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The Flying / Aviation Cadet Pilot Training Program was originally created by the US Army to train its pilots. Originally created in 1907 by the US Army Signal Corps, it expanded as the Army's air assets increased. Candidates originally had to be between the ages of 19 and 25, athletic, and honest. Two years of college or three years of a scientific or technical education were required. Cadets were supposed to be unmarried and pledged not to marry during training. From 1907 to 1920, pilot officers were considered part of the Signal Corps or the Signal Officer Reserve Corps. After 1920, they were considered part of their own separate organization, the US Army Air Service (1918–1926).
The US Army Air Corps Training Center (USAACTC) was at Duncan Field from 1926 to 1931 and Randolph Field from 1931 to 1939. Two more centers were activated on 8 July 1940: the West Coast Army Air Corps Training Center (WCAACTC) in Sunnyvale, California and the Southeast Army Air Corps Training Center (SAACTC) in Montgomery, Alabama. The SAACTC was later renamed the Gulf Coast Army Air Corps Center (GCAACTC). In 194,2 the Army moved the WCAACTC from Moffett Field to Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB),:466 located on West 8th Street in Santa Ana, California.
Aviation cadet centers:
From 1947, the Aviation Cadet program was run by the now-independent US Air Force from Lackland, Kelly, Randolph, or Brooks AFB, all located in San Antonio, Texas. The Air Force program stopped taking civilian and enlisted pilot candidates in 1961 and navigator candidates in 1965.
The first enlisted US Army pilot was Corporal Vernon L. Burge, a crew chief at the US Army's flight school in the Philippines. When Captain Frank P. Lahm, the school's commander, couldn't find enough commissioned officer applicants, he trained Burge, who received his FAI pilot's license on June 14, 1912. Although the practice was officially condemned, the Army later relented, as Burge was already a trained aviator.
The second was Corporal William A. Lamkey. Lamkey entered the Army Signal Corps in 1913, but had already received his FAI license from the Moisant Aviation School in 1912. Lamkey later left the Army to work as a mercenary pilot.
The third pilot was Sergeant William C. Ocker. Ocker was denied pilot training because he was an enlisted man, so he became an aircraft mechanic instead. In his off hours he exchanged work for flight lessons from the nearby Curtiss Flying School. Eventually, he qualified for his FAI license on April 20, 1914, receiving certificate #293.:23–24 Ocker did mostly test pilot work to accrue flight hours and tested many experimental or early prototype aircraft. He is famous for inventing "blind flying" training to teach pilots to fly by instruments in cloudy or dark conditions.
Only 29 enlisted pilots were created by 1914 and most were commissioned as second lieutenants in 1917.
From 1914 to 1918, sixty mechanics were trained as pilots. They were used as ferry pilots and did not fly in combat. Their primary job was to transfer new and repaired aircraft from rear areas to air bases and forward air fields. They would then fly patched-up damaged aircraft back for more thorough repairs.
The Army Air Corps Act of 1926 set certain standards as part of a five-year program to expand and improve the aviation arm of the US Army. It set a quota that 20% of a tactical aviation unit's pilot billets must be manned by enlisted pilots by 1929. By 1930, only 4% of all pilots were enlisted and new pilots were usually commissioned to meet the need for pilot-rated officers in Air Corps administrative and command billets. Enlisted pilots didn't have a place in the hierarchy when they stopped flying and either reverted to their old pre-flying trade or were discharged.
In 1933, the training and creation of enlisted pilots was discontinued due to budget cuts and lack of funds.
In 1939 there were only 55 enlisted pilots in the then-US Army Air Corps (USAAC).
On June 3, 1941, Public Law 99 was enacted, allowing enlisted men to apply to flight training. Candidates had to be between the ages of 18 and 22, have a high school diploma with at least 1.5 credit hours worth of math, and have graduated in the top half of their class. In November 1941, this was reduced to being at least 18 years old and possessing a high school diploma. After demand lifted in mid-1944, the requirements went back to college-educated or college graduate candidates.
