1912 - 1942
They Also Flew
The Enlisted Pilot Legacy, 1912-1942
While the history of the United States Air Force as a separate and independent component of the Department of Defense did not officially begin until September 1947, its roots went back to August 1907, when its parent, the Army, began to concern itself with aeronautics.
Understandably proud of its new status, the Air Force had to look to its future. Only recently has it begun to reflect on its earlier, humbler beginnings-beginnings that included a small number of enlisted pilots.
Those of us who served their nation as enlisted pilots, even if for a little while, have found it humbling to learn that few ever knew we served. When the term enlisted pilot, or sergeant pilot, is introduced into any appropriate conversation today, and draws only a blank response, an accounting seems overdue.
I have undertaken this writing to place the legacy of this small number of pilots into the literature, and to inform its readers that from 1912 to 1942 enlisted pilots also flew.
I have chosen to use the terms aeroplane and airplane in their contemporary context, that is, aeroplane, 1903-17, and airplane, 1917-42.
A caveat in closing: Since I am neither a writer nor a historian, my reconstruction of the sergeant pilot story, drawn from documents forty-five to eighty-two years old as well as from the recollections of individuals years after the events, is bound to be flawed by time and bias. It is, however, as careful and honest an account as I can construct. Readers who discover such flaws would do this account a favor by bringing them to the author's attention. -Lee Arbon
sergeant pilot training program ended in late 1942 since the
educational requirement for cadets had been lowered to that for an
aviation student (high school diploma) and all students were to be
appointed at graduation as flight officers or second lieutenants. The
promotion of those pilots still sergeants was ordered on Nov. 17, 1942,
but promotions didn't catch up with
all sergeant pilots who were overseas until 1944. Eventually, nearly all became second lieutenants. Not wanting to be mistaken as unblooded new pilots, some of these combat veterans scoured their new gold bars with dirt until they resembled those of first lieutenants. (In World War II, AAF regulations also provided for enlisted glider pilot and enlisted service pilot, but generally such pilots were flight officers or above.)
1942 - 1945
FLIGHT OFFICERS SERVING WITH 3RD BOMBARDMENT GROUP (L) 1942-1945
F/O Hobart R. Rankin - 8th
F/O Abraham E. Shook - 8th
F/O Dwight E. Turner - 8th
F/O Harvey O. Truesdale - 89th
F/O William R. Shrum - 8th
F/O Jack K. Harrington - 90th *
F/O Horace B. Monroe - 90th *
F/O Jay I. Shoop - 90th
F/O Harold R. Prince - 90th
F/O Urban L. Arens - 90th
F/O William O. Ruse - 90th
F/O Kenneth R. Ladd - 90th
F/O Bruce R. Bell - 89th
* Both of these officers were enlisted men based in Hawaii prior to December 7, 1941.
They both became classmates along with Dwight E. Turner at Hancock College of Aeronautics
and became Flight Officers and subsequently Lts. with the 90th Squadron while Dwight Turner (Major USAF Ret.)
was assigned to the 8th Squadron.
These are additional Flight Officers with the 3rd BG while still at Atsugi Air Base in July 1946. Only one was promoted.
F/O John B. Tullos promoted to 2nd Lt. 22 July, 1946 Headquarters
F/O Reuben C. Whitman 8th Squadron redeployed to the States July 1946
F/O John W. Williams, Jr. 8th Squadron redeployed to the States July 1946
F/O Cecil F. Wilhite 13th Squadron redeployed to the States July 1946
F/O Charles P. Roddy 13th Squadron redeployed to the States July 1946
F/O Earl N. Swartz, Jr. 13th Squadron redeployed to the States July 1946
F/O Davis 90th Squadron redeployed to the States July 1946
F/O Staggs - 90th Squadron Communication Officer 3 August, 1946