Where a pilot was sent after graduating during WWII depended on whether he was headed to single-engine or twin-engine Transition Training. Dale Wilson had hoped to fly pursuit planes (fighters) but had already gotten a few hours in bombers at Roswell.
Greenville, South Carolina
His Transition Training was all done in B-25 Mitchell bombers, from February to July 1943, logging 306 hours total before heading overseas later the summer of 1943.
Dale finished Transition with forty-nine B-25 hours, and was put on a combat crew as a “damn copilot,” he wrote, as was the rest of his class. Lieutenant J. M. Wieland, who graduated in the class ahead of him, was the pilot. He let Dale fly the plane half the time and gave him all the instrument time since he had plenty.
They practiced skip bombing. The copilots in a B-25 were also the bombardiers. Dale told about dropping eight bombs and scoring three bulls-eyes, approaching the target about 25 feet above the trees, then letting down on their run over the target. “It is real sport,” he said. “We were traveling 230 M.P.H. and that seems fairly fast when clipping the treetops.”
They might fly several different planes in combat, including fighters, they were told. In some theaters the copilots got to fly P-38s, which Dale liked the sound of. He once had called the P-38 Lightning “a man’s dream.” The Greenville pilots would start out as copilots for the men who’d already seen action.
Dale still hoped to get home before leaving for combat, and have some real food–“some of that good lettuce, spinach, whole wheat, etc., and plenty of milk and eggs.”
Four new B-25Gs with the 75 millimeter cannon in the armor-plated nose arrived in their squadron. He saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time when they flew one to the coast to fire the plane’s guns.
His crew flew to the Bahamas–eight continuous hours in the air–a round-robin of 1600 miles, 1100 miles of it over water.
“The 75 mm. packs a wallop,” he reported. When they fired the 75-millimeter, flame flashed out in front and it seemed to almost stop the plane for a fraction of a second. “I fired three rounds and scored two hits out of three. Incidentally, each round costs a war bond ($18.75).”
Dale shipped home some of his things and asked his mother to send an olive drab uniform. “And say, Junior,” he added, “if you don’t want that hunting knife (the big skinning knife), I’d like to have it. I have a new .45 automatic but a knife would come in handy, too. Then I’ll be all set–except a P-38. ha.”
He sure didn’t like bombers–too many men in one airplane. “I want something that can be turned upside down; something fast and maneuverable.”
As the time neared for her son to go overseas, Leora wrote him, “You take the best of care of yourself. Good Luck is with all of us. We are the Lucky Seven–you boys and girls. Be Happy & Keep your chin up.”
Too bad it was war – otherwise sounds like a grand, good time!
Yes, I agree.
I’m enjoying my education in WWII military aviation history! I had no idea there was so much to it.
I’m also amazed at the logistics that got men and planes (or ships or whatever) together and sent where they were needed.