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The Life and Loves of a United States Naval Aviator

The Life and Loves of a United States Naval Aviator

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The Life and Loves of a United States Naval Aviator

Longueur:
340 pages
5 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 16, 2012
ISBN:
9781475950724
Format:
Livre

Description

After his graduation in 1941 from Canoga Park High School, Harry Carter wanted a career in aviation. He was accepted into the United States Navy as an aviation cadet and upon completion of flight training, became a commissioned officer in the US Navy thus beginning his thirty-one-year career as a naval aviator and a commanding officer of three warships and service in a diplomatic post as the Naval Attach to Pakistan.



Full of vivid historical details and anecdotes, The Life and Loves of a Untied States Naval Aviator charts Carters professional and personal journey in the air and on the sea and in foreign lands. Carter shares his experiences of flying out of England and the Azores during World War II and hurricane hunting in the Caribbean. He takes you through his wartime days as a surface line officer operating off the coast of Korea and Vietnam in destroyers, a carrier, and a fleet oiler.



Carter, never one to turn down a pretty girl, met his match when, while attending a Navy program at the University of Southern California, he met and married the love of his life, Ellie. Carter returned to sea in command of the destroyer Durant and continued to have a career full of foreign intrigue and adventureminus the ladies---until his retirement in 1973. Through four wars, several countries, and a lot of romance, Carter lived life to the fullest.



The Life and Loves of a United States Naval Aviator combines history, humor, and reflection to reveal one mans extraordinary life.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 16, 2012
ISBN:
9781475950724
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Captain Harry Carter and his wife, Ellie, have been married for more than fifty years. They have two children and three grandchildren. They currently live in California.


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The Life and Loves of a United States Naval Aviator - Captain Harry Carter

memory.

CHAPTER ONE

IN PURSUIT OF THOSE

WINGS OF GOLD

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung

John G. Magee, Jr. RCAF

In the summer of 1942, while Warrant Officer Fujita of the Japanese Imperial Navy was on his way from Japan to fly his float plane from a submarine and attack the West Coast of the US, I was shooting hoops in my backyard basketball court and stopping from time to time to watch a silver plane shining in the sunlight, as it streaked across the sky over my San Fernando Valley home. It took me a while to locate it as it appeared well ahead of from where the sound was coming. It was a new twin engine, twin tailed P-38 on a test flight coming from the nearby Lockheed-Vega aircraft plant in Burbank, California where I worked on a plane that was destined for the US Navy. My nineteenth birthday was coming up in a couple of months, and I was contemplating joining the navy and had thought, why not learn to fly?

Many of my friends from high school were leaving to join the military. Sammy, my high school basketball-playing partner, received a commission in the army. Arleigh Twait, who got me labeled as a five-year-old arsonist by the careless handling of our corn silk cigarettes, went off to war as a tank driver. My boy-hood pals, the Russell twins had also joined. Both made it through WWII—Robert as a marine in many of the island battles of the Pacific and David as a navy corpsman. My brother Tom was a Fire Controlman on the USS North Carolina for most of the war in the Pacific. Even some of the girls were gone—some in the service and some to college. Many others from the Canoga Park High School classes of 1936 to 1944 went off to war. Most of us made it through the war… some did not.

My brother John, who as an Aviation Machinist Mate stationed on Ford Island on December 7, 1941, and had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, was visiting us on leave, urged me, with, Why don’t you join the Navy Aviation Cadet V5 program? The recruiting office is in downtown Los Angeles. I did apply and was surprised when I shortly received a notice to report before a selection board and to bring my Canoga Park High School records with me. The interview was short. The six officers on the board took a brief look at my academic grades and then queried me about my athletic abilities. When they found out that I was the reigning record holder for most points ever scored in a Los Angeles high school basketball game (fifty points scored against Verdugo Hills in my senior year), it was all over. I got a thumbs-up from all of them and was ordered to report for a physical. I suppose they thought anyone that could find the hoop in a basketball game for fifty points could learn to land a plane on an aircraft carrier.

I had been working on the assembly of the Vega Ventura, an airplane that the navy acquired eventually for anti-submarine patrol missions. I had given the management notice that I would be entering the service and subsequently, for the last couple of months of my work at Lockheed, I was transferred to the job of teaching Rosie the Riveter and her cohorts the fine art of driving and bucking rivets. I was anxious to move onward and upward, in both a literal and figurative sense.

