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Author Archives: Texoso

British Flying Training Schools in the WWII Era

Prior to the United States’ entry into World War II, a number of joint agreements were instituted between the United States and the United Kingdom, including the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the British Flying Training Schools and the Arnold Scheme. Each one involved training airmen from the U.K. at facilities in the United States.  The British Flying Training School involved seven locations where training was carried out.  From west to east, they were Lancaster, California; Mesa, Arizona; Sweetwater, Texas; Terrell, Texas; Ponca City, Oklahoma; Miami, Oklahoma and Clewiston, Florida.  The school at Sweetwater was only open a few months, but the school at Terrell was in operation from 1941 to 1945.

The southern United Sates was preferable to training in the United Kingdom for a number of reasons including the crowded skies, the heavy military activity that was already underway in England and the traditionally better weather that one could expect especially in the western United States.  The facility in Terrell, Texas was one of the first two to open, in June of 1941.

In Terrell, at the Number 1 British Flying Training School, more than 2,200 pilots were trained during the four years of the war.  There were at least twenty fatalities during the training and many of those victims are buried in the local cemetery.  A search of online newspaper archives reveals the reports of several incidents in which British cadets were killed.

One flight instructor was Frank Veltri who served at the Clewison, Florida school which operated by Riddle McKay Aero College of Miami.  The school at Clewiston had trained around 1,450 cadets.  In a newspaper interview many years after the war, Veltri reflected back on his experiences.  “Aviation has been one of the happy times of my life.” he said.  He had learned to fly in 1938 back in Nashville, Tennessee, borrowing $80 for flight lessons.  When the war broke out, he was declined by the military, but heard that the flight school in Clewiston needed instructors.  He practiced earnestly and went to Florida where he was hired for the job.

While in Florida, he crashed twice with students.  The first time, his PT19 trainer stalled out but they were able to set the aircraft down in the Everglades with no injuries to himself or his student.  The second time, in an AT6, the aircraft went down in a sugar field near Lake Okeechobee.  This time, he received a broken nose but otherwise came through it all right.

Veltri kept mementos of those days including scrapbooks of photos.  He knows that some of those he taught to fly were lost to combat or accidents after they left the flying school.  After Clewiston closed in 1945, he remained in the area and went into business after being declined by all the airlines for being too old.  He looked back fondly over his days at the flying school.

at6

(Image credit: AviationHistory.com)

The AT6 “Texan” pictured above was manufactured by North American Aviation.  The  design originated in 1935 and during its run, 15,495 of them were built, a number of which still survive today.  During its run, there were many design changes but this is a representative look of the aircraft used in the days of the British Flying Training Schools.

In Terrell, Texas at the municipal airport, a museum has been created to memorialize the Number 1 British Flying Training School that operated there.  It is typically open from 10 am to 4 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays.  (Note: At this writing, the museum is closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.)  Its stated mission is “To celebrate, the spirit and sacrifices made by those men both British and American, who trained to be pilots at the Number 1 British Flying Training School (1BFTS); to educate all ages of all nationalities as to the history and importance of the cooperation between the British Commonwealth and American Government in both war and peace; to honor the strong bonds of friendship formed between the cadets and the community of Terrell and the North Texas area.”

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2020 in aviation, world war 2

 

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Governor Hardin Richard Runnels

Hardin R. Runnels 1989.037

(Image Credit: txfgm.org)

Hardin Richard Runnels was the sixth governor of Texas.  He was born in Mississippi to Hardin D. and Martha Darden Runnels in 1820.  After his father died, the future governor came to Texas in 1842 during the years of the Republic of Texas from Mississippi with his mother, his uncle Hiram George Runnels and his three brothers.  They first settled on the Brazos River before moving to Bowie County where they started a cotton plantation on the Red River near the community of Old Boston, named for an early store owner, W. J. Boston.  New Boston later arose when the rail lines bypassed Old Boston four miles to the north.  While still in his twenties, Runnels was elected in 1847 to the first of four terms in the Texas Legislature.  After his last term in the legislature in which he served as Speaker of the House, he was elected Lieutenant Governor serving under Governor Elisha M. Pease during the latter’s second and final term.

