“Remarks at Washington D.C. Reunion May 18, 1995”
REMARKS by Masten of Cczrczmoniczs. Walt Thomas (18-48). at Wash .• D.C. Rczunion. May 18. 1995
Now for a few new notes from our days in Pensacola---I realize some of you older folk came from Ottumwa and other legendary sites---but Tom Conway and I jumped on a train in Providence in August, 1948, and rolled down to Pensacola via New York, Washington, Atlanta and Flomaton, Alabama. Flomaton was culture shock. If the world was destined to become our oyster, 4 am in Flomaton was possum soup.
I had never encountered Alabama accents before; in fact, I didn't understand anyone south of New Jersey. By the time we reached Pensacola, life seemed to become one huge, collective JETHRO bearing down on me. I still believe in 1948, no one in the south knew that 'HARASS' was one word.
After arrival we were shoveled into an Officer Candidate Training Unit--supervised by chief petty officers who flunked 'couth'--and poked by doctors who taught us to cough on demand.
We all signed an obscure contract that mentioned a commission as ENSIGN--sometime—someday--maybe. No one ever saw a copy of that contract again. I suspect it was illegal; but it got us into pre-flight.
In pre-flight, we studied ancient engines, Morse code, strip navigation, bubble sextants and other Jurassic-age subjects. There was a course on "Principles of Flight"--about lift, drag, thrust-and stuff-along with Robert Taylor and DILBERT movies on how to fly-or...how not to. Wisely, we ignored all that once we started flying.
We spent a lot of time in the swimming pool learning how to swallow water--and escaping from the DILBERT DUNKER. This was supposed to build up our confidence for crashing into 6 feet of water at five miles per hour.
For recreation, we had the ACRAC, where we drank beer and lied to girls from the paper mill … you all saw the movie!
After pre-flight, we went to Whiting Field to display our stupidity to instructors who expected us to make an equal number of landings as take-offs. We were also sent off to solo--a test of faith over talent--not unlike a honeymoon. After soloing, we had to buy our instructors a fifth of booze--which was probably the reason they turned us loose--since we were not logically ready--but then if life was logical, men would ride sidesaddle.
At Whiting Field, Frank Nulton learned to throw-up downwind which gave him an edge on us later aboard ship.
After Whiting, we went to Corry Field for instrument work where we learned to peek out of curtains and we started night flying to enjoy vertigo. From Corry, we pressed on to Saufley Field where we tried to collide with each other and understand instructors trained in shrieking. We usually met over the Lillian Bridge in an aerial ballet for the genetically clumsy. We also flew gunnery runs over the gulf--shooting mostly fish and holes in our propellers.
Finally at Barin Field, we practiced carrier landings to prepare for the final fiasco--our first carrier catches at sea where we watched frantic LSOs wave flags around as if somebody cared.
After this, we were ranked as 1st class Midshipmen--and walked around with a sickening amount of self-admiration--also as if somebody cared! In truth, we were still as thick as 2 planks. We didn't know it then, but we were entering into the golden years of Naval Aviation where every good prop, turbo-prop and jet airplane of any ilk came on-line between the '40's and the '70's--and it all started with us--in Pensacola. Which may not have been the best days of our lives, but they were DAMN close!