On September 9, 1942, as I was awaiting orders to commence flight training, pilot Fujita launched his floatplane from the Japanese submarine I-15 and took off on his mission from a point off the coast of Oregon. The plan was to set the forests on fire and cause great destruction to towns and panic among the people. Fujita dropped two incendiary bombs about fifty miles inland, which fizzled, in the wet forest. Because of this invasion of our West Coast by a Japanese aircraft and other factors, the federal government required all civilian flying operations to move at least one hundred fifty miles inland

I didn’t know at the time that Fujita’s bombing of Oregon would have a direct affect on where I would be spending my next three months. The Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program was originally based in Bakersfield close to my home, but, because it was within one hundred fifty miles of the coast, the flight school was required to move from Bakersfield, and those in charge selected Lone Pine, California. Lucky me! With that decision, the small town of Lone Pine became the Capital of Southern California Naval Civilian Pilot Training during World War II.

CPT Cadets in formation with their tents in background.

Lone Pine High School, 1942

In November 1942, along with about thirty other cadets, I boarded one of the buses in Los Angeles and headed for Bakersfield Junior College where we were enrolled in the program. We were issued khakis, a fore-and-aft hat, and a pair of silver wings on a shield with the letters V5 at the bottom. The buses traveled on to Lone Pine, California where tents were erected on the high school grounds for us next to E. Muir St. I was assigned to Tent 2, Group 3. It was somewhat ironic that I learned later that my mother and father, when they were first married, had also traveled to Lone Pine and lived in a tent while my father worked on the Los Angeles aqueduct construction. Nearby was Owens Dry Lake. My high school, Canoga Park, at one time was named Owensmouth in the somewhat dubious honor of the water that Los Angeles bought from the farmers of Owens Valley. I do not know the reason for the name change but I suspect politics about the Owens Valley river water may have had something to do with it.

The Lone Pine High School principal, William Bauer, provided space in the high school buildings for our ground school classes, and the athletic field was our parade ground. We lived in tents set up alongside. The airfield, about a mile away, had the aircraft and instructors for the flight school. Some of the instructors were from a flying club that had been formed in pre-war days up the road in Bishop. Most of the airplanes and instructors came from the three flying schools that had established themselves at Lone Pine under government auspices: Bob Blair, Les Buchner, and Roy Pemberton. I was assigned to the Roy Pemberton flying school, which was affiliated with Bakersfield Junior College.

There were three different types of CPT: Civilian flight students through colleges and universities, and the navy and army, also run by the same people. The navy called their pilot training the V5 program. The most famous CPT trainees were the Tuskegee Airman who took their training at Tuskegee Institute, completing in May of 1940. A few of the Women’s Air Ferry Service also used the CPT program. The Department of Commerce Civil Aeronautics Administration initiated the overall program at the beginning in 1939. Those that washed out of the Navy CPT program were placed automatically in the enlisted reserve.

Luscomb

The aircraft at the flying schools were an odd assortment of civilian planes—Cubs, Porterfields, a Luscombe, and others. I was fortunate to be assigned to the Luscombe, a beautiful single wing two-seater of all aluminum construction. This aircraft was most likely ferried to Lone Pine by Evelyn Sharp, one of the two women flight instructors, (See the book Sharpie The life story of Evelyn Sharp) or Patricia Thomas, Evelyn’s roommate. Neither one was my primary flight instructor, although Patricia Thomas, did give me three of my test flights. Evelyn died in the crash of a P-38 she was ferrying while working in the Women’s Air Ferry Service. She lost an engine shortly after take-off, and like the PV-1 (described later), she couldn’t handle the torque of the single engine that was still operating.

The altitude of the airfield was close to four thousand feet, and Mount Whitney was only about ten miles away. It was wintertime so we could fly most any time of the day. My instructor, Ralph Powell, was a very patient man. Since I had never been in an airplane before, it took a few flights for me to adjust. We did figure eights over and over, S turns, and take off and landings. By the time I had eight hours in the air, I was allowed to solo. I managed to take off and land three times without incident, and my instructor noted three good landings in my logbook. I was feeling pretty good about myself until my first check flight with Patricia Thomas. Unlike my instructor, she was very stern. The fact that she was also an older woman (at twenty-two) made me somewhat uneasy. I passed, but she wrote a long story about all my failings in my logbook. I spent the next forty-five days of my young flying career learning how to be a better pilot.

