Join the Marines

yourself into a simulated cockpit. The instructor would then close the solid hood over your head. Suddenly, you were surrounded in a flat black and zinc chromatic green world. Arrayed around you, was every instrument, gage, switch, lever, handle, knob and button inside an SNV. And every instrument and flight control behaved exactly as those in the plane’s cockpit.

The instructors hammered into us this adage: “When you’re flying blind, you can’t trust your senses. Trust your instruments.”

The untold hours I spent in one of those black boxes helped jumpstart my confidence level in dealing with climbing and diving turns, stalls, spins and emergency procedures—while flying blind. And in a second phase, I finally became comfortable with flying beams and radio ranges—procedures for getting back to your base or carrier when the weather closed in.

By this time, I admit I began having fun in the fearsome link Trainer. It was like playing around in a virtual reality video game. Only I was playing for keeps.

The final test, however, came in the air. I piled up 24 more hours flying blind in a hooded Vultee “Vibrator” with an instructor in the rear seat, keeping a close eye on every maneuver. Then came the final check ride.

When I came in for my landing, I knew I had passed the test. He gave me two thumbs up.

I think it might have been that same week that Eleanor Roosevelt had dinner with us in the cadet mess hall. She was on a two-day visit to Corpus Christi.

FDR’s dynamic wife was probably the most active First Lady our country has ever known. Throughout the war, she had her own radio program and a syndicated newspaper column, My Day. She seemed to be constantly visiting hospitals and military bases. And throughout her life, she always acted as a strong advocate for women, children and the poor.

In her visit to Corpus Christi, she told us, “The important thing is that you never let down doing the best you are able to do.”


Tragic news came in a letter from home. My mother reported that Eddie “Double Thumb” Daniels had perished at sea.

Merchant marine officials informed Agnes that in a convoy bound for England, Eddie’s loaded freighter had been torpedoed by a German U-boat. The ship exploded and went under quickly in the waters of the North Atlantic. AH hands were lost.


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