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Tag Archives: world war 2

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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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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Jack Lummus, Medal of Honor Recipient

Jack Lummus was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II.  According to a May, 1945 newspaper report based upon an interview with a fellow Marine, 1st Lt. Lummus was killed while leading an infantry and tank attack on the island on March 8, 1945.

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Posted by on January 23, 2020 in biography, heroes, medal of honor, world war 2

 

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Governor John Connally, Jr.

Governor John Bowden Connally, Jr. was born February 27, 1917 to John Bowden and Lela Wright Connally in Floresville, Wilson County, Texas, the third of seven children.  In 1920, his father’s occupation was listed as being a stock farmer (rancher) in Floresville, which is located on the southeast side of San Antonio.  By 1930, the family had moved into San Antonio for a time, as John, Sr. was operating a bus on a bus line.  Governor Connally attended San Antonio Harlandale High School but graduated from high school in Floresville.   After his graduation, he entered the University of Texas in Austin where he received his undergraduate degree and later earned a law degree.

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Pyote Army Air Field, the “Enola Gay” and “The Swoose”

pyoteaaf

(Image credit: aircraftboneyards.com)

The origin of the name of Pyote, Texas is unknown, but possibly derived either from a mispronunciation of the word “coyote” by foreign railroad workers or it was a variation of the word peyote, the name of a local cactus plant.  Pyote is located roughly about halfway between Pecos and Monahans in Ward County, Texas.  It has had two notable “boomlets” in its history, the first after oil was discovered in the area around 1920 and a second during World War II.

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Posted by on December 12, 2019 in aviation, world war 2

 

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Pearl Harbor Survivor Stories – December 24, 1941

rememberpearlharbor

(Image credit: americanhistory.si.edu)

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1941, the Abilene Reporter News carried a short article under the headline “Pearl Harbor Survivors Tell Stories of Courage.”  It was a United Press article out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii a few days earlier.

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Posted by on December 7, 2019 in world war 2

 

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Major Horace S. Carswell

The former Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth was named for Horace Seaver Carswell, a Medal of Honor winner from North Texas.

hscarswell_findagrave

(Image credit: Findagrave)

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Posted by on November 21, 2019 in biography, heroes, medal of honor, world war 2

 

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