Cadet Harry Carter Lone Pine 1942

Flying solo was the best of times. With the sometimes-strong wind of the area, I discovered that by throttling back to just above stalling speed, I could actually fly the Luscombe backwards. On takeoff with a strong headwind, I could almost hover over my girlfriend’s house, open the door slightly, and yell down to her, Hey Patty! Not a smart thing to do for a novice pilot. Sometimes the wind was so strong that after landing, we helped each other during taxiing-in by hanging on the wing tips. The area was pock marked with dry lakes where we could practice landings and takeoffs away from the airfield. During my time at Lone Pine we never had a fatality nor had an accident of any importance. It has to be a miracle that no one was even hurt considering the large number enrolled in the program and that all of us were young kids entrusted with flying solo after only eight hours of flight instruction. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always like that. Kerry Powell tells the story of a couple of accidents—one involving two planes. At the time, Kerry Christenson was a ten-year-old living with her family in their home at the end of one of the runways. Kerry tells me: "I was sitting at dinner one summer evening admiring our unobstructed view east toward the Inyo Mountain Range when I saw two of the CPT program’s small training planes a ways off, fairly low over the Owens River, collide and fall spinning to earth. They were a mile or so east of the airport. I yelled and pointed, not believing what I had seen. I guess we assumed the airport had been in radio communication with them and there was not much we could do. There was no visible smoke. I seem to remember that there was only one fatality from that crash. That picture is still vivid in my mind, being so awful. There was another minor crash my Mother saw later that year. She was in our back yard one afternoon, hanging wash out in the sun. One of the young CPT pilots in training came in from the north, roaring, throttling down, and a bit low for a landing. They often did this directly over our house to the dirt strip, according to windsock direction. We did not mind the noise, realizing that the training was so important, and temporary. His wing clipped the top branch of a high tree by our yard. It threw off his direction and abbreviated the length of his glide path. He landed rather abruptly but right side up at the field’s north end. My mom (Ruth) rushed through the willow field with visions of a plane on fire, to attempt to rescue the pilot. She climbed up on the low wing asking him if he was hurt and tried to get him to climb out. He was stunned but unhurt, thankfully, and only the landing gear seemed to be damaged."

We flew six days a week and sometimes twice in one day. Saturday night and Sunday were spent investigating the big town of Lone Pine. The townsfolk had a movie theatre set up in a building with folding chairs for seats. The movies were old silent ones with subtitles. During the first few weeks of our training, on one night, the mothers of Lone Pine were nice enough to invite all the new cadets to a social at the Catholic hall where we could meet the young ladies of the town. As I entered the ballroom, my eyes lit up when I spotted a pretty redhead across the room, and I headed straight for her.

Lone Pine Patty

Back in my grammar school days, at the young age of nine, I liked a beautiful little redheaded girl and she liked me. We played house together (her idea) under the trees in front of Encino Grammar School during the lunch hour. I guess we got too cozy with each other one day while playing, and we were hauled off to the principal. That ended my house-playing days and my preadolescent venture into romance. Now, ten years later, as I approached Patty to ask for a dance, I thought, I’ve found another good-looking redhead and maybe now, that I’m nineteen, I can start playing house again. Lone Pine Patty was a looker as us boys would say back then. Those flashing mischievous eyes of this smashing redhead absolutely captivated me. I never had a steady girlfriend in high school but I was determined this was going to be the one. Before any of the other cadets could claim her, I approached Patty and in a very proper voice of anticipation, said May I have this dance? It didn’t take Patty but a fraction of a second to say Yes and then she was in my arms and I was in nineteen-year-old boy heaven! I had every dance with my lovely new girlfriend. I wasn’t about to turn her loose and have some other cadet move in on me!

I don’t believe the boys of Lone Pine were happy with all us young guys between eighteen and twenty-two descending on their campus and moving in on all their girls. Patty wrote this to me about herself during that time in 1943: "Patty was a timid wallflower at the high school dances. She longed to be in one of the popular groups, but mostly went unnoticed until Uncle Sam sent two hundred young men to be trained as US Navy pilots, and put them in tents just down the street from Patty’s house! Now she was noticed. Patty did not know much about the V-5 program and truly didn’t care. She just knew that suddenly all these hunks were flirting with her and she didn’t waste any time learning how to flirt back!"

I managed to become a very close friend of this wonderful, wild, good-looking girl, and on Saturday nights and Sundays, I was one of the few cadets who had a regular date. My tent mate, Bud and I had the best-looking girls from the Lone Pine High School class of 1943. I was on top of the world! I could fly solo around the area of Lone Pine during the week, and I had a lovely girlfriend to play with on Saturday and Sundays. For what more could a boy of nineteen ask? Patty’s friend, Barbara, had a car so Bud and I had both wheels and dates. Late one night, we headed out to what appeared to me to be the Lone Pine equivalent of Mulholland Drive. You can imagine what went on in the back seat of a car in the wilds of the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine with two older teens, one of each gender. I don’t know what was happening in the front seat. I think Patty and Harry were a matched pair with neither one really knowing what was happening to their hormones. I liked Patty a lot. I was falling in love! Yes, Patty was my very first love. Other romances between the girls of Lone Pine and the cadets were blossoming all over what used to be a very tranquil small town. You can be sure that with a couple of hundred cadets available, there was no need for a Lone Pine girl to stay home on a Saturday night.