Enlisted pilots were called flying sergeants. Graduating enlisted pilots were graded as flight staff sergeants while pilots who graduated at the top of their class were graded as flight technical sergeants. They were usually assigned to flying transport and liaison aircraft. Their pilot status was only indicated by their pilot's wings, often leading to enlisted aviators being mistaken for air crew or harassed for impersonating a pilot. This caused a lot of bad feelings between the enlisted pilots (who had more dangerous jobs for lower pay and no privileges) and the officer pilots (who received the same pay, promotability, and privileges as officers).
The first enlisted pilot cadets were part of class 42C (enrolling in November, 1941 and graduating on March 7, 1942), which trained at Kelly Field and Ellington Field, Texas. 93 enlisted graduates became P-38 fighter pilots and were assigned to the 82nd Fighter Group in North Africa. Members of this class shot down 130 enemy aircraft and nine became aces.
The program created 2,576 enlisted pilots from 1941 to 1942. 332 enlisted pilots served overseas and 217 of them flew combat missions. Enlisted pilots destroyed 249.5 enemy aircraft and 18 became aces. William J. Sloan was the leading ace of the 12th Air Force with 12 victories.
When Public Law 658 (Flight Officer Act) was passed on July 8, 1942 most enlisted pilots were promoted to the new rank of flight officer and newly-graduating enlisted pilots were graded as flight officers or second lieutenants depending on merit. This ended the creation of enlisted pilots.
The Army created almost 3,000 enlisted pilots from 1912 to 1942. Seven pre-War enlisted pilots and four World War 2 enlisted pilots became Air Force generals.
The USAF’s last enlisted pilot was Master Sergeant George H. Holmes (b.1898-d.1965). Holmes had enlisted in the Army as a mechanic in 1919, became a pilot with the rank of corporal in 1921, and was promoted to lieutenant's rank in the Army Reserve in 1924. The Army later made Holmes an enlisted man and he served as both a mechanic and a pilot in the 1920s and 1930s. He was promoted to captain in 1942 and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1946. He resigned his commission and reverted to his enlisted rank of master sergeant in 1946 and continued to fly until he retired in May 1957.
In 1918, flying cadets wore standard Army uniform and were differenced by a white piqué hatband on the service cap or service hat and white brassards on both sleeves. Flying cadets were dubbed "Twelve-and-a-halfs" because they were considered between pay grade 12 (officer cadet) and pay grade 13a (regimental sergeant major) in rank, being neither officer nor enlisted.
In June 1918, the Air Service insignia of a winged single-prop propeller replaced the Signal Corps insignia. In 1925, they were allowed to wear the overseas cap and had branch of service piping of ultramarine blue with threads of golden orange.
From 1928 to 1942, flying cadets wore a distinctive slate-blue uniform.:363 Visor-cap insignia was a pair of gold wings (3 inches wide) and a silver propeller (2 inches high).:365 Flight cadet insignia was worn on the lower right sleeve. Rank insignia was worn on the upper sleeves and consisted of 1 to 4 point-down black mohair chevrons on slate blue backing to indicate the following equivalent ranks: cadet corporal (1 chevron), cadet sergeant (2 chevrons), cadet lieutenant (3 chevrons), and cadet captain (4 chevrons). Chevrons were 2.875-inches wide for jackets and shirts and 7-inches wide for overcoats.
The US Army Signal Corps Aviation School was first based at College Park, Maryland from 1907 to 1912. It later moved in 1912 to Rockwell Field, North Island, San Diego, California.
To meet the increased demand for pilots, the Signal Corps Aviation School was shut down during World War I and its functions moved to other facilities. Rockwell Field was closed in 1920 and just used for storage.
On July 9, 1918 the rank of Flying Cadet was created by act of Congress.
Cadet training was in three stages:
Cadet training was in two stages.
The Air Service consolidated all its training at San Antonio, Texas in June 1922. This was to save money and provide good year-round flying conditions.