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Posted by on March 26, 2020 in biography, county names, governor

 

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USS Indianapolis

The U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35) is part of a fascinating World War II story.  The ship was a heavy cruiser that played an important role in the atomic bombing missions that led Japan directly to its surrender and the end of the war.  Indianapolis was ordered in 1929 and her hull was laid down at the Camden Yard in New Jersey on March 31, 1930 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.  According to Naval History and Heritage Command, her displacement  was 9,800 tons, her length was 610 feet, beam was 66 feet and draft was 17’4″.  The ship was constructed to accommodate a crew of 1,269, achieve a speed of 32 knots and was armed with 9 8-inch and 8 5-inch guns.  The Indianapolis was the second of two ships of the Portland class.

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Posted by on March 19, 2020 in biography, maritime, world war 2

 

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Fort Clark

Fort Clark was one of the longest forts to be in service in Texas.  It was founded in 1852 and not finally closed or abandoned until 1946.  It was considered a favorable location due to having a plentiful water supply from the Las Moras River and its close proximity to Las Moras Mountain.  It served two major purposes, to protect the area against Indian raids and to protect its portion of the military road from San Antonio to El Paso.  Companies C and E of the the First United States Infantry were posted there.  It was named for Major John B. Clark who died in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.

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Posted by on March 12, 2020 in forts

 

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The Dillinger Gang and Texas Connections

John Dillinger was a well known gangster who operated in the United States until his death in 1934.  He had been born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 22, 1903.  Dillinger’s mother died when he was three years old and he was raised by his father and stepmother, with whom he is said to have had a difficult relationship.  The family moved around somewhat and Dillinger dropped out of school.  Around 1923, he joined the United States Navy.  He was assigned to the U. S. S. Utah but only served a short while before deserting, after which he launched his criminal career.  Not long afterward, Dillinger was arrested, tried and convicted for a 1924 robbery of a local grocery in his adopted home town of Mooresville, Indiana and was sentenced to the Indiana State Prison.  There he was exposed to fellow convicts including a number who had been bank robbers.  Upon his parole in the spring of 1933, he and several associates began to commit a series of bank robberies in Indiana and Ohio.

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Posted by on March 5, 2020 in outlaws and crimes

 

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Black Seminoles of Texas

The account of the Black Seminoles in Texas begins in Florida.  Slavery had been abolished in Spanish Florida since the late 1600s and the area became a refuge for freed as well as fugitive slaves.  Though some were taken as slaves by the Native tribes that resided there, those of African descent are generally believed to have interacted peacefully with the native tribes, with some amount of intermarriage and more significantly, the adoption of the tribal ways and customs.  The people known as Seminoles are sometimes referred to as being a conglomeration of a number of tribes living in the area, including the Creek Tribe, although the Creek Tribe is also usually referred to separately.  Tribes included the Lower Creeks, Mikusukis and Apalachicola, among others and they are believed to have migrated there from the areas now represented by the states of Georgia and Alabama.

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Posted by on February 27, 2020 in black history, medal of honor

 

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Dan Waggoner and His Descendants

Daniel Waggoner was born in 1828 in Tennessee to Solomon and Martha McGaugh Waggoner.  Daniel was the second of the siblings to be born in Lincoln County, Tennessee before the family moved to Missouri where most of the other siblings were born.  The family finally settled in Hopkins County, Texas.  Daniel married  Nancy Moore in 1851 in Hopkins County.  About that same time, the couple moved to Wise County, Texas. The following year their only son William Thomas Waggoner was born.  Nancy passed away in 1853.  Five years later, Daniel married Sicily Ann Halsell, daughter of Electious and  Elizabeth Jane Mayes Halsell.  Sicily was from a large ranching family, also of Wise County.  The couple had no children.

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Posted by on February 20, 2020 in ranches, ranch families

 

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