All went well for us for several weekends until Bud and I decided to sneak out on a weekday night. The next day, the Bunk Chief reported our four or five hour absence to the Principal and I thought for sure I would be on my way home, but I guess he decided we were just young boys doing what young boys do and our only punishment was running the high school track for many, many times each day. A night out with Patty was worth it. I didn’t mind, but Bud, who was not in very good shape, had a bad time of it.

After only thirty-eight hours total flight time (fourteen hours solo), Roy Pemberton, the owner of the flight school, conducted my final check flight on January 11, 1943. I got a thumbs-up and packed my bags for return to my home in Tarzana to await orders to Del Monte Preflight School. I had to say goodbye to Patty. It wasn’t easy. This was to be the first of many times that the navy would ship me off and separate me from a girlfriend with whom I had become very much attached.

By early February 1943, I was on my way to the Preflight School in Monterey, California. The navy had leased the Del Monte Hotel and all the surrounding grounds for a school devoted to getting young cadets in shape for the rigors of combat flying. There were other preflight schools in existence in colleges in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and St. Mary’s in California but I believe Del Monte was the only one where cadets were housed in a luxury hotel. The lease was signed in December 1942, and we were the first class to arrive. Many of my friends from CPT training at Lone Pine were there, and it appeared to me that most of the cadets in the first class were Southern California boys. We were bunked six or eight to a room. It took the Commanding Officer two weeks to realize the cadets were receiving ice water to their rooms. That was stopped. We also had the benefit of having the hotel chefs cook for us. They had agreed to stay on until the end of the month. What a letdown when they left! Our first days were spent receiving our uniforms and bedding, and being organized by a bunch of physical training specialists who, just a few months prior, were coaches and such at high schools and colleges around the country. Most of them had received a commission as an ensign in the Naval Reserve. That is my first and last time that I saw so many old ensigns wearing a uniform with size eighteen collars. We even had a few ex-prize fighters to teach us the art of boxing. We got used to being addressed as youse guys. With all due respect to them, they had a job to do and they did it.

We spent four hours a day in classroom study, and the other four (or more) were for physical development. No headgear or teeth protectors were allowed for boxing. They did give us gloves and taught us how to beat the hell out of each other. The wrestling was gentler but still quite physical. Karate techniques were also taught. Many of the physical training drills took place on the polo field. One sadistic drill used quite often was to line up a group at one end of the field and have them run to the other end. There was one catch. When the whistle blew, you had to go from full speed upright to flat on your stomach. Since the field had recently been used for polo matches, you can guess what we were sliding on. It was even worse on rainy days. On the second whistle, we were off again and so on. The first five or so across the finish line could sit out the rest of the drill while the rest continued running and sliding back and forth with the five best dropping out each time. I don’t mean to belittle our instructors. They were there to toughen us up, and they did their best. It was the older, out-of-shape cadets that suffered the most.

Our swimming took place in the old Hotel Del Monte swimming pool and spa. After passing all the swimming tests, we lined up as a competitive team against the rest of the classes. For us Southern California boys, there wasn’t any competition from the boys in the other battalions who mainly came from the mid-west.

We had a break in training when the ladies of Carmel invited a group of us from the first preflight class to a luncheon in their small town of Carmel. It was a much-appreciated diversion by all the cadets.

Upon completion of preflight training at Del Monte Preflight School, those among the top of their class were given first choice of duty for primary flight training. I think the athletic part of the training was given more weight than the classroom instruction and consequently I got my first choice, Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Livermore, California. (Much later, in 1955, I returned to Del Monte as a navy lieutenant to attend the Navy Line School. What a change in life style! In the intervening years, I had spent WWII flying the navy version of the liberator out of Africa, England, and the Azores and had become a destroyer man as a navigator and operations officer during the Korean conflict.). The only member of my preflight class that I crossed paths with later was Bill Moffet, who went on to become one of our premier fighter pilots of WWII and rose to the rank of admiral.

