Saturday, June 24, 2006

Oct.15, 1954 (finished Friday, Oct. 22, 1954)

Dear Folks

It is now about 8:45 p.m. on Friday night, & I think I will go to bed—it will be the safest place for me. Tonite has been one of "those" nights; any blue smudges you may notice on the paper are from the stenciling ink I have all over my fingers. It got there when I tried to get the ink I spilled all over the table. In my frantic attempts to blot it up & make sure it wouldn’t stain the table, I rubbed some of the paint off the tabletop. I have a legitimate excuse, though—it was all caused by this darned ringing in my ears, which sounds like a cricket convention in an Iowa field some warm summer night.

The cause of all this trouble was our jaunt this afternoon to the pistol range. The trusting souls who put loaded revolvers into the hands of that group of trigger-happy NavCads were far more naive than sensible. I guess we didn’t do so bad, though. We each fired forty rounds at a ten-inch square target fifty feet in front of us. I hit it a grand total of sixteen times, & haven’t been able to hear ever since. Of course, today being Friday, there was the inevitable parade; this one being a special affair complete with Admiral, top brass, & instructors. If you have ever tried playing a clarinet when you can’t even hear the rest of the band, you can get a vague idea of what it was like.

Yesterday afternoon, or morning rather, I started my very first airplane engine. Unfortunately, the engine was not attached to an airplane at the time. Early (7:00) in the morning we were trundled onto a station bus & driven a mile or two (a real treat—we usually march) to what they call the Test Stand. It is a long, narrow building divided into about seven partitions. Two of these are classrooms, & the other five are engine rooms. These engine rooms are open on both sides of the building; an engine is mounted on the east side of the room, divided by a strong wire fencing. On the west side is a small, partitioned control room. First of all, you go to the classroom, where you’re briefed on starting the engine: Battery switch on, Throttle ½ to ¾ inches forward, Mixture Control lever on Full Rich, Pitch adjuster in High; check wobble pump—emergency hand fuel pump. Prime engine with three or four strokes of primer valve; get all clear signal, & turn on the ignition switch. When the engine starts running, watch your oil pressure gage—you must have at least 40 lbs pressure in 30 seconds. When oil pressure is up to 50 lbs., set pitch in low (pitch is the angle of the propeller as it turns). Push throttle up till you get 1000 R.P.M., pull it back to 600-700 R.P.M. & make an ignition safety check (to make sure your electrical system is working properly). Increase R.P.M. to 1000 again, watch cylinder head temperature gage for temperature of 100 & oil pressure of 40. Check fuel system (to make sure you’ve got gas in both tanks). Increase throttle to 1800 R.P.M., & make a pitch check, move from low pitch to high….Well, you can see how it goes.

Speaking of going, almost a week has elapsed since I began this letter—I’ve started the engine once more & played with it three times—loads of fun.

Just returned to the Bat after seeing "Rear Window" to receive the cheery news that a cadet was killed today in boxing class: jolly good sport, boxing. He fought this afternoon, put his gloves away, passed out, & died early tonight. I imagine his parents will be very happy that he joined the program.

Thus far, I have survived ten weeks of Navy life; only five more to go. Tomorrow I have an MOD (Mate of the Deck) watch from 12 midnight till 4 a.m., & Sunday from 12 noon till 4 p.m. I go on duty tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 and just sit around till 12.

Next week is what is affectionately known as "The Bloody Ninth". It is our ninth week of study, & all final exams are held. That means I have a Navigation phase quiz (given once a week) on Monday, a Naval Orientation final also on Monday, an Engines phase quiz on Monday or Tuesday, & an Engines Final on Wed. or Thurs. I don’t know when our Aerology final is.
Bought some film at the Gedunk (Navy Exchange—whey they ever call it Gedunk I’ll never know) tonite & I’ll take it tomorrow. Did you see the other yet? If not, get hot & see them—that’s what I took them for, you know; not to sit around & gather dust. Or, you can hold them till I get home, & I’ll give you a narrated tour.

Took my 40 minute, ½ mile swim today (fully clothed) & almost didn’t make it. My legs have a nasty habit of getting cramps in them about ten minutes before the period ends.

Did I tell you I’m planning on going to Atlanta for Thanksgiving? Whether I do or not depends on several things: a) if I can afford it; b) how long a liberty we have, & c) whether I can afford it.
Hear tell there isn’t going to be an Armistice Day anymore—it’s to be changed to Veteran’s Day (I like Armistice Day better). Wore my dress blues last weekend on liberty—they really look good—in this Naval District, we wear white cap-covers with our blues, but in Rockford’s district, I’ll have to wear my blue cover.

Please send some (a lot of) three cent stamps—I’ll try to scrape up enough to mail the picture tomorrow. I was really overwhelmed at your generosity--$5 whole dollars, all my very own (film is $3.25). This morning I plunked out $3.95 for laundry, so don’t ask me where all my money goes. I got the brownies a long time ago & ate them at once—they were very good, but crumbly. Enclosed (maybe, if I remember it) is a letter the band received from the Admiral--& to get a letter from a real live Admiral is really an accomplishment. We received the music to St. Louis Blues March today, & will play it tomorrow.

Well, I’d better close now. Write soon (I haven’t gotten a letter in two days—take that back—got one from Ann Margason yesterday.)

So long for now



HEADQUARTERS ne2:403:gba
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA 14 October 1954
From: Chief of Naval Air Basic Training
To: Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval School, Pre-Flight
Subj.: Letter of Appreciation

The Chief of Naval Air Basic Training was most pleased with the quick and timely formation of the Naval Aviation Cadet Band and the fine performance on the evening of 9 October 1954 at the Camp Lejeune-Goshawks football game.

It is realized that only five days lapsed from the time the band instruments were received at this command and the band made its first public appearance. Ensign L.G. Barnes and members of the band are to be commended for devoting much of their free time to practice and in providing excellent entertainment not only for the personnel of this command and civilians from the local area, but for the guests of the Secretary of Defense who were aboard for a visit in a Joint Civilian Orientation Conference.

/s/ D. Harris

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