Agnes, it was an unbearable shock and a horrible coincidence. Twice, she had married for love. Twice, she had lost a husband to the sea.
My mother wrote that Agnes planned to leave Portland and return to her hometown in Minnesota, where her mother and two sisters still lived. In later years, my mother and Agnes continued to correspond. They remained life-long friends.
It was the first of April, the day of fools, when I took on torpedo bombers as my operational specialty in the final phase of advanced flight training at Corpus. I had requested fighters as my first choice, but at that time, there was a waiting list. I learned that I would have to wait about two months to get into the over-crowded fighter program, centered at the Kingsville NAS some 35 miles inland from the main base.
I thought that one over and said, “To hell with it.1‘ By this time, I wanted to get going. Really get going. So I followed Bob Ballard, Al Hunt, Clyde Hollenbeck and several other Oregon Webfoots into torpedo bombers.
Located near the southern tip of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi NAS was surrounded by several outlying fields for special training in torpedo bombers, fighters and dive bombers. Waldron Field, the newly opened center for torpedo squadron training, was named for the skipper of Midway’s star-crossed Torpedo 8.
Within 48 hours of requesting a torpedo bomber assignment, the Navy had me out at Waldron Field getting checked out in a North American SNJ.
The SNJ was a hardcore, high performance, low-wing combat trainer, with a Pratt & Whitney 600 hp air-cooled engine, retractable wheels and a 42-foot wing span. In aerial performance, it was extremely agile, a quantum jump up from even the Vultee SNV.
My checkout in an SNJ provided me with a solid introduction to the basic cockpit layout for most WWII single engine combat planes. Beneath my left arm were the accessory controls—elevator, aileron and rudder trims as well as landing gear handle, tail wheel lock and flap actuators. Allof the electronic and radio goodies were in a console by my right arm. Fuel gauges were on the floor for a quick glance during flight. Straight ahead, of course, was the instrument panel, And as I straddled the stick with my legs stretched on either side, my