“I Caught the Brass Ring” *

Aviation for me was inevitable:

FMA LOG 2010  Gordon Collier, 1st class avmidn – with wingsBut I didn't know how to make it happen. I grew up in Cleveland, OH - home of the National Air Races, living under the closed course of the Air Race itself. I saw all of the original dirigibles which were destined to be the first "aircraft carri­ers." And I saw the first auto-gyro, the Pitcairn, taking the air mail from the Cleveland Airport to the downtown post office. I was five at the time. By age 12 my father died and I became the oldest and only male in my immediate family of four. My High School years were spent on welfare, so that I realized early that to attend col­lege would require outside help, not to be found in my ex­tended family.

As I entered my senior HS year, I learned about the V-5 Program of which the college por­tion was of greatest interest. An aviation career was unbelievably good. After the Depression years, a Naval career sounded good, too. April 1945, pre-Atomic Bomb, I took the V-5 exams and passed, much to my own surprise. For me, the Great Depression ended that day. I knew I had caught the Brass Ring:

For me, "Accelerated" college was compressed learning. I ate it up, worked hard, succeeded, and found myself moving along in the Program. Se­lective Flight Training at Glenview, IL, Preflight at Ottumwa, lA, where I became a Flying Midship­man, class of 9-46, then down to Corpus Christi for Primary Flight Training in the Stearman N2S ... the world's greatest aircraft. At each stage of the Program, I saw the ranks shrink dramatically, both from Wash-outs and Sign-outs--but I persisted. I had no back-up plan, should I fail at any point. I risked all. Inter­mediate Flight Training at Pensacola. Flying the PBY was a lot of fun, the SNB at Whiting Field a dud, followed by Advanced Flight Training a Jacksonville-fighters, of course, I wanted to drive. Graduation for the very few still standing on July 8, 1948 at JAX, still the biggest day of my life.


FMA LOG 2010  Gordon Collier, retiredIn retrospect, the Navy V-5 Program was key to everything in my life’s careers. I do think back about my days in flying fighters—Bearcat and Corsairs—and wonder where along the way I “lost” my immortality. I knew I was immortal when I flew fighters, but where is it now that I need it? If I had only known how long I was going to live, I’d have taken better care of myself ! 

* Flying Midshipman LOG winter 2010; © 2010.

Ottumwa, Iowa, Preflight Class 9-46