their own power plants, reached quantity production by the beginning of the year and proved to be another innovation, invaluable in improving both aerial gunnery and particularly the fire of shore and ship-based antiaircraft batteries.

Training Meets Changing Need — 1945

In the last year of the war, aviation training demonstrated its ability to meet changing conditions with a minimum of disorder. By the end of 1944, it was found that earlier cutbacks in the number of cadets had been too drastic. The need for additional pilots came about because experience in the Philippines showed that, when approaching large land masses under enemy control, the tempo of air operations rapidly increased with a resultant growth both in casualties and pilot fatigue. The goal for future training, accordingly, was raised. To meet this goal, the "de‑selectees" of 1944 were given the opportunity to apply again for flight training. Of the seven thousand men who had been removed from the flight training program as a result of the cutbacks, about 60 per cent volunteered for a return to the program. The decision to raise the quantity of training was based in part on the increased attrition rate as our planes approached nearer the heart of the Japanese Empire, and partly on the recognition of the fact that two tours of duty in combat areas were all that the pilot could be expected to stand. A further calculation that changed the picture was that fleet pilots should be sent out for shorter periods of active combat duty than had obtained in the earlier days of the war. As a result, the ratio of carrier groups to carriers was increased, and a decision was made to put marine squadrons on CVE's.

During the year there was a tendency to increase the number of fighter  p329 pilots and to give them additional bombing training. This shift in emphasis threw a burden on training that was quickly met.

An important training development arose to meet an improvement in the technique of air warfare. Fighter Direction was succeeded by what was known as Combat Information Centers (CIC), which tied more effectively together and improved co‑ordination between aircraft operations and carrier or ground activity. An extensive use of radar was involved in this process. Once again, training met the demand by improvement and further specialization.

On the administrative side, a final move was made toward co‑ordination. The Naval Air Technical Training Command was placed under the command of the Chief of Naval Air Training. This completed the integration of the administration of the training program begun with the establishment of the Air Operational Training Command in April, 1942, and brought the last of the functional training commands under the Chief of Naval Air Training.

The main trend in the training of enlisted men was a natural one and once again demonstrated the determination of the Navy to improve quality wherever possible. There was a decline in the number of primary schools, but at the same time there was a corresponding increase in the enrollment in the advanced technical schools.

As hostilities drew to a close, the Navy began to make plans for the future. Training had been welded by the hard flame of war. Nonessentials had been done away with, and the Navy wanted to consolidate its gains. A committee was drawn together in the summer of 1945 to help draw the complete picture of training. The main achievement was constructive work on a master collection of syllabi on training, given the expressive title, "Embryo to Tokyo." The primary aim was to eliminate duplication of training as much as possible, and though the task was far from complete by the end of the war, important strides had been taken.

The Navy can well be proud of its aviation training program. Taking the finest raw material in the world, American youth, the Navy, with a flexible and expanding program, turned these young men into the best pilots and aviation experts that any nation could require.


Thayer's Note:

a It's nice that in 2014 this should require a clarifying footnote. WAVES were originally a World War II emergency measure: "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service". (The author has anticipated himself: he will give his view of them a few pages further on.) This Women's Reserve of the U. S. Naval Reserve survived until 1972, when women were at last fully integrated into the Navy.


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