WWII Memoirs – May 1943 – A Squadron Takes Shape

Squadron hike - 18 Sept. 43

Squadron hike – Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma – 18 Sept. 43

When I completed my program in drafting at The Franklin Institute of Technology I was assigned to a squadron at Peterson Field near Colorado Springs, Colorado. However, at the time, that squadron existed only on on paper, so when I checked in there was no special greeting, only someone to tell me where to report and how to locate my barracks. I was later informed that I was a member of the 28th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron of the Army Air Corps. There was no separate Air Corp as we know it today. Each branch of the service had its own air corps.

As the members of the new squadron checked in from wherever they had completed special training or been reassigned from some other sector of the service, our squadron began to take shape. Soon, departments were identified and began to function. Pilots and planes appeared, and the “Squadron” began flying “missions”.

The goal of a squadron is to get information about the enemy. A mission is is successful when it ends up with a photo or a series of photographs of the enemy target. A quick review here may be helpful in understanding each department’s role in this process.

The mission begins with the pilot being briefed about the target. The camera repair department installs film in the plane’s cameras. The pilot flies to the target and photographs by pressing the appropriate controls. Having made a successful run over the target, he returns to the base. When the plane lands, the camera repair department removes the exposed film from the plane, and sends it to the lab. The lab performs several function. First it develops the film, and immediately sends the negative to drafting where the appropriate data is added by lettering. From drafting it goes back to the lab for printing; which is the final step. The prints are then ready for delivery or pick up.

This process applies only to the personnel who handle the film on its way to becoming a photograph. A number of support staff such as the mechanics, food services and transportation are also needed help keep the squadron functional.

At Peterson Field we had become a squadron. Each department became proficient in its role, and leadership in its capabilities. But if that was the purpose of our being at Peterson, that role was over. We were soon moved to Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City. And it wasn’t long before we realized that the one thing still missing in our Squadron’s preparation was experience under field conditions.

We were taken by military truck to an open, undeveloped field somewhat near the little town of Jet, Oklahoma. This was our site for learning cope with field conditions. It was December. The weather was bitter cold We slept in tents. Ate field rations. We had no commercial electricity, but we had generators to operate equipment necessary to our mission. When we stood guard duty, we tried to spend as much time as possible near the radiators of the generators, the only source of outdoor heat. One would think we were going to be stationed in Alaska!

After ten days under these conditions we were happy to get back to Will Rogers Field. It being close to Christmas, I requested a leave. It was granted, and it was the only time in my three years in the service that I spent with my family.

When I returned from my Christmas leave, I found the Squadron beginning to pack. And it wasn’t long before we were driven to the railroad station, placed on a train headed west, probably to the Bay area.

We were left to wonder about our destination.

 
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