By Arthur E. Abney
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Extra resources for Wings Over Illinois
These meetings served as a clearinghouse for all questions enlisted personnel might have, and the department heads constituted a sort of sounding board for the men’s complaints. Little irritants or misunderstandings that might never have reached the officers otherwise were brought to light and corrective action taken wherever necessary. The shakedown training period was climaxed by a week of training for each crew at the Antisubmarine Training Unit, NAS, Key West, Florida. This training was similar to the antisubmarine training being carried out at Harvey Point, with two exceptions: First, actual (friendly) submarines were involved, allowing pilots and crew members to see with their own eyes what a periscope feather (the pattern the periscope leaves when it is above the water’s surface) or a submarine’s swirl looked like from an airplane.
I was assigned to the morning wing. I would be flying the next morning. I was a little antsy about my first flight in the navy, but already having my private pilot’s license through the SINU/Marion Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program tended to give me some confidence. About an hour before the scheduled time on October 25, I was at the operations area ready to fly. The weather was good, but I double-checked it to make sure and in case the instructor asked me if I had. About a half hour before the departure time, I checked with the scheduling desk and was told to go on out to the airplane.
He was an SINU classmate who had gone into the navy about a year before I did. The navy recruited him on campus but would not take me because of a throat infection. Of course, Susie and I were happy to see each other, and we discovered that we were headed for the same squadron, he as a patrol plane commander (PPC) and I as a copilot. Susie promised that he would do everything he could to get me into his crew, and we flew together for more than a year, until December 1944. Part One Arthur E. “Gene” Abney (left) and Ray “Susie” Ellis in a PBM cockpit, 1940s.