MARCH 1, 1943 -- MAY 31, 1943
IOWA PRE-FLIGHT SCHOOL
Bus transportation took us to the University of Iowa campus
where we were assigned rooms in the Hillcrest dormitory. Once
again being alphabetically number one on the list I was assigned
to a four man room in which there was already a cadet from a
previous battalion, This was John Horn. John had been in the
16th battalion when he came down with spinal meningitis. He very
nearly died but bore it out and was now reassigned to the 20th
battalion, company C, 1st platoon. Also in the room the first
night was one of my Norfolk classmates, Clyde Clifford Cavitt.
The fourth bunk would not be occupied for a couple of days when
we were to receive the late arrival of Benjamin J. Moise.
A word or two about my roommates. John Horn was from St. Cloud,
Minnesota, a fun loving guy who was as weak as a cat from his
sickness. So weak that when we had to take a five minute step
test he was on the verge of passing out and falling. I was along
side of him and was able to support him without being caught
by the instructor. Only had one complaint about him; he kept
washing his balls in the sink in our room. We kept jawing the
hell out of him until he quit. Upon leaving preflight he went
to NAS Minneapolis for primary. Never heard of him again. Cavitt
was from Colfax, Iowa, about sixteen miles from Des Moines. His
nickname was Cactus because of his hair. It was thick, coal black
and stood straight up on his head like a porcupine. Never saw
or heard of him again after preflight. B.J. Moise was from New
Orleans, Louisiana. He was the only one of the whole platoon
who had not gone to CPT/WTS, which was too bad because if there
was anyone who ever wanted to fly it was B.J. B.J. had not been
in the V5 program as long as the rest of us because of an accident
in which he was involved. While waiting to be called for CPT/WTS,
B.J. and a friend of his were out on the beach of the Gulf of
Mexico taking target practice on sea gulls with their 22 caliber
rifles. B.J. was lying in the sand sighting on a gull and pulled
the trigger just as his friend raised up in front of him. The
bullet struck his friend in the back of the head. He was killed
instantly. B.J. was in such deep depression that his father,
an influential man in New Orleans, was able to get the Navy to
take him early to help get his mind off the accident. B.J. had
been to Tulane University, had taken mathematics through calculus.
He, through carelessness, failed a simple math test so badly
that they wouldn't even let him take a make up. He was gone.
One thing B.J. was good at was aircraft recognition. We were
required to be able to identify all military combat aircraft,
both the allies planes and those of the enemy from all angles:
front, astern, from the sides, top and bottom. Not only identify
them but do it in one seventy-fifth of a second. This is about
as fast as you can blink. B.J. knew them all. On one test twenty
photographs of various planes were flashed on the screen at this
speed. Only one cadet of the whole class got twenty right answers-
that was B.J. The hooker was that a photo of a cat had been inserted.
He was the only one who identified it as an old tomcat. Everyone
else had been looking for an airplane.
Preflight school was scheduled for a three-month period of a
half-day of ground school and a half-day of physical education.
Supposedly to sharpen your reflexes, both mentally and physically.
Maybe so! Physically maybe it did, but mentally I was still left
with a lot to be desired.
The first thing we received was another physical followed
by being issued naval cadet uniforms. These were genuine real
to goodness officer's uniforms minus the rank stripes. They not
only made you look good but gave you an air of confidence and
maybe a little or a lot of ego. This was especially true after
the uniforms we had been issued in WTS which were the forest
greens that were used by the CCCs (Civilian Conservation Corps)
in the mid thirties. The daily work uniforms
Room mates at Iowa Preflight
Allison, John Horn, Clyde (Cactus) Cavitt
(fatigues) the 20th and 21st battalions received were the Army
winter olive fatigues with Army boots. All other battalions received
Marine greens and Marine brogans which probably didn't look any
better but they didn't make you stand out like a diamond in a
goat's butt as the Army uniforms did for us for about a month.
New comers were known as "Boots"-we were pegged!
This was basically three months of just plain fun, nothing but
every sport in the books, inter-platoon, inter-company, inter-battalion
and inter-regimental competitions. Was great! Ground school was
not much of a challenge for me. But there were several cadets
who fell by the wayside because of it. The only thing that caused
me a problem was that I was not able to take Morse code as fast
as required. Flunked the test first time. So as not to flunk
it the second time I conned Cactus Cavitt to taking it for me.
We passed with flying colors. If we had been caught we would
have still been flying-off the end of a boot. The only time I
ever remember taking advantage of a test was in the first physical
I took in Des Moines. This was the depth perception test. This
was the ability to line up a stationary wooden peg with one that
was controlled forward and backward by the use of two strings
at a distance of 20 feet. I happened to notice that as the moveable
peg passed the stationary one that had a light behind it cast
a faint shadow. I used the shadow but it wasn't necessary to
do this, I would have passed anyway.
One of the more pleasant things about preflight was the study
hour from nine o'clock until "lights out" at ten. Just
before nine we would dash down to the ship's service, load up
on apples, oranges, crackers and any thing else that looked good.
Get back to the room and pretend to be studying when the inspecting
officer came by. After he had made his check, it was "party
time". Well, maybe not party time but it was sure a relaxed,
peaceful time of day. Study? Didn't know what the word meant.
Another source of pride and pleasure was each Sunday morning
when the entire regiment marched in a parade to the athletic
field next to the athletic field house for inspection. There
were 2000 cadets in dress blues or in dress whites, in rank and
file formation. It was impressive to me and even more so to my
mother, father and two sisters, Marilyn, 16 and Helen, 11. They
had driven from Des Moines just to witness this parade and attend
Navy chapel in the field house following the parade. And I like
to believe that, maybe, they glowed a little bit with pride for
their son and brother. I think I had an ego problem. Besides,
one of my mother's friends whose husband happened to be my father's
boss and a twin brother to my uncle the husband of my mother's
sister, had said to her that neither my brother nor I would make
it because it was too tough a grind and we weren't up to it.
Because of that "snob" there was no way I was going