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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Bloomington WWII Flight School

During WWII Bloomington was the site of many army training locations. Midwest Motive trades had both refrigeration and automotive training, the National Guard was constantly training men and the universities had their own army and navy training programs. The Municipal airport had a program that taught men to fly during the war, preparing them for work in the air forces of the army and navy. The twin cities were fairly crawling with uniformed men.

The air force was always a very desirable branch of the armed forces -- who didn't want to be a pilot and wear the leather jacket, the white scarf and fly off into the wild blue yonder?!!

Of course Art Carnahan, the pilot of the Pantagraph Scoop, was the head of the CAA training school, and led this company of civilian flight instructors (below), including Helen Greinke, a local woman flight instructor. She had learned to fly before the war in Moline, Illinois. Walter Young, in the back row, was a local fireman and Red Cross volunteer. Ted Coppin was a Streator IL pilot. The other instructors could not be positively located. (But Leslie Jones just LOOKS like a pilot, doesn't he?)

The flight school prepared young men for the army air force in an eight week training school. Each man was given a mental and physical examination as part of the entrance examination. I tried to find a copy of a mental examination used by the army, but did not find one. Mental examination for the army was usually an interview with a psychiatrist, lasting about six minutes, but since this was not actually the army, it is impossible to guess what the CAA considered a mental examination. (Interesting article about psychological screening for the Army) Each man would have eight hours of actual observed flying experience and one solo flight. All class room instruction was at ISNU under Professor C.L. Cross. After a man finished this short course, he usually went to an induction center, entered the army as a "flying staff sergeant" and was assigned non-combat flying duties initially. By December 1942 two hundred twenty six men had graduated from the Bloomington flight school, and 90% of those men had signed up with the Army or Navy Air Corps. Many of the men were from distant states, and most were students at Wesleyan or ISNU. In these early months of the program, only one group of men were not from the college community.

On December 20 a wing pinning ceremony was held for the ten latest graduates of the course.

Jean Ring, of Saybrook, was the only local man getting his wings on this date. Jean joined the Army Air Force and became an instructor himself. He had graduated from ISNU in the summer of 1942 and then entered this program. He trained in glider flying in Lubbock Texas and then was an instructor in Indiana and Florida. Jean survived the war and settled in Xenia Ohio, where he was a psychologist.

In addition to being the most romantic and desirable of the branches of military service, flying was one of the most dangerous. Three of the men from the training school had lost their lives after enlisting by December 1942.

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