On my arrival, everything at Livermore was relatively new. The navy had acquired the six-hundred-and-twenty-nine acres of ranch property from W. Gatzmer Wagoner in 1942 for $75,265. The air station, including buildings, was just a year old. Instead of our luxury quarters at Del Monte, we were assigned to barracks. This time our room housed at least thirty bunks. In 1943, the airfield was one giant slab of concrete with taxiways surrounding it. The planes didn’t need much room for takeoff or landing. This configuration allowed us to takeoff or land directly into the prevailing wind. If the wind was strong enough, it was not unusual to find yourself airborne while still on the taxi strip.

The Yellow Peril

Following issue of flight suit, helmets, goggles, and flight jacket (we had to acquire our own white scarf, which most of us did), we were introduced to the Navy N2S Stearman. She was a biplane with steel tubing fuselage covered with fabric. There were two open cockpits: the instructor sat in the front cockpit and the student in the back. Both cockpits were fitted with the same controls and instruments. The Stearman, like her predecessor the N3N, was called the yellow peril for obvious reasons—she was painted yellow and, for a majority of the flight time, a student pilot flying solo occupied her! The instructor communicated with the student through a gosport, which was a device like a voice tube connecting the instructor’s mouth with the student’s ears.

Half the time we spent in ground school and the other half with the aircraft. Flight time was usually one and half-hours. A stage of instruction was to teach the young cadet how to get the Stearman off the ground, keep her in the air, and land her safely. I struggled with this first stage. It was quite a bit different from the Luscombe in which I had learned to fly. On my A stage progress check, I got a down check, a horrible four-letter word for a cadet, which was an arrow written in your log for that flight pointed down. For the next five hours of flight time, my instructor, Lt (jg) Kelly, must have poured it on me because, with a sigh of relief, I got an up check on my check flight for A stage.

Following successful completion of A stage, I was allowed to fly solo. We took off with no set plan with the understanding that you had to practice what you had been taught. I had a problem with this. I had no timepiece on me or in the cockpit and therefore did not know when my flight time was up. I had to keep watch on the other cadet pilots for them heading back to the base and I followed them in. I wrote a letter to my dad about my predicament, and he sent me his gold Hamilton railroad pocket watch that my uncle Alfred had given to him. I was thankful to have the gold pocket watch, which I still have today. It was a very solid heavy watch, and I want to emphasize the heavy. I attached it to a lanyard, then onto the eye of the zipper on my flight jacket, and then into the side pocket of the jacket. When I was up with an instructor learning aerobatics, I did not have the watch with me, as I figured he would know when to head back to the base. As soon as I got my up check for the aerobatics part of the instruction, I took off solo. My first try was a slow roll at about five thousand feet. As I rolled the plane over onto its back and gravity took over, the gold watch swung out of my flight jacket on its lanyard and, like a pendulum, it hit me on the forehead right between my eyes. I was seeing stars and pulled out in a split S" approaching the ground at great speed but probably dazzling the instructors below with my daring-do. (This was the first of two times I did this.) Shortly after that episode, I shortened the lanyard on the gold watch.

The other split S episode came when a flight-order enlisted man rode in the back seat with me as I was flying solo. A flight-order enlisted man was one who had flight orders, received flight pay, and had to fly a certain number of hours each month. I was still in my aerobatics phase of training, and my first maneuver to try was again the slow roll. As the plane reached the upside-down point and gravity took over, the stick snapped suddenly back to dead center. I couldn’t move it back to the side, and the only leverage I had was to pull it straight back in my lap. So there I went again straight down pulling out at about two-hundred feet over an outlying field where cadets were shooting slips to a landing. I saw two instructors on the ground looking at me with amazement as I red lined the Stearman over them and then turned tail so they couldn’t get my plane number and flew off as far as I could go in the distance. I discovered later that the new flight-order man had not been up in a Stearman during aerobatic maneuvers before, and when we turned upside down and fell against our seat belts, he thought he was falling out of the plane and grabbed the stick to keep him in. Thankfully, I was never assigned a flight-order man again.

Near Livermore, some quarries had filled with water. If we were flying on a Saturday, one of our favorite past times was to throttle back and glide silently down over the quarries in hopes of finding a few girls sunbathing in the nude. When we did, we waved happily at them as we flew by and they, with a quick cover-up, waved back. I am sure they felt very safe with them way down there and us cadets up where we were supposed to be!

At one of the outlying airfields, which was all sod with a farmer’s fence surrounding it, there was a large white circle bull’s-eye placed in the middle. The idea was to slip the Stearman toward the circle and land in the center. This was accomplished by aiming the tip of the wing at the center of the circle and with judicious use of stick and rudder, slide straight down until, at a point just above the ground, snap the plane level, cut the throttle, and haul back on the stick to stall her so she would land dead center. The circle

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