Rae takes up photography
This one's a little better. M is for Mommy.
Just a line to let you know that the army isn't a half-bad outfit to live in. The screws are tightening down aplenty both in ground school and on the flying line, but it's still a great life, and don't anybody try to tell you different.
...These instructors are the best that can be had, and believe me, they know their business inside out. They stay right up in the front cockpit until you can fly as good, or nearly as good, as they can. I was up again today, my fourth time, and am learning more and more every day. We only fly when the sky is clear -- never fly when it's raining. We have missed about four days due to fog and murky weather so far.
...All the gang from Wisconsin really hooped it up over Wisconsin's win over Indiana last night. We follow the sports pages of the Chicago Tribune like a bunch of hawks.
Thanks loads for the prayer and the cards. The typhoid shots made every body's arm sore, but I didn't get sick at all from it. A lot of the boys did! Must close now with love, regards -- and don't worry!
"Dear Mom and Dad:Tuesday, March 4, 1941, 8:00 pm
I've finally taken time out to get off a letter long overdue.
...We are settled pretty comfortably now. Dellas has the house cleaned to a sparkle, and we are entertaining on Sunday evening. I am barred from snooping around in the kitchen while Dellas fixes supper, because she is set and determined to surprise me -- every meal. Been doing a right good job too. In fact, I have been so pleased with the home cooking that I help with the dishes without being asked. I am gradually working her into the idea of buttermilk soup.
...Dellas comes to the field on the nights when I am "on alert" and we visit at the officers club together with the rest of the married officers, or go to a show.
We are very happy together. For me, especially, it has destroyed all the old lonesomeness. If only I can get her to make buttermilk soup.
Love to all,
"Dear Mother and Dad:
Just a few more days and I'll be soloing. I hope you won't worry, because our instructors won't let us solo until they are absolutely sure we can do it. Today we practiced landings and take-offs, which is the sign that always comes just before our solo flight. We've been working hard, all of us, and you can notice the strain on the men at the end of the day. We are busy every minute from 5:15 am to 9:45 pm, and when it's over, you're ready for bed, and no doubt about it.
Some of the more advanced students -- those who have had previous flying instruction -- soloed today. There were five of them -- and each one was shoved under a cold shower, clothes and all, which is a flying cadet tradition. After a man's first solo, he gets ducked. Then he rips the piece of white adhesive tape off the top of his helmet, to signify that he is no longer a fledgling. It's all a great ceremony, full of horseplay, and I believe the instructor gets just as much of a thrill out of it as the student does.
Mrs. Pickering sent me a copy of the Dane County News in which she printed my first letter home. If I would have known that, I might have polished it up a big. I'd rather that she didn't print any of my personal correspondence -- just makes me feel uneasy is all. I blush easily, you know. Which reminds me -- you should see my freckles. This Oklahoma sun and wind is really bringing them out in fine shape.
Must close now, and get to my studies.
Love to all, "
Just a line to let you know I'm safe and sound and feeling great. The air down here is as clear as a bell, and believe me, we're getting plenty of it in our lungs.
...We had a great trip -- a private pullman coach all the way. We arrived last night at 1 a.m. -- or was that today? We climbed right into bed -- and a good bed, which we make-up ourselves every morning.
...We wear ordinary shoes -- the old pair I brought along and our wool socks. We have been given coveralls, a heavy sweater, and a leather sheepskin-lined jacket and cap. Our uniforms will be here in about a week. We were measured for them today.
...The food, believe it or not, is swell. Not near as good as mom's of course, but better than anything you could find in a restaurant. We are served cafeteria style and can have as many helpings per meal as we wish. I had a pint of milk for every meal and am going to stick to it.
There are about 150 men in our class and about 90 upperclassmen. Lower classmen are known as dodo birds. They estimate that 45% of our class, about 60 men, will 'wash out' during the first five weeks.
Must close now, as we have a meeting coming up in five minutes. Will write more, soon.
P.S. All flying cadets must write a letter home at least once a week or be forced to do 'gig.' (That's walking steady for one hour.)"
Am terribly sorry I didn't get a chance to write another letter sooner, but we've been 'on the hop' every minute here, and it just hasn't been possible. I'm working on the cadet publication here -- 'The Gosport" [Note from Audra: forgive me if this title is incorrect; the writing is unclear] and am also writing 'propaganda' articles for various newspapers -- the last duty by order of the commanding officer.
...At the last writing, there were some 240 men here. There are about 205 now. Every day, three or five men 'wash out,' not because of scholastic requirements, but because they just can't fly good enough. There are 60 men left in the upper class out of 137. And another 25 or 30 of these will 'wash out' within the next month before they get a chance to go to Randolph.
This is the heart of the dust bowl down here, and the land is dead dry and flat as a table top. When the wind blows, it lifts a fine cloud of dust about a mile in the air and it looks like a heavy fog for the rest of the day.
...In three days we've learned to snap to attention, salute, and execute every marching movement in the books. It's a great life, and tough. Believe me, they make you toe the mark. I wish you could see the way I can make up a bed and put a locker in order. I can't believe it myself.
...Must close now to get to my studies. Will write again the first chance I get. Don't worry about me -- I'm doing great.
The young 22 year old Chip was truly involved in high adventure with being admitted to the Flying Cadets. He was desperately anxious to not 'wash out.' Few people, perhaps 10 percent, had been in an aeroplane in 1941.And in an article in the Philgazette in December 1954:
The great love and concern within the Bowar family is obvious. You will read of the daily inconveniences of food rationing, gasoline, clothing, housing shortages.
In Oct. 1941, the 76th Bombardment Quadron was formed at Gunter in Idaho. All personnel remained intact for two plus years. Life-time friendships were formed. They called themselves the 'bastard squadron' because in those fearful times they were on the move constantly.
It was not until after the war and removal of censorship restrictions, that the dangers of his missions were revealed.What makes these letter all the more fascinating is that Chip is JP's grandfather. I never had the privilege of knowing him, but I feel like I am getting to know him through these letters. I even feel as though I have something in common with him, because he was also a journalist and talks about writing numerous articles for various papers during his time in the service.
So this is his story, and mine, from January 1941 to December 1945. Another world, another time, but a wonderful life with Chip. Dellas