View Full Version : USAAC/USAAF pilot training

Johnny L.A.
02-06-2011, 12:11 PM
Where can I find information about USAAC pilot training c.1940? I'm looking for recruitment, the training regimen, training milestones, discipline, reasons for washing out, graduation, assignment, deployment, etc.

Suggestions of non-fiction or fiction books describing the process and cadet life would be most helpful.


EDIT: I included USAAF in the title because I'm interested in the period up through 1943.

02-06-2011, 12:17 PM
Absolutely recommend this book (http://www.amazon.com/Dustoff-Aviator-Michael-J-Novosel/dp/0891418024).
He's an Army aviator who flew bombers in WWII (and some about his training for the job) through helicopters in Vietnam. In the process he also won the CMOH.
Great read if you love aviation, aviators and war stories.

Here's a wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_J._Novosel) entry on Mr Novosel.

Beware of Doug
02-06-2011, 12:23 PM
Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue gives a good account of the pilot training of Lieut. (later Senator) George McGovern. There's a great sequence where McGovern goes blank while trying to find his way back to base without instruments in a night exercise - and his trusted flight instructor, a friend from civilian days, literally turns on him. Lesson learned: a bomber pilot, in hostile air space with ten lives in his care, must be prepared to do anything and do it alone.

Johnny L.A.
02-06-2011, 01:23 PM
So it's 1939/1940. Europe is at war. Asia is at war. The United States is preparing for war. A guy graduates from college and decides he wants to become an Army pilot. He goes to the recruiter and announces his plan to become America's leading ace while he Saves the World for Democracy. Then what? Does the recruiter say, 'Well you look healthy, and you're not wearing glasses. When you pass your physical and complete Basic Training you'll go off to flight school.'? Or is there something else?

I've read To The Limit (http://www.amazon.com/Limit-Air-Huey-Pilot-Vietnam/dp/1597970018), a memoir by Quasimodem's friend who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Tom Johnson spends some time on early training, though I don't remember if he starts at Basic, or his first days at flight school. I think the latter. I could ask my roommate about her experiences, getting into flight school and becoming a Black Hawk pilot in the Gulf War. But Vietnam and the Gulf War are too late. I really want to learn about the U.S. training circa 1939-1943. I assume a lot changed over the decades (not the least being that they didn't have helicopters then, and there was no USAF).

I'm pretty sure I've seen contemporary movies about USAAC flight training, but I can't remember them now.

02-06-2011, 01:31 PM
Chuck Yeager's autobiography is a cool read if you don't already have it and it has lots of detail about pilot training during that period and later periods as well. It is available in paperback and doesn't cost that much.

Johnny L.A.
02-06-2011, 01:33 PM
I think I have two copies of it! It's been years since I've read it. I'll have to see if I can find them.

Gray Ghost
02-06-2011, 01:42 PM
Thunderbolt! (http://www.amazon.com/Thunderbolt-Martin-Caidin/dp/1434484106/ref=sr_1_3_title_2_p?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1297017185&sr=1-3) is a biography of Robert S. Johnson' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_S._Johnson)s exploits flying P-47s for the 56th Fighter Group. Like many other stories, he goes into what it was like going through flight school at Fort Sill, circa summer 1941, and then advanced fighter training on the East Coast. A typical book in the genre, though I wouldn't pay $15 on Amazon for it. I've seen the paperback in more than a few used book stores, FWIW.

He goes into a bit of detail on the hazing, basic flight instruction, advanced flight instruction, reasons guys washed out, the hazing, etc... Pages 35-88 in my copy deal with the time from his induction to his shipping out on the Queen Elizabeth.

Johnny L.A.
02-06-2011, 01:49 PM
That sounds good. And having the mighty T-Bolt in it is a bonus.

Gray Ghost
02-06-2011, 01:50 PM
Johnny L.A., have you read Robert Mason's Chickenhawk, (http://www.amazon.com/Chickenhawk-Robert-Mason/dp/0140072187) and if so, how does it compare to To the Limit? Chickenhawk is one of my favorite Vietnam and aviation memoirs and I'm curious whether I should also take a look at To the Limit.

Johnny L.A.
02-06-2011, 02:01 PM
I have, back in the late-'80s. I'm afraid I don't remember it, so I can't compare. As a helicopter pilot, I could relate to Johnson's recounting of learning to fly a helicopter.

Elendil's Heir
02-07-2011, 10:16 AM
Chickenhawk is a great book. I loved the stories about the instructors cutting off the engines at the most inconvenient times to force the trainees to autorotate, and the crazy instructor who flew just a few feet above railroads, his rotors below the telephone lines. When some brass who were aboard yelled at him to stop, he just went faster.

That book also taught me that VFR meant "Visually Follow Railroads" and IFR meant "I Follow Railroads."