San Antonio and Hunt, Tx., and Chickasha, Ok. October 7, 1943 to October 2, 1944. 187 autograph letters, signed, between one and three pages in length, almost all with original transmittal envelopes or written on aeromail stationery. Small portions of a few letters torn away, occasional offsetting from laid-in newspaper clippings, a great many of which still accompany their original letters. Letters are mostly in nice shape. Very good. Item #2529
A large and informative collection of personal letters from a prolific letter writer, Private William Edward Largey, an Air Force cadet writing home to his parents in Glendale, California over the course of a year during his World War II flight training in Texas and Oklahoma. Private Largey writes candidly about a myriad of subjects and signs each letter, “Edward.” His letters begin shortly after his cadet training at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, when he was stationed at the Army Air Force Pre-Flight School located at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center; the letters conclude with actual training flights in Chickasha, Oklahoma and a brief time back in San Antonio before he was reclassified after a nagging shoulder injury cut short his fledgling flight career.
Largey’s letters detail his training activities. He spends time in the pressure chamber, takes classes in math, code, physics, naval identification, maps & charts, and aircraft identification, goes along on training flights, and eventually flies solo. He also comments on the nature of life in San Antonio and his observations of Texans, impressions of his fellow aviators, shipments of various products through the base, and so much more. He occasionally asks for items from back home, relates his experiences in the station hospital, comments on movies and popular music, recounts his own firearms training, and reports on his meals. Interestingly, in a letter just after Thanksgiving, he sends his parents the menu, which includes a roster of soldiers at the station hospital; the “Roster of Colored Enlisted Men” is printed separately from the rest of the officers and enlisted men. Largey was admitted to the base hospital for a while for a mysterious shoulder problem that turned out to be bursitis; he later had his wisdom teeth removed. He spends a considerable amount of time in the station hospital before returning to flight training, which also causes a delay in his training at one point when the regulations force him to repeat classes due to the time he spent in the hospital. From the context of some of his letters, it appears his family, or certainly some close friends, work in the aviation industry, particularly Lockheed.
A few brief excerpts from just a handful of Largey’s letters provide a flavor of his correspondence to his parents:
October 7, 1943: “The weather here is nice clear with high fleece clouds. But the music down here, on the radio – all cowboy – “Sons of the Pioneers,” Al Dexter, and Roy Acuff (of ‘Grand Ole Opera’ fame) are the top favorites…. There is a terrific spirit among the men here. I’ve never seen so much pep and energy – they are raising the devil all the time…. There doesn’t seem to be as much flying down here as there was in Denver. All I have seen here are B-24s, B-17s and B-25s and not many of them…. In several days I should be into the classification tests fairly well. There certainly is a lot more red tape to becoming a pilot than when Russell Haywood went through.”
November 4, 1943: “Didn’t ship today but tomorrow at 7:30 A.M. we ship across the street, for our 9 weeks Pre-Flight Training. Up to the last minute I was hoping for Santa Ana but I guess the odds were too great. Well, there isn’t anything to do but jump into the middle of the place and start giving it the devil. If I am lucky enough to get through this training, which I should without trouble, maybe I will be sent out of this South and to California for my actual flying training.”
December 16, 1943: “For a long time I have read and reread about the war being won by the Texans but today the headlines are terrific – they are enclosed never have I read anything like it in my life – every day these papers here tell only of the Texans. Other day there was a headline which read ‘258 die in battle including 6 heroic Texans.’ I can see why the people have such a funny attitude towards their men winning the war. So much for that.”
February 1, 1944: “Bobbie is no doubt getting ready for a lot of activity as I understand we maintain bases within bombing distance of Jap held Burma and Thailand. Imagine it is really rough territory over there and the natives underfed and diseased.”
March 7, 1944: “I have never seen a poorer group of Army Officers than here in San Antonio. They literally don’t know beans when the bag is open – all of them have the opinion they have the world by the tail on a downhill pull. Of course I realize the officers here are from all over the place but the officers in Colorado at Buckley Field were seemingly nicer and didn’t have such big heads.”
March 8, 1944: “Lockheed is working on some big projects at the present – one is a 6 engined plane – huge according to Bruce and the other a jet-propelled ship – this plane is strictly ‘hush-hush’ and few know about it. Bruce said they are working on it now and in the wind tunnel it has blown 813 M.P.H. in level flight!!!! The huge P-58-2-42 cylinder engines in this plane has been flying for some time he said. They were finishing it when I left and it was supposed to be fast as can be. Has Mary Louise seen it fly - it is flying out of L.A.T. (Lockheed Air Terminal).”
May 14, 1944: “The post is full of women every Sunday & Wednesday evening as the wives and girlfriends of the Cadets come out to see them. As a cross-section they are a mighty poor looking bunch of women. Let no one ever tell you that California doesn’t have the prettiest girls (maybe half of them haven’t any sense and the other half are crazy but they are still the best looking since my wanderings in this Army).”
August 10, 1944, from Chickasha, Oklahoma. Largey writes thirteen letters during his actual flight training, beginning with the following: “Well, flying a plane is a little different from driving a car but all there is to it is coordination between your hands and feet. We flew to 4500 feet, which is only 3360 because the field is 1140 feet above sea level. The terrain is beautiful around here – gardens, etc. The gas well I wrote you about loomed up like a tower of flame about like the L.A. City Hall. Flew for ½ hour between 2-2:30 P.M. in the heart of the afternoon and the air was rather rough - felt fine no sickness or anything although a number of men got sick and had to come down. You’re probably interested in the fastest speed we made – it was 110 M.P.H.”
August 29, 1944: “Yes, I soloed today – did 3 take-offs and 3 perfect landings. Instructor was very happy but I am having a little trouble in coordinating my turns but it is only a question of a few more hours and I’ll have that ironed out. This flying is some fun and after a while it gets like driving a car except one must be alert and have his head on a swivel as it were because you must be looking in all directions at the same time seemingly. Twenty men so far have washed out – some of the men were afraid of the air – some subject to air sickness and others the instructors washed out because they just weren’t pilot material and couldn’t coordinate properly in their flying.”
A handful of later family letters accompany the wartime correspondence. A wonderful collection of World War II-era letters from a young California cadet learning to fly in Texas and Oklahoma.