The Army Air Corps Act of 1926 set certain reforms as part of a five-year program to expand and improve the aviation arm of the Army. The US Army Air Service would have its name changed to the US Army Air Corps, to reflect its new role as a combatant military force. The post of "Assistant Secretary of War for Air" post was created to foster development of military aviation and an Aviation Section was added to each division of the Army General Staff. Around 90% of an aviation unit's officers had to receive Pilot or Observer rating and only flight-rated officers could command aviation units.
In 1938 the US Army Air Corps was expanded to 24 groups by 1939. This required an influx of cadets to meet the requirements. There were three 12-week cycles (or about nine months total).
Cadet flight training was reduced in 1940 to seven months of training:566 and only 200 flight hours to meet a potential demand for military pilots.
On 20 June 1941, the air arm of the US Army previously known as the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) became the "US Army Air Forces" (USAAF). The grade of Aviation Cadet was created for pilot candidates and the program was renamed the Aviation Cadet Training Program (AvCad). Cadets were paid $75 a month ($50 base pay + $25 "flight pay") – the same rate as Army Air Corps privates with flight status.:31 As junior officers, cadets were addressed as "Mister" by all ranks. The program was expanded in May 1942 to also cover training navigators and bombardiers and Moffett Field became the first center to give "pre-flight" training to navigators and bombardiers. Other specialties covered included communications, armament, meteorology, and radar operation; they were conventional Army warrant officers who attended an appropriate USAAF warrant officer school.
From May 1942 to 1947, aviation cadets wore the same uniform as Army officers, except they lacked the mohair cuffband of a full officer. The service cap differed in that it had a blue hatband (with olive drab uniform) or brown hatband (with Khaki uniform) and the general issue eagle was replaced by the winged propeller insignia of the Army Air Forces.
Rank stripes were light olive drab (brown) on a dark blue backing and were 3.125-inches wide on shirts and coats and 7.5-inches wide on overcoats. This created a problem because the new stripes were just being produced and the old stripes were becoming scarce. Therefore, on January 1943 the Army authorized training center commanders to procure locally made versions to meet demand. This led to non-standard designs (like dark blue or black chevrons on olive drab backings) and unique duty position insignias.
The USAAF rank of flight officer was created by Public Law 658 (Flight Officer Act). Its insignia was similar to the warrant officer (junior grade) insignia except for the color of its enamel backing. It was in blue enamel for Air ratings (pilot, navigator and bombardier - graduates of the aviation cadet program) and red enamel for Ground ratings (radar operator, armorer, meteorologist, etc. - graduates of the USAAF's warrant officer schools). Air ratings were promotable to second lieutenant and Ground ratings were promotable to chief warrant officer. Air ratings outranked Ground ratings.
The warrant officer's bars were worn horizontally on the shoulder straps of the shirt or jacket, like a lieutenant's or captain's bars. Co-pilot Flight Officers - an Air rating - wore red-enamel Ground Chief Warrant Officer insignia when flying. This was so they would not be confused with a Pilot Flight Officer, the plane's commander.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into the war, the number of volunteers for pilot training was enormous. Fearing that they would lose them to the general draft, aviation cadet-applicants were given exemption from 1942 until the demand lessened in July, 1944.
Demand for pilots meant that training had to be modified to accommodate the large numbers of pilot candidates. Training came in four stages (extended to five stages in April 1942 with the creation of the pre-flight stage). Classification lasted one week and the education and training stages were nine weeks each. Each 9 week stage was divided into two 4.5 week (63 day) halves: a lower half and an upper half . The lower half was made up of students just beginning the stage and the upper half was made up of the students who were half-finished. The more experienced cadets would hopefully help the new cadets get through the section before they were promoted to the next stage.
Graduates were usually graded as flight officers (warrant officers). Cadets who graduated at the top of their class were graded as second lieutenants. Aviation cadets who washed out of pilot training were sent to navigator or bombardier school. Aviation cadets who washed out of navigator or bombardier training were usually sent to gunnery school.
Liaison Pilot School lasted 60 flight hours. It was an option for cadets who had passed primary training, but had washed out of basic or advanced training. They were trained to fly single-engined light aircraft similar to the light trainers they flew in Primary and were given training in takeoffs over obstacles, short-field landings, and low-altitude navigation. Their duties included transportation of troops and supplies, medical evacuation, aerial photography, and low-level reconnaissance. Graduates received liaison pilot wings. They were originally graded as flight staff sergeants until 1942, when they were graded as flight officers.
