From the Pilot Factory, 1942
Military History - World War II
6 x 9, 208 pp.
23 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 01/31/2005
Centennial of Flight Series
  cloth
Price:        $32.95

978-1-58544-387-1
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Published by Texas A&M University Press

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From the Pilot Factory, 1942

By William P. Mitchell

In 1939, the United States Army Air Force trained just 1,200 new pilots. Yet, by the end of World War II, airfields had become factories, and 193,440 young men had become pilots. Author William P. Mitchell entered the pilot factory at San Antonio’s Kelly Field in January 1942. He then went to Garner Field near Uvalde, Texas, for primary training; to Randolph Field for basic; to Brooks Field for advanced flying; and to Del Valle for transition on the C-47.

Mitchell’s experiences were similar to those of thousands of young men. Because his mother kept his wartime letters, readers of this book can catch glimpses of a world long vanished and an era that now seems innocent and naive. Mitchell worried about washing out, but he eventually learned to do nighttime “blitz” landings without lights, to loop and roll and recover from a spin, to identify an aircraft from its silhouette, and to navigate cross country. Like many of his peers, he wanted to be a pursuit pilot, but he was assigned to C-47s, a disappointment to which he resigned himself. As a member of the 73d Squadron of the 434th Troop Carrier Group, he delivered glider infantry at Normandy, dropped airborne troops during Operation Market Garden, and supplied the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.

Mitchell’s letters remind us that learning to fly was a romantic and unexpected adventure for the young men of the Greatest Generation who flew for the USAAF.

William P. Mitchell retired in 1992 after a successful career with advertising agencies. He now lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and contributes to local newspapers.

What Readers Are Saying:

“What we have here is a cleancut American middleclass boy who exemplifies the real strength of the US war effort. I was trained as an aerial gunner not as a pilot but most of what Mitchell depicts resonated with me as right on target. He makes the point that fear of washing out was far more powerful than fear of crashing or getting killed. That is a most important point which is one of the insights which makes this book valuable. . . . a fine example of a decent youngster’s reaction to the great adventure of participating in the high drama of the nation’s role in WW2.”--I. B.Holley, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Duke University

“What we have here is a cleancut American middleclass boy who exemplifies the real strength of the US war effort. I was trained as an aerial gunner not as a pilot but most of what Mitchell depicts resonated with me as right on target. He makes the point that fear of washing out was far more powerful than fear of crashing or getting killed. That is a most important point which is one of the insights which makes this book valuable. . . . a fine example of a decent youngster’s reaction to the great adventure of participating in the high drama of the nation’s role in WW2.” --I. B.Holley, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Duke University

“A welcome and informative insight into the often overlooked, but crucial, process of pilot training in wartime. I think that this prospective book will appeal to military buffs, aviation buffs, general readers, and collectors of Texana. The letters are poignant at times, consistently interesting, and characterized by relevant details of daily life as well as details of the difficulties of learning how to fly and to deal with gruff flight instructors. Among other things, the letters clearly illustrate the remarkable phenomenon of inducting thousands of young men from all over the nation, and their reactions as they adjust to life in a much different military environment. There are also insightful comments about understanding different cultures in the Southwest and gaining new perspectives about a mythic state like Texas. . . . [a] worthy addition to the literature of aviation and the history of World War II.” --Roger E. Bilstein, Professor Emeritus, University of Houston–Clear Lake

“Through the letters sent home to his parents, Mitchell transports the reader into the cockpit where he gains an insightful view of the pilot factory…From the Pilot Factory is an excellent read that touches on a time when military aviation was in full gear meeting the wartime needs through the lens of its product.” --Air Power History

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