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The Stamford Historical Society Presents

Pride and Patriotism: Stamford’s Role in World War II
Online Edition

The Interviews

Walter Wheeler

I am a native of Stamford and served in WWII September ‘43 to May 1946.

I had 1 1/4 years of college when I volunteered for the Navy. I joined the Navy in Detroit. I had Basic Training at Great Lakes Training Center and learned to be a baker…cracked eggs for 5000 people, cake, I filled 3 garbage cans with eggshells.

I spent 32 months in the war entirely in training. At the end of the war I did get 50 miles offshore…we delivered a destroyer escort from Norfolk to Jacksonville, Florida. Steamed up-river to Bluepoint Springs, where there were 100 other destroyers... we were there to mothball them. I was a quartermaster, I had two jobs, I had to burn up the charts of the world, cheaper to get new ones. I also had to wind all the clocks. I was the only quartermaster of the five ships in our groups. I learned to touch type then. There was no skipper, so I had his cabin.

I began as a cadet in the Navy Air Corps and the first thing we learned how to do was how to march. I learned how to fly…started out with a Piper Cub, in Bowling Green, Ohio…

After three months of marching at Ohio University…we went to Bowling Green and flew Piper Cubs. Piper fit two and was a training plane. Each stage was three months…Ground school was theory…how engines worked, how to take Morse Code, weather information. I took two weeks before I could solo. The 3rd or 4th time I landed, there was a huge headwind, I went straight down a vertical landing and settled down and other cadets grabbed wings of the airplane so it wouldn’t blow away. Landing speed was 35 miles per hour, but because of the wind it didn’t go ahead…just went straight down.

We had a number of exercises we had to learn …one was called stills… you had to make the airplane fail and it would spiral down. And the spirals would get to your stomach rather quickly so you were glad when you learned how to pull it out.

Next stop was Iowa State University in Iowa City…we had to run a mile in under 5 minutes and I just barely made that. More ground school…big thing there was swimming, four hours in the pool, you had to prove you were seaworthy. The instructors had long poles with tennis balls on the end, and if you got too close to the side they would poke you. There was a 40 ft. high diving board you had to jump off.

Then we went to Minneapolis where I learned to fly a Steerman biplane. We learned aerobatics…could do barrel rolls, and loops. Once I flew for 15 minutes upside down. I liked flying and landing on clouds. You could see the rainbows when flying above the clouds and could touch down on the rainbow.

It was a great experience… to take off in the AM 6…beautiful.

Once I almost killed myself. We had to train for carrier landings… The landing field had two circles in it 100 yards in diameter and you had to land within the circle and take off before the other circle… there was a line of planes, one behind and one in front. You had to keep going. There were two ways to control the flight path, one was to make S tails…and slips to the circle. You could make a plane less aerodynamic… by making it fly sideways with one wing low and this would drop more rapidly without gaining speed.

According to the book, if the circle gets rounder you are too high and if it gets flatter you are to low. Keep at same way you are fine…I looked at the circle and it seemed round I slipped steeper and steeper, and just before the circle the plane flipped over and stalled out. I immediately killed the engine so it wouldn’t explode…with a high rudder I bounced on the ground a few times, The grass was one foot above my head, so I got out of my safety harness dropped out and crawled away over a little rise and ducked down so the explosion wouldn’t hit me, but there was no explosion…the plane was demolished…I went to sick bay, where they checked my pulse and heart beat….

The plane was repaired. My instructor had to take it off and test it, while testing, the controls froze on it and he crashed, he was killed. Later they closed down Minnesota base and I went to Peru, Indiana to finish up, and then onto Pensacola, Florida.

I learned to fly formation, I was flying a Volti Vibrator, just before it stalled out it would shake, It was a one man monoplane. I remember you could see next door pilot’s wrist watch in formation…One exercise instructor would cover cockpit then stall the plane out and the pilot had to get it back flying straight again.

Next I flew in a PBY amphibian dual engine with a wing on top… I recall the first time I landed it was like being a sardine in a can…soon as the hull hit the river, there was this terrific cracking banging sound. We had 4 to 5 hour training flights with 3 to 4 cadets, each one with an hour at the controls. When you were off, you could sit in windows and catch the sun…slow speed 35mph…in a big wind you would go backwards over the beach. It was a good plan for sub patrol, because it would stay in one place for a long time.

I got washed out of the program for coming in after bunk check in late 1944…The Army didn’t need more pilots…I went back to Great Lakes Navel Station boot camp…learning how to march again… Learned to be a baker… given a math test to see if you could master work with electricity, and I became an electric technician. First part I spent one month in a high school in Chicago, analyzed circuits etc. The worst part was having to file a metal cube to a perfect square by hand.

Then I went to Gulfport, Mississippi and learned to build radios.. We heard that battleships were going up Tokyo Bay to get the Japanese surrender. The next day we had to take apart radios and turn in all the pieces. I was put in charge of PT and transferred to Norfolk… and discharged shortly thereafter.

KILROY WAS HERE drawn by Mort WalkerIntroduction
Stamford Service Rolls
Exhibit Photos
Opening Day