Academic journal article Air Power History

Monday, December 8, 1941, at Clark Field

Academic journal article Air Power History

Monday, December 8, 1941, at Clark Field

Article excerpt

It is hard to remember for sure, but this is the way one second lieutenant bombardier from the 19th Bomb Group remembers it. I was a small town boy from Frewsburg, N.Y. (Chautauqua County). I graduated from high school at age sixteen in 1933. I went for two years to Hobart College, Geneva, N.Y. Then, no more money. I had to go into the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps]. Any interest I might have had in the Army dissipated there.

In the fall of 1936, I went to the University of Michigan and spent a year and a half in Ann Arbor, with more time used making a living and playing than in studying. For the first six months of 1938, I hitch-hiked all over the country. When Hitler went into Austria, I was in New Orleans and tried to become a flying cadet, but at the recruiting office I was advised my vision wasn't good enough, so I went my merry way toward San Francisco.

In the fall of 1938, I went to Michigan State, where ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] was mandatory, since the college is a land grant school. I refused to take ROTC--primarily from my CCC experience--by telling them I was a conscientious objector.

Then came October 1940 and registering for the draft. I was working only part-time and not even bothering to go to school. The draft board told me that I was just the type of young man they were looking for. The next morning I applied at the recruiting office in Lansing for the Flying Cadets. They found that my eyes were perfect and, so, in December 1940 I was in Glenview, Illinois, going to flying school. I washed out there and was immediately sent to bombardier training at Lowry Field, Colorado, in the first service test class of officer bombardiers. As soon as we finished, we were sent right out to regular bomb groups as cadets. I went to March Field, California, to the 30th Bomb Squadron, under Maj. David Gibbs. We were at Albuquerque Army Air Base in September.

On September 15, 1941, I was commissioned. At the same time that Major Gibbs pinned the second lieutenant bars on my uniform he gave me the word that we were moving to Clark Field. I was to be the transportation officer for the ground echelon, but would fly over with him.

Now to the war and that first day. The ground echelon left Albuquerque on September 27, 1941. My wife and I were married the same day. We put our many friends on the train and started our honeymoon.

In mid-October, the air echelon left Albuquerque. We landed at Hamilton Field and there, I believe, we were briefed by General Lincoln. He stood on the stairway in base operations and told us that we were probably going to war and would be crossing Japanese held territory with "hot" guns. He intimated that in his opinion war was inevitable and that the Spring of 1942 was the probable time. His last words were, "Good shooting." In Hawaii, we were given practically the same briefing by an admiral; it might have been Admiral Short. I honestly don't know. I wanted to get back to the poker game at the club and, besides, the general at Hamilton had said it all.

Now to Clark and the time immediately preceding December 8. General Brereton came out to Clark Field sometime in late November, or early December, and said practically the same things the Hamilton Field general and the Pearl Harbor admiral had said. Brereton did say that war appeared inevitable and that the 7th Bomb Group was coming over and would be stationed on Mindanao in the immediate future. Our most pressing need was early warning and more radar, in his opinion. Particularly, because of the lack of early warning, he advised us that our alert posture had to be of the highest degree. He expected all of us to be airborne in about ten minutes from the sounding of the alert. We were to wear helmets, gas masks, and side arms at all times. We were to dig slit trenches near all buildings and tents. He came out bluntly and predicted April for war, but said it certainly might come much earlier. …

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