Bombardier School lasted 18 weeks. It consisted of 425 hours of ground instruction in the proficiencies of a bombardier (plus familiarity with the tasks of the pilot, radioman, or navigator in case of an emergency). After 3 weeks this included 120 hours of air training in which the cadet began with practice runs and ended by performing bombing runs with live ordnance. Graduates received a bombardier's wings.
Navigator School lasted 18 weeks. It consisted of 500 hours of ground instruction in the duties of a navigator (charting, directional bearings, computed headings, airspeed, radio codes, celestial navigation, etc.). This was combined with familiarity with the tasks of a pilot or radioman in case of emergency. After four weeks the cadet acted as a navigator in day and night flights in Advanced Navigator trainers like the AT-7 Navigator or AT-11A Kansan. Graduates received a navigator's wings.
Radio Operator School lasted 18 weeks and was run by the US Army Signals Corps
Flexible Gunnery School was a six week program that taught the cadet how to man a flexible-mount machinegun or a powered turret. All aircrew had to attend gunnery school in case of emergencies and had to qualify before they could join an aircrew. Bombardiers and navigators attended either before or after they attended their training school.
In September 1947, the US Army Air Forces became a separate and independent service, renamed the United States Air Force (USAF). At the time, the newly created Air Force had no service academy of its own yet (the USMA and USNA had options for their cadets and midshipmen, respectively, to become USAF officers) and separate Air Force ROTC and Officer Candidate School (later retitled Officer Training School) programs were still being established. The Aviation Cadet Training Program continued to remain as a principal source of the Air Force's pilots and navigators and they wore the same basic uniform as Air Force officers.
In 1952, the Air Training Command (ATC) implemented a four-phase pilot training program: pre-flight, primary, basic, and advanced / crew.
Navigator training of the period commenced in the TC-45 Expeditor or TB-25 Mitchell, followed by transition to the T-29 Flying Classroom, although by the late 1950s, all airborne training had been consolidated in the T-29. Navigator training for Aviation Cadets was merged with that for commissioned officers and conducted at James Connally AFB, Texas; Harlingen AFB, Texas; Ellington AFB, Texas and Mather AFB, California. Follow-on training qualified some of these navigators in additional fields, such as radar navigator/bombardier, electronic warfare officer or radar intercept officer.
The USAF Aviation Cadet program ended for pilots in 1961 and navigators in 1965. In 1960, the Air Force implemented the Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) concept in which the USAF Academy (started in the Fall semester of 1959), the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and the Air Force Officer Training School to provide all of its pilots and navigators.
The last Aviation Cadet pilot classes were Webb AFB class 61G and Reese AFB class 62A. The last Aviation Cadet pilot to graduate was 2nd Lieutenant William F. Wesson, the only member of Reese AFB class 62B-2, on 11 October 1961. Wesson was originally a member of class 62A but was injured during a training accident and had to recover and requalify before he could graduate.:73
The last Aviation Cadet navigator class was 65–15 at James Connally AFB.:73–74 It was made up of Eulalio Arzaga, Jr., James J. Crowling, Jr., Ronald M. Durgee, Harry W. Elliott, Timothy J. Geary, Robert E. Girvan, Gleen D. Green, Paul J. Gringot, Jr., William P. Hagopian, Steven V. Harper, Robert D. Humphrey, Hollis D. Jones, Evert F. Larson, Gerald J. Lawrence, Thomas J. Mitchell, Ronald W. Oberender, Raymond E. Powell, Victor B. Putz, Milton Spivack, Donald E. Templeman, Herbert F. Turney. These aviation cadets became USAF 2nd lieutenants. and were awarded their navigator wings on March 3, 1965. Class 65-15 chose classmate Cadet Steven V. Harper of Miami, Florida, for the honor of "Last Aviation Cadet" based on his high academic, military, and flying grades.