Biographical Notes
Relating to
The Earl E. Myers Story

Chapter 11
B-17 Transition Training

About two days after graduation from Mother Moody's Rest Camp, Valdosta, GA, the three of us who were transferred to Sebring, Florida, for B-17 Aircraft Commander's Training had no assigned duties. Killing some time, we spent a lot of time going in and out of the PX. We did not have that privilege as cadets. Remember the first salute you received you were to gave the saluter a buck. Mine happened to be a WAC Corporal. I stopped her to give her the dollar and she froze in her tracks. She thought she was going to be reprimanded for some infraction of the rules. She was very relived when she was given the dollar bill and told why she was getting it. She became very relaxed. I noticed her that same day as being in and out of the PX a bit too much. She was making a business out of new 2nd Louies. I asked her how business was and she froze in her tracks. Now that's enterprise.

We departed in a Staff Car with a small trailer hooked on for the luggage and off we went for Jacksonville, Fl. and then took the train to Sebring, FL. I'm sure that the reason that we went in that fashion was because of the one cadet whose father was a three star general. Relax and enjoy it, as the old saying goes. We had to RON in JAX as the train did not depart until about 0700 hrs and on arrival at Sebring we were directed to the barracks where we had single room's. This was nice after sharing bunk-room space in all of my previous assignments.

The next morning we were to report at 0800 hrs for introduction to the transition curriculum and our first close up look at a B-17. This was the second time I was close to a B-17. The first one I saw was at Wright-Patterson. I had hitched a ride with a U.S Army Col. from Grand Island, Nebr. to Wright-Pat. I had just finished a short visit home during a five day lull after being selected as an Aviation Cadet. I was wearing my new uniform with the cadet insignia and the wheel hat with the big prop on it.

The Colonel was flying a stagger wing Beechcraft designated as a YC-43. It was a VIP airplane for high ranking officers. The Col. made the take off, climb out and level-off. After level-off he disengaged the yoke and threw it to the right hand side and said, "Here you fly this thing, I have some paper work to do". I said “Col. I have never had any training to operate any airplane.” He said “There was no time like the present to learn”. Shucks, I was all over the sky, up and down and wings rolling. He put his right hand on the yoke and was flying it with no particular problem, however I'm sure he would not attempt a landing in that configuration.

On landing at Wright-Pat he made a good landing and we were directed to park by a B-17. We got out and I asked the Colonel if I could take a closer look. He said "sure" and we went under the left wing and I looked up and toward the front and rear on my knees to see how far it was to the other wing tip. He was a combat vet who had been flying B-17s over Germany from Great Britain.

B-17 Preparing to take off on a combat mission
Photo Ctsy. USAAF Files

I told the Colonel “Anybody that can operate this machine is a Superman.” His reply was "Son one of these days you will be flying one". He was correct, in about a year, that's what I was doing at Sebring.

The ground school was tough for me, but with some more "Midnight Oil" things worked out well. The flying training that we received was excellent as almost all of the flight instructors were combat veterans. I had several instructors instead of one person taking me through the complete program. Again the extra time I spent in the Link Trainer at Basic and advanced was paying off. I saw my first B-29 at Sebring. Previously, I had only heard rumors about this new aircraft. It was on the downwind and it looked like it was barely moving. We watched with awe as it touched down and taxied past us on the ramp and parked in a restricted zone. Maj. Nestor made some arrangements and all 5 students got a close look at it. Man what a monster, WOW. Just to walk into the wheel well was an amazing experience.

During our B-17 Aircraft Commanders course at Sebring, Fl. we had a hurricane evacuation and Maxwell was our destination. After landing, I was doing a post flight check and we were refueling the aircraft. Along comes the same flight officer that had harassed me in an earlier chapter of life. He recognized me and started to haze me. My flight cap was in my flight suit pocket. I paid no attention to him and went about my business of the post flight check. He demanded to know why I was walking around this B-17. He started screaming at me and I reached for my 2nd Lt. hat and put it on. I then proceeded to HAZE him like he had done to me, before, as a cadet. No foul language was used but since I "HAD” such good training from him before, I really let loose on him. As soon as he saw my rank he got the funniest look on his face that I have ever seen. He was a good soldier and followed my orders. I went up one side of him and down the other.

I was flying with another student officer who had flown P-51s in the ETO. His name was Maj. Virgel N. Nestor, a highly decorated pilot. He did not interfere, but observed the action taking place. He had a smile on his face, bigger than the biggest watermelon you have ever seen. Before I dismissed the flight officer I told him to double time to Base Ops and back three times. I then dismissed him and he had the most "tail between the leg's" look that you have ever seen.

As we prepared for our graduation party, Maj. Nestor was designated as the Aircraft Commander to fly to Boca Raton to pick up some refreshments. He always shared the "stick". He flew it to Boca Raton and let me "left seat" it back to Sebring. He was always sharing the left seat with all of us. No "RHIP" except once. It was raining cats and dogs and we were to go to the aircraft in a 6x6 with a cover over the rear. I got into the front seat of the truck and closed the door. In about 10 seconds the door opened and a Major with a big rose on his jacket said "OUT". I said, “Yes Sir” and I had just found out what RHIP really means. Rank Has It's Privileges. The county where Sebring was located was dry. A big load of shrimp was also discovered on board after returning to Sebring.

End of Chapter 11 — Go to Chapter 12

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